The front of the Kodak EasyShare V603 features a Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon 3x zoom lens, positioned on the right side of the camera when facing the front of the V603. This is an extending lens barrel with a focal length of 38 mm to 106 mm and shoots with an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/4.8. The lens barrel retracts into the body of the camera when not in use. An automatic lens cover snaps over the surface of the lens at the same time as the lens barrel begins retraction.
There are two sensors located above and to the right of the lens barrel, with one controlling metering and the other functioning as an infrared sensor. Moving to the left side of the lens, a horizontal polished silver bar bisects the camera neatly in half and extends from the edge of the camera to the edge of the lens ring.
The in-camera flash for the EasyShare V603 is located above this design detail and to the left of the lens barrel. If in-camera flashes are placed in line with the center point of the lens of a camera, the resulting image will have more even lighting. Lastly, there are five small recessed dots that function as the in-camera microphone for the camera when recording audio. This microphone placement has one benefit and one negative attribute; this positioning will place the audio recording device away from the noisy mechanics of the lens barrel. But the problem with this position is the close proximity between this feature and the edge of the camera. Users may accidentally cover the microphone with a finger when shooting. This will block or muffle all incoming audio.
The back of the Kodak EasyShare V603 features a well sized 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixel LCD which is comparable in size and resolution to the screen on the Pentax Optio T10, although without the touch screen interface system of the Pentax system. The LCD screen is framed and raised slightly from the back face of the camera.
The zoom control is located in the upper right corner of the back, and positioned so that the thumb of the right hand can access the control with expediency. This zoom control is a push button rocking zoom toggle that is a bit undersized for comfortable use with larger hands. That being said, the zoom control did react well when used in shooting. When switched into playback mode, the zoom control doubles as a playback zoom up to 8x digital zoom and the control to access a multi-up image index.
A square four-way controller is located at the base of the right side and is sized with enough room to allow quick access to navigation. The four-way controller can act as a navigating control for the menu structures in shooting or playback mode. The four-way controller also has dual functions, which are labeled well in the case of the up and down arrow, and poorly in the case of the left and right arrow. The up arrow controls the amount of information displayed on the LCD from nothing to a grid with histogram. The down arrow controls whether the camera is in regular shooting mode, macro mode, or landscape mode when in shooting mode. And finally, the left and right arrows on the four way control... are blank. It’s up to the user to discern that the left and right arrows control exposure compensation. There is no way of knowing this, and this is unfortunate since most of the controls on the V603 have either full text descriptions or symbols present to represent their functionality.
An OK button is located in the center of the four-way controller. The playback audio speaker is located between the zoom control and the four-way control on the right side of the back face. On the left side of the LCD screen are a series of controls; from top to bottom they are: delete, menu, review and share, and each control is well labeled with a full text label that stood out clearly from the Midnight Black body of the show floor model. While certainly not the largest controls, these settings were provided with enough space to allow comfortable activation without accidentally triggering incorrect settings. In the upper left corner are three LED lights with symbols denoting their purpose, representing whether the camera is in favorite, movie or shooting modes.
**An uncovered DC in port is the sole feature located on the left side of the Kodak EasyShare V603.
**The right side of the Kodak EasyShare V603 has two features of note. A basic eyelet sits slightly above the surface of the camera frame. This eyelet is located halfway up the camera, slightly towards the back. An SD card slot is located vertically in front of this feature and should be hard to overlook, because it has no cover. While it could be argued that cramming something into the port would take some work, I would personally feel more comfortable having my ports protected with a strong cover connected via a strong hinge. The SD card slot easily accepts SD cards and cleanly ejects them.
**The top of the camera has a number of features, with all of the controls well labeled. A larger rectangular shutter button is located on the right side of the top and is easily activated with the index finger of the right hand. The flash button is located to the left of the shutter button, with the power on/off button next. Continuing left, the scene mode, movie mode and favorite mode buttons are positioned one after another. Their sizes and shapes are nearly identical to those of the power and flash control, so it will be harder for the user to identify what button controls what by feel. Like the controls located on the back of the camera, the controls on the top of the camera are well labeled and have enough room to allow easy and comfortable access.
**A port for the camera dock is located in the center of the camera base for exporting images to printer or PC direct from camera, while a metal tripod mount is located towards the front of this feature. The metal tripod mount is a distinct advantage to any point-and-shoot users who find themselves using a tripod constantly,, since it will be sturdier and last far longer than the plastic tripod mounts found with most lower-priced point-and-shoot cameras. A battery port is located on the base of the V603 underneath a cover that appears to be of a solid construction.
**There is no optical viewfinder included with the Kodak EasyShare V603, an omission which certainly isn’t a detractor, considering the general small size and inaccurate framing of viewfinder windows on most point-and-shoot cameras. In exchange for the omission, users will have more room for controls and a larger LCD screen.
**The LCD on the Kodak EasyShare V603 is slightly raised on the back of the camera and is slightly to the left of center. The LCD measures 2.5 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 230,000 pixels. The screen produced images of a strong quality that were visible even in low and bright lights without overt levels of solarization. The LCD screen has two control levels which the user can engage. Both are located within the camera’s set-up menu, located within the main menu that can be opened via the menu button. The two controls allow the user to engage LCD brightness or LCD dimmer.
**The in-camera flash for the Kodak EasyShare V603 is located off the center axis of the lens; this placement will to lead to an uneven light coverage when the flash is engaged and cast harsher shadows from left to right across the subject of the photograph. The flash range in wide angle at ISO 140 is 2.0 to 8.5 feet while the flash range in tele-photo is 2.0 to 5.9 feet with an ISO setting of ISO 200. The manual flash controls may be accessed through the flash button on the top of the camera. The flash control settings for the V603 allow the user to cycle through the following options: auto, off, fill and digital red-eye reduction.
**The zoom lens for the Kodak EasyShare V603 is a Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon optical zoom lens with 3x optical zoom. The telescoping barrel on the V603 opens quickly when the camera is powered on. The lens of the V603 has an equivalent focal range of 36mm to 108mm in 35mm format, with an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/4.8.
In addition to the 3x zoom, the camera is also able to engage 4x of digital zoom, although using digital zoom will result in diminished image quality which will continue to degrade exponentially as the zoom level increases to the total zoom level of 12x.
The zoom for the V603 is controlled via a zoom control on the back of the camera in the upper right corner. The zoom control for the V603 functions like a rocker, but its size makes engaging it properly and accurately a bit of a labor even though the zoom levels were smoothly transitioned.
**Model Design / Appearance
**The Kodak EasyShare V603 comes in two different colors, Midnight Black and Silver Essence. Both have a slight texture on their otherwise matte finish. The camera frame is a simple rectilinear design with clean edges and an unfettered layout that emphasizes function without ignoring form. The midnight black model at PMA was much easier to handle in part due to the pronounced difference between the polished silver controls and the textured black surface of the camera.
**Size / Portability
**The overall camera size is definitely petite although the thickness of the camera is a bit odd when considering the other dimensions. The Kodak EasyShare V603 has dimensions of 3.6 in length by 2.0 in height by 0.9 inches in depth and at a mere 4.2 ounces without battery, this camera will easily pop into a back pocket, a purse or bag without a second thought. Even carrying this camera for extended periods won’t be a hassle, and the wrist strap eyelet on the right side of the camera will certainly work well as a safety device in that instance. The retracting lens barrel neatly fits flush to the surface of the camera and no other extrusions are present on the surface, so users don’t need to worry about catching or breaking port covers or other features when moving the camera in and out of bags or pockets.
**Although small cameras often mean poor handling for those who have large hands, the Kodak EasyShare V603 proved to be a pleasant surprise. My hands comfortably gripped the camera while I was quickly able to scan menu and setup options with the thumbs of my right and left hands. While the controls placed on the top of the camera took a little time to get used to, the extending lens barrel all but eliminated any concerns about blocking the lens with the fingers of my left hand. The placement of the microphone in the upper corner of the front face directly beside the right hand is the only really problematic handling concern for the V603. By positioning this feature so close to the right hand, it will be too easy to accidentally muffle audio inadvertently when shooting video clips.
**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size
**The controls for the Kodak EasyShare V603 were an interesting amalgam of success and failure, with the spacing of each control being the area of greatest success for Kodak in terms of ease of use and navigation. Unfortunately the small body size of the camera means that external controls will also be small, and in the case of this reviewer, that leads to somewhat tedious engagement of these features. The zoom control is undersized and suffers for that. It would be nice to have a zoom control with clean and concise movement that wasn’t impaired by its own physical limitations, but that’s obviously difficult on a camera this small.
Also, the number of external controls present on the V603 is an impressive number, which could lead some beginning users feeling overwhelmed by both their number and their less than successful labeling. Also, it is frequently necessary to tilt the camera in order to navigate the control options located on the top, which means losing time and frame composition. And as for those controls, if the user is shooting in well lit situations they will not disappoint; however, because many of the buttons feel the same, in lower or no light situations this could lead to confusion and accidental altering of settings until familiarity with the design has been reached.
The menu structure was simple to navigate in part due to menu layout, but also in large part to the size and presence of the four-way controller, which allowed for concise navigation.
**There are several menu options on the Kodak EasyShare V603, all of which have a pleasing linear design that provides full text descriptions over vague symbols. While technically transparent, the menu structure for the V603 has a black background that covers two-thirds of the LCD screen, only leaving a small amount at the top of the LCD left uncovered. There are four menus located throughout the V603, although all are easily accessed without hassle.
The shooting menu is accessed when the camera is placed in shooting mode and the menu button to the left of the LCD is pressed. The shooting menu allows users to access the following controls: Self Timer, Burst, Picture Size, White Balance, ISO, Color Mode, Sharpness, Exposure Metering, Auto Focus, AF Zone, Long Time Exposure, Set Album, Internal Memory and Setup Menu. These options are scanned via the up and down arrows on the four-way control with the OK button used to select submenus.
The final option within the shooting mode menu is a setup menu option, designed in the same format as the shooting mode menu. It provides access and control to these options: Return, Camera Sound, Sound Volumes, LCD brightness, LCD dimmer, Auto Power Off, Date and Time, Video Out, Photo Frame, Orientation, Red-Eye Pre flash, Video Date Display, Blur Warning, Language, Format and About settings. Like the shooting mode, this menu is scanned via the up and down arrows on the four-way controller and submenu selections may be made using the OK button at its center.
The playback menu is entered when the camera is switched into review mode, which allows the user to engage these controls: View By, Album, Perfect Touch, Crop, Slide Show, Multi-up, Copy, Protect, Image Storage and Setup menu.
Once images have been altered, cropped and manipulated with the settings available in Playback mode, the user can enter a menu called the Share menu to export images from their camera. A number of different options are as follows: Print, Email, Favorite, Print All, Cancel Prints.
**Ease of Use
**The Kodak EasyShare V603 is certainly easy to use, with basic auto modes, a wealth of preset options and a dollop of manual options that are happily not necessary for quality images. The V603 has a logical menu structure that enables fast scanning with the four-way controller and follows a linear list structure rather than the often confusing illustrated formats that feature vague pictures of images that convey little to nothing of the control they represent. The controls, while small, are laid out with enough space so that users won’t need to worry about accidental activation when shooting in well-lit situations, but their identical size and shape could led to mishandling when in low light situations.
**The auto mode is the default setting for the camera and is the mode with the most, even if minimal, manual control settings. The auto mode can be switched in and out of by pressing the scene mode button on the top of the camera. When shooting in auto mode users will still have access to ISO manual control, preset white balance, exposure compensation and long time exposure in addition to color effects, image size and other alteration options.
**Movie mode is quickly and easily entered by pressing the movie button on the top of the camera. The movie mode allows for the user to engage zoom when shooting. The Kodak EasyShare V603 has a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 VGA video at a rate of 30 fps, so smooth video clips should be possible. Video can also be recorded at a rate of 30 fps with reduced image quality at a resolution of 320 x 240. Audio may be recorded simultaneously with video capture via the microphone; however, the mic’s positioning makes it easy to muffle it with the fingers of the right hand when shooting haphazardly. While a great little accessory feature, this mode is certainly not going to be able to stand up to the quality of video yielded when shooting with camcorders, but does have a strong edge in portability.
**Drive / Burst Mode
**The burst mode on the Kodak EasyShare V603 isn’t the most impressive, with a four shot maximum capture at an advertised 3 frames per second. The burst mode may be activated by entering the shooting menu and selecting the burst submenu. The user will then be able to set the burst mode to off or on, depending on their needs. Under informal testing, the camera showed a quick reaction time, although further testing in our full review will be necessary to see if the V603 is really able to offer its advertised 3fps capture rate.
**The playback mode of the Kodak EasyShare V603 is quickly entered by pressing the review button to the left of the LCD. The playback mode allows users to view images in either 9-image format, single image format or single image with up to 8x playback zoom. The user can create albums and slide shows as well as copy, protect and crop images to further suit their needs. The playback mode is simple to navigate and the printing/sharing process was engaged with the Kodak signature "One Touch" ease that it has been known for.
The most interesting new addition to the playback mode seems to be the Perfect Touch feature, applied in playback mode to images that suffer from incorrect exposure levels. This can be fixed partially if not entirely through the engagement of this automatic feature. The Perfect Touch feature instantly re-evaluates exposure and flare in an attempt to balance the image more successfully. Once complete, a split screen with a before and after shot is displayed and the user can study the new image prior to confirming the change. The V603 saves both versions, in case the user has a change of heart later.
**Custom Image Presets
**Custom image presets are becoming more and more fashionable in the point-and-shoot market these days, as is evident by the somewhat overwhelming number of presets provided with Canon, Kodak and especially Casio cameras. This Kodak, the V603, allows users to access 22 different options with parameters tailored to the general demands of a particular scene.
The custom image presets are accessed through the scene mode button on the top of the camera, and each option is displayed as a minute thumbnail in the lower half of the LCD screen with a text description displayed in the upper half when selected. The preset options for the V603 are Portrait, Panorama Left-Right, Panorama Right-Left, Sport, Landscape, Close-up, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Snow, Beach, Text, Fireworks, Flower, Manner/Museum, Self-Portrait, Party, Children, Backlight, Panning Shot, Candlelight, Sunset and Custom modes.
**Manual Control Options
**The Kodak EasyShare V603 isn’t really intended to appeal to the photographer seeking manual control options. Instead Kodak chose to emphasize automatic features. The manual control options for the V603 are limited to ISO levels, exposure compensation settings and exposure metering modes. While it’s all well and good to focus on automatic controls, the lack of manual options means that if beginning users become comfortable with shooting and want to move beyond auto mode, they will need to purchase another camera.
*Auto focus settings are located within the regular shooting mode, with two submenu options. The first menu setting, in the Auto Focus menu, allows the user to select between single AF and continuous AF. The second menu option, located directly beneath, allows the user to select between different AF zones to better tailor the camera’s optics to the intended shooting pattern of the user. The AF zones for the Kodak EasyShare V603 are multi-zone or center zone.
In practice, the auto focus reacted quickly in well lit situations and appeared to handle reasonably well when shot into spaces of lower light. Further testing will be needed to properly evaluate the camera’s autofocus capabilities, with various degrees of contrast and lighting. Check back for our full review for the final verdict.
*There is no manual focus control on the Kodak EasyShare V603, which really isn’t a surprise since this Kodak series is intended and marketed towards the fans of automatic control. If the user is interested in a camera with manual focus options, cameras manufactured by companies like Canon will provide a better beginning point for digital control over manual focus.
**Although few manual control options are provided with this camera, the V603 does give users with access to the metering mode settings. The metering mode options are located within the shooting menu in the exposure metering submenu. The metering options for the Kodak EasyShare V603 are all TTL metering modes; they provide settings of multi-pattern, center-weighted, and center-spot. With this range of control users should find that the V603 reacts successfully to scenes with complicated multi-source lighting and situations with backlit subjects.
**Exposure can be manually controlled by the user through an exposure compensation scale. Interestingly, the exposure compensation setting isn’t located in the shooting menu. It takes further investigation to reveal that the left and right arrows on the four-way controller are intended to function as up and down controls for an EV compensation scale. Once engaged, two arrows appear on either side of the LCD which indicate the direction the user can navigate to alter the exposure compensation levels. The exposure compensation scale has a range of +/-2 EV with a step every 1/3 stop. Having this control immediately accessible is a benefit to users looking to avoid menus, though better labeling would be even more beneficial.
Users can adjust exposure in playback as well with the Perfect Touch imaging system, which automatically adjusts exposure levels. When this mode is selected the user can select the photograph and then the Perfect Touch option, and the user will be provided with a before and after split screen. Users can scan from right to left across the enhanced image prior to saving both versions of the photograph to memory.
**The white balance control options for the V603 allow partial although not full manual control with a series of preset options accessed through the shooting menu within the white balance submenu. The white balance options are displayed as full text descriptions in a linear menu structure, easily scanned via the up and down arrows of the four-way controller.
The white balance preset options are Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Open Shade options. While not an overwhelming number of options, and certainly not enough to cover every situation, this handful of preset options are a good start, although a manual control setting thrown in would have been even better. Of course, Kodak compacts and point-and-shoots generally omit the essential manual control.
**ISO settings on the Kodak EasyShare V603 are located within the shooting menu, accessed by pressing the menu button on the back of the camera. The ISO settings submenu allows the user to select between 80, 100, 200, 400 and 800 with ISO 800 at a reduced resolution setting of 1.8 MP. The inclusion of an ISO 800 setting, while perhaps functional in some situations, did show hefty noise in our initial evaluation, although we will have to wait for our full review to explore images quality further. The auto ISO range is quite stunted and only provides a range of 80 to 160.
**The user of the Kodak EasyShare V603 will have the opportunity to select between nine shutter speed options for longer shutter speeds. The Long Time Exposure submenu is located within the standard shooting mode menu and provides shutter speed settings of 0.5, 0.7, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 6.0, and 8.0 seconds. While this is not an overwhelming number of settings, and certainly does not cover the faster end of the shutter speed range, this does at least provide the V603 with manually selectable slower shutter speeds for low light situations or motion blur.
**There is no manual aperture control on the Kodak EasyShare V603, so the user will need to rely upon the automatic aperture range of the camera. The aperture range of the V603 is f/2.8 at wide and f/4.8 at telephoto. If more an aperture priority control is desired, models from manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, or Sony would be advisable alternate options.
**Picture Quality / Size Options
**Picture quality and size settings for the Kodak EasyShare V603 provide the user with five image quality settings. The user can select the highest resolution of 2832 x 2128 (6.0 MP best) with other resolutions of 5.3 MP best (2832 x 1888), 4.0 MP better (2304 x 1728), 3.1 MP good (2048 x 1536) and 1.8 MP email (1568 x 1168). The controls for picture quality and picture size are located within the shooting menu in the Picture Size submenu.
**Picture Effects Mode
**The Kodak EasyShare V603 does come with a smattering of picture effects options in playback mode, although the palette of options isn’t nearly as vast as that found with the Optio T10 by Pentax or the My Colors modes found with Canon point-and-shoot cameras. The picture effects settings are located within the shooting menu within the colors submenu, and allow users to select between high color, natural color, low color, sepia and black & white.
*The included Kodak EasyShare software for the Kodak EasyShare V603 allows basic photo editing that will suffice for the beginning or amateur photo enthusiast but will leave anyone familiar with PhotoShop or Aperture craving something a bit more advanced. Check back for our full-length review of this camera when we’re able to sit down and really find out if Kodak has put the EasyShare editing system through any new rigorous alterations.
*Jacks, Ports, Plugs
*There are several ports located on the surface of the Kodak EasyShare V603. Firstly, the SD memory card slot is vertically positioned on the right side of the camera. This port does not have a port cover, which makes it easier to damage. On the left side of the camera at the top is an uncovered DC in port. A port for the Photo Frame Dock is located on the base of the camera, and it is through this dock that the user can connect to either PC or television via the included USB or A/V out cables.
While docks do enable fewer on-camera ports and therefore smaller bodies, the docks released by Kodak last year and this year don’t seem to be as sturdily constructed as the cameras.
Direct Print Options
*Direct printing options have always been one of the strong points of Kodak EasyShare cameras. Both Pictbridge and ImageLink compatibility exist with the V603. The user can either connect the camera directly to the printer or connect the camera to the photo frame dock and then a printer via the USB port located on the accessory unit.
*The Kodak EasyShare V603 comes with an included rechargeable Li-Ion digital camera battery that is placed into a slot located beneath a port cover on the bottom face of the camera. This rechargeable battery has a maximum shot count of around 150 shots, according to Kodak representatives at PMA.
*The Kodak EasyShare V603 comes with an included 32 MB of internal memory, which will come in handy when optional SD memory cards are forgotten or misplaced. However, shooting for longer periods of time with higher quality images or extended video clips will necessitate the purchase of optional memory cards. The Kodak EasyShare V603 accepts SD cards via a vertically positioned slot on the right side of the camera, directly in front of the wrist strap eyelet.
***Perfect Touch - *The Perfect Touch feature is located within the Playback menu under a submenu of the same name. When engaged, this feature takes images with under or over-exposed content and attempts to rebalance the levels via an automatic readjustment. The Perfect Touch process will display a before and after split screen so that the viewer can compare shots to properly gauge whether or not the resulting image was successful.
This is a great tool, since automatic correction systems often yield results worse than the original. The after image may be scanned from left and right using the arrows on the four-way control to gauge the entirety of the image. The Perfect Touch seemed to do well for under-exposed shots when tested at PMA, but further tests will need to be conducted for our full review to really discern whether this feature works successfully.
**With a price of $299 MSRP, the Kodak EasyShare V603 is certainly a viable option considering the 6.1 MP CCD, the 2.5-inch 230,000 pixel LCD screen, the easy control system and the menu structure that is intuitive and simple to access and navigate. The camera does seem to suffer for space, choosing to diminish the size of the controls in an attempt to continue decreasing overall camera size.
The only major concern with this camera is the lack of manual control, for users who will discover over time that they are ready to move beyond auto mode. At this point the EasyShare system falters, since it relies on users not wanting to increase their control or shooting knowledge. If at all concerned about the lack of manual controls, it would be wise to consider other manufacturers. Kodak cameras are easy because they are stripped-down and simple, which at some point becomes more of a hindrance than a help.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters - *This camera is a shoe-in for the point-and-shoot market, providing a basic auto mode, a couple of quasi-manual controls and a plethora of preset shooting modes to cover nearly every occasion.
Budget Consumers - The V603 is looking to retail for $299 MSRP, so the budget consumer could definitely consider this camera if a full auto mode is wanted and some personal style is craved in your point-and-shoot.
*Gadget Freaks - *Although the automatically adjusting Perfect Touch system is interesting, I’m pretty sure the gadget freak would snub it for being too automatic or not revolutionary enough.
Manual Control Freaks - Well, there is exposure and ISO adjustments, but that isn’t going to make up for the lack of manual control options.
Pros / Serious Hobbyists - There wouldn’t be a reason for the pro or serious hobbyist to examine the V603, not even as a pocket camera. It just doesn’t have the mechanics to make the pro glance twice.
**With a great linear menu structure, uncomplicated navigation of the LCD interface and minimal manual control concerns, the Kodak EasyShare V603 continues to improve upon the Kodak point-and-shoot foundation from previous years. The camera has a well designed external interface with generous amounts of room between controls that are a bit too petite, but the four-way controller, the most often used of these features, is well-sized and spaced for premium access.
The camera has an impressive 2.5-inch 230K LCD to better display the captured images from the 6.1 MP CCD and the 3x zoom. For the beginning or casual user, this camera will be a definite consideration; we have not formally tested it, but we can attest to the success of prior Kodak models in producing strong results in full auto mode. In addition to this, the 22 preset shooting modes should provide more than enough partial control opportunities to keep point-and-shooters busy for the near future.
If clean, uncomplicated design with a stylish body is wanted by the point-and-shoot crowd, the Kodak EasyShare V603 could be a contender in 2006. Check back for the full review when we’ll report on color accuracy, noise levels, low light and long exposure performance, resolution, dynamic range and other performance capabilities for our final judgment on the V603.
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