Review: Two Cheap Four Megapixel Cameras
Photosmart 812 / Kodak EasyShare DX4900
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2002
Saturday, September 28, 2002
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didn't actually come up with the idea of doing this comparison until
I had started writing the Photosmart 812 review. Then it hit me:
hey, I've got two inexpensive 4 Megapixel cameras that also have
docking stations. Why not combine the two?
based on the very popular three-way review I just did (PowerShot
S330 vs. DiMAGE X vs. Coolpix 2500), I'm back with a look at
Photosmart 812 ($499) and the Kodak
EasyShare DX4900 ($399). Both are 4MP, both have optional docks
($79), and both are easy to use. The Photosmart has a 3X optical
zoom lens, while the DX4900 has a 2X. Which camera is the better
choice? Find out now!
in the Box
on both these cameras vary depending on whether you buy the dock or
not. Therefore, items that only come with the dock are in bold.
Here's what you get:
3.9 (effective) Mpixel HP Photosmart 812 camera
Secure Digital (SD) card
8881 camera dock
AA lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
AA NiMH batteries (rechargeable)
cable (one to PC, one to printer)
page camera manual (printed)
with HP photo imaging software (more on this later)
the dock is certainly not required, it does add rechargeable batteries
and the useful video out feature. The dock does triple duty: battery
charging, photo transferring, and TV viewing.
of the dock
you can see, the camera goes backwards into the dock. Looks kind
of funny. The buttons below are used for transferring/printing (left)
and TV viewing (right).
on back of the dock
the back of the dock, you'll find ports for DC in, TV out, and USB
for the printer and the computer. One thing about both of these
docks (HP and Kodak) is that they must be powered in order to transfer
you don't get the dock, you're stuck with throw-away lithium batteries.
If you get it, you get four 1600 mAh batteries. Since the camera
only uses two of them, that's not a bad deal. HP did not provide
any numbers on battery life, but it didn't seem too bad in regular
thing that could use some improvement is the included memory card.
A 16MB card fills up very quickly when your images are 4 million
pixels. I'd recommend buying another 64MB card (Secure Digital or
MultiMediaCards work) when you want to get serious with the Photosmart
far as accessories go, you can get an adapter mount ($19.95) which
lets you use a number of accessory lenses and filters, all of which
are made by Tiffen. Since the lens is not threaded, the lens adapter
attaches to the tripod mount. No external flash options are available.
Photosmart 812 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no lens cap
to worry about.
manual included with the camera is quite good -- lots of big descriptive
paragraphs and a minimum of "notes" in fine print at the
bottom of the page.
DX4900 has a very similar bundle to that of the Photosmart 812.
Again, items included with the dock are in bold. Here goes:
4.0 (effective) Mpixel Kodak DX4900 camera
lithium battery (non-rechargeable)
battery pack (rechargeable)
page camera manual (printed)
with Kodak picture software (more on this later)
I received my DX4900 review unit, Kodak made some major changes
to the EasyShare dock. I will be talking about the old dock -- the
changes on the new one are :
consumers to upload their digital images at the touch of a button
old-style dock. At least the camera is facing the right way on this
on the Photosmart dock, the Kodak dock will transfer photos and
recharge the battery pack (1600 mAh). It doesn't hook into your
TV, but it's not a big deal since the camera already does. Supposedly
the new EasyShare software will let you print and e-mail photos
as well, but I didn't have that. I'll talk more about software later
in the review.
HP, Kodak includes a skimpy 16MB card with the DX4900. Buy a 64MB
card and you'll be set, at least initially. The battery deal is
the same as on the HP camera -- throw-away AA's without the dock,
rechargeables with it. The DX4900 uses two AA batteries. No word
on battery life here either, but again, in my limited real world
use, it seemed average.
DX4900 has an equally impressive set of accessories as the Photosmart
812. You can get close-up, telephoto, and wide-angle lenses for
it. You'll need a conversion lens adapter (32 -> 37 mm) in order
to use them. There are no external flash options here either.
with the HP camera, the DX4900 has a built-in lens cover. It fact,
it's part of the power switch mechanism.
Kodak camera manuals are always easy-to-read and well presented,
and that's the case here.
It's pretty obvious that these two cameras were made to compete
with each other. Their bundles are almost the same. The Kodak camera
has a slight advantage in having video out on the camera itself,
rather than just the dock.
DX4900 (left) and HP Photosmart 812 (right)
shot above (along with the first one on this page) should give you
an idea about how these two cameras compare to each other in size.
You can see the lens advantage the HP camera has. Let's go on a
detailed tour of each of these cameras now.
Photosmart 812 is a fairly standard-looking small camera. The body
appears to be made of metal and a little plastic. It's smaller than
the DX4900, and less bulky too (not that the 4900 is really bulky).
It's easy to hold and fits into almost any pocket.
official dimensions of the 812 are 3.7 x 1.6 x 2.8 (LxWxH) inches,
and it weighs 199 grams empty. While it's a bit thicker than the
Canon S330 Digital ELPH, it weighs less.
start our tour of this camera, beginning with the front.
Photosmart 812 has the same Pentax 3X optical zoom lens that is
found on the Pentax Optio 330/430. This F2.6 lens has a focal range
of 7.6 - 22.8 mm, which is equivalent to 37 - 111 mm. The lens is
not threaded, but you can still use lens accessories via the tripod
mount (explained earlier).
above-right from the lens is the built-in flash. The flash has a
working range of 0.5 - 2.8 m at wideangle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto.
Again, there are no external flash options for either of the cameras
in this review.
the northwest of the lens you'll find the microphone and the self-timer
lamp. If you're looking for an AF illuminator to help out with focusing
in low light situations, you won't find one here.
the back of the camera. The Photosmart 812 has a 1.5" LCD,
fairly common for a camera of this size. When outdoors in bright
light, it was almost unusable -- worse than the LCDs found on other
above the LCD is the optical viewfinder. It's decent sized for a
small camera, but it lacks diopter correction for those with poor
vision (like me!). Nose smudges on the LCD may be a problem if you
use your left eye with the viewfinder.
the right of the optical viewfinder are two buttons and four lights.
The buttons are for flash and macro mode, with the lights corresponding
to each, as you can see. I guess this is HP making up for not putting
an LCD info display on this camera, but I'd still like to have one.
over to the right, you can see the zoom controls. One thing that
HP likes to talk about is that the 812 is ready to shoot at any
time. So if you're in playback mode, the menus, or whatever, pressing
the zoom controls will operate the zoom and get the camera ready
to photograph. This takes some getting used to, especially if you've
been using digital cameras for a long time, like me. The zoom mechanism
itself is a bit noisy but smooth.
to the right of the LCD, there are several buttons, including:
(on/off) - turns the LCD on and off
Share - see software section later in the review
also the four-way switch to the right of that. The center button
will put the camera in playback mode, as well as acting as the "OK"
button in the menus.
the far right is the door for the SD/MMC card slot. The light above
it turns on when the card is being accessed.
already mentioned the lack of an LCD info display on this camera.
What you will find on the top of the camera is the speaker, mode
dial, shutter release button, and power button. There are three
choices on the mode wheel: movie mode, self-timer mode, and record
this side of the camera, under a rubber cover, you'll find the I/O
ports. I guess I sort of lied earlier when I said that the basic
camera doesn't have video out. Actually, it does. The problem is
that HP sells the needed cable as an optional accessory. The other
ports here are USB (it shares the same terminal as video out) and
DC in for the optional AC adapter.
the other side of the Photosmart 812, you'll find the SD (Secure
Digital) card slot. The 812 does not support MultiMediaCards!
The plastic door seems sturdy enough. (Updated 9/29/02)
here is the bottom of the camera. The battery compartment, docking
contacts, and tripod mount can be seen here. While I'm no metallurgist,
I think that tripod mount is plastic.
DX4900 looks just like the other cameras in Kodak's DX series of
cameras. It's a big larger and more "plasticky" than the
Photosmart, but it's still pretty small. It will fit in most pockets.
dimensions of the DX4900 are 4.6 x 1.7 x 2.6 inches and it weighs
225 grams empty.
DX4900's big disadvantage (in my opinion) versus the Photosmart
is its smaller lens. The DX4900 has an F2.8, 2X optical zoom lens
with a focal range of 7.3 - 14.6 mm. That's equivalent to 35 - 70
mm. Unlike the Photosmart, the DX4900's lens is threaded.
above the lens are two little holes: one is the self-timer lamp,
the other is the light sensor. Nope, no AF illuminator here either.
flash, over to the left, is further from the lens than on the Photosmart,
so I predict better red-eye performance on the DX4900. The working
range of the flash is 0.5 - 3.2 m (wideangle) and 0.5 - 2.3 m (telephoto).
isn't a whole lot to see on the back of the camera, especially compared
to the Photosmart.
LCD (also 1.5") isn't spectacular either - it's hard to see
outdoors and the frame rate can be choppy at times. Be sure to avoid
using the power saver mode, as it cuts the frame rate in half making
it real choppy.
the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is about the same size
as the Photosmart's. Like that one, there's no diopter correction,
and nose smudges on the LCD can be a problem if you use your left
on the right side of the LCD, you'll find the four-way switch plus
the select and menu buttons.
four-way switch is used for menu navigation as well as controlling
the zoom. The zoom moves a bit slowly for my taste, but it's quiet.
The select and menu buttons are used for -- guess what -- menu navigation.
The select button is also used for turning the LCD on and off.
An LCD info display is such a nice treat these days. It's a shame
to see so many camera manufacturers no longer including this valuable
feature on their cameras. The LCD info display shows you the cameras
current settings, without needing to turn on the main LCD. This,
in turn, saves battery life.
the right of that are three buttons:
/ Landscape focus
to the right, you can see a very plastic mode dial, with record,
playback, and setup modes on it. What, no movie mode? That's right!
that is the shutter release button. I wish it had a bit more "play"
than it does. If that doesn't make sense, go use one and maybe you'll
see what I'm saying.
this side of the DX4900, you will see the power switch and I/O ports.
The power switch is attached to the lens cover, so it swings that
open and turns on the camera. When you turn off the camera, the
lens retracts and then the cover automatically closes.
I/O ports include USB and video out. There is no support for an
AC adapter on this camera.
the other side of the camera is the CompactFlash slot. The included
16MB card is shown here. I found the door covering the CF slot to
the bottom of the DX4900. Here you'll find the battery compartment,
plastic (I think) tripod mount, CF card eject switch, and the contacts
for the dock. The DX4900 uses two AA-sized batteries. The CF card
really flies when you eject it, so be careful.
HP Photosmart 812
the DX4900 gets major points for having the LCD info display, the
fact is that the Photosmart has a larger lens, a microphone, a slightly
better LCD, and overall superior build quality. It's a smaller camera
to page two for more on using these two cameras >>