Kodak V610 Review

Kodak V610

“The EasyShare V610 has a number of features that make it attractive: looks, thinness, a 10x optical zoom, built-in Bluetooth...”
  • Thinnest 10x zoom digicam; Bluetooth built-in
  • Not a seamless 10x zoom; slow response
MSRP $449.00

Summary

Poor Panasonic. Trying hard to make headlines in the digicam arena with the new 5-megapixel Lumix DMC-TZ1, the “thinnest 10x optical zoom camera available” at 1.58 inches thick Kodak comes along and trumps them with the 6MP EasyShare V610, a dual lens 10x zoom camera that’s .9 inches thick. Although it’s not a true 10x optical zoom like the TZ1 with its range of 35-350mm (more on this in a bit), Kodak’s marketing hype will surely trump our friends in Secaucus, NJ. Life is tough for manufacturers but good for us as they try to leapfrog one another. But enough of business, what about the new $449 EasyShare V610? The new camera is the latest version of the V570, a fascinating 5MP dual lens camera that offered one lens with a 23mm wide angle view and another 3x zoom ranging from 39-117mm (a digital zoom transitioned between the two if you desired or it simply jumped between them if you turned it off). In the case of the dual lens V610, one lens handles 38-114mm and the other 130-380mm. As you zoom through the entire range, there’s a definite jump between 114-130mm. And it’s pretty annoying. I have to give the marketing folks at Kodak a pat on the back for chutzpah but there really should be an asterisk on the camera. Still the lens does travel between 38-380mm so it is officially a 10x optical zoom.

Beyond the missing millimeters in the optical zoom range, how does the V610 compare to the 2006 class of digicams? Here’s digitaltrend.com’s take…

Features and Design

The EasyShare V610 is a beautiful camera. Part of Kodak’s Pocket series, it looks somewhat similar to the V550 reviewed last year, minus the ridiculous display dock. The long and thin digicam has a black faceplate with a sliding round metallic lens cover with “10X” prominently on view for the entire world to see. You’ll also find the flash, mic and some subtle decals. Very nicely done. The camera measures 4.4 x 2.2 x .9 (WHD, in inches) and weighs 6.2 ounces with battery and card. The V610 has a lot of technology tucked into its skinny case. There are two prism folded optics lenses so they don’t protrude and two 6MP CCD sensors. Alas, you can’t double them for a 12MP image–2832 x 2128 pixels is the top setting.

The top of the camera has just six buttons, three have the cool blue RAZR feel and when all are lit, they indicate the battery is fully charged. It’s the usual suspects: still, video, playback, on/off, flash adjustment and shutter key. The rear of the camera is equally minimal. It’s dominated by a 2.8-inch LCD monitor that’s rated 230K pixels. Although touted as “hi-res” it’s not very impressive, lacking the sharpness of competitor’s screens. To the right of the screen is the wide/tele toggle switch and four-way control with set key. The controller adjusts exposure compensation, macro/landscape mode and the display. As you press it you can access grid lines to properly frame your shots, a histogram or simply eliminate all the icons and other visual detritus.

To left of the screen are more of the usual suspects. One key lets you choose between 21 scene modes including panoramas, another deletes misfires, there’s a menu key, another to review your shots and the unique red Kodak “share” button. Share with the V610 takes on the added dimension of Bluetooth. It’s one of the few cameras with the technology built-in so you can beam images to a printer or computer. It receives them too. The share button also lets you print images, email them and assign favorites, something every Kodak digicam offers. But that Bluetooth–more on that in the performance section.

On the left side is a DC input for charging the battery, the right is clean while the bottom has a battery/SD card compartment, a tripod mount and a connector for either a Kodak EasyShare printer or photo dock. The logical choice is the Series 3 dock ($179) since it’s Bluetooth-enabled and turns out nice 4×6 prints.

The V610 comes with a solid bundle (minus an SD card). There is 32MB of internal memory so you can crank off a few shots without a card. It comes with a battery, charger, wrist strap, pouch, A/V and USB cables, a USB/AV connector, a plastic insert so it can be mounted on a Kodak Printer Dock as well as an insert for Photo Frame dock 2. It’s supplied with Kodak EasyShare Version 5.2. software and a well-design tri-lingual User’s Guide (80 pages in English). Note: Kodak will be updating the software in May to Version 6.0 and it’ll be available on its site (http://www.kodak.com/).

Kodak V610 W/Stand
Image Courtesy of Kodak

Performance

As noted in the introduction, the V610 is a dual lens camera. When you power up, the lens cover quickly slides back to reveal a pair of Schneider Kreuznach C-Variogon lenses. Since the lens barrel doesn’t have to extend, it’s ready to go in less than two seconds. Although the lenses traverse 38-380mm, there’s a hiccough as you move from wide to telephoto. Not to obsess on this, I wonder if anyone will notice or care about it? Anyway, I did. Remember, dealing with this “skip” gets you a very flat and convenient-to-carry digicam. Vacationers will love it for this fact alone but men and women do not live on zoom alone.

Setting up the camera barely takes a brain cell. A quick start guides gets you going and then the onscreen menus take care of the rest. The menus and prompts are very logical but with others learning from Kodak’s example (such as HP), they don’t stand out like they used to. I used the camera in Auto, then the various scene modes and the few manual adjustments available. As is the case with most Kodak cameras, there are no compression options–you just pick the megapixel setting (between 6 and 3). Note: anyone who wants to fiddle with aperture settings and f/stops should look elsewhere. There are four white balance settings including “open shade,” ISO can be adjusted between 64-800, there are three sharpness settings, and you can take long exposures ranging between .5-8 seconds–hardly a Canon EOS 5D but the target audiences are very, very different.

Since the V610 is so thin, you hold it at the edges, opening you to blurry images due to shaky hands. Kodak, like other companies, has upped the ISO to reduce the shake. In Auto it ranges between 64-400. They also added noise reduction circuitry to cut back on that annoying issue. With this combo–called an Anti-Blur System with Advanced Reduction–I found grabbing images in low light and extreme telephotos to be pretty clean but there is noticeable noise. It’s definitely not optical image stabilization as found on the bulkier Panasonic DMC-TZ1 ($349) with its true 10x optical zoom but it did a decent job.

One of the highlight features of the dual lens V570 is in-camera panorama stitching. The V610 has it too. You simply put the camera in one of the panorama modes via the Scene options and fire away. A shaded edge of the previous image stays on the LCD screen so you can match them more easily. It’s here the limitations of the LCD really show themselves. I found myself squinting hard to line the edges up when shooting in bright sunshine, even after adjusting brightness levels. It was frustrating. Once the shots are taken, the camera automatically stitches the 3.1MP images together.

Top of the V610
Image Courtesy of Kodak

Performance Cont’d

I took many shots at the Jersey Shore for panoramas and elsewhere to give the camera a workout, all at maximum resolution. For the most part, the results were good especially outdoors. Colors were very accurate and I was happy with the 8.5×11 prints that were the result although detail was lost in the shadows and there was more noise in blue skies than there should have been. I kept the digital zoom off so there was a very noticeable delay as it moved from one lens to another. Even with the digital zoom engaged there was a still a lag. In case you haven’t noticed, I found it very annoying. Another complaint is the LCD screen. I did a lot of shooting at the beach and boardwalk in Asbury Park (of Springsteen fame). Trying to line up the panorama edges in the sunshine was almost impossible. Surprisingly there isn’t a broad range of LCD brightness boosts (or dims) in the menu system. For a $400-plus camera, this is really inexcusable.

Another issue is battery life. As LCD screens are getting larger, battery life is going down. In the case of the V610, the supplied lithium-ion battery takes 135 shots per the CIPA rating, hardly a day’s outing so be prepared with a charged spare.

Sample 1

Sample 2
Click for a larger image (Warning: Large file size)

Since the V610 has built-in Bluetooth capability, I couldn’t resist beaming an image or three to a Kodak Printer Dock Plus Series 3. It’s as easy as can be. By hitting the Share button and entering the Bluetooth menu, 4×6 prints were churned out with nary a wire to be seen. This is a very nicely implemented function. After going through the tediousness of setting up a Bluetooth USB adapter on my laptop and PC, I was able to send images to them as well. Now is Bluetooth on a camera God’s gift to photographers? Like many theological discussions there’s no clear-cut answer. I did like sending images to a printer and a laptop. But is it more convenient than inserting a memory card into either device? Perhaps there’s a deeper meaning but I’ll leave that to others. Suffice it to say, it’s a nice option to have.

A really excellent feature is Kodak’s Perfect Touch technology. Basically an “Auto Fix” like that found in digital imaging software programs, this enhances your shots (color, contrast, exposure) with a touch of a button. You can even compare them side-by-side and decide if you want to keep it along with the original. Not that your humble reviewer would ever take a poorly exposed photograph…And if you believe that one I really have an excellent bridge to sell you.

Like all digicams, the V610 takes video clips, in this case 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Sound is mono and you can use the zoom while taking videos. Unlike other digicams, there’s very little noise from the lens itself. Quality is decent for grabbing a quick clip.

Conclusion

This one is a toughie. The EasyShare V610 has a number of features that make it attractive: looks, thinness, a 10x optical zoom, built-in Bluetooth and Perfect Touch technology. I really have problems with the LCD screen and the hiccough as the camera “hands off” from one zoom lens to the other. And the camera is pretty slow saving images to the card; overall image quality was average, nothing to write home about with more noise that you should expect from a 2006 digicam. That said I’ll give it an 7.5 as a package but for pure photographic ability you can do better such as the Canon Powershot SD630. Bottom line: if it were my money, I wouldn’t buy it.

Pros:

       

    • Thin 10x optical zoom digicam
    • Bluetooth enabled
    • Built-in Perfect Touch correction
  • Easy to use, setup

Cons:

       

    • Zooms “skips” from one lens to the other
    • Poor LCD screen in bright sunlight
    • Only 135 shots per charge
    • Slower response than competitors
    • No compression options
  • Few manual controls

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