DCRP Review: Kodak EasyShare LS633
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: May 25, 2003
Last Updated: June 4, 2003

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Here's a little test you can do at home, assuming you already have a digital camera. Turn on your camera and position it like so:

Odds are that you probably can't see what's on your LCD at this angle. That's because it's not an OLED -- organic light emitting diode -- that is found on the Kodak EasyShare LS633 ($399). The LS633 is the first digital camera in the world to use an OLED display, which Kodak is branding as "NuVue". The OLED's advantages are an amazing 165° viewing angle, superb brightness, and accurate color. As you can see, it's pretty big as well, at 2.2 inches.

Did I mention that the LS633 is also a 3.1 Megapixel camera with a 3X optical zoom Schneider-Kreuznach lens?

One thing to note before I go on: the LS633 is currently not for sale in the U.S.

Now, let's begin our review of this camera!

What's in the Box?

The LS633's bundle depends on if you get the optional EasyShare camera dock 6000. Items that are included with the dock ($79) are in bold. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.1 effective Mpixel Kodak EasyShare LS633 camera
  • KLIC-5000 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • One NiMH rechargeable battery pack (not compatible with LS633)
  • Camera dock insert
  • EasyShare camera dock 6000
  • AC adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Kodak EasyShare 2.1 software
  • 124 page manual (on CD)

In what is becoming a trend with camera manufacturers, the LS633 has internal memory plus a memory card slot. That means that there's no memory card in the box. The 16MB of internal memory is good enough to start with, but you'll probably want a larger card right away. The LS633 can use Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMedia (MMC) cards.

The LS633 uses the KLIC-5000 battery, which we've seen on cameras from Kodak and other manufacturers. This small battery has a modest 3.9 Wh of power, and Kodak estimates that you can take about 180 pictures per charge (they don't say anything about how much the flash or LCD is used, though). For a proprietary battery, the KLIC-5000 is a relative bargain, at just $20 a pop. You should probably pick up a spare if you get this camera.

When it's time to charge the battery, use the very handy external charger, which plugs right into the wall. It takes two hours to full charge the battery.

Here's something strange: if you buy the camera dock, you won't be able to use the nice NiMH battery pack that comes with it.

You can see the LS633 on the optional EasyShare camera dock 6000 above. The dock is certainly something you can live without -- you can do the same functions (transferring photos, charging the battery) using the accessories included with the LS633.

Speaking of accessories, one of the coolest things out there is the EasyShare printer dock 6000 (who names these things?). This $199 dye-sub 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.

Other accessories include power accessories (extra batteries, charger, AC adapter), memory cards, and camera bags. I don't think the LS633 can use lens accessories like the LS443 could.

If you've installed the EasyShare software (version 2.1 included, though 3.0 is now available from Kodak), it will prepare images you've marked for printing or e-mailing (more on that later). Here's a look at the (Mac OS X) version of the EasyShare software. I would imagine it would be similar on Windows.

EasyShare is not a substitute for something like iPhoto or Photoshop Elements. It's very basic, but well implemented. It is also seemed more stable than the programs bundled with other cameras. The screen shot above shows the main window in EasyShare. Your thumbnails are on the left, and the panel on the right varies, depending on what you're doing. The Viewer mode lets you rotate, delete, and view photos -- that's about it.

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 4x6-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 too can be integrated with the OS X address book.

All in all, the EasyShare system does make it easier to print and e-mail your photos.

The camera also works with OS X's Image Capture and iPhoto.

The camera has a built-in lens cover as part of its snazzy design.

Kodak's camera manuals have always been better than average, and that is the case here as well. Unfortunately (at least with my review camera), the manual was included on CD. At the same time, the manual says that it may be printed in certain countries, so your results may vary.

Look and Feel

The LS633 has a unique look, with brushed metal on one side, and regular metal on the other. The whole body is metal, and it feels very sturdy -- though watch out, these metal cameras scratch easily. Controls are well-placed, and the camera can be operated with one hand.

The official dimensions of the LS633 are 4.5 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches (W x H x D), and it weighs 210 grams (7.4 ounces) with the battery installed.

Let's tour this camera now.

The LS633 has a 3X Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon optical zoom lens. This F2.7-4.6 lens has a focal range of 5.6 - 16.8 mm, which is equivalent to 37 - 111 mm. The lens is not threaded. A 3.3X digital zoom is also available, though using it will reduce the photo quality.

At the upper-left is the built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.6 - 3.4 m at wide-angle, and 0.6 - 2 m at telephoto. You cannot add an external flash to the LS633.

Above the lens are three little holes. They are the self-timer lamp, light sensor, and microphone. There's no AF-assist lamp to be found on this camera.

Here now is the back of the camera. The "big thing" here is that amazing 2.2" OLED display. This thing must be seen to be believed -- it's amazed everyone I've shown it to. I can't wait for computer LCDs and televisions to use this technology. The only bad thing about this screen is that its size allows you to get your fingerprints all over it.

At the upper-left of the picture is the optical viewfinder. It's decent-sized, but it lacks a diopter correction knob.

Below that is the mode dial with the four-way controller (more like a joystick) inside it. The controller is used for menu navigation. Here's a look at the items on the mode dial:

  • Off
  • Auto Record
  • Sport Mode
  • Night Mode
  • Landscape Mode
  • Macro Mode
  • Movie Mode

Most of the items on the mode dial are "scene modes", where the camera picks the best settings for each situation. While I applaud the inclusion of an action mode, I'm wondering where the typical portrait mode went.

To the right on the mode dial are two buttons: one for deleting, and another for using the EasyShare system. When you press the Share button, the camera enters playback mode and brings up this 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 pictures will be ready to be e-mailed (I don't think it happens automatically).

On the right side of the LCD are the zoom controller, the speaker, and buttons for the menu and playback (review) mode.

The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.5 seconds. The zoom is not super precise, but it is fairly quiet.

Let's move up top now.

There are just a few items up on top of the camera: the drive button, the flash/info button, and the shutter release button.

The drive button lets you use the self-timer (10 sec) or a 4 shot burst mode. The four shots are taken at a rate of 1.4 frames/sec.


Flash screen info display

The flash button cycles through: auto flash, flash off, fill flash, and auto flash w/redeye reduction. The flash button also doubles as the info button, giving you a quick look a settings.

On this side of the camera, you'll find the LS633's I/O ports, which are under a rubber cover. These ports include A/V out, USB, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter).

Over on the other side, behind a hard-to-open plastic door, you can see the SD/MMC card slot and battery compartment.

The KLIC-5000 battery is shown at right.

Last but not least, here is the bottom of the camera. The items of note here include the metal tripod mount and dock connector.

Using the Kodak EasyShare LS633

Record Mode

The LS633 takes about 5 seconds to extend the lens and prepare for shooting -- about average. In good lighting, autofocus speed are quite good, with a lag of under a second. The camera had some difficulty focusing in low light, due at least in part to its lack of an AF-assist lamp

Shutter lag was present, but barely noticeable. At slower shutter speeds is was more obvious, but you shouldn't be hand-holding the camera anyway.

Shot-to-shot speed is good: expect about a two seconds wait between shots, assuming you've turned off the post-shot review feature. You can hit the delete button to get rid of the photo you've just taken.

The LS633 is one of those camera that 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 64MB SD card
Best (***)
2032 x 1524
17 65
Best 3:2 (***)
2032 x 1354
19 73
Better (**)
1656 x 1242
25 97
Good (*)
1200 x 900
45 175

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.

The camera's menu system is both attractive (especially on the OLED display) and easy-to-use. Here's a look at the available menu items:

  • 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.
  • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/2EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent)
  • Picture quality (Best, best 3:2, better, good) - see chart above
  • 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
  • ISO speed (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
  • Long Time Exposure (None, 0.5, 1, 2, 4 secs) - more below
  • Date Stamp (Off, YYYY MM DD, MM DD YYYY) -for putting the date on photos.
  • Orientation sensor (on/off) - camera will automatically rotate portrait shots
  • Setup Menu - see below

The long time exposure feature is the only real manual control on the LS633. As you can see, your shutter speed choices are quite limited -- but, it's better than nothing I suppose. Note that the ISO is fixed at 100 in this mode, which is a good thing.

That setup menu has some interesting items, including:

  • Default print quantity
  • Quickview (on/off) - if picture is shown for 5 secs on LCD after it's taken
  • Liveview (on/off) - live preview on LCD
  • Advanced digital zoom (Continuous, pause, none) - how the digital zoom is activated (if at all)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • Language (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese)

Well enough about settings, let's do our photo tests now.

The LS633 did a real nice job with the macro test. What really stands out is the smoothness of the image -- it's sharp without being grainy. The colors are quite saturated as well. In macro mode, you can get as close to your subject as 13 - 70 cm at wide-angle, and 22 - 70 cm at telephoto.

I wish I could say the same for the night shot, but unfortunately the LS633's nasty image processing system (more on that later) really blew this shot. The camera took in a decent amount of light, but the whole thing just looks fake and over-processed. The limited shutter speed controls will let you take shots like this, though I would've preferred more flexibility in choosing a shutter speed. Before someone asks, the camera was on a tripod and this isn't the result of the camera being out of focus (in my opinion).

The LS633 did do okay with the redeye test. There's a tiny bit of red, and some reflection of the flash, but it's not hideous like on some other cameras I've tested.

The distortion test shows the minor barrel distortion at wide-angle. One thing not here: vignetting, or dark corners. That's a good thing.

The LS633 suffers from the same image over-processing problem as the last two Kodak cameras I tested (LS443 and DX4330). It doesn't seem to be quite as bad as before, but you'll still notice a distinct "impressionist" look to things like grass or trees in some of your pictures, like this:


View Full Size Image

View Full Size Image

While this bothers me, if may not bother you. This phenomenon won't make a difference for smaller prints, or website photos. For larger prints (and for perfectionists), you may want to steer clear of the LS633. Since I got accused of this last time, it was a still day -- so wind is not a factor -- and the shutter speeds were fast anyway.

Aside from them, photo quality was pretty good, with nice colors and sharp images. There was a bit of purple fringing, but nothing major.

Don't just take my word for it -- have a look at the photo gallery and judge the LS633's quality for yourself.

Movie Mode

The LS633 has the same, nice movie mode as the LS443. You can record movies, with sound, for as long as your memory card will allow. That's 81 seconds on the 16MB of built-in memory. Buy a 128MB SD/MMC card and you can record for nearly 12 minutes!

Movies are saved in QuickTime format at a resolution of 320 x 240.

Since sound is recorded, the optical zoom cannot be used during filming. You can use the self-timer in movie mode, and can set a predetermined movie length, or just wait until the memory is full.

I finally have an interesting sample movie! And what a beautiful horse, too:


Click to play movie (3.0MB, QuickTime format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The LS633 has a very nice playback mode as well.

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 lets you zoom in 2X or 4X into your photo, and then scroll around in the enlarged image. The magnification process is quite slow, but the actual scrolling is fast.

The LS633 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 to view the pictures stored there.

The share feature was covered earlier in the review, so head back up to the tour section to learn about that.

By default, the LS633 shows you no info about your photos. If you want to see that, you need to enter the menu and choose "Picture Info" (note to Kodak: too many steps!).

Once you get there, you'll find that it wasn't really worth the trip. What you see above is all the info you'll get. At the very least, the shutter speed and aperture would be nice to know.

The camera moves through photos quickly, showing a low resolution picture immediately, with the high res version appearing about a second later.

How Does it Compare?

While not the best camera in terms of manual controls or photo quality, the Kodak EasyShare LS633 is a point-and-shoot camera that the average person will enjoy using. It's biggest feature is undoubtedly its 2.2" OLED display, which must be seen to be appreciated. The camera is very easy to use, and many folks will also appreciate Kodak's innovative EasyShare system, which makes e-mailing and printing photos very easy. The playback and movie modes are quite good as well.

Now here's what I don't like. The LS633 still has Kodak's overzealous image processor, which gives parts of photos an "impressionist" look to them. I personally don't like the "always ready to shoot" feature, as you can easily bump the camera out of playback mode. I would also like to see some real manual controls and more info on photos in playback mode on the camera.

All in all, the LS633 is a decent camera that the point-and-shoot crowd should take a look at. That is, of course, if they ever sell it here in the States!

What I liked:

  • Usually good photo quality
  • Stunning OLED display
  • Very easy to use
  • EasyShare system allows for easy e-mailing and printing of photos
  • Good redeye, macro performance
  • Nice playback and movie modes
  • Slow shutter mode gives you some flexibility for long exposures

What I didn't care for:

  • Some images look over-processed. -- night shot especially
  • No AF illuminator
  • No real info in "Picture Info" in playback mode
  • Camera needs a few more manual controls: more shutter speed options, manual white balance
  • Too easy to accidentally enter record mode from playback mode
  • Manual on CD (at least in some countries)

Some other midsize 3 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot A70, Fuji FinePix A303, HP Photosmart 735, Kodak DX6340, Kyocera Finecam L3v, Nikon Coolpix 3500, Olympus D-560Z, Pentax Optio 33L, Samsung Digimax V3, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72 and DSC-P8, and the Toshiba PDR-3320. A long list, I know, but you need to do your homework before you buy!

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the LS633 and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photo quality stacks up in our LS633 photo gallery!

Want another opinion?

None yet.

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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