DCRP Review: Kodak DC3400
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Friday, September 8, 2000
Last Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2000

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The Kodak DC3400 is an updated version of the DC280 that we reviewed earlier this year. (Actually, I'm not clear on what's changed between the two models -- they're very similar.) Featuring a 2.0 Mpixel CCD, 2X optical zoom, CompactFlash and USB support, this $499 camera fits right in the middle of Kodak's lineup. Introduced at the same time as the Olympus D-490Z (and priced the same), the DC3400 enters a very crowded field. How does it stack up?

What's in the Box?

The DC3400 has an average bundle included with the camera:

  • The 2.0 Mpixel Kodak DC3400 camera
  • 8MB CompactFlash card
  • 4 AA alkaline batteries
  • Hand strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • Serial cable with separate Mac adapter
  • CD-ROM featuring Kodak software
  • Quick reference guide and full manual

Unlike the DC4800 we recently reviewed, the DC3400 includes support for serial connections. This is good for people without USB (though it's much, much slower).

Kodak doesn't include any rechargeable batteries, so be sure to pick up a few NiMH batteries and a charger right away.

The DC3400 includes a soft rubber (plastic?) lens cap that tends to fall off it it's bumped. But it does include a strap, so you won't lose it (unlike the DC4800).

As with all recent Kodak cameras, the manual is concise and well written.

Look and Feel

The DC3400 is an average-sized camera, with an above average weight. Its dimensions are 5.2 x 2.1 x 3.0 inches, and it weighs in at 12 ounces empty. That's a bit heavier than the DC4800.

The camera fits in your hands nicely, with plenty of room for both hands. Unfortunately, your nose will end up smudging the LCD display while using the optical viewfinder.

The camera has an f3.0 - f3.8 EKTANAR lens with a 2X optical zoom that is equivalent to 38 - 76mm.

Onto the back of the camera now. The 1.8" LCD display turns out to be one of the disappointments on the DC3400. The images are grainy, and movement is somewhat choppy. The LCD is off by default, to save batteries.

The buttons around the LCD are used for invoking and navigating through the menu system.

Above that is the optical viewfinder, which lacks diopter correction for folks with glasses.

The mode dial to the right of the LCD is very simple (as this is a point-and-shoot camera), with modes for capture, review, connect (to PC), and setup.

Looking now at the top of the camera, where it's business as usual. The LCD info display shows quality and resolution, shots remaining, and other settings like flash mode.

The DC3400 uses a simple nomenclature for resolution and quality. For resolution, you have Standard (896 x 592) and High (1760 x 1168). For quality, there's Good, Better, and Best. Each of these is depicted on the LCD info display as a little icon.

The small buttons surrounding the LCD info display are for self-timer, macro/infinite focus, and flash. I do like having infinite focus at your finger tips, since I take a lot of shots of landscapes.

On the far right are the shutter release and zoom controls. The shutter release gives decent tactile feedback when you press it. I'm not as much of a fan of the placement of the zoom controls - they're hard to get to since you've got your finger on the shutter release already.

The zoom control is responsive and smooth (though the zoom mechanism sounds like some kind of alien weapon from an old sci-fi movie).

On the DC3400, all the plugs and slots are on one side. This includes ports for power, video, and serial/USB, as well as a Type I CompactFlash slot. Much like on the DC4800, the release (or should I say "launcher") for the CF card is below the camera, a nice touch.

These slots are below rubber and plastic doors, which stay closed and won't break off. On the whole, the camera is very well built (hence it's bulk, most likely) for a plastic camera.

And finally, the bottom of the camera. Three cheers to Kodak for having a LCD brightness dial on the bottom of the camera. Why this feature didn't make it onto the higher end DC4800 is beyond me. I'd love to see a dial like this on all cameras, instead of having to truck through the menu system.

You can also see the battery compartment (left), plastic tripod mount (center), and CompactFlash card eject (right) in the above photo.

Using the Kodak DC3400

I'm going to discuss record and playback mode in this section.

Record Mode

The DC3400 takes about three seconds to "warm up" before it can start taking pictures. At the highest quality time, there's around a four second delay before you can take another shot. The camera does take a long time to write to the card -- the "card write" light stays on for over 15 seconds after the shot is taken. Thankfully, there's enough buffer memory to let you keep shooting. There is a small amount of lag while the camera focuses and then takes the picture.

Simple is the word on the LCD in record mode

Record mode is extra basic - there's very few manual controls, and the LCD is devoid of any information when it's on. All the information (photos remaining, flash settings, etc) are on the LCD info display on the top of the camera. While taking my night shots, I realized I couldn't see any of my settings. Kodak should put this information on both LCD's.

The menus are almost exactly the same as on the DC4800. One of the big differences is that the camera doesn't tell you what you're choosing in the menu -- you've got to learn what the little icons mean. In the menu, you can change the following settings:

  • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 0.5EV increments)
  • Borders (see our DC280 review for more on these)
  • Effects (black & white, sepia, document)
  • Quality
  • Resolution (both discussed in previous section)
  • Date/time stamp
  • Quickview (shows photo on LCD after it's taken -- you can delete it before it's written to the CF card)
  • White balance (auto, daylight, fluorescent, tungsten)
  • Metering (multi-pattern, center-weighted) -- no spot metering here
  • Exposure lock -- good for panoramic shots
  • Sharpness (sharp, standard, soft)
  • Auto ISO (on, off)

It's too bad you can't select an ISO setting - it's pretty much stuck at 100. Which makes low-light pictures tough, as you can see below.

There's also an additional setup menu, where you can set other settings like power saving and date/time, as well as formatting the memory card.

The above shot was taken without messing with any exposure compensation. As you can see, it's pretty dark (and it's a shame too -- it was a really clear night). There's no slow shutter mode, so this may be as good as you get. If you look back at the same photo on the DC280, you can see they're pretty close.

While there's no noticeable noise in the night shot, there's certainly some in the macro test shot:

The DC3400 did do an admirable job with white balance, though -- it's in tungsten mode and it turned out about right. Which is more than I can say for my Coolpix 950. In our gallery, you can find a few more macro shots, where the camera fared better.

Overall, photo quality was very good (except in low light situations) -- with Kodak's trademark vibrant colors.

Playback Mode

Playback mode is almost exactly the same as on the DC4800, which means it has the same flaws. Some basic functions, like deleting photos and getting more information about them requires a trip to the menu system. Once you're there, though, the features are fairly robust.

Like in record mode, things are very basic in playback mode. It takes around 8 seconds before the camera puts the high resolution photo on the LCD, though it gives you a pixelated version right away.

If you want to zoom into a photo, be prepared to wait almost ten seconds for the privilege. Once you're zoomed in, scrolling is a bit choppy, but adequate.

The other usual features are here too: slideshows, DPOF print marking, and image protection.

There is picture information available (see photos above), but you've got to enter the menus to see it. I'd like to see an overlay-style presentation rather than using the menus.

How Does it Compare?

My conclusions about the DC3400 are very similar to those of the DC280 that it replaces. It's a good camera, but not the best for the money. I compared the DC3400 to the Olympus D-490Z at the beginning of the review, and I'd say the D-490Z wins the battle hands down. If the Olympus had USB, it would be the perfect $500 camera. The Kodak is lacking many of the features that the Olympus model has, like TIFF mode, multiple ISO settings, a 3X zoom, and movie mode - plus it's much slower too.

What I liked:

  • Well-built - solid with smartly placed controls
  • Good, colorful photos
  • USB support
  • User friendly manual and menus

What needs work:

  • No movie mode
  • Trouble with low-light shots (night and macro)
  • LCD display too grainy and choppy
  • Playback mode could be simplified
  • Only a 2X optical zoom

I'd imagine that the DC3400 will sell pretty well for Kodak -- it's priced well, and has the features that most consumers want. I don't think it's the best choice for the money, but you might disagree if it does what you need it to do. Other cameras to consider include the aforementioned Olympus D-490Z, as well as the Canon PowerShot S10, Nikon Coolpix 800, and Toshiba PDR-M60.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try these cameras yourself before you make any purchases. Your tastes may differ from mine, so try before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Check out Steve's Digicams review of the DC3400. A-Digital-Eye also has a DC3400 review.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com.

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