We don't say this enough, but when it comes to gadgets, substance trumps style. Even if a gadget is pretty and stylish, it's worthless if it doesn't do what's intended. Sure, Kodak's EasyShare V803 might be pretty and stylish. Unfortunately it's also a very poor digital camera.
Despite its fat, candy bar shape, the V803's smooth curves and array of colors make it quite comely. Unfortunately, the camera's sleek design makes for an uncomfortable control scheme. A handful of tiny rectangular buttons strewn across the top and left side of the camera back access the V803's different modes and menus. The buttons feel unresponsive and are placed so that you have to use two hands while operating the camera, and we had a hard time trying to distinguish between them by touch. Also, you have to use a small, awkward-to-manipulate joystick to navigate the camera's various settings and menus. In our field tests, it often mistranslated directional taps and button pushes for each other.
Besides its colorful, curvy body, the V803 doesn't have any unique or notable features. The 8-megapixel camera uses a 36mm to 108mm-equivalent 3X optical zoom lens, and features a 2.5-inch LCD screen. Besides those main features, the camera has onboard image editing features with Kodak's "Perfect Touch Technology," as well as the standard array of scene presets and modes. We were pleased to see what Kodak calls the Maintain Settings mode, which saves your preferences for settings such as ISO, white balance, flash, and pixel resolution, so you don't have to reset them each time you turn your camera on, as you had to with some previous Kodak models.
The V803 performed reasonably well, though it takes far too long to start up. After a 4.3-second wait from power-on to first shot, we managed to take new photos every 1.4 seconds thereafter. With the onboard flash enabled, that wait increased to 3 seconds. The shutter was acceptably responsive, lagging 0.6 seconds with our high-contrast target and 1.6 seconds with our low-contrast target. The camera's burst mode only takes four shots at a time. In our tests it snapped them over 1.9 seconds for a respectable rate of 2.1 frames per second.
Noise and artifacts plagued the V803's images, softening and obscuring fine details. Photos shot at settings as low as ISO 400 displayed notable amounts of grain, which only grew worse at higher ISO settings. At ISO 1600, static-like speckles completely covered the image, softening all but the largest and most prominent details and rendering it almost completely unusable.
It's telling that the second paragraph of Kodak's press release for the V803 starts with a quote from chief marketing officer Pierre Schaeffer rather than a product manager or engineer. "As consumers look for more ways to expand their picture taking experience, the Kodak EasyShare 10- and 8-megapixel digital cameras make it fun to personalize the camera look and feel," said Schaeffer. Unfortunately, the same company that ushered in color photography with Kodachrome now seems more interested in the color of the cameras than the technology inside them and the usability of their design. Unless you plan on making very large prints, you'd be better off sacrificing a megapixel and buying something such as Canon's PowerShot A560. Its images might still be noisy at high ISOs, but its controls are easier to use and it doesn't take forever to start up.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|