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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Kodak V550

Kodak Digital Cameras

   


Kodak V550 Zoom Review

Review Date: Aug 15, 2005

Category: Point-and-Shoot

HANDLING & FEEL


Lazy River - Paramount Canada's Wonderland
Demonstrating the correct way to relax your way down Lazy River as a couple
without getting separated by the gentle current and other bumping inner tubes
36mm, Auto, Multi-Pattern, 1/400 sec., F2.8 and ISO 80

The Kodak EasyShare V550 Zoom is an all metallic ultra compact digital camera with a solid construction. It looks fashionable and is part of Kodak's newest "Pocket Series." With its flush design, it will fit into your jeans pocket with dimensions of 94W× 56H× 22D mm (3.7W × 2.2H × 0.9D in.); it weighs 143g (5.1 oz). It comes with a docking station as standard, and small design attention to details make it an enjoyable camera to use.

The 3x optical zoom lens is a quality Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon with a 35-mm equivalent focal length of 36-108mm. The lens extends about 2.5 cm (1 in.) when powered on.

The back of the camera is mostly taken by the extra large 2.5 in. LCD monitor with a high 230,000 pixels resolution and a fast refresh rate. The image is very clear and gains up very well in low-light. Those who like to use an optical viewfinder will be glad to learn that there is a small though very clear one on the Kodak V550.

On the LCD, you can choose to display a clean image (without any info), display info, display a live histogram in addition to the info, or turn the display off completely.

When pointed to a bright source of light (the TV screen, a bright metal roof reflecting the sun), the image in the LCD may sometimes band. I find that too often I inadvertently hold the camera by the LCD when placing it on, or removing it from, its docking station. Fortunately the LCD is protected by a piece of clear glass, and a wipe with a soft cloth is all it takes to clean the glass.

Because of the amount of space taken by the LCD monitor, Kodak chose to make all the control buttons on the small side. Everything, including the zoom lever and the four way controller, is small. I find the control buttons somewhat difficult to operate at first, and I personally would have preferred a few extra mm. However, each click is precise, and you do get used to them after a while.

I find that I do have to be careful not to inadvertently press the Auto mode control (situated at the top left corner where you put your index finger to hold the camera steady); if I had selected a Scene Mode, I can easily switch back to Auto mode just by holding the camera for shooting. So, if you have large hands and fingers, you may want to check the controls out yourself at the store first before making a buying decision. Those used to tiny control buttons, as is common nowadays on most electronic products, might not find any of this to be a problem.

The Kodak V550 does not have a mode dial. Instead, four panel buttons line the top of the camera: Auto, Portrait, SCN (Scene), Video. They are not touch-sensitive; they are really part of the top panel itself and you do have to slightly depress that particular section of the panel to activate one of the modes. Once activated, the selected mode glows blue.

Also on top of the camera is a tiny flash button that I find a bit too close to the power button for comfort. Flash is Auto by default: everytime you turn on the camera, flash is reset to Auto. This is probably a bit irritating for those who like to leave the flash off until needed, but good for P&S photographers who might forget to turn the flash back on if they had temporarily turned it off. As it is, I turned off the camera a number of times when I meant to turn the flash off. It would be good to have a menu option to default the flash to either Auto or OFF.

The shutter release button is rectangular, very close to the edge and almost flushed with the surface. It is two stage with a soft first stage to lock focus and exposure, and a firm click is necessary to take the picture.

All the options are accessed thru the menu, except for macro (Close-up) and flash. I like the fact that there is also a Landscape setting that will set the lens to focus at infinity. The latter option should come in handy when taking fireworks pictures when it is too dark to lock focus on anything and you really want an infinity focus.

There is a "light sensor" at the far top right corner (looking at the front of the camera) which I find easily blocked by my fingers. If this is the light meter, then be careful not to block it to ensure correct exposure metering.

This is a fast camera. Startup is fast at about 1 sec. including waiting for the lens to extend and the LCD monitor to light up! There is also no practical shutter/AF lag. Auto focus is fast and locks easily. There is an AF Assist Illuminator to help gain focus in low light situations that works very well. I find that writing the image to memory seems slower than average.

When you take a picture, it is displayed on the LCD for about 5 seconds for review. I did not find an option to disable it. A touch on the shutter release button puts the camera immediately into record mode again. At any time, a press of the separate Review button on the back of the camera takes you back into review.

Here is the screen display of the Kodak V550 in Auto mode. It tells you at a glance (from top left clock-wise): Self-timer on, Flash Auto, 5MP resolution, space for approx. 13 images left, Internal memory being used, Continuous AF, Center Focus zone, Center-Spot metering, ISO 80, Auto mode, exposure compensation, Histogram, Zoom indicator. As on other Kodak digital cameras, the left and right arrow keys conveniently default to exposure compensation.

The Kodak V550 has 19 Scene Modes: press the Scene Mode button on top of the camera and use the arrow keys to select: Sport, Landscape, Close Up, Night Portrait, Night Landscape; Snow, Beach, Text, Fireworks, Flower, Manner/Museum, Self Portrait; Party, Children, Backlight, Panning Shot, Candlelight, Sunset, Custom. As you can see, each scene mode is accompanied by a short explanation of what it does and some relevant instructions.

One scene mode that you might want to pay particular attention to is Custom: it allows you to save your camera settings. If you have been frustrated that the camera reset your settings (except for a couple) everytime you turn it off/on, use the Custom scene mode. Just press SCN, select Custom (it's the last one), and press OK. Then go into menu and set your favourite settings. When you turn off/on the camera, it will default to Auto mode. Press SCN and select Custom again to retrieve your saved settings.

A feature that Kodak gets right is the tripod socket that is: 1) metal and 2) centered inline with the lens. This permits taking easy panorama pictures on a tripod. If Kodak can provide a metal tripod and position it properly on a P&S camera, why can't other digital camera manufacturers do the same?

A docking station comes standard. Place the Kodak V550 on its docking station and it starts to recharge the battery. It takes approximately 3 hours to completely recharge a fully depleted battery. When battery is recharging, the SCN button blinks. When all four top panel buttons glow steady, the battery is fully recharged. A 3-part indicator on the docking station also gives an approximation of how much the battery is currently charged.

A cool feature of the docking station is the Slide Show button: press the Slide Show button on the docking station, and your camera becomes a hands-free display unit running a slide show of your pictures. The camera sits on the docking station at a slight angle for comfortable viewing. The high resolution of the LCD plus a 170° wide viewing angle make reviewing pictures with others easier.

Press the Transfer button and your images are immediately transferred to your PC using the EasyShare software.

The Kodak EasyShare V550 Zoom packs lots of features into an ultra compact and solid all-metal body. It not only looks fashionable but handles quite well, and its simple menu design is easy to navigate. More importantly, it is fast in operation with no practical shutter lag at the wide-angle focal length.

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