DCRP Review: Kodak EasyShare DX6490
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 29, 2003
Last Updated: September 30, 2003

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The EasyShare DX6490 is Kodak's entry into the rapidly growing "ultra zoom" camera market. Packing a 4 Megapixel CCD, 10X optical zoom lens, large 2.2" LCD display, and manual controls for only $499, the DX6490 is an impressive package.

One other feature that really sets the DX6490 apart from most of the competition is Kodak's EasyShare system, which makes it very easy to mark photos for printing and e-mailing. The optional EasyShare printer dock 6000 ($199) lets you place the camera on the dock, and press one button for a 4 x 6 inch print in 90 seconds.

There are quite a few ultra zoom cameras to choose from these days. How does the DX6490 hold up against the competition? Find out in our review!

What's in the Box?

The DX6490 has an excellent bundle. Do note that depending on where you live (especially outside of the U.S. and Canada), your bundle may be different. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 effective Mpixel Kodak EasyShare DX6490 camera
  • KLIC-5001 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • AC adapter
  • One NiMH rechargeable battery pack (not compatible with DX6490)
  • EasyShare camera dock 6000
  • Camera dock insert
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Kodak EasyShare 2.1 software
  • 129 page manual (printed)

In what is becoming a trend with camera manufacturers, the DX6490 has internal memory plus a memory card slot. That means that there's no memory card in the box. Kodak includes 16MB of internal memory, which is barely enough to get started with, so do yourself a favor and buy a larger card. The DX6490 can use Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMedia (MMC) cards.

The DX6490 uses the new KLIC-5001 battery, which has an impressive 6.3 Wh of power. Kodak estimates that you can take 125 - 210 photos per charge, which is about average. Like with all proprietary batteries, you can't just stuff in a couple of alkaline AAs to get you through the day. I can't seem to find extra batteries for sale anywhere, but the older KLIC-5000 battery (which does work in this camera, though it won't last as long) went for around $20 last time I checked.

In the U.S., Kodak includes the EasyShare camera dock 6000 along with the camera. This will be where you'll charge the battery in the camera, or transferring photos to your PC. It takes three hours to fully charge the battery, and the dock has a little meter showing the current battery charge.

Do note that you can do the same things without the dock -- plus viewing photos on your television. In some countries, you'll have an external battery charger in the box, instead of the dock.

The included dock insert helps the camera nicely fit on the dock.

Kodak includes a lens cap (with retaining strap) to protect that 10X zoom lens.

As I mentioned, one of the coolest accessories for the DX6490 is the EasyShare printer dock 6000. This $199 thermal dye transfer (similar to dye-sublimation) printer has a dock right on top of it, so you just put the camera on it, press a few buttons, and get a 4 x 6 inch print 90 seconds later. It can also be used with a computer.

There aren't really any other major accessories for the camera. You can add an external flash, but Kodak does not sell one (more on this later). The other items are camera bags and memory cards and card readers.

Kodak includes their latest versions of their EasyShare software with the DX6490 -- that's v 3.1 for Windows, v. 3.0 for Mac OS X, and v 1.4.2 for Mac OS 8/9. This is the first time that I've used version for Mac, and I must say it's impressive. It has a nice interface, reminiscent of Apple's iLife Suite, and it's nice and fast (well, everything's fast on my G5). Here's what you can do with the software:

The main screen lets you import and organize your photos. From there you can print, edit, and e-mail photos, and you can even burn a CD of your photos. A nice slide show feature is also available.

If you want to edit your photo, there are some basic tools included. They include rotation, cropping, "instant enhancement", redeye reduction, brightness and contrast, exposure, and instant black & white or sepia conversion.

The Print at Home tab will help you print the images you select (either by marking them on the camera or in the software). There are many layouts available, including the two 5 x 7 inch per page prints you see above.

The e-mail tab works in the same way. You can compose messages to be sent along with pictures. You can send the full size picture, or have it reduced automatically to a smaller size. The e-mail system is nicely integrated with OS X's built-in address book system.

One last thing you can do here is customize the e-mail addresses stored in the camera -- again, more on this later in the review. This feature is also integrated with the OS X address book.

Much like with the address book, you can also set up the albums on your camera. You can then tag photos on the camera, and they'll end up in the proper album when you transfer your photos to your computer. Cool!

Kodak does a nice job with their camera manuals, with long descriptions and not a lot of fine print.

Look and Feel

The EasyShare DX6490 is a midsize camera made of high grade black-colored plastic. The camera is fairly easy to hold, though I wish it had a larger right hand grip.

Here's a look at the dimensions and weight of the DX6490 versus comparatively priced Ultra Zoom cameras:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Kodak EasyShare DX6490 3.9 x 3.2 x 3.2 39.9 cu in. 310 g
Fuji FinePix S5000 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.1 43.6 cu in. 337 g
HP Photosmart 945 4.8 x 3.4 x 3.4 55.5 cu in. 389 g
Minolta DiMAGE Z1 4.3 x 3.1 x 3.2 42.7 cu in. 305 g
Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom 4.2 x 2.6 x 2.7 29.5 cu in. 295 g
Toshiba PDR-M700 4.3 x 2.7 x 2.6 30.2 cu in. 298 g

As you can see, the DX6490 fits right in the middle of the pack in terms of size and weight.

With that out of the way, let's take a tour of the camera now.

One of the biggest features of the DX6490 is undoubtedly its 10X Schneider-Kreuznach lens. This F2.8 - F3.7 lens has a focal range of 6.3 - 63 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 380 mm. The lens is not threaded.

Directly above the lens is the hybrid autofocus sensor. This "rapid phase detection autofocus module" assists the camera in focusing, improving both responsiveness and low light focusing. It doesn't work in the exact way as an AF-assist lamp, but the effect is the same. The self-timer lamp can be found alongside of the AF sensor.

Continuing upward, we find the pop-up flash. The flash has a working range of 0.9 - 4.9 m at wide-angle, and 1.0 - 4.2 m at telephoto. The DX6490 supports an external flash -- more on that in a bit.

Just to the upper-left of the lens is the microphone. Still moving toward the left, we find the jog dial, which is used for adjusting the manual settings on the camera. You can also adjust the exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 1/3EV increments) by using the dial.

On the back of the camera, you'll find the other "big feature" on the 6490 -- and that is the large 2.2" LCD display. Unlike some other cameras with large LCDs, Kodak didn't skimp on the resolution -- this screen has 150,000 pixels. The 28 frame/second refresh rate produces a very smooth image, and the screen is bright as well. You can't adjust the brightness on it, though.

Straight above the LCD is the electronic viewfinder, or EVF. The EVF is also large (0.44"), high resolution (180k pixels), and fluid (28 frames/sec). One of the biggest problems with EVFs is when you're shooting in the dark -- normally you can't see anything. But the good folks at Kodak switch the EVF (and LCD as well) to black and white and boost the signal, so you can actually see what you're pointing the camera at. The EVF includes a diopter correction knob, to help focus the image that you're looking at.

To switch between the LCD and EVF, you just press the button located to the left of the EVF.

Now let's talk about the buttons located to the right of the LCD. These include the status ("i") button, which toggles the info on the LCD/EVF on and off, as well as the share button.

The share button is the feature that sets Kodak cameras from the competition (with the exception of HP). Pressing the Share button enters playback mode and brings up the following menu:

In share mode, you can do three things:

  • Mark a picture for printing
  • Mark a picture for e-mailing
  • Save a picture as a "favorite" for later retrieval

Let's say you want to mark an image for e-mail. Here's what you'll see:

You can select a person or persons that you want to e-mail this picture to. Once you connect to your computer, the EasyShare software will allow you to e-mail the photos that you tagged. A related feature that I hinted at before is the album feature, which is accessed via the playback menu. Pick an album (in the same way that you would an e-mail address), and the camera will dump the photos into the proper album the next time you transfer photos to your Mac or PC.

Getting back to our tour now, the next button of note is the mode dial. Inside the mode dial is the four-way controller (more like a joystick), which is used for menu navigation). It has the following options:

  • Off
  • Auto Record
  • PASM mode
  • Sports mode
  • Portrait mode
  • Night mode
  • Movie mode

Before I describe the PASM item, let me say that I found it way too easy to accidentally turn this camera on. Note to Kodak: don't put the power switch on a mode wheel so easy to bump. I must've turned the camera on ten times while trying to put it into my camera bag.

Complaining over, here's what that PASM item on the mode dial does. PASM stands for Program/Aperture Priority/Shutter Priority/Manual modes. Program mode is just like Auto Record mode, except you have full access to all the menu items. In aperture priority mode, you can set the aperture yourself (there are several choices between F2.8 and F8), and the camera picks the appropriate shutter speed. Shutter priority mode is just the opposite: you choose a shutter speed (range of 16 - 1/1000 sec), and the camera chooses the right aperture. In manual mode, you choose both the aperture and the shutter speed.

Below the mode dial are three more buttons, for deleting photos, loading the menu, and entering playback (review) mode.

The last item to discuss here is the zoom controller, located at the top-right. The controller moves the lens smoothly from wide-angle to telephoto in about two seconds. With quick presses of the button, you can make precise lens movements.

On the top of the camera, you'll find several buttons, the release for the pop-up flash, and the speaker.

The important buttons here are:

  • Drive (Self-timer, continuous shooting)
  • Focus (Macro, infinity)
  • Flash (Auto, fill flash, red-eye reduction, flash off)

The continuous shooting (burst) mode will take up to 6 pictures at 3 frames/second -- not too shabby!

On this side of the DX6490, you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept under rubber covers.

Let's take a closer look.

I finally found a use for those really small rubber bands!

The port at the top-left is a PC flash sync port. That's right, a low-cost Kodak camera with a flash sync port! You can hook any standard flash sync cable into this port, up to a maximum of 500 volts. You'll need a flash bracket of some sort, and I don't see that Kodak offers one.

The ports down at the bottom are for DC-in (for AC adapter), USB (2.0), and video out.

Over on the other side, behind a fairly sturdy plastic door, you'll find the SD/MMC card slot.

Finally, here's the bottom of the DX6490. Here you'll find the dock connector, metal tripod mount, and battery compartment. The battery compartment can hold the included 1700 mAh KLIC-5001 battery, or the older 1050 mAh KLIC-5000 model (which I don't recommend using unless you already have one).

Using the Kodak EasyShare DX6490

Record Mode

The DX6490 takes just over four seconds to extend the lens and prepare for shooting -- not bad for a big zoom camera.

While its AF speeds are just average, the 6490 locked the focus in most situations -- even in the redeye test, where most cameras can't do it. I think we have that hybrid AF system to thank for this. There were a few low light situations in which the camera couldn't lock the focus or exposure... but in most cases it was fine.

Shutter lag was very short on this camera, which was nice. I really like the fake shutter sound for some reason.

Shot-to-shot speed is average, with a 2.5 second delay between photos, assuming you've turned off the the post-shot review (Quickview) feature. You can delete a photo immediately after it is taken by pressing the -- get this -- delete button.

Like all Kodak cameras, the DX6490 is always ready to shoot, even in playback mode. The good thing about this feature is that you can quickly take a picture at any time, while the bad thing is that you can easily accidentally bump your way back into record mode.

Kodak uses a "star" system to represent photo resolution and quality. Here's a look at the available quality choices:

Image Size # photos on 16MB on-board memory # photos on optional 128MB SD card
Best (***)
2304 x 1728
10 96
Best 3:2 (***)
2304 x 1536
12 119
Better (**)
1656 x 1242
18 170
Good (*)
1200 x 900
30 280

There's no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera. The camera names files as 100_####.JPG (where # = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.

Kodak has created an attractive, easy-to-use menu system for their cameras. Some of the menu options below are only available in PASM mode -- I'll highlight those in bold. Here are the DX6490's menu options:

  • Image storage (Auto, internal) - if set to "auto", camera uses SD/MMC card first, then internal if that's full. "Internal" option always uses internal memory, even with card inserted.
  • Picture quality (see chart)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent) - no manual white balance
  • ISO speed (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800) - note that ISO 800 is only available at the 1 Megapixel resolution
  • Color mode (Saturated color, neutral color, black & white, sepia)
  • Exposure metering (Multi-pattern, center-weight, center-spot)
  • Focus zone (Multi-zone, center zone) - multi-zone chooses one of three areas in the frame to focus on
  • Sharpness (Sharp, standard, soft)
  • Reset - back to default settings
  • Set Album - choose an album before you start taking pictures
  • Date Stamp (Off, YYYY MM DD, MM DD YYYY, DD MM YYYY) -for putting the date on photos.
  • Orientation sensor (on/off) - camera will automatically rotate portrait shots
  • Setup Menu - see below

The DX6490 falls short of having a complete set of manual controls by leaving out manual white balance and manual focus. In my own work, I rarely use manual focus, but I use manual white balance all the time.

In addition to the record menu, there's also a setup menu, which has the following options:

  • Default print quantity
  • Quickview (on/off) - if picture is shown for 5 secs on LCD after it's taken
  • Advanced digital zoom (Continuous, pause, none) - how the digital zoom is activated, or just turn it off
  • Shutter sound (on/off) - but it sounds so nice!
  • Mode description (on/off) - whether to show a description of the camera mode when you turn the mode dial
  • Date & time set
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • Language (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean??)
  • Format
  • About - shows the current firmware version; mine was 1.0300

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of menus. Let's talk picture quality.

The DX6490 did a very nice job with the macro test shot, producing a very "smooth-looking" subject. The colors are very saturated -- perhaps too much so. In macro mode, you can get as close to your subject as 12 cm at wide-angle, and 1.2 m at telephoto.

I took not one, but two nice night shots with the DX6490. They're a little soft, and I suppose I could've used a longer shutter speed on the first one, but you get the idea. Noise levels are quite low, as the camera has a noise reduction system that is used for longer exposures. There's a bit of purple fringing, but I don't think it's a problem in either of these shots.

The full control over shutter sped will let you take pictures like this -- just remember your tripod.

The camera did not fare as well in the redeye test. It's not horrible, but it's certainly noticeable. You can usually clean this up pretty well in software -- including with the EasyShare software that comes with the camera. One other thing to do note is the smoothness of the image -- no noise at all.

The distortion test shows hardly any barrel distortion, and zero vignetting (dark corners).

The DX6490's photo quality is comparable with other cameras in its class. They're not the best I've seen, but they're good enough for most people. Colors were quite saturated, and exposures were generally good, though a few shots were underexposed. There were a few issues that I did notice. Issue #1 is something I've seen on many other Kodak cameras: details like grass and shrubs get "muddied up" -- this photo being a good example of that. The other issue is that some images were on the soft side (example) -- something you can correct by cranking up the in-camera sharpening, or better yet, adjusting in Photoshop. Purple fringing is something that you have to live with on an ultra zoom camera, but it wasn't too bad on the DX6490, much to my surprise. Sure, you'll find it in our torture test, but it wasn't in too many of my other shots.

Please don't take my word for all this -- have a look at the photo gallery and judge the DX6490's quality for yourself.

Movie Mode

The DX6490 can record videos at 320 x 240, 20 frames/second, until the memory card is full. Sound is recorded along with the video. The built-in 16MB of memory can't hold very much -- under a minute. Pick up a 256MB SD card, and you can record over 16 minutes. Kodak also gives you the unusual option of limiting the length of your clips to 5, 10, or 30 seconds.

Since sound is recorded, the optical zoom cannot be used during filming.

I must apologize three times for the sample movie below. First, I apologize for the wind noise. It was just a breeze, but it sounds much worse. Secondly, I apologize for the inability of the volleyball players to get the ball over the net. Finally, sorry about that big vertical line in the picture -- this tends to happen in movie mode on digital cameras when there's something abnormally bright. If I can take another movie, I will.

Sit back, turn down your volume, and enjoy this short clip:


Click to play movie (1.5MB, QuickTime format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

If you've read this far, you can probably guess that the DX6490 has an easy-to-use playback system. And you'd be correct.

The basic features that we all know are here: slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.

Zoom and scroll (called Magnify here) lets you zoom in 2X or 4X into your photo, and then scroll around in the enlarged image. You can activate this function by using the menu system or pressing the center button on the four-way controller. Kodak has greatly improved this feature since the last time I reviewed one of their cameras.

The DX6490 lets you copy images from the internal memory to a memory card, and vice versa. If you've got a memory card inserted, you must switch to the internal memory using the menu if you want to view the pictures stored there.

The sharing and album features were covered earlier in the review, so scroll back up to the tour section to learn about that.

By default, the DX6490 shows you no exposure information about your photos. If you want to see that, you need to enter the menu and choose "Picture Info" (they should let you press that "i" button instead!).

Kodak has improved this Picture Info screen since my last review -- it has more useful information now.

The camera moves between photos instantly.

How Does it Compare?

Overall, I was quite pleased with how the Kodak EasyShare DX6490 performed -- it's a great ultra zoom camera for beginners and amateurs. Hardcore photographers may be turned off by its lack of manual white balance and manual focus, but virtually every other type of manual control is available. The 6490 also supports an external flash, which is unusual for a camera in this class. The large (and high resolution) LCD display was a nice touch, as was the way the LCD and EVF brighten in low light conditions. The photo quality was good, but not excellent, due to muddy details and softness. Redeye and purple fringing were also seen, but neither was horrible. The camera has average performance in most areas, except for playback mode, where it really screams. One thing that annoyed me on several occasions was the mode dial that was too easy to bump, changing modes or turning the camera on when you don't want to.

Where the DX6490 really stands out is in terms of ease-of-use. The Kodak EasyShare system lets you easily share pictures, whether via e-mail or prints. The one-of-a-kind album feature is intriguing as well. The software that runs on your Mac and PC is very nice -- the whole thing is tied together nicely. Throw in the printer dock for another $200 and you've got a complete system for sharing and printing your photos. Nobody, with perhaps the exception of HP, comes close to Kodak in this area.

How does the DX6490 compare to the other cameras I mentioned way back in the dimensions section of the tour? I definitely place the Kodak above the Fuji S5000 and Toshiba M500/700. It's too early to tell on the Minolta and HP (I've briefly used the Minolta, haven't seen the HP). The Olympus C-740/750 cameras are less user-friendly, but a little more powerful (more manual controls, TIFF mode, histogram). I think the Olympus takes slightly nicer photos as well. I suppose you could toss the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1 into the pile as well, though even with a stabilized lens, its 2 Megapixel CCD and total lack of manual controls are making it less attractive these days.

In conclusion, Kodak has done a really nice job with this one -- they have been listening to reviewers and customers alike. If you want "more lens with your camera" and want a simple way to share photos, then the DX6490 should be high on your list.

What I liked:

  • Good photo quality
  • 10X optical zoom lens
  • Large, high resolution LCD
  • Electronic viewfinder actually useable in low light
  • Many manual controls
  • Flash sync port for external flash
  • Hybrid AF system for low light focusing
  • Very easy to use
  • EasyShare system makes it very easy to share and print photos
  • Nice playback and movie modes

What I didn't care for:

  • Details in photos can look muddy, overprocessed; photos tend to be soft, as well
  • Some redeye, purple fringing
  • Too easy to accidentally turn on camera
  • No manual white balance or manual focus
  • Limited image resolution/quality options

Some other lower priced ultra zoom cameras include the Fuji FinePix S5000, HP Photosmart 850 and 945, Minolta DiMAGE Z1, Olympus C-740 and C-750 Ultra Zooms, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1, and the Toshiba PDR-M500 and M700.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the DX6490 and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photo quality stacks up in our DX6490 photo gallery!

Want another opinion?

Read another review over at Steve's Digicams.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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