DCRP Review: Kodak EasyShare LS420
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

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People who are just starting out want to keep things simple, and that's the aim of the Kodak EasyShare LS420 ($299). The LS420 is a fixed focus, point-and-shoot camera which is very easy to use. Transferring photos is easy too, with the included EasyShare dock that hooks into your Mac or PC. While the camera is in the dock, your battery is charged.

Is the LS420 a good entry-level camera? Find out in our review.

What's in the Box?

The LS420 includes everything you need to get started taking pictures. Here's what you get in the box:

  • The 2.1 (effective) Mpixel LS420 camera
  • KLIC-5000 Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • EasyShare dock for LS420
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • 80 page camera manual (printed)
  • Kodak Picture Software CD-ROM

You're probably saying: hey, what about a memory card? Well, that's up to you to provide. But don't worry, as the LS420 includes 8MB of built-in memory, so you can get started shooting right away.

When you're ready to buy a memory card, the LS420 can use either Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMedia (MMC) cards. They are interchangeable.

The KLIC-5000 Lithium-ion battery sure looks familiar -- I think I've seen this on other cameras (from Nikon?). This little 1050 mAh battery packs in 3.9 Watt/hours of power. Kodak doesn't say how long the battery lasts per charge.


The LS420 rests in the dock

When you want to recharge the battery, you just pop the camera onto the dock and it charges automatically (in three hours). If you want to transfer pictures to your Mac or PC, just press the button on the dock, and your computer will spring into action. The camera works just fine with Mac OS X and iPhoto too. My only complaint is that you must have the dock plugged into the wall, even to transfer photos.


Look out, it's a small one

Kodak includes software to transfer photos and do basic editing. I did not try it. The manual included with all Kodak cameras is better than average.

Look and Feel

The EasyShare LS420 camera is very small and light. It's pretty wide, but very thin. It's reminiscent of the small P-series Sony cameras. The camera is easy to hold and will fit into all your pockets.

The body of the LS420 is a mix of metal, plastic, and rubber. It still looks like they glued two different bodies together at the middle, if you ask me. Anyhow, the body seems quite solid, though with all metal cameras, they scratch easily. Here's a look at the dimensions of the LS420 versus the competition.

Camera Dimensions (WxHxD) Weight
Kodak LS420 4.3 x 1.1 x 1.8 160 g
Canon PowerShot S200 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 180 g
Canon PowerShot S330 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2 245 g
Olympus D-40Z 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 190 g
Pentax Optio 330/430 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.2 205 g
Kyocera Finecam S3 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.2 165 g

Hey it's the lightest one I've tested recently! Let's start our tour of the LS420 now.

Doesn't it look like two cameras in one? Anyhow, most of the goodies are on the right side of the body. The LS420 has a rather slow F3.9, fixed focal length lens, which is equivalent to 38 mm. The lens is not threaded.

If you want zoom, you've got to use the 3X digital zoom. As a rule, using digital zoom dramatically reduces the quality of your photos.

Just to the right of the lens is the microphone. The two "holes" to the upper-left of the lens are the light sensor and the self-timer lamp. There is no AF illuminator on this camera.

Over on the "other side" of the front is the flash. The working range of the LS420's flash is 0.8 - 2.5 m. Kodak lists a 5 second flash charging time.

Let's move onto the back now.

And here we are. The LS420 has a 1.6" LCD that is worse than average. It's just plain hard to see. At least the refresh rate is good. (I should add that a poorer LCD is a good way to keep the price of the camera down). You can adjust the brightness of the screen via the setup menu.

Over to the left of the LCD is the "joystick" and the mode dial. The joystick is used for navigating the menus. The four choices on the mode dial are setup, playback, movie mode, and record mode. Just below that is the menu button.

At the top left corner of the picture, you can see the optical viewfinder. The viewfinder is quite small and lacks diopter correction or even "crosshairs" for framing your pictures.

On the top of the camera, you'll find the on/off switch, flash/DPOF switch, and the shutter release button. There is a snazzy pulsating light under the power switch (I'm a sucker for these things). Everything else up here is pretty self-explanatory. I always like to see LCD info displays up here, but I don't see how they could fit one on such a small body.

On this side of the camera, you'll find the A/V out port, for connection to a television. There are no USB or AC adapter ports -- you must use the dock for both of those.

Here's the other side, with the battery shown (sorry, it doesn't photograph well). The door covering these compartments can be fussy about opening. The battery compartment is on the left, while the SD/MMC slot is on the right.

Finally, here is the bottom of the camera. You can see the connector for the dock, as well as the plastic tripod mount.

Using the Kodak EasyShare LS420

Record Mode

The LS420 takes just over three seconds to "boot up" before you can start taking pictures.


Sorry these don't look so hot

Since the camera is fixed focus, there is no waiting for the camera to focus. The only lag is the shutter lag, which is short but noticeable. Shot-to-shot speed is not great: you'll wait at least 6 seconds before you can take another picture. The LS420 gives you the ability to erase a photo before it is a written to the card. Another annoyance is that the LCD is turned off (after you press the shutter release button) when you are in self-timer mode.

Keeping with the simplicity theme, the LS420 has just two image quality options:

Resolution # shots on 8MB
built-in memory
(included with camera)
# shots on 32MB
SD/MMC card
(optional)
Best
1752 x 1168
12 48

Good
876 x 584

49 196

I probably don't have to tell you that there are no TIFF or RAW modes on the LS420.


Record Mode Menu

The LS420 is as basic as you get. If you enjoy manual controls of any kind, this one is not for you. There aren't even white balance or exposure compensation controls. Here's what you do get:

  • Self-timer (on/off)
  • Picture quality (see chart)
  • Image Storage (Auto, internal memory) - in auto mode, the camera defaults to use the SD/MMC card
  • Date stamp (on/off) - three different formats to choose from
  • Quickview (on/off) - shows image on LCD after it is taken; gives opportunity to delete photo

And that's it for the record menu! There's also a setup menu, with the usual options like date/time, beep, language, and card formatting.


Setup Mode Menu

Let's talk photo quality now.

Despite not having a "night scene" mode or any manual controls, the LS420 did a pretty good job at the night shot test. Sure the image is noisy, but it's not bad at all for an entry-level camera.

Where's the macro test? Well, since the LS420 doesn't have a macro mode, I can't do one! The minimum focus distance is 80 cm which is pretty far away.

Photo quality on the LS420 was a mixed bag. Generally, outdoors things were good. Indoors, I had trouble getting anything good. I had one weird thing happen when I took pictures of a visiting cruise ship. Here's a close-up:

What the LS420 recorded
What it was supposed to look like. Photo from Fuji FinePix F601 Zoom.

I know that these are totally different cameras with very different prices, but this was the easiest way to illustrate the photo quality. Not only is the LS420 image not terribly sharp, but those funky yellow patterns are not normal either. This happened in all my pictures of the back of the ship.

Please see the photo gallery for more samples from the LS420.

Movie Mode

The EasyShare LS420 has a pretty good movie mode. You can record movies, with sound, until the memory card (or internal memory) is full. You can also choose to limit movies to 5, 15, or 30 second clips, via the menu.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format. You can choose from 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 sizes. You can store 35 and 90 seconds of video to the built-in memory for those sizes, respectively.

Although the LS420 records sound, you cannot hear it when you play it back on the camera, as the LS420 has no speaker.

Keeping with the cruise ship theme, here's a sample (lots of "banding" in the sky!):


Click to Play Movie (2.4MB, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime

Playback Mode

Like with its record mode, the LS420 has a pretty basic playback mode as well. The features available include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, and zoom & scroll.

One big thing missing in playback mode is the traditional 9 (or sometimes 4) thumbnails on the LCD. There is also no info about your photos shown on the LCD (and I mean nothing).

The zoom & scroll feature (called magnify here) lets you zoom in 2X into your photo and then move around in it, using the joystick.

A handy feature on the LS420 is the ability to copy images from the internal memory to a memory card.


These screens did not photograph well. They look better in real life.

The LS420 moves fairly quickly through images in playback mode. A low resolution image is shown immediately, with a high res version showing up about 1.5 seconds later.

How Does it Compare?

The Kodak EasyShare LS420 is a camera that will likely be enjoyed by people just starting out in photography. It offers very easy operation, a useful dock for charging the battery and transferring pictures, and decent photo quality (in most cases). I did have some trouble with indoor photos (not of them came out, though I wasn't using a tripod), and there was the "cruise ship incident" shown earlier. What it really boils down to, in my opinion, is if the LS420 is the best value for the money. My thought is that there are better choices available. For around the same price you can get a 2 Megapixel camera with a 3X optical zoom, and far more features (Canon Powershot A40). I've detailed some cameras to look at down at the bottom of this review. The LS420 isn't a bad choice, it's just not your best choice.

What I liked:

  • Very small body
  • Dock is great for photo transfer, battery charging
  • Good movie mode
  • Ability to set shutter speed
  • Good bundle

What I didn't care for:

  • Very limited features, especially compared with the competition
  • No macro mode
  • Dock must be powered even to transfer photos
  • Trouble with photo quality sometimes

Other low cost cameras that I recommend looking at include the Canon PowerShot A30, A40, S200, and S330, the Fuji FinePix A201, 2600, and 2800, the Kodak DX3900 and DX4900, Minolta DiMAGE X, Nikon Coolpix 2500, Olympus D-380 and D-520Z, the Sony DSC-P31 and P51, and the Toshiba PDR-M25. Yeah it's a long list, but it's a crowded field with lots of good offerings.

Photo Gallery

Check out our photo gallery to see how the photos turned out.

Want a second opinion?

Check out the Steve's Digicams EasyShare LS420 review.

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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