DCRP Review: Kodak DC4800
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, August 28, 2000
Last Updated: Sunday, July 1, 2001

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Kodak has been in the digital camera business since the very beginning, providing cameras for all types of user, ranging from beginner to professional. Who could forget the DC20, one of their first cameras, which had a whopping 320x240 resolution, no zoom, and a fixed focus lens? I can remember being envious of those with the old DC50 (756 x 504 and 3X optical zoom!) That DC50 was the high end camera back in 1996, and the new $799 DC4800 is Kodak's best consumer camera in the year 2000.

The design of the DC4800 is quite a departure from all of Kodak's previous cameras (and that's a good thing in my opinion), and as it turns it, it takes great photos comparable to the best 3 Mpixel cameras. Read on to find out more about this latest offering from Kodak...

What's in the Box?

The DC4800 has a very good bundle included with the camera:

  • The 3.1 Mpixel Kodak DC4800 camera
  • 16MB CompactFlash card
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • AC adapter (doubles as a battery recharger)
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Kodak software
  • Quick reference guide and full manual

There's not a whole lot to talk about in this section, so I'll bring up the few issues of note:

Kodak's battery (far right) has been seen before

Does this battery look familiar? It should, if you've read our reviews of Fuji, Toshiba, and Ricoh cameras. It's a rechargeable Li-ion battery, and it's proprietary. That means you can't go over to Radio Shack and pick one up -- so you'll want to buy one right away. The AC adapter (included) will recharge the battery inside the camera, which saves you from carrying around a separate battery charger.

Kodak has joined the group of manufacturers leaving serial support out of their new cameras. You need USB on your Mac or PC to connect this camera to your computer.

People say I complain about lens caps too much, and they're probably right. But Kodak has left out the two cent strap that keeps the lens attached to the camera when it's not covering the lens. I actually had to chase down the lens cap in an intersection in San Francisco when it fell off. Since Kodak doesn't give you such a strap, you'll want to buy one at your local camera store.

And cheers to Kodak for coming up with an easy to read, concise manual for the DC4800!

Look and Feel

I haven't been a big fan of Kodak's recent camera designs, so the DC4800's smart design came as a nice surprise. There's plenty of room for your right hand to get a good grip, and there's good space for that left hand as well. The camera is fairly light weight, and it has a very solid metal body. All of the doors on the camera are solid plastic and aren't going anywhere.

The cameras dimensions are: 4.7 x 2.7 x 2.5 inches, and it weighs 11.6 ounces empty.

The front of the camera (see top picture) features a f2.8-4.5 lens with a 3X optical zoom (equivalent to 28-84mm), which is threaded for 43mm accessories with the optional adapter.

The back of the camera is well laid out, with just a few simple buttons.

The optical viewfinder at the top left is well placed, and has diopter correction. I had no trouble using it with glasses. You will smudge the LCD display with your nose if you're left eye dominant though.

The 1.8" LCD's quality depends on the Power Save settings. If you have Power Save set to "On", it'll be 15fps, and low brightness. Turn Power Save to "Standard" and you'll get 30fps, and normal brightness. If you turn "Off" Power Save, you'll get 30fps and high brightness. You'll definitely notice the difference between 15 and 30 frames per second, but I found the "On" mode to be useable -- and with those proprietary batteries, you need to save all the juice that you can.

To the right of the LCD you'll see several buttons: the Menu button invokes the menu system, the display button turns the LCD on or off (and doubles as the OK button in menus), and the four-way switch moves you through said menus.

Just above the buttons is the zoom control. Well-placed, it smoothly moves the zoom in and out as expected.

Right above that you can catch a glimpse of the mode wheel. The mode labels are duplicated on the top and side of the wheel, which is handy.

And now, the top of the camera. The flash is opened up by sliding that button on the far left. I like pop-up flashes, so it's only used when you want it.

The LCD info display shows a wealth of information (just a fraction is shown in the above example). One of them is quality, which I'll explain now.

Kodak has a number of settings for quality on this camera. The resolution of the photos is 2160 x 1440, and the proportions are reminiscent of the "widescreen" movies you'll see on television. Here are all your choices:

Quality Setting Name Resolution Compression Ratio / File Type File Size
3.1 MP (uncompressed) 2160 x 1440 None / TIFF 9170k
3.1 MP (default) 2160 x 1440 1:5 / JPEG 960k
3.1 MP (high compr.) 2160 x 1440 1:10 / JPEG 480k
2.2 MP 1800 x 1200 1:5 / JPEG 730k
1.6 MP 1536 x 1024 1:5 / JPEG 550k
0.8 MP 1080 x 720 1:5 / JPEG 325k

I can't think of many cameras that give you this many choices in resolution. The uncompressed TIFF mode is nice, and the camera can be used just a few seconds after a TIFF photo is taken, thanks to the hefty buffer memory on the DC4800.

Below the LCD info display are three function buttons: self-timer/burst mode, landscape/macro, and flash. Above those is something I haven't seen before -- a dial to adjust exposure compensation. While I rarely change this setting, it sure beats having to go through the menu system!

North of that is the shutter release, which gives good tactile feedback, so you won't accidentally take any pictures when you're trying to lock the focus.

Finally, there's the mode wheel. You've got your usual play, setup, and record settings -- but there's also three choices for aperture priority mode as well: f2.8, f5.6, and f8. When you are in this mode, the camera sets the shutter speed for you. If you want to set both, you can put it in full manual mode. If you put the mode wheel in "P"rogram mode, the camera will choose both settings for you. In the middle of the mode wheel is the power button.

Taking a look at the left side of the camera, you'll see three ports: USB, video out, and DC in. These ports are under a VERY sturdy plastic door.

It's kind of hidden by the camera strap (sorry), but that's a standard flash sync terminal on the far left. When you do use an external flash, you cannot use the Program mode -- only manual settings!

On the other side, behind an equally sturdy door, is the CompactFlash slot. This is a Type I slot, so no Microdrives permitted. Kodak uses a clever eject mechanism for the card -- see the next photo.

Just above the battery door is that sliding eject button for the CF slot -- you can really launch the CF card with this thing, too!

To the left of all that is a metal tripod mount. The bottom of the camera is perfectly flat.

Using the Kodak DC4800

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

Record Mode

The camera takes less than 4 seconds to start up, from the time you push the on button, to the time the LCD is on and you can take a picture. The camera is very responsive: the zoom is quick and smooth, and the "recycle time" between pictures is very small (thanks to that buffer memory I already mentioned). You can shoot as fast as you can compose!

Record mode shows very little info on the main LCD - most is on the LCD info display on top of the camera

In Program mode, you pretty much just point and shoot. But there are many options you can change (in addition to those which are buttons on the camera). In the well designed menu, you'll find:

  • White balance (auto, daylight, flash, tungsten, fluorescent, color temperature, manual - more on this below)
  • Color mode (Saturated, neutral color, black & white [normal, Y filter, R filter], sepia
  • Quality (see table in previous section)
  • Metering (Multi-pattern, center-weighted, center spot)
  • Sharpness (sharp, standard, soft)
  • ISO (auto, 100, 200, 400)
  • Exposure mode (see below)
  • Date/time stamp

A look at the DC4800's menu in record mode

So there aren't too many choices in the record menu - but you've got all the important things you need. In the separate setup mode, you can access some of the more basic camera settings like power saving, time, and card formatting.

Now back to the exposure mode part of the menu. In program menu, you can't touch this. However, toss it into one of the three aperture priority modes (using the mode wheel), and you can go at it. If you leave exposure mode set to "auto", the camera will choose the shutter speed. If you put it into "manual", you can choose from a long list of speeds, ranging from 1/1000 sec to 1/2 sec. But what about slower speeds? Those are there too -- as a separate choice in the menu. If you choose "long time exposure", you can choose from a range of 0.7 sec - 16 sec.

Want to see what this full manual mode can let you do? The two photos below were both taken at f2.8. The photo on the left had a shutter speed of 1.5 seconds, while the one on the right was 4 seconds. If you're wondering about the green light on the left of the photo, it's excess light from a traffic light. I found the night shots to be competitive with the Olympus C-3030Z and Nikon Coolpix 990, which I consider the cream of the 3 Megapixel crop. There aren't any mysterious artifacts in the sky, as you can see.

And now onto another nice feature -- manual white balance. In addition to auto, and presets for various forms of light, the DC4800 gives you two choices: color temperature and full manual. In color temperature mode, you can choose from temperatures ranging from 2500 and 10000°K. You can see the results in real time on the LCD screen. I found this mode to be quite handy, especially in my "lab" where auto white balance doesn't usually work.

In full manual mode, you put a gray or white card in front of the lens, and use the four-way switch to change the camera's color settings until the LCD matches the card. It's pretty tough to have white balance problems on this camera, thanks to these modes.

One thing I had a lot of trouble with was my usual indoors macro test (above). I tried many settings, and couldn't get a very satisfactory result -- it's pretty noisy as you can see if you blow it up. This was not the case in outdoor macro tests (see the exceptional flower macro shot in the gallery) though.

Overall, the photo quality of this camera was nothing short of amazing - the colors are very vibrant, and true to life.

Playback Mode

I'm not as much of a fan of Kodak's playback mode though. The basic stuff is all there - slideshows, DPOF support, zoom and scroll, and image locking. It just seems like some things require a trip to the menu that shouldn't -- like picture info.

Above you see the playback mode -- all it shows is the name of the image. I like the overlay of info found on many cameras, especially those from Nikon. To find out more info about this photo, you've got to enter the menu system:

And then navigate down to picture info, and finally you get a list of info that you can scroll through:

I wish it was easier to get this info, without a trip to the menus. The menu system IS good for navigating through photos (and deleting them, too).

Switching between photos is pretty quick in play mode - you get a low resolution version instantly, and the high res version is drawn over that -- the whole process takes about two seconds.

The zoom mode takes about 3-4 seconds of "processing" before it zooms in. You can zoom in at 2X or 4X, and scrolling is fairly smooth.

Overall, the playback mode is about average on the DC4800.

How Does it Compare?

I can't say that I've been a huge fan of Kodak cameras in the past, but boy how times have changed. The DC4800 is an exceptional camera, with a full suite of features, great photo quality, and a nice bundle, all at the attractive price of $799. I'd put this camera right at the top of the 3 Megapixel class, along with the Olympus C-3000 series and the Nikon Coolpix 990.

What I liked:

  • Great design - solid construction, well-placed controls
  • Great photo quality (especially color)
  • USB support
  • Uncompressed TIFF mode
  • Nice manual white balance mode
  • Full manual controls if desired (shutter speeds 1/1000 - 16 sec!)

What needs work:

  • No movie mode
  • Trouble with indoor macro shots
  • Playback mode could be better
  • I'd love CompactFlash Type II support

The 3 Mpixel market is busy, so you'll want to put the DC4800 up against the competition before you buy. I'd also look at the Nikon Coolpix 990, Olympus C-3000Z and C-3030Z, Sony DSC-S70, and the Toshiba PDR-M70.

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 three or four?

Check out Steve's Digicams review of the DC4800. The Imaging Resource Page and a-digital-eye.com also have reviews.

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

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