Eastman Kodak has long drawn buyers to its EasyShare line by running on the "easy to use, no-nonsense design" ticket rather than with glitzy, bleeding-edge features. The inexpensive Kodak EasyShare CX4230 digital camera carries on the tradition. This 2-megapixel model, with its 36mm-to-108mm (in 35mm-camera terms) zoom lens, sticks to the bare essentials when it comes to features. But a must-have optional docking cradle and Kodak's easy-does-it software make it a cinch for even inexperienced users to transfer and print digital pictures. If you can tolerate the camera's sluggish performance, the system provides a decent solution for budget-minded buyers who want the advantages of digital photography without having to think about its complexities.
The combination lens cover/power switch is extremely stiff and inconveniently located.
Moving a slider under the lens both turns on the CX4230 and opens the lens cover. This requires a surprising amount of force, but the camera's basic controls are otherwise functionally designed and easy to use. A four-way rocker switch enables you to control the 3X zoom lens and navigate the camera's simple LCD menus.
|The camera has a simple, almost self-explanatory interface.|
Six single-function buttons let you quickly access the menu system, change the flash mode, delete images, and more. But regardless of what you're up to, from changing setup options to viewing or transferring images, all you have to do to begin snapping photos again is push the shutter button.
The Kodak EasyShare CX4230 provides few manual controls, but it delivers most of the features snapshooters need, including a 3X zoom lens and both optical and LCD viewfinders. The camera lacks manual white-balance controls, but it does allow two stops of exposure compensation. Of course, you also get the usual flash modes, a macro mode for photographing objects as close as 3.4 inches, a self-timer, and a few other basics.
Many users will find the optional dock an essential purchase.
The CX4230 comes with a 16MB internal memory for storing images. People who need more storage--and we expect most users do--have to purchase SD/MMC media, which the camera accepts in its single card slot.
Kodak sells the EasyShare Camera Dock II separately, but this is one accessory few buyers will want to go without. The docking cradle, which includes a rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride battery pack that fits into the CX4230, gives you a fixed place to download and recharge; the camera hooks up to an AC outlet and your PC when you place it in the cradle. A series of lights indicates battery-charge status, and you push a single button to open the connection with your system and begin image transfer.
Kodak's simple software makes it easy to transfer images to your system, perform basic editing, share the images online, and print them at home or have them printed by an online photofinisher. The software includes Kodak's Color Science color matching to help the colors you see onscreen match the colors that print on Kodak's photo inkjet paper, though you'll have to use the software to edit and print your images to benefit from this automatic color management.
Though you'll get plenty of life out of disposable CR-V3 batteries, rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride cells are a worthy investment in the long run.
Those who want to photograph erratic, fast-moving subjects--such as children--may become frustrated with the CX4230. Turning the camera on requires almost 7 seconds, and it takes a couple more for the LCD to get ready. And thanks to the rather sluggish autofocus, the camera snaps a photo about 2 to 4 seconds after you push the shutter release.
The camera's flash recharges quickly--usually within 2 to 3 seconds--but don't expect to quickly reel off a lot of shots with this camera. Shot-to-shot time averages about 5 seconds for the first three photos, but 13 to 15 seconds for each additional one--an eternity when you're trying to capture a special moment.
The CX4230 generally produced good-looking photos during testing, though we spotted problems with some images. Flesh tones take on a more reddish hue than we like, for instance, though colors usually strike a nice balance between accuracy and pleasant oversaturation. The automatic white balance handles indoor lighting fairly well, without producing an overly yellow or pink color cast. The CX4230 also performs reasonably well in low light: exposure and color balance land in the right ballpark, but a fair amount of noise detracts from the quality.
Images are slightly, but not garishly, oversaturated.
Overall, the CX4230's photos appear sharp, though macro shots persistently look a bit soft. Plus, some voodoo combination of postprocessing, compression, and low resolution yields some odd, painterly artifacts in various places; they're not ugly, just artificial-looking.
The fur on the stuffed animal looks almost like brush strokes, an odd by-product of the camera's postprocessing.
We were able to produce some purple fringing by intentionally photographing scenes with extremely high contrast, but this chromatic aberration rarely occurred in day-to-day shooting.