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DCRP Review: Kodak
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: December 25, 2005
Last Updated: February 25, 2008
The EasyShare P880 ($599) is Kodak's top-of-the-line consumer digital camera. It features an 8 Megapixel CCD, impressive 24 - 140 mm lens, manual zoom and focus rings, full manual controls, a hot shoe, and more. If you can name a feature, the P880 probably has it. It shares many of the same features as its little brother, the EasyShare P850, a 5 Megapixel ultra zoom camera.
While most of Kodak's cameras tend toward the lower end, the P880 competes with the best fixed lens cameras out there -- and maybe some entry-level D-SLRs too. How does it perform? Find out now in our review!
Since this camera has much in common with the P850, I will be reusing parts of that review here.
What's in the Box?
The P880 has a good bundle. Inside the box you'll find the following:
As with most of Kodak's other cameras there is no memory card is included with the P880. Instead, Kodak builds 32MB of memory right into the camera. That holds just nine photos at the highest quality setting, which isn't very many, so consider a memory card to be a required purchase. The P880 can use both Secure Digital (SD) and MultiMedia (MMC) cards and you'll get the best capacity and performance out of the former. I'd recommend a 512MB or even 1GB SD card as a good starter size. Based on my usage, it does not appear that a high speed memory card is a necessary purchase.
The EasyShare P880 uses Kodak's "high capacity" KLIC-5001 lithium-ion battery (the old KLIC-5000 will work too, if you have them laying around). This battery has 6.7 Wh of energy, which is above average. How does that translate into actual battery life? Have a look:
The P880 posts above average battery life numbers, with only the Olympus and Sony ahead of it. Unfortunately, battery life numbers for Samsung's two wide-angle cameras were not available.
When it's time to charge the KLIC-5001 just pop it into the included charger. This charger is my favorite type -- it plugs right into the wall. It takes around three hours to fully charge the battery.
Optional camera dock; Image courtesy of Kodak
Like all of Kodak's cameras, the P880 is fully compatible with the Kodak EasyShare camera and printer docks. The Camera Dock Series 3 ($50) will charge the camera's battery, transfer photos to a Mac or PC, and connect to a television. You can do the same things with the items that are included with the P880. If you want to make quick prints there are several EasyShare Printer Docks that are compatible -- just put the camera on the dock and the rest is easy. The Printer Dock Series 3 ($149) will produce a 4 x 6 inch print in just 90 seconds. If that's not fast enough then you can upgrade to the Printer Dock Plus Series 3 ($179), which prints in just 60 seconds.
The P880 comes with a big plastic lens cap with a retaining strap to protect your nice lens. As you can see, it's a fairly large camera.
P880 with included lens hood and optional external flash
Also included with the camera is a lens hood, which comes in handy when you're shooting outdoors. The external flash shown above is optional. And speaking of accessories, here's what's available for the P880:
While Kodak doesn't offer any, you can also screw on any 52 mm filter to the P880's lens.
Let's talk about software now. The P880 includes version 5.0.2 of Kodak's excellent EasyShare software. As of this writing, a newer version (5.2) was available (the software will update automatically), so that's what I'm covering here.
The main screen lets you import and organize your photos. You can view your photos 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, burn them to a CD or DVD, or even upload them to the Kodak EasyShare Gallery for printing and sharing.
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.
The Windows version of the EasyShare software allows you to view and edit the RAW images taken by the P880. Mac users are left out in the cold at this point, as the Mac version of EasyShare does not support editing RAW files (though it can convert them into other formats). However, if you own Adobe Photoshop CS2 you can download a new version of the Camera Raw plug-in which will open the RAW files.
Anyhow, the software lets you edit these RAW properties: noise reduction, sharpness, exposure, brightness, flare, and white balance (though there's no color temperature option). A scene effects option lets you apply "scene modes" to a RAW image like sunset, forest, scene, sepia, and black & white.
So what are RAW files anyway? They contain unprocessed image data straight from the camera. In order to get the RAW images into more useful formats you must first process them on your computer. While doing that you can adjust all of the properties that I just listed without reducing the quality of the image. It's almost like you get a second chance at taking the picture.
All-in-all the EasyShare package is pretty darn good for bundled software, especially if you've seen the stuff that some other camera manufacturers give you.
While Kodak's manuals are great for the beginner, they're not so hot for the enthusiast. While some things are explained in detail, more advanced features are glossed over. For example, the only thing the manual says about white balance fine-tuning is "provides for custom color adjustment", which is not terribly helpful.
Look and Feel
The EasyShare P880 is a fairly large camera that looks more at home with D-SLRs than fixed-lens cameras. The body is made of plastic, though it feels quite solid. The camera has a large right hand grip, and the lens barrel has plenty of room for your other hand. Ergonomics are a mixed bag on the P880. The camera has a bad case of button clutter, with a whopping sixteen buttons on the top and back of the camera. While that means fewer trips to the menu system, having all those buttons can take some getting used to.
Now here's a look at how the P850 compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:
The wide-angle crowd is a diverse one: there are compact, midsize, and VERY large cameras with wide lenses, and I included them all in the table. The closest cameras to the P880 are really the Nikon and Olympus.
Okay, let's move on to our tour of the camera now, shall we?
The biggest feature on the P880 is undoubtedly its ultra wide-angle lens. This F2.8-4.1, 5.8 optical zoom has a focal range of XX - XX mm, which is equivalent to 24 - 140 mm. Yes, this lens is actually faster and covers a wider range than the lens on the Sony DSC-R1, but it's probably safe to say that the R1's lens is higher quality despite that.
The lens itself has 52 mm threads for adding filters. For adding a conversion lens you'll need the optional conversion lens adapter, which bumps the thread size up to 55 mm.
Directly above the lens is the camera's external autofocus sensor. This uses something called phase detection for focusing, which is in addition to the more commonly used contrast detection system. If that's still enough enough focusing power there's also an AF-assist lamp to its left, which is used in low light situations. That same lamp is also the visual countdown for the self-timer.
The last thing to see here is the camera's pop-up flash, which is released manually. This flash has an impressive working range of 0.5 - 4.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 3.1 m at telephoto (at ISO 100). If you want even more flash power, there's a hot shoe AND a flash sync port on the camera. Kodak's own P-20 External Zoom Flash greatly increases the flash range.
The P880 has the same 2.5" LCD as its little brother, the P850. While the screen size is large, the 115,000 pixel resolution is disappointing for an LCD this size. And, like with the P850, I noticed some banding and dithering when playing back photos on the screen. On a more positive note, visibility in bright outdoor light and dimly lit rooms was above average (the P880 seems better than the P850 in low light).
Directly above the LCD is the camera's electronic viewfinder, or EVF. The EVF is like a small LCD that you view as if it was a regular optical viewfinder. Unfortunately, regular optical viewfinders are a lot sharper and brighter than EVFs, but you won't find a single ultra zoom camera with one. The resolution of the EVF is actually twice that of the main LCD, with 237,000 pixels, and I didn't notice the dithering/banding problem on it either. A diopter correction knob on the EVF's left side focuses the image on the screen.
The EVF and LCD can't be used at the same time, which is perfectly normal. To switch between the two you can use the EVF/LCD button to the left of the viewfinder.
Let's move on to all the controls on the right side of the photo. To the right of the EVF is the info button, which toggles what information is shown on the LCD or EVF. To the right of that is the command dial, with the "set" button below it. As with the P850, I wish Kodak could've combined the dial and the set button into one control, like many other manufacturers have done. You'll use these two controls to adjust exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments), flash exposure compensation (-1EV to +1EV in 1/3EV increments) and manual controls (shutter speed and aperture). You can also use it in conjunction with the buttons on the camera -- just hold down the button you want (e.g. flash) and turn the dial to select the desired setting.
Below the Set button is the AE/AF lock button, which does just as it sounds: it locks the focus and/or exposure. To its left is the Review button, which enters playback mode.
Under the Review button you'll find the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation and for selecting a scene mode (which I'll list shortly).
The last three buttons on the back of the P880 are for deleting a photo, entering the menu system, or sharing photos. The sharing features deserve some highlighting:
The screen above is what you'll see when you press that red Share button. From this screen you can do the following:
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 to whom you want to e-mail this picture. Once you connect to your computer, the EasyShare software will send the pictures to the chosen recipients.
Selecting photos to print later is just as easy. Just select the photo and the number of copies, and the next time you dock with a printer, it'll prompt you to make those prints. This works with both the Kodak Printer Dock as well as the scores of PictBridge-enabled photo printers on the market.
Back to the tour now. On the left side of the LCD are four buttons, which do the following:
The selectable metering mode works just like it does when it's used for focusing: you select one of 25 points in the frame on which to meter exposure.
While the camera supports high ISO sensitivities, the ISO 800 and 1600 options are only available at the lowest resolution (1024 x 768). Strangely enough you can't even use any ISOs below 400 at that resolution. Here's a photo taken at ISO 1600 -- it looks kind of like a frame grab from a video. Combine that with the low resolution and you've got something best suited for mediocre small prints and web photos.
The P880's "click white balance" option lets you use a white or gray card as a reference so you can get perfect color in any lighting. You can save up to three custom WB settings for later retrieval, as well.
Now let's look at the top of the camera. As you can see, there are even more buttons here. The ones on the left side include:
While the P880 has a nice manual focus ring, Kodak's implementation of the feature leaves much to be desired. Instead of a guide showing the actual focus distance, the P880 shows you where you are between macro and infinity -- not very helpful. While there's also a "how close to being focused" meter displayed on the LCD/EVF, I didn't find it to be terribly useful.
The next thing to see is the hot shoe, which is one of two ways that an external flash can be attached to the P880. Here you can put the Kodak P-20 external zoom flash (which integrates with the camera) or any third party model (though you may need to use manual settings for those). As far as I can tell, the camera can sync at any shutter speed, at least with the P-20 flash that Kodak gave me.
To the right of that is the mode dial, which has the following options:
As you can see, the P880 has full manual exposure control. About the only things missing are program shift and bulb features. For beginners there are also plenty of scene modes, some of which are hidden in the flower/landscape/portrait options. That anti-shake night portrait feature just increases the ISO sensitivity -- there's no image stabilizer on the camera. I also noticed that the camera doesn't remember the image quality option, so if you set it to "fine" and go to another mode, it will not remember that setting.
Just to the right of the mode dial is the microphone, with two more buttons to the right of that. These buttons are for:
The EasyShare P880 has the same set of burst modes as the P850, though that camera performed a little better. The first burst option will take up to seven fine quality JPEGs at a sluggish 1.3 frames/second. The last burst option keeps shooting at the same rate until the buffer starts to fill up (at which point it slows down a bit) and when you let go of the shutter release the last seven images (at fine quality) are recorded. You cannot use the RAW or TIFF formats for either of these modes. Also, the image on the LCD/EVF lagged a bit, which may make following a moving subject a bit difficult.
There are two bracketing modes on the P880 as well. Both work in the same way: a series of photos are taken (three or five in total), each with a different exposure. You can select exposure intervals of ±0.3EV, ±0.6EV, and ±1.0EV. The RAW mode can't be used for the 5-shot sequence, and TIFF mode can't be used at all.
The poorly named time lapse burst mode lets you take several photos over a set amount of time. You can take up to 99 photos at an intervals of 10 secs to 24 hours. You can shoot in RAW mode, but not TIFF mode here. Also, the optional AC adapter is required if you're going to do this for any length of time.
The last thing to see on the top of the P880 is the shutter release button, which has the power switch wrapped around it. The options on the switch are on, off, and favorites (which shows only the photos that you've tagged as such).
The first thing to see in this view of the P880 are the manual zoom and focus rings. The zoom ring is mechanically linked to the lens, so when you turn it you're moving the lens yourself. The focus ring, on the other hand, is electronic, so you're telling the camera to move the lens elements for you. The zoom ring has markings showing the focal length so you can see where you're at. Both rings have a nice feel when they're being used.
To the right of the rings you'll find all of the I/O ports on the camera, plus the speaker. Under that circular cover at the top is the flash sync port, which is the second way that you can attach an external flash to the camera.
Under that red 5.8X thing (for lack of a better word) are the USB + A/V out and DC-in ports, which are protected by a rubber cover. Despite being the top-of-the-line camera in the EasyShare lineup, the P880 does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.
On the other side of the camera is the SD/MMC card slot, which is protected by a plastic door of average quality.
The lens is at the full telephoto position here.
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a metal tripod mount, the dock connector, and the battery compartment. THe battery compartment is protected by a sturdy plastic door with a lock. Speaking of batteries, the included one is shown on the right.
Using the Kodak EasyShare P880
With no lens to extend it's not surprising that the P880 starts up quickly. You'll wait about 1.5 seconds before you can start taking pictures.
A live histogram is shown in record mode; a view showing highlights and shadows is also available
Despite having a fancy focusing system, the P880's focus speeds were about average. Typical focus times ranged between 0.4 and 0.6 seconds, with a longer wait if you're at the telephoto end of the lens. If the camera has to use the AF-assist lamp, focus times of more than one second are likely. Low light focusing was accurate, but slow.
I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speeds were very good in JPEG mode and not-so-good in RAW or TIFF mode. In JPEG mode you'll wait about 1.5 seconds before you can take another shot. In RAW mode that delay jumps to 10 seconds, and you'll wait double that if you're shooting in TIFF mode. Memory card speed did not seem to have any impact on these times.
You can delete a photo immediately after taking it by pressing the delete button.
Unlike most Kodak cameras, the P880 has quite a few image resolution and quality options available. And here they are:
See why you should get a memory card along with the camera?
The P880 supports both the RAW and TIFF image formats. I told you about RAW back in the first section, so what are TIFF files? Simply put, the TIFF format is a lossless one (like RAW) and an industry standard (unlike RAW). That means that you can open them in almost any image viewer. The downsize is that they cannot be manipulated like RAW images and that their file sizes are quite large. As you saw a few paragraphs up, they also take forever to be written to your memory card.
The camera names files as 100_####.JPG (where # = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.
The EasyShare P880 has a menu system unlike any other Kodak camera, save for its little brother, the P850. The menu is all high tech-looking and it's divided into three tabs: capture plus (only available in P/A/S/M/C modes), capture, and setup. I'll cover the first two now:
White balance fine-tuning
The P880's white balance fine-tuning feature is not unlike the one found on the Canon EOS-20D and Digital Rebel XT, with a small chart that lets you adjust the WB in various "directions". Going up makes things greener, down is toward the magenta direction, left for red, and right for blue. Nice!
There are two AF control options on the camera. In single mode the camera will only focus when the shutter release is halfway pressed. The continuous mode will always have the camera trying to focus, regardless of whether you're pushing the button.
Now let's take a look at what you'll find in the setup tab:
Okay, let's move on to our photo tests now!
The P880 did a fairly good job with our macro test subject. The subject is in focus and it has a nice "smooth" look to it. My only complaint is that the reds aren't very saturated. The camera's custom white balance feature handled my quartz studio lights with ease.
The minimum distance to your subject on the camera is 25 cm at either end of the lens, which isn't very impressive. To get closer you'll want to use the super close-up feature, which is buried in the "flower" scene mode. This feature reduces the focus distance to 5 cm.
The EasyShare P880 did a very good job with our night test shot. As you can see, the city is all decked out for the holidays. The camera took in plenty of light thanks to the manual exposure controls, and everything is nice and sharp. Purple fringing was non-existent, and noise levels are relatively low, considering the resolution of the camera.
Now let's take a look at how the camera performed at high ISO settings. While the P880 can shoot at ISO 800 and 1600, I did not include those in this test, because they are only saved at a tiny resolution (1024 x 768). So, here's ISO 50 to 400:
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The ISO 100 shot is pretty close to the one taken at ISO 50. Noise levels go up noticeably at ISO 200, but most details are still intact. While things look pretty bad at ISO 400, I was able to get an acceptable 4 x 6 inch print after running the photo through NeatImage.
There are two ways that the EasyShare P880 attempts to reduce the redeye in your flash photos. The first way is the normal way: it fires the flash a few times to get your subject's pupils to shrink. In addition, there's also a software-based tool that attempts to reduce redeye.
As you can see, there's no redeye to be found, and I didn't even have to use the software tool here -- just the preflash!
Not surprisingly there is noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end of the P880's ultra wide-angle lens. While you can see some vignetting (dark corners) here, I did not find any of that in my real world photos.
Overall I was very pleased with the photos that I took with the EasyShare P880. Color and exposure were generally accurate, noise levels were reasonable for an 8MP camera, and purple fringing was minimal. Sharpness levels were right where they should be: not too soft, not too sharp.
But don't just take my word for all of this. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing the photos if you can, and then decide if the P880's photo quality meets your expectations!
The EasyShare P880 has an excellent movie mode. You can record 640 x 480 video at 30 frames/second (with sound) until the memory card is full. If you desire, you can also preset the length of your movie in the record menu. You can fill up the 32MB of internal memory with just 14 seconds of video, so buy a larger card for longer movies (a 1GB card holds about eight minutes worth). A high speed memory card is apparently not required for this movie mode. A lower resolution 320 x 240 (30 fps) mode is also available for longer recording times.
Since the P880's lens is manual, you can zoom all you want during filming. The camera can focus continuously if you want (so when you zoom things stay in focus), but the noise of the AF system will be picked up by the microphone.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format using the M-JPEG codec. Several recent Kodak cameras have used the more efficient MPEG4 codec, so this was a surprise.
I braved the wrath of the BART police to take this sample for you:
Click to play movie (6.2 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The EasyShare P880 has a very impressive playback mode. Basic features are all here, such as slideshows, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
Zoom and scroll (called Magnify here) lets you zoom into your photo by up to 10 times, and then scroll around in the enlarged image. Everything is nice and smooth!
An album feature lets you organize your photos into albums before they ever hit your computer. That's pretty cool. You can also tag photos as Favorites for easy viewing on both the camera and the computer.
The P880's editing features are very impressive. You can edit JPEG images, RAW images, and movies. You can crop and resize photos, though strangely there's no rotation tool. There's also the redeye reduction tool that I mentioned earlier. For images in RAW format you can adjust the picture size and quality, exposure, color, sharpness, contrast, and white balance right in the camera. The "develop RAW file" option will then save the image into the format of your choice. The video editing tools allow you to trim, cut, split, and merge your clips, and you can also take frame grabs as well.
The P880 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.
There are quite a few different image playback views available on the P8800, including those with exposure info and a histogram.
The camera moves between photos instantly. As was the case with the P850, deleting photos takes longer than it should on the P880.
How Does it Compare?
The EasyShare P880 is not your typical Kodak camera. Yes, it's still easy to use, and sharing photos is a snap, but this Kodak camera also has an 8 Megapixel CCD, impressive 24 - 140 mm lens, full manual controls, large LCD, two ways to attach an external flash, and much more. With a street price in the low $500 range, the P880 offers a whole lot of camera for relatively little money -- and thus it earns my recommendation.
The P880 is a fairly large camera that, while not the best looking camera, is comfortable to hold and use. It does suffer from "button clutter", though, which means that you'll be hunting for the right button at times. The body is made mostly of plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap. The camera has manual focus and zoom rings, both of which are well designed. The camera has a large 2.5" LCD display, though its resolution is poor. On the other hand, the LCD (and the EVF as well) are visible in bright outdoor light as well as dimly lit rooms. In terms of expandability, the P880 offers a hot shoe and flash sync port for adding an external flash, and the lens is threaded for both conversion lenses and filters.
Where most "wide-angle" cameras have lenses starting at 27 or 28 mm, the P880 is one of only three cameras with a 24 mm lens. If you take interior or landscape photos then you'll love this lens! Thankfully Kodak didn't skimp on the telephoto power, as this 5.8X zoom goes all the way to 140 mm. This lens covers a wider range than anything in its class.
Just because this is an "EasyShare" camera doesn't mean that it's for beginners. While those folks will enjoy the automatic shooting and movie modes on the camera, there's plenty for the power users here too. These features include full manual exposure controls, custom white balance with a fine-tuning feature, customizable buttons, and support for the RAW image format. Speaking of RAW, it's here in all its glory, though only the Windows version of the EasyShare software can actually do anything with them. In addition, saving RAW images takes time: the camera will be locked up for ten seconds each time you take a picture: this is no D-SLR, for sure. I do, however, like how you can process RAW files right on the camera.
Camera performance was average in most areas. The P880 starts up quickly, there's minimal shutter lag, and playing back photos is quick, but everything else did not impress. Focus times were just okay in normal lighting, and sluggish (but accurate) at the telephoto end of the lens, or in low light situations. While JPEG shot-to-shot speeds were fine, expect lengthy waits between shots when using the RAW or TIFF formats. The continuous shooting frame rate (1.3 fps) was on the slow side, as well.
Photo quality on the P880 was very good. It took well-exposed photos with accurate color, low noise and purple fringing, and just the right amount of sharpening. The camera does offer high ISO sensitivities, but they're only available at the lowest resolution (1024 x 768), which won't give you much of a print.
Here are a few last complaints that don't fit anywhere else. It's too bad that Kodak put this nice manual focus ring on the camera but then doesn't show you the focus distance on the LCD: hopefully they can fix that with a firmware update. One thing they probably can't add with a firmware update is support for USB 2.0 High Speed. Since this camera is in Kodak's performance series it's really a shame that they left out this feature. And finally, while 32MB of built-in memory is okay on a 4 Megapixel camera, it's far too little on this 8 Megapixel monster.
Despite a few annoyances, the P880's positives far outweigh its negatives, and it gets an easy recommendation. If you want more wide-angle in your life, you should definitely take a look at this camera.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot S80, Nikon Coolpix 8400, Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom (which, sadly, is hard to find), Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1, and the Samsung Digimax A55W and L55W.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the P880 and it's competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality turned out? Check out our photo gallery!
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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