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DCRP Review: Kodak
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 12, 2004
Last Updated: February 25, 2008
I can tell a personal story about the Kodak EasyShare DX7440. A few months ago I was looking for a camera for my mom. Since she's somewhat of a technophobe, I wanted something simple. And since your close-up vision starts to go south with age, I wanted something with a big LCD. I also wanted something that about the same size as her old film camera. I brought her to Best Buy and we looked at a bunch of cameras... from Olympus, Canon, Sony, and Kodak. I ended up getting her the DX7440, even before I'd reviewed it. Based on other Kodak cameras I've tested, I was confident that the 7440 would do the job. The EasyShare system makes it easy to share photos, the LCD is bigger-than-average, and the size was right. The DX7440 sells for under $300 -- not bad for a camera with a 4 Megapixel CCD and 4X optical zoom lens!
So the DX7440 is off to a good start even before I started my review process. Did I make the right choice for mom? Find out in our review!
What's in the Box?
The DX7440 has a good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
As is the case on other recent Kodak cameras, no memory card is included with the camera. Instead, Kodak puts 32MB of memory right into the camera. That doesn't hold too many 5 Megapixel images, so I recommend buying a larger memory card right away. The DX7440 can use Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMedia (MMC) cards, though I recommend the former due to its superior performance and capacity. I'd recommend a 128MB or 256MB SD card as a good starting point. I did not see any major improvements in performance from using "high speed" SD cards, so save your money.
The DX7440 includes the KLIC-5000 rechargeable lithium-ion battery. This battery has 3.9 Wh of energy, which isn't a whole lot. Kodak says you can take about 185 photos per charge using this battery. That's decent, but you can do better by purchasing the KLIC-5001 battery, which has 6.3 Wh of energy. This higher capacity battery gives you 300 shots per charge, which is quite a bit better. The KLIC-5001 is a relative bargain at $30, with the KLIC-5000 costing $10 less. Regardless of which battery you choose, I recommend getting a spare.
The downside of proprietary batteries like these are their price, and the fact that you can't just grab some AA alkalines at the corner store to get you through the rest of the day.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery. This is one of those "plug it right into the wall" chargers that I like so much.
The 7440 has a built-in lens cover, so there are no lens caps to worry about.
Now let's talk about camera accessories. The most "famous", if you will, is the EasyShare Camera Dock 6000 ($70). This is a cradle on which you place your camera. You can then charge the battery in the camera or transfer photos to your Mac or PC. You do not need the camera dock to fully enjoy the DX7440 -- you can do the same things without it.
A related item is the EasyShare Printer Dock. Three models are compatible, ranging in price from $150 to $200. Just put the camera onto the top of the printer and 60-90 seconds later, a photo lab quality 4 x 6 inch print is ready. It doesn't get much easier than that.
The included dock insert helps the camera fit properly on all the docks.
There are several lens accessories available for the DX7440 as well. The 0.6X wide-angle conversion lens (a bargain at $45) brings the wide end of the lens down to a very nice 19.8 mm. If it's more zoom power you desire, the 2X teleconversion lens ($55) brings the focal length up to 264 mm. A close-up lens kit ($30) allows you to get closer to your subject in macro mode. A lens hood ($20) comes in handy when shooting outdoors. All of those lens options require the DX7440 Lens Adapter ($20), which also lets you use any 37 mm filter.
The only other accessories I could find for the DX7440 include an AC adapter ($30) and numerous camera bags ($10 and up).
While Kodak includes versions 3.4.1 and 3.3 (Windows and Mac OS X, respectively) of their EasyShare software with the camera, I'm going to tell you about version 4 instead, since it's a free download from Kodak's website. Kodak may well have the best bundled software in the digicam world at this point.
The main screen lets you import and organize your photos. Kodak has added some new ways to organize your photos in version 4.0. You can view them by date taken, or you can create "smart albums" which are totally customizable (just like a smart playlist in iTunes).
On this screen you can also view your photos in a slideshow, edit or rotate them (see below), get exposure data, rotate them, burn them to a CD or DVD, or even upload them to Ofoto for printing.
If you want to edit your photo, there are some basic tools included. They include rotation, cropping, "instant enhancement", redeye reduction, brightness and contrast, color, exposure, and instant black & white or sepia conversion. For some edits, you can split the screen (see above) so you can see a "before and after" view of your proposed changes.
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 choices available, including the two 4 x 6 inch per page print layout 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.
Here you can customize the e-mail addresses stored in the camera -- more on how this works later in the review. This feature is also integrated with the OS X address book. Similarly, you can also set up albums on your camera by using EasyShare. 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. The manual does seem short (in length) and it doesn't talk about accessories, but it's pretty good for most purposes.
Look and Feel
The EasyShare DX7440 is an attractive, midsized camera made of high grade plastic with some metal thrown in for good measure. It's easy to hold, with one hand or two, and the important controls are all within reach. Though it's too large to fit in your pocket, the 7440 is small enough to go in a purse or backpack without causing any trouble.
The official dimensions of the camera are 3.9 x 2.7 x 1.6 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) and it weighs 224 grams empty. The numbers for two competitive cameras are 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.2 in. / 200 g for the Canon PowerShot A85 and 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. / 175 g for the Fuji FinePix E500.
With that out of the way, let's start our tour of the DX7440 now!
Unlike most cameras in this class which have a 3X zoom lens, the DX7440 has a 4X lens! The one here has a maximum aperture range of F2.8 - F4.8, and a focal range of 33 - 132 mm (in 35 mm terms). Hopefully the disappearing text on the lens isn't a bad omen! As I mentioned in the previous section, the 7440 supports a number of conversion lenses.
To the upper left of the lens is the built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.6 - 4.0 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.3 m at telephoto, which is comparable to the competition. You cannot attach an external flash to the DX7440.
To the upper-right of the lens is the hybrid autofocus sensor. This helps the camera focus quickly and accurate in both good and bad lighting. It's not the same as an AF-assist lamp but it works quite well nonetheless.
Those items directly to the left of the lens are the self-timer lamp, light sensor, and microphone.
One of the main reasons for recommending the DX7440 to my mom was the 2.2" LCD display. This screen has 153,000 pixels which makes images on the screen nice and sharp. Kodak advertises this as an "indoor/outdoor" LCD, and it lives up to its billing: you really can use in bright outdoor light. Even better, the screen "gains up" wonderfully in low light situations, making it easy to see your subjects. Kodak does this better than almost anyone else.
Directly above the LCD is the 7440's optical viewfinder. The viewfinder is average-sized for a camera in this class. A diopter correction knob can be used to focus what you're looking at.
The buttons to the right of the viewfinder are for deleting a photo, entering the menu, or entering playback mode.
The next button down is the Share button, which separates Kodak cameras from the competition (with perhaps 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:
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 mentioned before is the album feature. Pick an album (either before or after you take a picture), and the camera will dump the photos into the proper album the next time you transfer photos to your Mac or PC.
The favorites feature lets you save, well, your favorite pictures right on the camera. Note that this does take up a portion of the built-in memory on the camera, and you can choose how much of it is dedicated to favorites by using the EasyShare software.
Below the share button is the mode dial, which has the following choices:
Just to highlight one real nice feature off this camera: the 7440 can keep the shutter open for as long as 64 seconds in shutter priority and full manual mode.
Below the mode dial is the Display/Info button. This toggles the LCD display, as well as what's shown on it, on and off while in record mode. When it playback mode, this toggles the information about your photo that is displayed on the screen.
On the top of the DX7440 you'll find the speaker, several buttons, the shutter release button, and the zoom controller.
The important buttons here are:
The exposure bracketing option takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. You can set the EV interval (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV) in the record menu. If you've got enough space on your memory card, bracketing is a great way to ensure a proper exposure.
The "first burst" option takes up to 5 pictures at 2 frames/second -- this is your standard-issue burst mode. In "last burst" mode, you hold the shutter release button down and the camera takes up to 30 pictures at 2 frames/second, but only the last 6 images taken before you let go of the button are saved to memory. Unfortunately, the LCD goes black during continuous shooting, which makes it impossible to follow your subject if they're moving. Best advice is to use the optical viewfinder in these situations.
The zoom controller, which is wrapped around the shutter release button, moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about two seconds. I counted eight steps throughout the zoom range, which doesn't allow for too much precision with regard to focal length.
On this side of the DX7440, you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept under a rubber cover. They include DC-in (for optional AC adapter), USB, and A/V out.
Nothing to see here.
Finally, here's the bottom of the DX7440. Here you'll find the dock connector, metal tripod mount (blocked by the door in this picture), and battery / memory card compartment. The battery compartment can hold the included KLIC-5000 battery, or the more powerful KLIC-5001 model. The camera uses Secure Digital or MultiMediaCard memory cards. The door that covers all this is quite flimsy. The placement of the tripod mount means that you cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.
The included KLIC-5000 battery is shown at right.
Using the Kodak EasyShare DX7440
It takes about 2.8 seconds for the 7440 to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures -- which is about average.
The DX7440 focuses incredibly quickly for a low-priced camera, taking just 0.3 seconds to lock focus at wide-angle, and maybe 0.5 second at telephoto. Low light focusing was superb, as well. It's amazing when a $300 camera outperforms some $700 cameras that I've tested in this area.
Shutter lag was low, even at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes becomes a problem.
Shot-to-shot speed is also excellent, with a one second delay before you can take another picture (assuming you've turned off the post-shot review feature).
You can delete a photo immediately after taking it by pressing the delete button.
I should add that the DX7440, like all Kodak cameras of late, is always ready to shoot, no matter what you're doing. Whether you're in the menus or reviewing photos, just halfway-press the shutter release button to return to shooting.
Now, here's a look at the image quality choices on this camera:
There's no TIFF or RAW mode available on the DX7440, nor would I expect there to be.
The camera names files as 100_####.JPG (where # = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.
The menu system on the 7440 is simple and very easy-to-use. About the only thing missing is a help option describing what each item does. Here are all the menu options:
A few notes on some of those items before we continue. I would've liked to have seen a custom white balance option on the camera. It's too bad that they left this feature out, as it comes in handy when shooting under unusual lighting conditions. Manual focus wouldn't hurt either.
There are three "focus zones" on the 7440. Multi-zone automatically chooses one of three areas in the frame on which to focus. Center zone always focuses on the center of the frame. Selectable zone lets you choose one of the three focus areas manually.
There are also three "AF control" choices available. Continuous AF is always focusing, even when the shutter release is not held down. This reduces the delay when you want to take a picture. In Single AF mode, the camera only focuses when you halfway press the shutter release. Accessory lens AF disables the hybrid AF sensor (since the lens blocks it) and just uses good old fashioned contrast detection for focusing.
In addition to the record menu, there's also a setup menu, which has the following options:
Okay, let's move on to our photo tests now!
Our macro test subject doesn't get much "smoother" than this. There's no grain at all, which is pretty rare. Something else worth noticing is just how saturated the colors are -- maybe a bit too much. Kodak loves to crank up the color on their cameras!
You can get as close to your subject as 10 cm at wide-angle and 25 cm at telephoto, which is average at best. The optional close-up lens will help reduce these distances, but I don't know by how much.
The 7440 did a pretty good job with our night shot, though there is some noise and purple fringing to be seen here. There's not much you can do about the noise, but the purple fringing is reduced if you use a smaller aperture (higher F-number). The camera took in plenty of light, and with shutter speeds as long as 64 seconds, shots like this are a piece of cake.
Using that same shot, here's a look at how changing the ISO sensitivity effects the amount of noise in your images:
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As you can see, the image doesn't get too much worse at ISO 100. Details start to fall off at ISO 200 and things like pretty bad at ISO 400.
Kodak seems to have a good handle on redeye on their recent cameras -- there's really none to speak of here (just a little flash reflection).
The distortion test shows very mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens, and no signs of vignetting (dark corners) or blurring.
Overall I'd rate the DX7440's image quality as good, but not great. Kodak processes their photos a little too much, which eats away at details, giving some things (like grass) a muddy appearance. Colors are very saturated -- perhaps too much so. A few times the camera made some strange exposures, with an unnatural dark blue sky and an underexposed subject (here's where you use exposure compensation!). Noise levels were a little above average, and I'd say purple fringing levels are comparable to other cameras in this price range. Most of the issues I raised in this paragraph become moot if you're printing at 8 x 10 or smaller, or downsizing images for the web. For large prints or 100% viewing, you'll get better photos from other cameras.
By all means, don't just take my word for it. View our photo gallery, and print the images just like you would if they were your own. Then decide if the DX7440's photo quality meets your expectations.
The DX7440 has a decent, but not best-in-class, movie mode. Now you can record VGA video (with sound) until the memory card fills up, but at a sluggish 13 frames/second frame rate. You can fit just under 3 minutes of video using the built-in memory, but you'll do better with a larger SD card (a 256MB SD card can hold about 24 minutes). If you want a better frame rate, you'll have to drop down to the 320 x 240 resolution -- here you can record at 24 frames/second. You can fit over 27 minutes of video on the 256MB card at this size.
You cannot use the optical zoom during filming. Turning off the continuous AF function is advised, as the noise from the focusing will end up in your videos.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format using the MPEG4 codec. Because of this, file sizes are smaller than those on cameras that don't use MPEG4.
Here's a very exciting sample movie, taken at the VGA setting. You'll see plenty of those annoying vertical lines that often show up when you have a bright object in the frame.
Click to play movie (2.1 MB, 640 x 480, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
As you'd expect from Kodak, the DX7440's playback mode is attractive and easy-to-use. The basic features that we all know are here: slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll. The DX7440 is not PictBridge-enabled.
Zoom and scroll (called Magnify here) lets you zoom into your photo by up to 8 times, and then scroll around in the enlarged image. This feature is well-implemented -- very smooth scrolling.
The DX7440 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 DX7440 shows you no exposure information about your photos. If you want to see that, just press the Display/Info button and you'll get the screen on the right, which is full of useful information (minus a histogram).
The camera moves between photos instantly.
How Does it Compare?
There's a lot to like about the Kodak EasyShare DX7440 -- heck, I even bought one for my mom. It's easy-to-use, very responsive, full-featured, and expandable to boot. The biggest weakness is on the camera is the image quality -- photos were "muddier" that I like to see, especially on things with fine detail like grass or trees. Don't let this scare you off, though. For people like mom who print at 4 x 6 inches or downsize for e-mailing, these are non-issues. "Pixel inspectors" who view the images on-screen at 100%, or those who print larger than 8 x 10 should probably try another camera. The DX7440's photos have vibrant color (perhaps too much so) and very little redeye, and I can attest that they look great when printed.
As with all Kodak cameras, the DX7440 is very easy-to-use. Their EasyShare system makes printing or e-mailing photos a piece of cake. You can use the camera in automatic or one of the many scene modes without any trouble. For those who want more control over exposure, the 7440 offers manual shutter speed and aperture settings. Shooting performance is excellent, most notably in the focusing area -- this is one of the fastest focusing cameras out there, even in low light. Speaking of which, the larger-than-average-sized LCD "gains up" in low light so you can see what you're looking at. In bright outdoor light, the LCD is remarkably viewable as well. The 7440 has as good -- but not great -- movie mode which lets you record 640 x 480 video until the memory card fills up, albeit at a sluggish 13 frames/second. The camera is expandable as well, with support for numerous conversion lenses and filters.
Aside from the image quality issues I mentioned, I have a few other complaints. Manual white balance and focus would've been nice, though I'm not sure if the "Kodak audience" would actually use them. It also would've been nice if Kodak included the higher capacity battery with the camera, instead of the old KLIC-5000 that you'll find in the box. The LCD goes black in burst mode, which certainly doesn't help if you're following a moving subject. Finally, you cannot access the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod.
Even with a few flaws, I do recommend the DX7440, especially for those whose photos will end up as 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 inch prints or web photos. I do wish Kodak would work on the image over-processing issue that I've seen on many of their cameras, as it certainly looks yucky when viewed at full-size! Thankfully most folks just take the memory card to Walgreens and get their pictures printed!
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot A85 and A95, Fuji FinePix E500, Nikon Coolpix 4200, Olympus C-5000Z, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1. This is my "short list" -- to see more cameras, visit our Reviews & Info page.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the DX7440 and it's competitors before you buy!
Want a second opinion?
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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