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Kodak DC4800 Zoom

Kodak's first true 3 megapixel consumer camera has excellent color and *amazing* low-light capability!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 7/31/2000

Executive Overview
If you're at all familiar with Kodak's long line of digital cameras, the design of the DC4800 may come as a surprise. Designed more like a compact, point and shoot 35mm film camera, the DC4800 features virtually none of the design elements used in previous Kodak digicams. This smaller camera has much more angular features on the whole, although there's still quite a graceful curve along the front of the camera, as the hand grip slowly tapers off across the body. With the exception of the lens barrel, the DC4800 has few abrupt protrusions, and its compact size makes it quite portable when you're on the go. The camera weighs 11.45 ounces (325 g) and measures 4.72 x 2.56 x 2.72 inches (120 x 65 x 69 mm), which, with the accompanying neck strap, should make traveling a snap.

Probably our favorite design feature on the DC4800 is the exposure compensation adjustment dial, which allows you to set the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV in 1/2 EV increments without accessing any menu systems. The mode dial is similar, in that it allows you to change aperture settings without using the LCD menu. This saves time, since you can access two very basic functions quickly. Our least favorite design element has to be the CompactFlash card ejection switch, which is actually on the bottom of the camera (the actual slot is on the side). The problem with this is its proximity to the tripod mount, meaning that you cannot easily change the card with the camera mounted on a tripod. Along the same lines, the battery compartment is also too close for comfort, but these should be trivial gripes for most consumers, who probably do less studio work than we do.

The DC4800 features a telescoping, 3x, 6 to 18 mm lens (equivalent to a 28 to 84 mm lens on a 35 mm camera), which is activated simply by turning the camera on with the mode dial set to any capture mode. Focusing is automatic, but a fixed focus button sets the camera to Macro mode (close focusing) or Landscape (focus is fixed at infinity). The 2x digital telephoto function is enabled through the Setup menu, but remember that digital zoom results in a lesser image quality than optical zoom. A real image optical viewfinder features central autofocus target marks, and a tiny dioptric adjustment dial on the side for those with eyeglasses. Additionally, a 1.8 inch color LCD monitor on the back panel assists with composing images and displays a small amount of camera information at the top of the screen. The majority of the camera settings are reported on the smaller status display panel on top of the camera, such as the quality setting and the number of available images.

When it comes to exposure, the DC4800 gives you about as much or as little control as you need. The Program AE mode puts the camera in charge of shutter speed and aperture, while you control things like white balance, exposure control, metering, flash, etc. You enter into Aperture Priority mode by simply turning the mode dial to one of the aperture settings (f/2.8, f/5.6, f/8.0) and leaving the shutter speed control set to automatic. You get full manual control by turning the mode dial to one of the f-stop settings and setting the shutter speed option to Manual or Long Time Exposure. The Manual setting gives you a choice of shutter speeds from 1/2 to 1/1,000 seconds, while the Long Time Exposure option provides a range of slow exposures from 0.7 to 16 seconds. The only option missing is a shutter priority mode, doubtless left off because the three discrete aperture settings available wouldn't provide fine enough exposure control when the shutter speed is set to a fixed value. Also in the exposure-control category, the DC4800 provides options for the ISO setting, with choices of Auto, 100, 200 or 400, and the exposure metering (Mult-Pattern, Center Weighted or Center Spot).

Beyond these basic exposure settings, the DC4800 provides a generous bounty of other controls. White balance offers the standard Auto, Daylight, Flash, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings, in addition to a complete Manual setting and adjustable Color Temperature option. The Manual setting is unusually flexible, in that it not only lets you adjust the camera based on a white reference object, but even lets you alter the color balance by adding more red, blue, green or yellow to the image. The Color Temperature option also provides unusually fine-grained color control, by giving you a selection of Kelvin temperatures (from 2,500 to 10,000) to match an extensive amount of artificial light sources. This wide range of color temperature settings lets you adjust the color balance of your pictures to match a wide range of lighting conditions, and also to shift the color slightly toward the yellow/red or blue ends of the spectrum for creative effect. As if this exceptional white-balance control wasn't enough, the DC4800 also offers the option of either "neutral" or "saturated" color. For routine shooting, we prefer the "neutral" option, although it looks like "saturated" is the camera's default when you turn it on the first time. We're happy to see this neutral/saturated option, and encourage Kodak to take it even further, letting people choose the degree of color saturation they want from a wider range of options: Color saturation is one of the differentiators between digital cameras when it comes to people deciding which camera to buy. With a film camera, you can pick the color you like by choosing different film types. Until now though, the only way to get different color rendering in a digital camera was to buy a different camera. This is definitely a step in the right direction, and we expect this feature to be very popular with users. In addition to the color-related adjustments, the DC4800 also provides a variety of monochrome shooting modes, including standard black and white, black and white with either a red or yellow filter, or sepia tones. Overall, very impressive color controls! Not a color-related setting, but we didn't know where else to put this tidbit: There's also an adjustable sharpness setting that lets you control the amount of in-camera sharpening applied to your photos.

The built-in, pop-up flash features four operating modes and can be combined with an external flash (via a sync terminal on the side of the camera) to capture dimly-lit subjects. The DC4800 also features a 10 second self-timer and a Burst photography mode, which captures up to 16 images at a maximum of five frames per second (depending, of course, on the available CompactFlash space and the size and quality settings selected).

As we've mentioned, images are saved to a CompactFlash card (a 16 megabyte card comes with the camera) and a full range of sizes and quality settings are available. The large image size (2160 x 1440) features an uncompressed TIFF format in addition to the normal and basic JPEG compression levels. The remaining image sizes (1800 x 1200, 1536 x 1024 and 1080 x 720) are saved with normal JPEG compression. A USB cable ships with the camera, along with a CD containing Kodak's Digital Camera Software and Pictures Now. US and Japanese models come with an NTSC video cable (PAL for European models), so that you can compose and review images on a television screen. Power-wise, the DC4800 utilizes a Kodak lithium-ion rechargeable batter pack or an AC adapter. The AC adapter also doubles as an in-camera battery charger (a faster accessory charger is also available).

Overall, the DC4800 offers enough exposure control to satisfy more advanced shooters, while the full automatic settings will please (comfort?) even novice consumers.

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