Kodak EasyShare P880 Review

If this camera was around $500 or less it would be a really good deal.
If this camera was around $500 or less it would be a really good deal.
If this camera was around $500 or less it would be a really good deal.

Highs

  • Very good picture quality; wide zoom range; RAW mode

Lows

  • Slow saving to card; expensive

Summary

Kodak is known for selling shiploads of inexpensive digicams and printer docks. Occasionally it dips its toes in the higher end of game with models like the EasyShare One and the Performance Series that includes the 8-megapixel P880. The company used to sell a D-SLR but pulled the plug on it earlier this year after competitors Canon and Nikon blew it out of the water. The just-introduced EasyShare P880 is a fairly sophisticated digicam that rivals and in some other ways tops its competitors.

The P880 has an oddly-sized lens rated 5.8x with a very nice range of 24-140mm. Yet at $599 it’s competing against some real heavy hitters especially when you think the Fujifilm FinePix S9000 has a 10.7x optical zoom and a 9MP imager for $50 more (street prices). And there’s Canon’s Pro 1 (8MP, 7x zoom) for $625 or the Nikon 8700 (8MP, 8x, $550), even the 8MP Olympus SP-350 with a 4x zoom for $399. It’s a cruel world out there as manufacturers cram more technology into their cameras and lower prices in a struggle for market share. It’s Darwinian capitalism at its best and you’re the winner. Now can the EasyShare P880 claw its way to the top. Let’s check it out…

Features and Design

The black bodied P880 is much taller than most point-and-shoot digicams. Some of the reasons for this are the large 2.5-inch LCD screen, the large physical diameter of the lens along with a large electronic viewfinder. At first glance it looks like a small D-SLR but it’s definitely not. The camera has a 5.8x Schneider Kreuznach lens with a range of 24-140mm (35mm equivalent). This 24mm option is a blessing since you can take wider panoramas and more interesting portraits. Most photographers would rather a lens be wider than longer on the telephoto side and Kodak delivers. We agree. Another new camera with this wide focal length is the much more expensive Sony DSC-R1. Hopefully this trend will continue with other manufacturers.

The EasyShare P880 has a very solid, comfortable pistol grip with a brush-metal accent. Other than a Kodak logo and an 8.0 Megapixels decal, there are very few design frills on the front which is dominated by the lens. The camera is supplied with a lens hood for that D-SLR vibe. As I’ve said before, try it on, admire it, then put it away. The hood causes severe vignetting with flash shots. And if you follow Kodak’s recommendation that it be mounted backwards in those instances, the hood gets in the way of the adjusting the zoom and manual focus rings. Another knock is the lens cap string that gets attached to the neck strap. I know it prevents lens cap loss but boy is it annoying as it flaps in the breeze. Of note on the front is the window for the low light LED also called an AF Assist lamp, a must-have feature in our book.

The top of the camera is fairly straightforward but there are a few different touches. Along with the power and shutter key, there’s a hot shoe, manual pop-up flash and mode dial. You’ll also find a Drive button that gives you access to burst modes and two levels of exposure bracketing (3 or 5 shots). Burst mode is rated 2.6 fps at full resolution, a good spec for a non-D-SLR. The popular $899 8MP Canon Rebel XT D-SLR grabs 3 frames per second. The P880 records three shot bursts in RAW, another pretty impressive number. There’s also a zoom key that lets you zero in on image (up to 10x) to check for focus. It also engages the digital zoom (1.4x or 2x) but quality drops so you should avoid using it. A nearby Focus key adjusts that as well (macro, manual and so on).

The rear of the P880 is dominated by a 2.5-inch LCD screen and the electronic viewfinder (EVF) with diopter control. The screen is rated a so-so 115K pixels and the viewfinder is 237K, a respectable number. On the left side of the screen are keys to adjust the flash (auto, fill, red-eye, off), metering mode that offers a selectable spot along with multi pattern, center weighted and center spot). ISO can be adjusted 50-400 and there’s a raft of white balance options including three custom settings and a neat Click WB for a specific object or scene.

There’s the obligatory four-way controller but Kodak implemented this nicely with a mini joystick that you adjust up/down, left/right and push to accept. Other keys include Delete, Menu, AE/AF, Set and a dial to make adjustments in specific menu settings. You can also change between the EVF and the LCD screen at the touch of a button and the “I” lets you add to or eliminate the onscreen clutter on the LCD. It also gives you access to the histogram display. Since this is a Kodak, there’s also a Share button that lets you tag your images for printing, emailing or labeling as a favorite. This works in conjunction with the supplied–and very good–EasyShare software.

On the right pistol grip is the SD card slot, while the left has inputs for an external flash, DC in and AV/USB outs. On the bottom is the compartment for the lithium ion battery (rated 250 shots per CIPA, the industry standard), tripod mount and dock connector for the Kodak Printer Docks. A plastic insert is supplied with the camera to ensure proper fit. We’re big fans of Kodak printer docks since they simply crank out 4×6 prints at the touch of a few buttons.

The EasyShare P880 kit is solid, like all Kodaks. Along with the camera, lens cap and hood, various straps and cables, there’s a Start Here! page that gets you off and running. There’s also a rechargeable battery, charger, printer dock insert and a very nicely written User’s Guide (102 pages in English). The same book also has French and Spanish variations. No SD card is supplied so we loaded a 2GB Kingston Ultimate high-speed card and hit the streets.

Kodak EasyShare P880
Image Courtesy of Kodak

Performance

The P880 starts up very quickly and in less than two seconds you’re good to go. I shot images at 8MP Fine (3264 x 2448 pixels) as well as RAW. Images were taken initially in Auto and then it was time to explore the many options offered.

The camera has excellent feel and heft. While not as bulky as some D-SLRs, it does weigh 20 ounces with battery and card. It’s definitely not going to fit in your pocket but that’s not what this camera is all about.

Although Kodak claims the 2.5-inch LCD is good for indoors and out, I found myself using the EVF especially when outside in bright sunshine. The LCD has five contrast levels to choose from but I found the 115K pixels couldn’t withstand the strong light. Another thing that bothered me was the lack of an auto pop-up flash. You have to open it manually. It’s not the end of the world but it’s something you’d expect at this price level. Still I really liked having the option of 24mm.

When shooting at full JPEG resolution there’s a definite lag as the camera saves photos to the card (and I used a high-speed edition). It’s even longer for RAW. For casual shots this is no big deal but consider moving to burst if you’re the resident photographer for the kid’s soccer games. After taking a variety of shots indoors and out, in Auto, manual and different resolutions, it was time to make some prints, truly the best way to measure any camera’s real-world quality.

After downloading images to my Dell, JPEGs were cranked out with no processing or tweaking to a Canon Pixma MP780 printer. The 8.5×11 prints were very good with very accurate colors with very little purple fringing. Some macro shots of late Fall mums looked as lifelike as one could ask for. Shots taken with the ISO pushed to 200 and 400 were noisy but not as bad as other 8MP cameras I’ve used.

Kodak handles RAW image files (13MB-plus) rather uniquely. It has an in-camera system to “develop” them. If you haven’t taken the plunge for Adobe Photoshop CS2 ($500), the de facto editing program for RAW files, the P880 lets you adjust the file in the camera while keeping an original copy (for the day you plunk down the cash for CS2). Some of the adjustments are exposure compensation, color mode, sharpness, contrast, white balance and white balance compensation. This is a very useful feature for photographers who are dipping their toes into RAW. The developed file is a JPEG or a TIFF, files that can be easily handled by less expensive editing programs. Kodak is to be commended for this.

Although this is a D-SLR wannabe, it can take video clips at 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames second. Although you can zoom while shooting the camera picks up the noise of zoom. As I’ve said many times before, these clips are fun for a quickie video but it won’t replace your MiniDV camcorder.

Kodak EasyShare P880
Image Courtesy of Kodak

Conclusion

The Kodak EasyShare P880 is a digicam designed for someone who wants many D-SLR features but isn’t quite ready to commit to interchangeable lens and a high price. The camera takes very good photographs. Still my biggest knock other than the few performance issues detailed is price. If this camera was around $500 or less it would be a really good deal. At $600, it’s another story since it’s not too far from some low-priced D-SLRs. If you’re not ready to take the D-SLR plunge for an Olympus E-500 or Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D, give this one a long look–but wait for it to go on sale.

Pros:

       

    • 8MP resolution JPEG and RAW
    • Very accurate colors
    • Nice ergonomics and documentation
  • A plethora of manual options

Cons:

       

    • Expensive
    • Slow response
  • Some noise at higher ISOs
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