“Kodak is to be commended for taking this wireless leap.”
- Wi-Fi enabled; huge 3-inch LCD screen
- Only 4MP resolution; no AF Assist lamp or viewfinder; poor battery life
Wi-Fi is all the rage. It’s moved from geeks to mainstream—especially when a hardly cutting-edge company like Kodak introduces a Wi-Fi- enabled digital camera. The EasyShare One lets you email pictures from the camera and connect to the Kodak EasyShare Gallery (formerly Ofoto) using the 802.11b protocol. Once on the site you can alert folks that you have images to share and access all of your images. Kodak is working with T-Mobile so you have 6,000 hotspots across the U.S. to choose from to beam your images to the outside world. Or if that’s not your cup of latte you can simply beam photos to your Wi-Fi enabled laptop or printer. The new 4-megapixel digicam goes beyond offering wireless connectivity. The camera has 256MB of internal memory so it holds up to 1,500 images, making it a portable digital photo album. It also has a huge swiveling 3-inch touch-screen LCD for framing and reviewing your Kodak moments.
A seeming avalanche of Wi-Fi cameras has hit recently. That may be an exaggeration since Nikon has two (CoolPix P1/P2) and Canon will introduce the SD430 in January for $499. Oh, and let’s not forget that great camera maker Concord introduced one several years ago (the 2MP Go Wireless). Still it’s definitely a trend as printers such as the Kodak Photo Printer 500 and Printer Dock Plus Series 3 become Wi-Fi enabled as well. And most decent laptops have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. Now is it worth almost 600 clams to throw away your USB cables and send photos from Starbucks to the Internet? That’s the $599 question…
The EasyShare One hardly looks to be dancing on technology’s bleeding edge. When off, it’s about the size of a deck of cards (4.1 x 2.5 x 1, WHD, in inches) and weighs 9 ounces loaded with a lithium ion battery and SD card. When closed it looks like a silvery bar (front and rear) with white plastic accents on the edges. However, when you flip open the LCD panel, things start to get interesting. The camera powers up and the screens jumps to life in about three seconds while the 3x Schneider Kreuznach optical zoom lens extends from the camera body if you’re in the capture mode (there’s a built-in lens cover). Controls for capture/playback are on the side of the LCD as is on/off for the onscreen displays. The lens translates to 36-108mm in 35mm terms, the typical point-and-shoot range. (Total “boot up” time is around seven seconds, hardly the speediest digicam on the block.) Now you have a good not great 4MP camera in your hands and you can easily frame your shots and replay them on the high-quality (230K pixel) touch screen.
There are just a few controls on the right side of the screen including the wide-tele rocker switch, Menu, Share, Back and Delete keys as well as a four-way controller with an OK button. There’s really nothing unusual here. The fun begins when you take the stylus out of its holder near the shutter key. With it you tap on the screen to access the major settings of the camera. By tapping on the flash icon you can adjust its setting (auto, red-eye, fill, off). You change the brightness of the screen by hitting a sun icon. On the bottom left of the screen is the Auto icon. Tap here and you have access to 16 different scene modes, each with its own description and a sample image. This is really wonderful for photographers of all levels and Kodak should be commended for it. When you press the Menu button another raft of options await. On the capture side, there are the usual choices for resolution (but no compression options), white balance, ISO (Auto, 80-400), type of focus, exposure metering and so on. This is all fairly standard with no surprises for anyone who has ever used a digicam before.
Tap the “Contact” option and you’re guided by a helpful menu to add a series of names and email addresses to share your photos. A virtual keyboard pops up and you enter the information with the stylus. It’s very, very simple. You can also set a group to email just like using Outlook Express. Now realize this is not a Blackberry-type device that lets you send/receive emails anywhere or anytime. Here they all go through the EasyShare Gallery web site. And that means you and your friends have to sign up with the service. This isn’t onerous since there are no fees but you definitely have to become part of the Kodak family to share this way.
Kodak helpfully supplies a “Start Here” guide and it’s absolutely imperative you read the instructions, following them step by step. No computer machismo please; this is Wi-Fi and one wrong step and you’re screwed. Having spent many miserable hours working with wireless routers, believe me this is true. Wi-Fi reminds me of the early days of modems and the Internet when every step was a struggle until manufacturers finally woke up to the fact consumers just wanted to go online and created simple wizards. Perhaps the brainiacs at Cisco/Linksys will realize this some day. If I’m never asked again about SSID settings or TCP/IP protocols during an install I’ll be a happy camper. Anyway back to the EasyShare One…
The camera kit is very solid. You get the Wi-Fi card, two lithium ion batteries, A/V and USB cables, a fairly attractive leather case, Kodak EasyShare 5.1 software, wrist strap and a plastic insert so you can place it on an optional Printer Dock Series 3 dye sub printer. You won’t find an SD card in the box, given there’s so much onboard storage. As always, I recommend a hefty, high-speed card. There’s also a printed tri-language owner’s manual (111 pages in English), a CD ROM with the manual on it as well as a superb DVD that walks you through the camera and its capabilities. The company is to be highly commended for it. Kodak is running a promotion through the end of December offering 30-days of free access to 6,000-plus U.S. T-Mobile hot spots and another 16,000 around the globe.
Image Courtesy of Kodak
As mentioned earlier, the Kodak EasyShare One doesn’t start up in a flash; you’re good to go in about six seconds, depending how fully charged the battery. Picture quality is decent enough, as is the case with most Kodak cameras. And remember this is a 4MP camera (2304 x 1728 pixels) hardly the horsepower of the new 10.3-megapixel Sony DSC-R1.Still with a 4MP file you can turn out decent 8.5×11 prints without too much trouble. For some reason, Kodak doesn’t let you change compression settings—there’s only 4MP down to 1MP with no basic, fine or superfine options. There’s no getting away from the fact this $599 model is a limited point-and-shoot camera. I did all my shooting at 4MP and there definitely was some lag time as the camera saved files to the card. Danica Patrick it’s not.
Holding the camera is somewhat awkward since you don’t cradle it but steady it with your thumbs and index fingers. However, this is the case for all thin digicams with large LCD screens. Image stabilization would be a welcome feature as would an AF Assist lamp for taking shots in low light. Why manufacturers leave off such important features baffles me but I’m not the big bucks product guy so what do I know? On the very positive side of the ledger is the 3-inch touch screen LCD. It’s a beauty with a wide range of adjustments for use in bright or dim light. It’s definitely one of highlights of this camera. The 3-inch LCD is very cool but boy does it swallow the juice and even warms up the camera body. That’s why Kodak supplies two batteries, the only camera I’ve encountered that does this. Be warned and carry the charged spare with you.
I was pleased with most of the results, especially outdoors. Colors were rich and accurate something better Kodak digicams are known for. Digital noise didn’t really become a pain until ISO 200 and 400 settings and then only for the 8.5×11 blowups. But you can really see the falloff in quality between 200 to 400, even outdoors. I made the prints straight from the SD card without any adjustments with editing software. And the EasyShare One definitely needed the AF Assist lamp. Remember this is basically a point-and-shoot camera without the gee-gaws that keep photo tweaks spinning dials for hours on end. Videos were decent but the major drawback was the noise picked up when you used the zoom lens. But you’re not spending 500-plus dollars for a 4MP point-and-shoot camera. It’s the Wi-Fi capability, storage and the LCD screen.
The Kodak folks have made wireless relatively painless—once you’ve hooked up your own network or stepped into a T-Mobile hot spot. My wireless network has a Buffalo AirStation WBR-G54 router. In order to send images to my Sony PCG-TR3 laptop, I had to load the supplied Kodak EasyShare software and use a USB cable to sync the camera to the software on the laptop. Once this was done, sending images between devices was relatively easy and fast. The EasyShare One is supplied with a Wi-Fi card that slides into the top of the camera near the shutter button. When not in use, it’s flush to the body. When you want it to work, you put the camera in the View setting and pop up the card. It then searches for an available network. In this case it was Buffalo. Then with a few taps of the stylus my photos were soon on my laptop. This was very cool. You can also beam images directly to a compatible printer but you need another card ($99 list) to make it happen.
The EasyShare One also lets you send images to the Internet so your friends can check out what you’ve just shot. Working in a similar fashion, you access the local network then send images to the EasyShare Gallery. It’s not an instantaneous process but it’s pretty quick. When your friends check their email, they’re invited to see the shots at the Gallery site where a login is required. Also cool is the fact you can access all your images and then show them on the screen. It’s also easy to save images for later playback. You can even watch a slideshow with nifty fades between shots.
Image Courtesy of Kodak
Welcome to the brave new world of Wi-Fi digital cameras. And no matter what Kodak says it’s not for faint-hearted but someone who’s very comfortable working with wireless networks. I have to confess even I called the very helpful hotline to work out some issues (1-800-23-KODAK ext 12). Still the EasyShare One is the start of something very new in consumer digital imaging with Nikon and Canon following in its footsteps. And we’re sure others will follow in the years ahead. Kodak is to be highly praised for trying to cut through the Wi-Fi gobbledegook and making the camera as simple to use as possible. Although I would love to see some improvements on the camera side and a lower price, Kodak is to be commended for taking this wireless leap.
- Relatively easy-to-use Wi-Fi camera
- Takes solid images, especially outdoors
- Excellent 3-inch touch-screen LCD
- 16 scene modes
- Stores up to 1,500 images
- Only 4MP resolution
- Poor battery life
- No AF Assist lamp
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