Review: Argus DC3810
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 30, 2003
June 30, 2003
people probably wouldn't expect a review of a camera like this
on the DCRP. But, after reader requests and a strong nudge from
my Macworld editor (Hi Jennifer!), I decided to go ahead and
what's the deal with the Argus DC3810? Well, for one, it's cheap
-- really cheap. Just last week I saw it for $299 -- an incredibly
low price for a 5 Megapixel camera. The DC3810 is often seen
in advertisements without being mentioned by name. It's usually
just a "5 Megapixel camera".
the DC3810 a bargain, or a camera that proves that "you
get what you pay for"? Find out now in our review.
in the Box?
DC3810 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
5.1 effective Mpixel Argus DC3810 camera
AA alkaline batteries
featuring PhotoImpression, VideoImpression, and drivers
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
gives you a 32MB CompactFlash card, which is a good starting
point, but you'll undoubtedly want a larger card right away.
Might I suggest 256MB? Despite it's size, the camera only supports
Type I CompactFlash cards -- though this isn't really a big deal
on your own as far as batteries go, as you get four non-rechargeable
alkalines in the box. I recommend buying as least two sets of
NiMH rechargeables, plus a fast charger. Argus does not provide
any information about expected battery life on the DC3810.
DC3810 has a built-in lens cover, as you can see. Another nice
touch is the included camera case, though it has a really horrid
stench (first time I'm put that in a review!).
believe the only accessory out there for the 3810 is an AC adapter.
includes ArcSoft's PhotoImpression and VideoImpression software
with the DC3810. PhotoImpression is a pretty good photo editing
product, while I suppose VideoImpression is for editing those
short movie clips the camera can record. Both products are Mac
OS X native.
it's not pretty, the manual included with the camera is complete,
and fairly easy to read.
DC3810 is a midsize camera made mostly of plastic. Despite its
bargain price, the DC3810 doesn't feel "cheap" when
you pick it up. It's easy to hold, and the important controls
are easy to reach.
official dimensions of the camera are 4.6 x 3.0 x 2.4 inches
(W x H X D), and it weighs 270 grams.
begin our tour of the DC3810, beginning with the front of the
DC3810 has a 3X optical zoom lens, manufactured by Ricoh. This
lens is a slow one, with a maximum aperture of F3.4 - F3.6. The
focal length of the lens is 8 - 24 mm, which is equivalent to
34 - 102 mm. As far as I know, the 3810 does not support add-on
the upper-left of the lens, you'll find the 3810's built-in flash.
The working range of the flash is 0.5 - 3.0 m at wide-angle,
and 0.5 - 2.5 m at telephoto. There are no external flash options
available for the DC3810.
other two items of note on the front of the camera are the self-timer
lamp (top-left) and flash sensor (top right). There is no AF
illuminator on the DC3810.
back of the DC3810 is a nice break from the cluttered look than
I'm used to with most cameras.
1.8" LCD is the definition of low resolution, with just
60,000 pixels. And you can tell immediately, too. This is the
worst LCD I've seen in years. In addition to being low resolution,
it always seemed washed out, which may outdoor use even more
difficult than normal.
the top-left of the above photo is the optical viewfinder. The
viewfinder is a little on the small side (considering the 3810's
bulk), and it shows about 80% of the frame. Do note that you
will see the lens barrel in the lower-left corner of the viewfinder
when at wide-angle. It's not as bad as on the PowerShot G3/G5,
but it's there.
the left of the LCD are three buttons:
- toggles LCD on/off
+ Self-timer + Continuous shooting
continuous shooting mode can take 13-90 pictures in a row, at
a sluggish 1 frame/second. The total number of shots that can
be taken depends on the selected resolution and image size.
above the LCD is the power switch. To the right of that is the
four-way controller. In addition to its function as a menu navigator,
it also does the following:
- Voice annotations + Flash (Auto, fill flash, flash cancel,
auto w/redeye reduction, night mode)
- Zoom in
- Play/Pause + Focus
- Zoom out
can add up to 10 second voice clips to an image in playback mode.
The DC3810 has a pseudo manual focus mode, similar to some of
the lower-end Sony cameras. You can choose from landscape (infinite
focus), macro, or a preset distance: 0.5, 1.0, or 2.0 m.
zoom controller moves the lens at a glacial pace: it takes 3
seconds to go from wide-angle to telephoto.
on top of the camera, you'll find the microphone, speaker, shutter
release button, mode wheel, and yes -- even an LCD info display.
If the el-cheapo camera can have one, why can't other cameras?
Of course, the info display doesn't show very much, but hey,
it's better than nothing.
are four items on the mode wheel:
this side of the camera, you'll find three I/O ports hidden deep
under a rubber cover. Let's take a look:
ports are USB (1.1), DC-in (for optional AC adapter), and A/V
the other side of the camera, you'll find the CompactFlash slot.
The slot is protected by a plastic door that seems sturdy enough.
This is a Type I slot, so no Microdrives -- though, with high
capacity Type I cards out there, you really don't need one anymore.
included 32MB memory card is also shown.
here is the bottom of the camera. You can see where you'll put
the four AA batteries used by the 3810. The door over the battery
didn't close as tightly as I would've liked, though this may
have just been my particular camera.
tripod mount, which I believe is metal, is mysteriously located
right next to the battery compartment.
the Argus DC3810
DC3810 has one of the slowest startup times that I've seen in
a long, long time: over 7.5 seconds.
the camera is ready, you can expect some major league autofocus
and shutter lag. It takes the camera one second to lock focus,
and that's in good light. If it has to "hunt", expect
a longer wait. In terms of shutter lag, it's there, and very noticeable
-- I'm guessing it's about 1/3 of a second. This is not a
camera for action shots!
speed is equally bad: expect the camera to be locked up for 6
seconds while the image is saved to the memory card.
here's a look at the image size and quality choices available
on the 3810:
Images on 32MB card
(2560 x 1920)
(1600 x 1200)
(1280 x 960)
(640 x 480)
are named SIMG####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering
is NOT maintained, so you will have big problems with duplicate
file names after you erase a card.
case you haven't noticed so far, slow is the best word to describe
the DC3810. The menus continue this trend -- they are so slow
that it is painful. If they were more responsive, I wouldn't
have any issues with them, but sadly this is not the case. The
menu items include:
auto: camera chooses shutter speed and aperture
priority: you choose aperture (F3.4 - F15), camera chooses
priority: you choose shutter speed (10 - 1/650 sec),
camera chooses aperture
manual: you choose both shutter speed and aperture; same
ranges as above.
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
mode (Single shot, continuous, continuous w/AF, self-timer)
size (see chart)
balance (Auto, daylight, light bulb, fluorescent, cloudy, preset)
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
(Full, central, spot) - why these isn't called metering
is beyond me
(yes/no) - reset the camera to default settings
everything up there should be familiar if you've read a few of
my reviews. The two continuous shooting modes different in only
one area: auto-focusing. Normal continuous shooting will use
the same focus (from the first shot) on all the subsequent shots.
Continuous AF mode will re-focus with each photo, which slows
down the already sluggish shooting speed even more.
3810 has manual white balance, so you can shoot a white or gray
card to get perfect color every time.
other really annoying things about the DC3810: #1, when you shut
off the camera, the current settings are lost. This, as you might
imagine, can be frustrating. #2 is that every time you want to
change the shutter speed or aperture while in manual mode, you
must do so through the sluggish menu system.
is also a setup menu on the DC3810, so let's take a look at interesting
save (1, 3, 5, 10, 30 min)
out (NTSC, PAL)
many interesting setup items, as you can see! Let's move onto
the photo tests now, shall we?
the macro test subject is nice and sharp, something is not right
here. If you've read our other reviews, you know that Mickey's
robe is not orange -- it's red. That's the only color that's
off here... the blue hat, black ears, and brownish shoes look
focal range in macro mode is 8 - 40 cm. A 6 x 4 cm subject will
fill the frame.
night test shot is interesting for a number of reasons. The good
news is that the DC3810 was able to capture enough light, thanks
to its manual shutter speed controls. Now, the bad news: there's
a lot of noise, since the camera has no noise reduction. The
second issue is a strange one: the left side is blurry, the right
side is not. The focus was set to infinity so I don't think that's
the problem. Weird.
distortion test shows two things. First, it shows minor barrel
distortion -- notice how the lines on the outside of the frame
are not straight. The second thing it shows is vignetting, or
darkened corners. You'll see this in some of the pictures in
the gallery as well.
DC3810 produces moderate redeye in our flash test shot. The photo
was taken with the redeye reduction feature turned on, after
spending a few hours using the camera (can't you tell?). Redeye
reduced fairly well in software.
expect miracles in terms of photo quality on the DC3810. Noise
levels were higher than I would've liked, and they were often
under-exposed, but they'd make decent prints. Colors were sometimes
washed out, and blooming (I think that's what this is) was apparent.
The photos don't compare to the best 5 Megapixel cameras out
there -- though they aren't bad considering the price of this
DC3810 has an average movie mode. You can record 320 x 240 video,
with sound, until the memory card is full. The video resolution
is 320 x 240, with a frame rate of 15 frames/sec. Actually that's
not completely true -- the actual video is more like 315 x 220,
so expect borders around the movie.
are saved in AVI format.
is typical with cameras that record sound with movies, you cannot
use the zoom lens during filming.
a short sample movie for you. The quality is dreadful. I had
two other cameras with me when I took this video, and they did much better.
to play movie (3.8MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
DC3810 has a pretty bare bones playback mode. You can do slide
shows, DPOF print marking, folder management, thumbnails, and
zoom and scroll. THere is no image protection feature.
zoom and scroll feature enlarges your image by a factor of 2,
in which you can scroll around. The scrolling is smooth, but
I wasn't impressed with 2X being your only zoom option.
it comes to deleting photos, you can get rid of a group of photos,
a folder, or the whole card with ease.
expect to get a whole lot of information about your photo in
playback mode. What you see above is all you get.
you move between photos, a low resolution version shows up almost
instantly, with the high res version following about four seconds
Does it Compare?
Argus DC3810 is a camera that could pretty good if its features
were not implemented so poorly. After all, it has full manual
controls, a 5 Megapixel sensor, endless movie mode, and a Ricoh
zoom lens. But the camera is so incredibly slow that I quickly
grew tired of using it. From startup speed to menus to shutter
lag, the 3810 is the worst performing camera I've used in years.
The LCD is low resolution and very hard to use. There's no AF-assist
lamp. To top it off, both the still and movie quality leave much
to be desired. While it may be hard to resist buying this camera
for $300, I strongly encourage you to do so.
record movies until memory is full
I didn't care for:
still, movie quality
slow performance in all areas
does not store settings when powered off
numbering lost when memory card is erased
clumsy menu system
(in terms of aperture) lens
full-featured (and more expensive) 5 Megapixel cameras to check
out include the Canon
PowerShot S50, Casio
FinePix S602 Zoom (uses 3.3MP SuperCCD), HP
Photosmart 935, Minolta
DiMAGE 7Hi, Nikon Coolpix 5400 and 5700, Olympus
C-5050Z, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717 and DSC-V1.
there are many more point-and-shoot models out there, so check
out our Reviews & Info
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the DC3810 and it's competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo
a second opinion?
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.