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

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Last Updated: Saturday, September 28, 2002

I 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?

So, 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 the HP 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!


What's in the Box

HP Photosmart 812

The bundles 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:

While 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.


Front of the dock

As 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).


Ports on back of the dock

On 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 photos.

If 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 usage.

One 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 812.

As 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.

The Photosmart 812 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no lens cap to worry about.

The 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.

Kodak EasyShare DX4900

The DX4900 has a very similar bundle to that of the Photosmart 812. Again, items included with the dock are in bold. Here goes:

Since 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 :


The old-style dock. At least the camera is facing the right way on this one

Like 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.

Like 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.

The 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.

Like with the HP camera, the DX4900 has a built-in lens cover. It fact, it's part of the power switch mechanism.

The Kodak camera manuals are always easy-to-read and well presented, and that's the case here.

Winner: Tie
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.


Look and Feel


Kodak DX4900 (left) and HP Photosmart 812 (right)

The 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.

HP Photosmart 812

The 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.

The 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.

Let's start our tour of this camera, beginning with the front.

The 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).

Just 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.

To 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.

Here's 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 digicams.

Just 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.

To 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.

Moving 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.

Looking to the right of the LCD, there are several buttons, including:

There's 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.

On the far right is the door for the SD/MMC card slot. The light above it turns on when the card is being accessed.

I've 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 mode.

On 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.

Here's 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)

Finally, 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.

Kodak EasyShare DX4900

The 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.

The dimensions of the DX4900 are 4.6 x 1.7 x 2.6 inches and it weighs 225 grams empty.

The 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.

Just 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.

The 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).

There isn't a whole lot to see on the back of the camera, especially compared to the Photosmart.

The 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.

Above 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 eye.

Over on the right side of the LCD, you'll find the four-way switch plus the select and menu buttons.

The 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.

Hurrah! 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.

To the right of that are three buttons:

Continuing 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!

Above 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.

On 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.

The I/O ports include USB and video out. There is no support for an AC adapter on this camera.

On 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 be flimsy.

Here's 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.

Winner: HP Photosmart 812
While 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 too.

Taking Pictures

HP Photosmart 812

It's not easy to test how quickly the 812 starts up, since the LCD display never turns on be default. But I'd estimate that it takes over 4 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start shooting.


LCD in record mode. These didn't capture well, again.

The Photosmart suffers from worse than average auto-focus and shutter lag. Focusing (when the shutter release button is pressed halfway) takes over a second in all cases. In addition, the camera had great difficulty focusing in lower light. This happened both in my night shot (of the skyline) and my red-eye test. The camera couldn't focus and wouldn't take the picture. The DX4900 did not have the same problem in those situations.

There is also noticeable shutter lag which occurs between the time the button is fully pressed and the photo recorded. What this means in real life is that you can often "miss the action" because the camera is too slow.

Shot-to-shot speed is pretty sluggish as well. Expect a wait of nearly five seconds before you can take another shot.

HP uses a "star system" (similar to what Toshiba does) to describe photo quality. When you select a quality (which requires a trip deep into the menus), the camera tells you that three stars is good for prints and one star is good for e-mail. Here's a look at the quality choices:

Resolution Approx. file size # shots on 16MB card
(included with camera)
****
2272 x 1712
2.5 MB 5

***
2272 x 1712

1 MB 14
**
1136 x 848
500 KB 28
*
1136 x 848
250 KB 56

There is no TIFF or "RAW" mode available on the Photosmart 812.

The Photosmart is a point-and-shoot camera if there ever was one. White balance? Nope. Continuous shooting? No. Exposure compensation? Forget it. This is is a real turn-off for me, especially things like white balance. I couldn't do all my product shots in this review without white balance controls -- in fact I have to use "manual" white balance to get things looking halfway decent.

Another thing -- the Photosmart has a variable ISO range of 100-400. So when it needs to, the camera cranks up the sensitivity, which can make images noisy.

Kodak EasyShare DX4900

The DX4900 is about as slow as the Photosmart 812 when it comes to startup time. It's a shame because the lens has a lot less distance to travel. Expect a wait of over four seconds.

On the other hand, the DX4900 focuses much faster. When you press halfway on the shutter release button, it will almost always be less than one second before the focus is locked. Too bad Kodak couldn't do the same with the shutter lag -- it's about as bad as the HP camera.

Shot-to-shot speed was equally sluggish -- over 4 seconds between shots. Only the Kodak camera gives you the ability to delete a photo as it's being written to the card -- a feature that's all too uncommon these days.

The DX4900 has quite a few choices for resolution and quality. Here's a look

Resolution Approx. file size # shots on 16MB card
(included with camera)

4.0 MP

2448 x 1632

1240 KB 12

4.0 MP
(high compression)

2448 x 1632

640 KB 25

3.1 MP

2160 x 1440

964 KB 16

2.2 MP

1800 x 1200

689 KB 23

1.0 MP

1224 x 816

341 KB 46

Ok, a few notes on those file sizes. Your results will vary. Some test shots I took had much smaller file sizes than what is above (which is from Kodak). Also, you're probably wondering why the 3.9 (effective) MPixel Photosmart 812 had a 2.5 MB file size while the 4.0 MPixel DX4900 is about 1/2 of that. We'll save that discussion for later.

There are actually two different 1.0 MP choices -- one regular, one "burst" mode. In burst mode, the camera will take 12 pictures in "quick succession". The HP camera has no continuous shooting mode.

As you'll see in the next section, the DX4900 has a lot more controls than the Photosmart. Even control over the shutter speed!

Winner: Kodak DX4900
Despite its smaller file sizes, the Kodak DX4900 has many more controls, faster auto-focus, and more image quality choices than the HP.


Menus

HP Photosmart 812

The Photosmart has some of the best looking menus I've seen. Unfortunately they're pretty limited. As I mentioned in the previous section, there aren't any controls over exposure. Most of the items in the menu are for playing back your images. And here they are:

And that's it!

Kodak EasyShare DX4900

Kodak's menus are also pretty fancy looking, but more importantly, there are actually some exposure controls here. Let's get right to it:

There is also a setup menu (accessed via the mode wheel) which lets you set the date/time, beep volume, digital zoom, etc.

When you set the ISO to Auto, the camera will move between 100 and 400. I like to keep it set at 100, because at higher ISOs, the images get noisy (grainy).

It's so nice to see manual control over shutter speed on a low-cost camera. This should really help out with night shots -- just remember that tripod.

Winner: Kodak DX4900
No contest here. The Kodak has the manual controls that the HP camera lacks.


Viewing Pictures

HP Photosmart 812

The 812 is somewhat unique -- it's not on the mode dial, and you can get out of it by pushing almost any button. To enter it, you hit the blue "OK" button in the center of the four-way switch. Another interesting thing is that the camera displays a special screen when you reach the end of the photos you're viewing.

Aside from that, playback mode is pretty basic: you can only delete, rotate, or magnify your images. The magnify feature (what I call zoom and scroll) zooms in 4X and lets you smoothly move around in the zoomed-in area. Don't use the zoom buttons to do this, as you'll end up back in record mode. I made this mistake several times.

The camera moves through the images in playback mode quickly. You get very basic information about your photo at the bottom the screen. There is no feature on the camera for showing 4 or 9 thumbnails at once.


HP Instant Share

One of the really unique features of the Photosmart 812 is the "Instant Share" system. This lets you :

Obviously this all happens when the camera is connected to a computer (or printer). You have to use HP's service for the e-mailing portion. Once things are setup, you can actually pick a photo and choose who will receive it via e-mail. Next time you hook into your computer, off they go.

One last thing: the 812 has a cool effect on the LCD when you delete a photo.

Kodak EasyShare DX4900


Looks just like record mode!

The DX4900 has a more elaborate playback mode. First, to get there, you use the mode dial. Once there, you'll find slide shows, zoom and scroll, DPOF print marking, image protection and detailed picture info. What you won't find is image rotation.


Playback menu

The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom into your photo 2X or 4X, and scroll around in it. The scrolling was much faster on the Photosmart camera.

While the DX4900 doesn't have a true 4/9 thumbnail mode, you can quickly zoom through thumbnails while the menu is open.

The camera moves through the full-sized images quickly. A low resolution version is shown instantly, with a higher resolution image showing up a moment later.

If you want more information about a photo, just choose the Picture Info option from the menu and you'll get just about every statistic possible.

The DX4900 doesn't have the fancy Instant Share system that the HP camera has. The new EasyShare system (which I did not test) will allow you to e-mail photos and make prints, but this is all done in software rather than in-camera, like on the Photosmart.

Winner: Kodak DX4900
While the Instant Share feature is nice for some people, the Kodak still wins for having a superior playback mode. More options and more information about your photos are available with the Kodak.


Software

Since this isn't usually something I cover, I'm going to keep this brief. I will be covering the Mac versions of the software, since that's what I use. I assume the PC versions will be very similar, if not identical. All three software packages are compatible with Windows 98, 2000, ME, and XP.

HP - HP Photo Imaging Software

The HP software is Mac OS X native, a nice touch. In order to get the software to see the camera, though, you'll need to switch into "disk drive" USB mode (via camera setup menu).

When you connect the camera (with or without the dock), the photo unload software will run. You can have it unload the photos automatically if you wish.

After the images are downloaded, the included ArcSoft PhotoImpression software will run and you can edit your images.

ArcSoft's PhotoImpression can do just about everything you could possibly want to do to your photos, with a pretty easy to use interface too. That includes color controls, redeye reduction, effects, captions, and more. It is also Mac OS X native.

The only problem I had with the whole thing was the long wait for PhotoImpression to actually load the images. It took forever.

If you've marked any photos for e-mailing or printing, this will also happen during the unloading process. E-mailed images can be sent in three sizes (see above). Your e-mail program will sent them automatically if you wish. You must setup the e-mail destinations in the software, which then transfers that information to the camera.

Kodak - Kodak Picture Software

I will again mention that the Kodak EasyShare software is getting totally revamped, so what I reviewed here will be outdated shortly.

The Kodak Picture Software is not Mac OS X compatible. It's actually a program made (I assume) using Macromedia Director. But that doesn't mean that it's stripped.

Here is the main screen you'll see when you first load the software. You can scroll through your images at the bottom. Basic tools like zoom, rotating, info, and delete are at the right. The functions on the left are fairly self-explanatory.

Clicking on the info button back at the main window will show you all the information you ever wanted about your photo.

Clicking the edit button will allow you to make all kinds of changes to your image. They're conveniently listed in the screen shot above.

All in all, the software isn't bad at all -- and the new version should be even better.

Winner: Tie
This is almost a draw. The HP's software is more modern (Mac OS X compatible) and you can mark images for e-mailing in the camera itself. The Kodak software is no slouch either, and stands to improve when the new software is released shortly. So I'm calling this one a tie.

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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