Essentially a 6-megapixel version of the EasyShare V550, Kodak's EasyShare V603 shares the same black-and-silver styling; the same 3X optical, 36mm-to-108mm, f/2.8-to-f/4.8 zoom lens; and the same 2.5-inch LCD as its sibling. Fans of tiny tunnel-vision viewfinders will note that the V603 has no such framing device, so you'll have to use the LCD to line up your shots, just like the rest of the digital snapshooting world. It also lacks manual exposure controls; 22 scene presets help you tackle a variety of conditions, while exposure compensation lets you tweak the camera's automatic choices.
Unlike a lot of EasyShare cameras, the V603 doesn't come with a dock, though you can buy one separately. To connect the camera to your computer, it comes with a USB cable and an ImageLink-to-USB converter, so the ImageLink dock connector is still the camera's interface with your PC. The 600mAh lithium-ion battery charges inside the camera, which plugs directly into the wall using a small plug that resembles a cell phone's travel charger.
Atop the V603, you'll find no fewer than six buttons recessed into the V-shape silver band that wraps around the camera's middle. The buttons include the shutter, flash, on/off, auto/scene mode, and video mode, as well as the Favorites mode, which lets you access scaled-down versions of your favorite photos that have been loaded into the camera's 32MB of built-in flash memory. Other than the wide shutter button, the rest are very difficult to tell apart by touch. Even the power button, which has tiny concentric circular ridges etched into it, was difficult to discern without looking.
One-handed shooting seems possible with the V603, given the ample room below the zoom rocker on the right side of the camera back, but since the delete, menu, review, and share buttons line up to the left of the LCD screen on the camera back, you'll have to use two hands to get into the menu. Again, these buttons are all the same shape and size, making them difficult to distinguish without looking. As a rule, two-handed shooting is always a steadier option, so maybe this will force all you one-handers to do the right thing.
Another example of Kodak pushing the design envelope is the SD card slot on the right side of the V603. Instead of a door, the slot is covered by what resembles two pieces of a white tissuelike material that keep dust and other contaminates out and through which an SD card can easily pass. The location is unfortunate, as it seems likely that the card will be accidentally ejected at some point, though it remained locked in the camera while we shot. It's nice to note that even if the card releases, the slot still holds it so that it won't just fall to the floor. We held the camera upside down with the card half-ejected and were unable to shake it loose. That's a plus, but if you accidentally eject the card while an image is being recorded, you'll probably lose your image and be quite unhappy.
Menus were intuitive and well labeled, and the scene mode menu even includes suggestions of when and why to use each mode. Metering options include multipattern, center weighted, and center spot, and you can choose between multizone or center-zone autofocus. White-balance choices include auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent, and open shade for shooting in the shade outdoors. ISO ranges from ISO 80 up to ISO 400, or you can boost it to ISO 800, though this is only available when shooting in the low-res 1.8-megapixel mode.
Video mode lets you capture MPEG-4 clips at as much as 640x480 resolution and 30fps with mono sound. The length of the videos is limited only by the size of your memory card. Unlike with some still cameras, you can zoom the lens while recording video with the V603, though an almost inaudible motor noise can be heard in the background when you do. There's also digital image stabilization which helped--just a little--to keep our video steadier than it could have been. After you capture video, the V603 lets you pull still images from the clip, though the resolution remains the same as in video mode--that is, 640x480 or smaller--so it's not quite print quality. It's not bad for e-mail, though.