This camera's two biggest selling points - funky colours aside - are its size and waterproof case, the latter of which justifies the 'Sport' in its name. It also explains the kid-proof construction. The question is, how does so small a snapper perform in day to day use? We ran the 12 megapixel EasyShare Sport C123 through our regular rigorous tests to find out.
Small and sporty
There's nothing subtle about this camera. It's small, sure, but the back is a screwed in panel housing the small 2.4in screen, the rear-mounted buttons are rubber and the chunky handgrip is home to two AA batteries. Kodak supplies a pair of cells to get you started, but they're not rechargeable.
The lack of a bespoke battery pack isn't the only compromise, either: there's no optical zoom, only a 5x digital version, and the shutter release doesn't pause at the half way point to meter the scene. You might wonder why you'd want to do this on a camera with a fixed focus lens as it obviously doesn't need to shuffle about the glass to fix the focus. But it would still be good to have the option to meter the light directly off something that isn't in the centre of the field of view and then re-frame before shooting. This is a 'point and shoot' in the most literal sense.
In the image below, for example, the trees in the background have lost a considerable degree of detail. Lighter trunks are subsumed into the background at the points where the sun crosses over them, as the EasyShare Sport metered for the logs in the foreground. Admittedly this meant that we ended up with a well exposed log pile, but even when dialling in a high level of recovery in post production we were unable to recover much of the lost information.
The C123 has three metering modes -- multi pattern, centre-weighted and face priority -- and eight scene modes to choose from, and although we performed our tests with it set to auto, there are dedicated options for portrait, sunset, backlight and fireworks, among others.
In regular use, the shutter speed can sit anywhere between 1/4 and 1/4000 of a second. This is selected by the camera as manual controls are few and far between. However, you can manually set a 'Long Time Exposure' in the menu (we'd prefer to have access to this directly from shooting mode) that lets you fix 0.5, 1, 2, 4 or 8 second exposures.
The lens has a focal length equivalent to 35mm in a 35mm camera. This is a good choice, putting it fairly close to the middle of the range of consumer dSLRs' frequently-bundled 18 - 55mm kit lenses. The images' metadata revealed them all to have been shot with a fixed aperture of f/4.5, which is a decent compromise between the wide apertures that would produce an unnaturally shallow depth of field in non-marco, non-portrait shots, and the narrower measurements that would be ideally suited to landscapes but start to impact shutter speeds.
So, how did it perform?
We started out in some woods to see how well it coped with areas of high detail, such as a leaf-covered floor, and striking contrasts, such as tree trunks passing across both foliage and bright skies. There was certainly plenty of detail in the fallen leaves, and even inside the shelter seen in the image below made from stacked branches. Although this appears dark in the unedited photo, increasing the exposure in post production revealed plenty of detail within the shadows.
As the subjects recede, though, and we move towards the back of the frame, the level of definition becomes poorer. The leaves on the floor become a general texture and the green branches towards the top of the frame take on a sketched appearance.
With no half-press position on the shutter release, the Easyspare Sport doesn't indicate when your subject is in focus, which can make it difficult to frame. This image of a mushroom, for example, lacks detail as it's too close to the lens, despite laying around 30cm from the camera. The leaves in the background, however, are focused. Unfortunately the lens' actual focal distance is not detailed on the Kodak site, the bundled user guide sheet or the downloadable extended user guide PDF.