The latest batch of Kodak cameras have managed to marry retro styling with very simple use and some cute features. The V803 eschews those features and instead goes for headline grabbing resolution at a bargain price.
- 8.32 Million pixels
- Image Size: 3350 x 2483 pixels
- Lens: 36-108 mm (35 mm equiv.) f/2.8-4.9 (3x)
- Focus: TTL AF / Centre zone
- Exposure: auto, 22 scene modes inc. macro, landscape
- Metering: TTL metering; multi-pattern, centre-weighted, centre spot
- Monitor: 2.5" LCD (154k pixels)
- Movie Mode: Yes
- ISO range: ISO80-1600
- Macro mode: 6cm
- Shutter speed: 8-1/2000sec
- Storage: 32Mb internal, SD/MMC
- Batteries: Lith-Ion Rechargeable
- Size/Weight: 103 × 54.5 × 25 mm - 142g
At around £150 on the street, the V803 offers an 8Mp resolution and decent movie mode, with a pain-free operating process. It's up against the Canon Powershot A560 with 7Mp res, the Nikon CoolPix P3 with 8Mp res and the Samsung L70 with a 7Mp res.
Modes and features
You've got scene modes, totally auto and a Program mode that allows exposure compensation to be used. There's also a movie mode that offers an impressive 640x480 res at 30fps, and a favourites section if you want to keep some pics in the internal memory or on a card. These functions are arranged in a strip along the top with a natty blue light illuminating whichever is active.
The scene modes offer a good range of subjects from the usual portraits and landscapes, to museums, fireworks, candles, self-portraits to a high ISO mode for very dark conditions What's slightly irritating is that pressing the Scene mode button puts the camera into Program mode. It has to be pressed again to bring up the scene choices, and then a third time to select one of them. Whatever scene mode is activated, it turns the exposure compensation option off, making the camera fully automatic.
In Program mode, there are more options available including white balance settings, focus zone, AF control (single or continuous), sharpness, colour and importantly, metering. What's annoying once more is that by default, the camera will forget any changes made. You need to go into the menu system and activate the remember function for the ones you want. As the ISO setting defaults to Auto, this is very important.
Around the back of the sizeable 2.5in. LCD, there's the rocker for the 3x optical zoom and a thumbstick button, not surrounded by a joypad which they usually are. This changes the view settings, which includes sticking a cross hatch of guidelines, shooting information and a live histogram on the screen. Unfortunately, the live histogram, which is very useful, can only be used when the guidelines are also on screen. Pressing down on the thumbstick chances from normal mode to macro and landscape. This is handy as it saves going into the menu to activate. Moving the thumbstick left or right changes the exposure compensation, unless in a scene mode as noted.
Build and handling
Well it's a fair size and with the rounded edges, has a bulbous look to it. The finish is a nice matt black but this makes it very slippy to hold and dropping the camera could be a regular occurrence. The build quality is good though, and the steel finish back panels around the sizeable LCD screen make it look more expensive than it is. It's not terribly stylish though.
Aside from dropping the camera, the handling is so-so. The menus are easy to navigate and the thumbstick works well, but the on/off button is too recessed into the top and the zoom rocker is very small and fiddly to use.
There are three basic modes - auto flash, fill-flash and red eye reduction. The fill-flash tends to work well, as does the red eye reduction, but the power of this is not great. Kodak quote it at a 3m range on wide angle mode, but that's using ISO140, which in itself is a ridiculous stat when there's no ISO140 mode on the camera. At ISO100, which is what it should be rated on, a quick bit of inverse square law maths comes up with a range of about 2.5m which is frankly anaemic and worse than most compacts.
Startup time is a sluggardly 5secs or thereabouts and while there is a burst mode, it can manage four shots before the internal buffer fills up and it stops to write things to the memory card. It can shoot them in around 4secs, so that's one per second or slightly under, but then in a 10sec test, the rest of the time is spent writing to the card. It can take up to 17secs to finish writing those images to the card, from the end of the last capture of the four. Considering that these are 8Mp images, a burst mode of four pics isn't bad for a compact - otherwise can manage three - but neither is it great.
This all has to be put into context though, because the camera is very cheap and offers a high resolution and good build quality. However, there are other shortcomings on performance, which include the focus lock being noticeably easy to fool, even in bright conditions it can give up. On top of that, the default zone metering system is far too easily fooled by bright conditions, even when the light is falling on the subject right in the middle of the frame. A trip to the menu and changing to centre-weighted should be a priority for any owner of this camera.
The primary red and greens are pretty accurate, and while the blues are brighter, they aren't madly so. The mixes are good as well, though skin is slightly off and bluish-green is cyan.
The skin is a little patchy in places, but rendered pleasingly with a healthly tone. There's sharpness retained on the hair and eyes for a good portrait result.
The landscape mode shot was slightly overexposed. The Program mode with exposure compensation was better. Plenty of detail in the foreground, but noise in the sky and colour fringing around the white stanchions.
The zone metering system hasn't done very well with this image as there is little sky involved, just bright light on the tree right in the centre of the image. It's been overexposed which means a trip to the menu system is required.
This is quite a bright image with only a little shadow to the right side of the black coat. However, the zone metering has failed again, leading to loss of highlights on the face.
This is portrait mode with flash, which has captured the girl well, thrown the background into shadow, but retained the backlighting highlights.
Same shot, but using night portrait mode, so the shutter is left open to retain the background lighting. This has burnt out the hair and rendered it a ghastly yellow colour.
Macro mode is a decent 6cm, which places it in the middle ground of performance. It works well if there's enough light, giving pleasing results.
There's an ISO80 mode on the V803, but this doesn't stop it from having subtle noise evident. Considering that this is an 8Mp chip in a compact body, noise was always going to be present, so the question is how well the camera deals with it as the ISO increases. At ISO100 it's slightly more noticeable and at ISO200 it's quite distinct in the plain grey card, and even includes colour noise as well. The black card looks very noisy. This isn't great. At ISO400 there's a slight loss of detail in the yellow flower while the noise patterns are much more evident across the grey and black areas of the card. When zoomed out, or printed at a standard size, the noise will now be noticeable, but it doesn't ruin the picture. At ISO800 the firmware steps in and grabs hold because the noise here is much larger and distinct, but the photo has been noticeably softened to control it. The image then loses detail in the yellow areas as well as on the textures in the petals. At ISO1600 the picture is a riot of large coloured noise, losing detail. This is hardly surprising but, while pretty poor in itself, it's certainly no worse than most compacts at this setting and is better than a some rivals.
The headline feature of the camera is a whopping 8Mp resolution in a compact body at a very affordable price. With such a low price other features have to be sacrificed, so it's just a paltry 3x optical zoom and this is pretty poor, lacking any kind of smoothness when zooming in. What's perhaps less palatable is that the zone metering system isn't very good, losing highlights on shots where it blatantly should pick up the bright areas right in the middle. Also, the focussing is somewhat hit and miss and gives up very easily. Throw in noisy images and only the fact that it's a cheap 8Mp camera and that the colour rendition is pretty good saves this from a good hiding. Even so, the performance is lacking in almost every department, and so it can only be recommended if you really need a big resolution at a very low price.
Colour accuracy quite good
Build quality is nice
Metering is poor
Focussing gives up too easily
Noise at ISO100
LCD is low-spec
The Kodak EasyShare V803 has a street price of around £149.99 and can be purchased from the ePHOTOzine shop here.