DCRP Review: Two Cheap Four Megapixel Cameras
HP Photosmart 812 / Kodak EasyShare DX4900

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Movie Mode

HP Photosmart 812

The Photosmart 812 records up to 60 seconds of video, with sound. Movies are at a smaller resolution than average (288 x 208) for some reason.

Movies are saved in MPEG format.

The movie quality was also worse than average -- everything seems really grainy.

Don't just take my word for it, check out the sample below.


Click to Play Movie (1.3MB, MPEG format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Kodak EasyShare DX4900

The Kodak DX4900 has no movie mode. This is kind of surprising because I always figured consumers like movie clips.

Winner: HP Photosmart 812
It's hard not to pick the HP as the winner, as the Kodak doesn't have a movie mode at all. The HP's movie mode isn't great, but there's no competition here.


Photo Test: Macro Mode

The first of the photo tests in this review is the traditional macro test shot. If you've read any of our reviews, you've seen this shot before.

I took these shots over the period of a few minutes using natural light, so things should be equal in each. Again, I used automatic mode for each, and used exposure compensation on some of them.

HP Photosmart 812 Kodak DX4900

Talk about a mixed bag. The HP's image appears soft, but what really stands out is the VERY saturated blues and reds. Mickey's hat is much lighter in color than you see here.

The Kodak image is much sharper, but the whole thing has a red cast to it. That was using auto white balance. I switched to daylight and it was worse. (This shoot is taken with natural light). Since there's no manual white balance, this is probably as good as you'll get straight out of the camera.

The focal range in macro mode is 14 - 70 cm (wideangle) and 40 - 70 cm (telephoto) for the Photosmart. For the DX4900, it's 7 - 70 cm (wideangle) and 25 - 70 cm (telephoto).

Winner: Kodak DX4900
Another close one, no pun intended. The Kodak, despite the "red" image here, can get closer to the subject. Our test subject was noticeably sharper on the DX4900 as well.


Photo Test: Night Photos

The weather this week has been great, so it was back up to my old night shot spot: Twin Peaks. Of course it was cold and windy up there, but at least it was clear.


HP Photosmart 812


Kodak DX4900

Ok, first things first. That's not a flying pixel in the bottom shot. It's an airplane caught over a few seconds.

The Photosmart 812's image is overexposed a bit, and there's a lot of noise/grain. The image has kind of a soft, ghostly look to it. There's not much you can do to fight this, as there's no exposure compensation or shutter speed control on the camera. Still, I've seen much worse from cameras that had some controls.

I couldn't get as close to the "subject" with the Kodak DX4900 due to its shorter lens, but that's okay. The image was a little better exposed, with less noise than the HP. However, chromatic aberrations really stand out in this picture. Blow it up and see all the purple around lights.

Winner: Kodak DX4900
These comparisons have all been very tough. In the nightshot category, neither of the cameras are great. The Kodak has better exposure control, but lots of purple fringing. The HP has a noisier image and no exposure control -- but less purple fringing. I give it to Kodak by a hair.


Photo Test: Flash

Everyone always wants me to take people pictures. Since I can't find anyone to volunteer and I'm sure not going to do it, I've had to get creative. The following tests will hopefully give you an idea as to which camera takes the best flash pictures.

The first test was taken at wide-angle, and the second is a telephoto shot. Don't worry, that hand is still attached to my arm (it doesn't look like it).


HP Photosmart 812

Kodak DX4900
 

HP Photosmart 812

Kodak DX4900

Both cameras show some "drop off" of the flash in the corners, with the HP being a bit worse. The Kodak camera again has the red cast.

In the close-up shot of the hand, things aren't bad. The color of my hand probably lies somewhere between the two samples. Detail is good in both shots.


"Redeye" is an annoying phenomenon that affects both digital and film cameras. In a nutshell, here's what it is: When you fire off the flash, the light goes through your pupils, and hits your retina. There, the blood vessels absorb all the colors of the flash (remember, white is made up of lots of colors), except for red, which is reflected. This red light is what you see in the pictures that makes both man and beast look like something out of a horror movie!

All three of the cameras take a similar approach to fixing this problem: they try to shrink your pupils. They do this by firing the flash a few times quickly, before the "real" flash goes off and the image is recorded.

In my test below, I set the camera on the tripod in a darkened room. I let my eyes get used to the light between shots so my pupils would be roughly the same size in each. I used the self-timer and made sure redeye reduction was turned on. The images below are blown up 200% so you can get a closer look at my lovely eyes.

HP Photosmart 812

Kodak DX4900

Well, I look like a demon in both of them. So I guess neither is great at reducing redeye. Luckily, software (such as the products included with these two) can get rid of it pretty well.

Winner: Tie
The Kodak has less drop off in the corners but the HP doesn't have the red cast. Really tough call here, again.


Photo Test: Image Quality Comparisons

This isn't the easiest thing to pull off (especially outdoors when the LCD is hard to see), but I've attempted to take the same shot with the three cameras. I've again used the D60 as my reference camera. Here goes.

HP Photosmart 812

Kodak DX4900

The colors are more saturated on the DX4900, and the image looks sharper as well. The Photosmart image seems "soft".

HP Photosmart 812

Kodak DX4900

People like to take sunset pictures, so here's one example of that. In the Photosmart picture, it looks like a bomb has gone off out to sea. Check out the big "rainbow" around the sun (you'll need to blow these up to see that). On the DX4900, things look much better, and you even get the cool lens flare effect. Also, note the noisier shadows on the HP.

Here's one which puts the camera's metering system through its paces.

HP Photosmart 812

Kodak DX4900

While the Photosmart doesn't have a lot of trouble with it, the Kodak definitely has a chromatic aberration (purple fringing) problem. You can see it along the arches on the left.

Lastly, here is a crop of a photo you'll find in the gallery. You can see how the cameras handle the details on this palm tree.

HP Photosmart 812 Kodak DX4900

As you can see, the Kodak image is just a bit sharper and more detailed than the HP's.

For additional sample photos, please visit the Photosmart 812 and DX4900 galleries. You can use those samples to make you own decisions about photo quality.

Winner: Kodak DX4900
You guessed it -- another tough call. I give the Kodak the slight edge though. The images are sharper and the colors look better to my eyes. The images on the HP have a soft look to them. On the other hand, chromatic aberrations are noticeable in some situations where they are not seen on the HP. Also, the Kodak occasionally seemed to have a color cast on a few images (red, blue). Again, please see the photo galleries.


Conclusion

This is the part of the review that I hate the most: making decisions. So here's what I suggest. What you see in this section is my conclusion. It's pretty arbitrary. Using the information you've hopefully gained in this review, you need to draw your own conclusion. I recommend giving each of my tests a "weight" and decide which of the areas is important to you. That said, here's the summary chart for all my tests:

  HP Photosmart 812 Kodak DX4900
What's in the Box
Look and Feel  
Taking Pictures  
Menus/Features    
Viewing Pictures  
Software
Movie Mode  
Macro Mode  
Night Photos  
Flash Tests
Image Quality  
     
WINNER  

While it looks like the Kodak won big, in truth, it did not. The HP and Kodak cameras are true competitors, and were neck and neck in most areas (except movie mode!). They are both decent, "entry level" 4 Megapixel cameras. They are not comparable to more expensive 4 Megapixel cameras like the Canon PowerShot G2, in my opinion. Of course, these two cameras cost a lot less than the G2.

Both cameras have acceptable (but not excellent) photo quality. With their docking stations, photo transferring and battery charging is very easy. They're small and easy to use for beginners. The Kodak camera is much more advanced in terms of manual controls, which I liked. Both cameras suffer from shutter lag and sub-par LCD displays. For things like photo quality, it's tough -- image quality is in the eye of the beholder -- so I ask you to make that decision.

So using what I've told you over the last few pages, I hope this makes your decision somewhat easier. I highly recommend a trip down to your local camera store to try these out before you buy.

Other 4 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot G2 and S40, Casio QV-4000, Fuji FinePix F601 Zoom (sort of), Minolta DiMAGE F100 and S404, Nikon Coolpix 4500, Olympus C-4040Z and D-40Z, Pentax Optio 430, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P9 and DSC-S85, and the Toshiba PDR-M81.

That's a long list. I will add that none of the cameras listed above have the docking feature of the two cameras reviewed here!

Photo Gallery

For additional sample photos, please visit the Photosmart 812 and DX4900 galleries. You can use those samples to make you own decisions about photo quality.

Need more opinions?

Or, check out some other reviews of these cameras, just to make sure that I'm not crazy:

Feedback

What did you think of this review? Send me some feedback, please! If you want to criticize the review, please be constructive. But please, do not send requests for personal recommendations or missing software/manuals.


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