If you need the maximum pixels at the minimum price and want your digital camera to do all the thinking for you, the pocketable Kodak EasyShare DX4530 deserves a close look. This 5-megapixel, 8.6-ounce snapshooter gives you solid picture quality; surprisingly capable macro features; and fully automatic operation, including one-click upload. But you may feel a bit restricted by the limited, narrow-angle 3X zoom range: 38mm to 114mm in 35mm-camera terms. And you may find the DX4530's performance blah. If you can spend a little more, we suggest you check out the Pentax Optio 555 or the Konica Minolta Digital Revio KD-500Z instead.
Aside from flash modes and exposure compensation, there isn't a lot to play with on this camera. A top-mounted button cycles through the flash's auto, off, fill, and red-eye settings. You adjust exposure to plus or minus 2EV deep within the menus, which also provide access to a 10-second self-timer and long-exposure settings. Most of the time, you'll be happy to let the DX4530 choose the exposure and set focus for you. The camera will automatically select from shutter speeds between 1/2 and 1/1,700 of a second and apertures from f/2.8 to f/8.7.
The DX4530 does a particularly good job of grabbing close-ups in macro mode, focusing down to 2.8 inches at the wide-angle setting and 11 inches at the maximum telephoto position. The camera also features Night, Landscape, and Sports modes. Markings on the optical viewfinder let you adjust for parallax, or you can frame your images with the bright but coarse 1.8-inch LCD. The 32MB of built-in memory can hold 21 best-quality shots, which are at 2,580x1,932-pixel resolution. To add space, pop in SD/MMC media. If you're into small-scale video, the DX4530 can capture 15-frame-per-second, 320x240 clips with audio for as long as your storage card holds out.
The DX4530 typically pauses 2.4 seconds between shots and 0.7 second after you've pressed the shutter release. That performance is very good for this camera's class but doesn't lend itself to fast-moving action, and unfortunately, there's no burst mode. And though autofocus and flash recharging work quickly, the zoom feels sluggish.
|Scaled down, the camera's images appear sharp and nicely detailed (left). When you take a closer look, those details reveal artifacts from compression and the color-filter array, making the picture look as though you applied an artistic filter.|
The DX4530 displays unusually frequent chromatic aberration, which manifests itself as thick purple fringing.
We tested the DX4530 with our standard pair of 1,850mAh nickel-metal-hydride AAs. The low-battery icon made its one appearance following the 78th picture; after that, the camera simply stopped in its tracks at number 155. Only by frequently cycling the power and limiting the flash photos to 42 percent of the total were we able to eke out a modest 392 shots. The DX4530 also works with lithium CRV3 cells; you'll probably want to keep one on hand for emergencies. You can use the optional EasyShare dock to recharge batteries, quickly transfer images between the camera and your computer, and take advantage of the EasyShare printing and sharing options.
The DX4530's multizone autoexposure, autofocus, and automatic white balance worked well under a variety of lighting conditions, producing very good snapshots with low noise, accurate colors, and proper exposures. There was lots of detail in both shadows and highlights, and the built-in flash provided even illumination regardless of whether we kept subjects in its rated 11-foot range. Unfortunately, we saw a lot of postprocessing and compression artifacts, along with unusually frequent purple fringing. Since the DX4530 lacks an uncompressed format, you're stuck with these problems.
Overall, the DX4530 will be attractive to 5-megapixel bargain hunters and newbies. But for a little more money, you can find some better options.