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The EasyShare DX3600 is clearly from the Kodak design studio and takes style cues from a range of previous offerings including some APS camera. The body feels chunky if a little lighter than you might suppose, but is fundamentally the same as that of the 2.2 megapixel DX3500 launched only a few months ago. That camera received good reviews and was generally well received but, significantly among compatriots, no zoom lens. The newcomer addresses this shortcoming and offers more features besides.
Though some might argue that selective editing on the computer or the infamous digital zoom could make up for that, such electronic cropping compromises quality and prevents the exploitation of a fine optical system. A digital zoom, for the uninitiated, merely 'magnifies' a central part of the CCD image to create an enlarged image and thus offers substantially lower resolution.
Now we have a 2x zoom (a real optical zoom) that may not be as wide a range as some might have wished but is fine for framing shots. With the caveat on quality mentioned above, there is also a 3x digital zoom that kicks in when the maximum optical zoom ratio is reached.
Unlike many contemporaries there is no true macro setting. We have become used to macro settings - offering extreme close ups - with many digital cameras. This has largely been due to the unique lens geometries of these cameras. Featuring such compact lens assemblies it is often easy to achieve macro settings without resorting to special lens configurations.
With the bonus of a larger lens assembly this camera can achieve creditable 'close-ups' but no more. But these close-ups prove to be optically very well corrected and sharp across the whole image.
Bucking the trend of recent years of digital cameras only providing memory storage in the form of removable cards, the DX3600 follows its predecessor in offering 8Mb of onboard memory in addition to that provided by removable media (in the Kodak tradition, CompactFlash cards). That should be sufficient for around a dozen high quality images. Not much, but should you forget to reload your CompactFlash it could be essential.
A NiMH rechargeable battery that can, in emergencies, be replaced by conventional AA type batteries provides power for the DX3600. Charging of the batteries is achieved using the 'docking station' to which the camera can be placed on return to base. But this station has a second, more significant purpose - it also provides a USB-based link to your PC or Mac, helping make the image download facility as easy as possible. Kodak's EasyShare software is provided to simplify downloads. It can be launched by pressing a button on the docking station after which (when set to automatic download) all the images are copied to your hard disc from where basic edits can be performed using Kodak Picture Software.
With the supplied software the download is fast but, depending on your computer configuration, both the memory card in the camera and the onboard memory can appear on your desktop where the files can be drag-and-dropped to your hard disc. In this respect the camera and docking station work effectively like a 'super card reader' and performance is as swift as you might expect from such a device.
Our test software bundle claimed to operate under Mac OS X but we found that not to be the case; Kodak Picture Software will run in Classic mode but the other elements do not work at all. Fortunately OS X's Image Capture software will accommodate these shortcomings and perform the image capture from the camera very effectively.
This camera can also record movie clips at either 320x240 pixel resolution or a less useful 160x120 pixels. The former will allow around 40 seconds of video on the 8Mb of built in memory and pro-rata for larger capacity cards. Sound is also recorded but (unlike models such as Fuji's FinePix 40i) audio quality is somewhat disappointing.
The use of a docking station and the EasyShare facility highlight the 'consumer' credentials of this camera but the image quality is very good, especially considering that a 2.2 megapixel camera is considered pretty average these days. The supplied software is unimpressive by the standards of those used to even modest image manipulation packages, but will be sufficient for most users.
The EasyShare DX3600 is supplied with docking station (including battery charger and USB connector), EasyShare driver software and Kodak Picture Software for around 300.
This camera will sell on ease of use and it certainly delivers: the dock makes images easy to download and ensures the camera is always fully charged and ready to go.
Despite no macro, close-ups are commendably sharp. Depth-of-field is adequate in bright lighting conditions such as this.