The 3.2-megapixel Kyocera Finecam L3v brings the big-screen viewing experience to digital photography with a large 2.5-inch LCD. Simple enough for beginners to master, the L3v also offers adjustments for those who like to tinker. However, the camera's lack of manual shooting modes and its average image quality will disappoint more-advanced photographers.
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A simple mode dial, a power button, a microphone, and a speaker sit on top of the camera.
The L3v's sleek, brushed-metal body is well constructed. Although the rectangular camera may be a little too long for the average shirt pocket, it's otherwise compact and portable, weighing 6 ounces with a battery and media installed. And the extra length gives you plenty of room for two-handed shooting.
A retractable lens with a built-in cover eliminates the hassle of a lens cap. When you depress the shutter release halfway, a blue light on the front of the camera warns your subjects that you're about to shoot. Naturally, the big 2.5-inch LCD consumes most of the back, pushing the small but usable optical viewfinder into the upper-left corner.
Except for the flash and the macro/landscape selector, all features require a trip to the two-level menu. The initial display provides relatively quick access to most of the functions you frequently change, including white balance, exposure compensation, the self-timer, resolution, and compression level. Other settings, such as ISO, metering, and focus type, are in the second tier. The menus are clearly labeled and easy to maneuver; even beginners need only browse through the well-written printed manual to learn how the options will affect their shooting.
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On the camera back, the zoom toggle and the buttons for display and menu activation fall under your right thumb.
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We weren't crazy about the four-way controller, which provides access to flash settings, macro and landscape modes, manual focus adjustments, and menu navigation.
Our main design quibble was with the four-way pad. It felt loose, and its center button, with which you select settings, was sometimes difficult to press. And Kyocera could have made better use of the left and right arrows. They should control a feature such as exposure compensation or white balance instead of the rudimentary manual focus.
The compartment housing both the battery and the SD/MMC media is on the side, making for easy changes even when the camera is mounted on a tripod. A thoughtful two-cover design keeps the cell from falling out when you remove the card.
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The L3v comes with only 16MB of SD media, so put a higher-capacity card on your shopping list.
Designed for the casual snapshooter, the L3v is comparatively light on features, but they can make a difference in exposure and image quality. The only exposure modes are programmed automatic and aperture priority, which is limited to f/2.8 and f/7.5. Complementing those options are exposure compensation, a trio of ISO settings from 80 to 320, and three metering modes. The Chroma control lets you make stepped adjustments to sharpness and contrast. A few basic focus selections are available, as well as preset and custom white balance.
The L3v offers a typical f/2.8-to-f/4.7 3X zoom lens with a 38mm-to-115mm range (the 35mm-film equivalent). Shutter speeds don't show up on the LCD, although a red light blinks when camera shake threatens. The automatic speeds are respectable, running from 1 second to 1/2,000 of a second. The L3v also gives you long exposures of 2, 4, and 8 seconds for low-light and nighttime shots.
Some fun features are on tap, as well. You can record voice annotations, create black-and-white and sepia effects, use one of your own images on the start-up screen, and capture low-quality video with sound. Clips at 320x240-pixel resolution are limited to 30 seconds, while 160x120 will get you almost 2 minutes.
The L3v also offers resizing, a handy option that we wish all cameras had. In playback mode, you can change a shot to either 320x240 or 160x120, ideal for e-mailing or Web posting. You can also zoom and crop a picture before altering its resolution.