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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Kodak V803

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Kodak EasyShare V803 Review

Review Date: Mar 5, 2007

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Kodak EasyShare V803 with optional EasyShare G600 Printer Dock
Kodak EasyShare V803 with optional EasyShare G600 Printer Dock

USER'S EXPERIENCE

Tuesday, Feb 20, 2007 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • EasyShare V803 (Silver)
  • No memory card included [but it has 32MB of Internal Memory]
  • [I received a 256MB Hi-Speed Core Micro SD Card]
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery KLIC-7003 3.7V 1050mAh
  • Adapter for charging battery in-camera
  • USB Cable (no A/V cable included)
  • Wrist Strap
  • Custom Camera Insert for Docking Station
  • Software CDs: EasyShare v6.0 software with printer driver
  • Instruction Manual: Getting Started Guide

The Kodak EasyShare V803 may be affordable but it is packed with some of the best features that have made Kodak EasyShare digital cameras so popular and easy to use. With no less than 8 different colours to choose from (9 if you are buying in Canada), skins to further personalize the camera look and feel, and other fashion accesories, the V803 seems to be targeted to women photographers. However, look past the smooth satin skin and chrome buttons, and you'll see practical features that are prized by the advanced photographer.

Four features are instantly available by simply moving the mini Joystick up (Framing Grid, Live Histogram), down (Infinity Focus), right and left (Exposure Compensation).

The Framing Grid allows you to line up the horizon perfectly horizontal and keep your buildings from becoming a modern day Tower of Pisa. It is also immensely useful when using the on-camera panorama stitching to ensure your images are level and do not slope up or down.

The Live Histogram gives you a feedback on whether your image is too dark or too bright before you take the shot.

Infinity Focus is more useful than you may think, especially when it is difficult to achieve AF lock on a distant subject due to low-light level. Set the camera to Infinity Focus and you are confident any subject 30 ft (10 m) or more away will be in focus.

Moving the mini Joystick right and left dials in a positive and negative exposure compensation, respectively. I love this direct access to exposure compensation, though the photographer should be careful not to accidentally dial one in inadvertently. That has not happened to me yet in about 200 shots, so that's a good sign.

All other features are accessed through the MENU.

Take the Self-timer. Not just the usual 10 sec. delay, but a conveniently short 2 sec. delay for the times when you are using a tripod. Plus a 2-shot option with 10 sec. delay and then 8 sec. delay. Yeah, come to think about it, we usually always take 2 shots when using the self-timer for group shots. Now, there's no need to run back to the camera to set the self-timer again. Good thinking!

The Kodak V803 has a high ISO 1600 but as the image samples show, this is accompanied with lots of noise and loss of image detail. ISO 400 is as high as you should really go for an acceptable level of image quality.

The slowest shutter speed available in AUTO mode is 1/8 sec. For longer exposure time, you need to go into MENU and select Long Time Exposure and then experiment using a shutter speed from 0.5 sec. to 8 sec. At these long exposure times, you need to set the camera on a tripod to prevent camera shake -- and your subject should ideally not move (unless you are shooting fireworks).

Great Panoramic Shots As Easy As 1-2-3

When I first started using digital cameras, the possibility to take real panoramic shots (not the pseudo "panorama" mode of APS film cameras that simply cropped the top and bottom portion of the picture to simulate a panorama shot) was a powerful attraction. As I dabbled into it, I found that the software you used mattered as well as how helpful the panorama mode of the camera was.

For example, did the camera display part of the previous shot as semi-transparent to allow easy alignment with the next shot? The more closely aligned your shots are, the more seamless your final resultant panorama shot will be.

Also, I found that the panorama software had to be good or I could spend hours trying to get the stitching right. There are some good ones out there, but who likes spending time stitching images?

That is why the Kodak V803's on-camera panorama stitching is such a winner. It works well but does require that you align your shots carefully -- and that can be challenging using a relatively small LCD screen (compared to a 17-in. or larger computer screen). Our panorama image samples were handheld and so suffers from some misalignment, though you would not be able to see it unless you view it full size. Overall, if you choose your alignment points carefully, your panorama shots should come out very acceptable.

[See our tips on how to take great panorama shots with the Kodak V803.]

I don't believe Kodak has targeted those who love wide landscape vistas strongly enough. This is easily a new sub category that could take off in new printers, paper types, etc. catering to printing panoramas.

[Editor's Note: A note of caution is necessary when you are taking only 2 shots. When you are taking 3 shots, the camera automatically stitches the shots together after the third shot is taken. Not so with 2-shot panoramas. You must press the mini Joystick in to start the stitching process. If you simply power off, the camera does not stitch first then power off; it simply turns off and no warning is given that you will lose those shots. The Kodak V803 has still not fixed this design flaw first seen in the V570, then in subsequent V Series digital cameras. We hope Kodak fixes this "feature" in a future firmware upgrade.]

How To Take Great Panorama Shots With The Kodak V803

It is easy to take great panorama shots with the Kodak V803. There are two reasons for this:

1) The on-camera panorama stitching gives you a semi-transparent overlay of the previous shot that greatly helps in proper alignment.

2) The Panorama scene mode is divided into 2 scene modes: Left-Right and Right-Left. In case you're wondering what's the big deal, it is. Read Tip #1 to see why.

Note that, unlike the Dual Lens V Series digital cameras that come with an ultra-wide angle lens, the V803 comes with a standard 36mm wide-angle lens. You will therefore not be able to cover a full 180° with the 3 shots; the angle covered is more like 90°.

Here are 4 tips that will help you nail that panorama shot everytime:

Tip #1 - Select Your First Shot Carefully

When taking multiple images for a panorama shot, the first shot is used to meter the exposure. This is important to keep in mind if you want to have your panorama shots correctly exposed.

Let's take an example where you want to take a 3-shot panorama of a Family Room - Breakfast Area - Kitchen (say, from Left to Right in that order), as is currently the design for many new houses in the Toronto real-estate market. The Family Room usually includes a large porch door that allows lots of light in while the Kitchen is usually the area with less light. So depending on whether you take your first shot with the Family Room or the Kitchen, the exposure will be metered and set differently.

If you start with the Kitchen first (a Right-Left shot), the camera meters for the somwhat dark Kitchen and exposes it correctly. Next you move left to the Breakfast Area, and the exposure is still OK. But when you move to the Family Room, the porch door ends up being too over-exposed, resulting in a not-too-successful panorama shot.

Reverse the panning order and select the Panorama Left-Right scene mode instead. Now, on your first shot, the camera meters for the large porch door and correctly exposes the Family Room. Next you move right to the Breakfast Area and the exposure is still OK. When you move to the Kitchen, depending on how dark it is, you might either end up with an under-exposed Kitchen shot, or more probably (since the Kitchen also has a window), slightly under-exposed but OK exposure.

Overall, this Left-Right shot might come out better than the previous Right-Left shot.

For great panorama shots, always give it a dry run first, checking the 2 or 3 shots that you want to stitch together, and carefully selecting the one to make your first shot. A good rule of thumb is to start with the shot that has the most light that may come out way overexposed or the one with the least light that may come out way underexposed. If all 3 shots are lighted about the same, it does not make a difference which Panorama mode you choose. If in doubt, take two panorama shots, one Left-Right, then a second one Right-Left, then select to keep the best.

Tip #2 - Keep Camera Level

A second important thing to keep in mind is to keep your camera level. Keeping the camera level keeps your horizon level, so the ceiling does not slope up or down. It also allows alignment of the 3 shots to be as perfect as possible. Using a tripod here is highly recommended. Use the Framing Guide feature.

Tip #3 - Pivot Around Camera

The third tip is to pivot around the center of the camera, not your body. In other words, it's the camera that should pivot, not you. This is because we are not holding the camera close against our face, peering through the viewfinder. There is no viewfinder and we are holding our hands out and looking into the LCD monitor. So just pivot the camera (imagine it's on a tripod). Of course, as in the previous tip, placing the camera on a level surface or a tripod is highly recommended.

For group shots, you may not need to pivot at all. If you are taking a picture of an essentially flat and wide subject, e.g. a mural, simply start at one end and walk across the mural, being careful to keep the camera level and the same distance from the wall. Too bad Kodak restricts panorama shots to 3 only; some murals may need more than 3 shots.

Tip #4 - Be Careful When Including People

The one thing to be careful of when including people in your panorama shots is that, if they are moving around, you may end up with one or more persons appearing more than once in your final panorama shot.

It's also quite difficult, even impossible, to align 2 shots if you are using a moving person as your alignment point. If the person walks away when you take the next shot, you may end up with a half-bodied "ghost."

Follow these 4 tips and your panorama shots should come out great. As usual, practice makes perfect.

Advanced Users

Though the Kodak V803 is targeted to beginners, more advanced photographers will find useful manual controls.

For example, its Auto mode is really a Programmed Auto mode, allowing changes to WB, ISO, Exposure Metering mode, and Focus Zone.

As I mentioned earlier, one standard feature that I really appreciate with Kodak digital cameras is that the Left and Right arrow keys default to Exposure Compensation. No need to go into the Menu to do it or press an extra button. The danger is that you may inadvertently dial in an exposure compensation but it surprisingly does not happen easily here -- perhaps because the mini Joystick does require a conscious and definite push to dial in a change of setting.

Frustrated that the camera does not keep your MENU settings [SETUP settings are kept]? Any changes you make in the MENU apply only to the current session. When next time you power on, the camera will default back to its factory-shipped settings.

There are now 2 ways to keep your MENU settings. The first way is to use the Custom scene mode: Just press SCN, select Custom (it's the last icon), and press OK. Then go into menu and set your favourite settings. When you turn off/on the camera, it will default back to Auto mode. Press SCN and select Custom again (if that's where you left it last time, the icon will still be selected) to retrieve your saved settings.

A new way, which started with the V705 Dual Lens, is the "Maintain Settings" option in the MENU that allows you to save the most used settings: Flash, WB, ISO, Color Mode, Sharpness, Exposure Metering, and Focus Zone. This saves you from having to go to Scene Mode to select Custom.

EasyShare Software 6

Kodak EasyShare Software 6
Kodak EasyShare Software 6

The EasyShare Software 6 remains easy to install and use. Anyone (even if you do not own a Kodak digital camera) can download it for free. If you are running an older version, you can download the most recent one from Kodak's site.

The default transfer directory on Windows XP is the "My Pictures" directory on the C: drive in Documents and Settings. I much prefer to create a new directory under a name of my own choosing so I can easily find the pictures when I need to. You set this directory in: Tools - Preferences... - Transfer - Browse. One improvement suggestion here is to be able to create a new folder while in EasyShare; as it is implemented now, I need to launch Windows Explorer to create a new folder and then come back to EasyShare to specify it as my default transfer folder for this camera.

If you use the EasyShare Software to edit your photos, be aware that the default image compression is set to less than the highest quality possible. So the pictures you edit and save will be of less quality than the original one. (Always save using a different name so you don't muck up the original picture.) This is all right if that's what you want. But if you want the highest quality, go to: Tools - Preferences... - General tab - select Large File/High Quality JPEG compression.

The EDIT function allows you to Crop, Rotate, remove Red Eye, auto Enhance, Scene Balance (exposure, shadow, highlight), Color Balance (pseudo WB correction), apply various Scene Effects (B&W, Sepia Tone, Forest, Scenic, Portrait, Sunset), apply Fun Effects (Spotlight, Coloring Book, Cartoon, Fisheye), and create cards. You can also burn selected images to a CD or DVD.

The one improvement suggestion I would have liked to see is complete detailed EXIF info. Kodak probably thinks the target audience for this camera would not care one bit about EXIF info, but it's already there in each picture, so why not simply display it for more advanced users? Not much is missing: Exposure Compensation, Macro, and other effects used.

Summary

The Kodak EasyShare V803 is an affordable and elegant looking digital camera. It is point-and-shoot easy to use for beginners, though more advanced users will appreciate some of the advanced features and user interface. If you like to personalize your belongings, then consider the Kodak V803: it has enough accessories to help you make it your very own.

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