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Kodak EasyShare C review: Kodak EasyShare C

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The Good Competitively priced; capable of producing relatively high-quality photos; easy-to-navigate onscreen menus; integration with EasyShare software and dock system.

The Bad Small LCD; limited manual controls; out-of-alignment optical viewfinder; jerky video captures.

The Bottom Line Though it's far from perfect, the inexpensive Kodak EasyShare C330 is easy to use and produces relatively high-quality photos.

6.4 Overall

How low should prices go for entry-level cameras? If all you need is a simple point-and-shoot, the Kodak EasyShare C330 offers surprisingly good photos for a reasonable price. It's essentially the same camera as the Kodak EasyShare C340, except it has fewer pixels (4 vs. 5 megapixels), a slightly smaller LCD (1.5 vs. 1.6 inches), and a less capable video mode. Like the C340, the C330 is easy to use and has a sturdy, though mostly plastic, construction. For those on a tight budget, it may be a better bargain than the C340.

At these prices, you can't expect a sleek, Ferrari-like appearance. What you get is a camera body that's both boxy and bulky. Kodak has given the silver-toned exterior a few stylistic accents that keep it from looking too generic. Some of the accents aren't purely cosmetic. For example, a ribbed strip along the top provides traction for your left hand. The SD/MMC card slot and the battery covers are the most fragile parts of the camera (they could snap off at the hinges). Otherwise, the controls and the buttons feel strong enough to last indefinitely.

Even though the LCD is small, the onscreen menus are clear and easy to navigate, partly because the camera has so few manual settings. This would be a good starter camera for someone who has no interest in photography beyond the basics. On the other hand, the Kodak EasyShare C330 provides little room to grow.

The exterior controls are well labeled and easy to distinguish. Four buttons along the side of the LCD allow quick access for deleting photos, toggling the display, accessing the menus, and playing back photos. With these functions clustered on the back, many novices will use the top-mounted mode dial only to turn the camera on and off.

Like the slightly higher-priced C340, the Kodak EasyShare C330 provides essentially no manual adjustments beyond ISO setting, focus zone, and exposure compensation. It offers the usual assortment of preprogrammed exposure settings, such as Portrait, Landscape, Self-Portrait, Sports, Backlight, Fireworks, and Snow. Some of these are available as dedicated modes on the mode dial, while others are grouped together under the scene-mode option on the mode dial.

Other useful features include a burst mode that can fire off three highest-resolution shots in 2.64 seconds (the EasyShare C340 took 1.62 seconds). The camera takes another 15 to 20 seconds to fully recover. Unlike with the C340, you'll also have to wait that long after manually snapping three quick shots. The macro mode can focus down to 5 inches with the lens set to the extreme wide-angle position. You may find yourself using the macro mode quite often, because without it, you can't focus any closer than two feet. An EasyShare button on the back of the camera tags images as favorites or designates them for e-mailing or printing. Like all EasyShare cameras, this one is compatible with the included EasyShare software and optional USB docks.

Though less expensive than the C340, the Kodak EasyShare C330 had a better wake-up-to-first-shot time: 4.96 seconds vs. 5.48 seconds. That's still slow, though. The shot-to-shot time without flash also bettered the C340's: 1.80 seconds vs. 2.28 seconds. That's a pretty good time, especially for an inexpensive point-and-shoot. With the flash on, the shot-to-shot time jumped to 2.54 seconds, which nearly matched the C340's 2.56 seconds. Though the C340's nonflash and flash shot-to-shot times were similar, the C330 was considerably faster with the flash off, as most digital cameras are.

Shutter lag was more pronounced with the C330 than with the C340: 0.58 second in bright light and 0.77 second in dim light--still relatively fast reaction times for a point-and-shoot camera. It's unfortunate that you have to wait for the camera to recover after three quick shots, because otherwise it would be suitable for action photography.

Like the C340's, the C330's optical viewfinder didn't capture the same view as the LCD, nor did it match the captured image. With the lens set to an extreme wide angle, the viewfinder lopped off about 20 percent from the bottom of the frame and added about 10 percent to the top. The discrepancy became worse as the lens moved toward telephoto.

We saw little difference between photos taken with the Kodak EasyShare C330 and the C340, even though we were comparing results from a 4-megapixel camera with those from a 5-megapixel camera. That's a big plus for someone hoping to save money with a less expensive alternative. Both cameras boost the color saturation, which makes for less accurate colors but more visually intense photos. Our photos displayed a wide contrast range that was especially strong on the darker end of the spectrum. On the lighter end, we experienced some blowout with white areas and a subsequent loss of detail.

Setting ISO to 160 or higher resulted in significant levels of visual noise. The 3X Retinar lens is rated at f/2.7 to f/4.6, which is relatively fast, considering the C340's inexpensive price. The lens will help keep the ISO number down in low light.

The video mode is fixed at 320x240 pixels and 20 frames per second. Stationary shots looked OK, but panning introduced some jerkiness, tearing, and stairstepping. The video captures would be good enough for casual use, such as e-mail attachments or Web-based downloads. The Kodak EasyShare C330 wouldn't, however, be up to the task of preserving important family events.

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