Sunday, October 21, 2007

Review: Kodak C653 Digital Camera

I like this little camera. And it is little. Its thickness is comparable to a thick wallet, but it is a bit shorter and narrower than a wallet would be. Its manual says it came with 256MB of internal RAM, which I didn’t see on the specifications pages I reviewed. I thought it had only 32MB. So I may not have needed to spend the extra $20 for an optional 1GB SD Memory card. The LCD is large but exposed; there is no way to protect it except to buy a case (and make sure there is no sand or anything inside it. If space is not an issue, the ideal might be a soft case or sleeve inside a harder protective case. Pictures seem to be averaging around 850KB on the 3.1 megapixel setting, and 1.5MB on the 6.1mp setting. It takes more than 12 seconds, from the time I push the button to take a picture, until the digital viewfinder comes back to life and is ready to show me another scene. (It’s much faster if you use the flash.) But you can take other pictures in the meantime, while the LCD is frozen or black; and if you need to see roughly what you're shooting during that time, they do include a tiny optical viewfinder. To test that, I pressed the button about 30 times in a 10-second period. From those 30 presses, I got seven 6.1mp photos. The video is really choppy. They should have allowed for more frames per second. Like any video – actually, more so in this case – if you wheel it around and point at lots of different things, it will make you seasick on playback. It saves video in .MOV format. The accompanying software is irritating. It lacks options, and it does things I don’t want it to do. Example: so far, I haven’t figured out how to tell it to erase photos from the camera, other than to reformat the memory card. The manual describes a View switch that doesn’t seem to exist on my model. (This may be the explanation for the memory misunderstanding too; Kodak’s webpage does say the C653 has only 32MB RAM, so maybe the more expensive cameras get the greater amount of internal memory.) They seem to have defeated the option of viewing the contents of the device’s memory using Windows Explorer, when the camera is cabled to the computer using the convenient (apparently proprietary) supplied sub-mini-USB cable – so I can’t just go into Windows Explorer and empty out the camera’s contents that way. Their irritating EasyShare software pops up every time I connect the camera to the computer; there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop that; and I can’t even use that software to delete photos. I strongly recommend they build in an Advanced mode so that people can actually use their software. Battery drain means more expense. Regular alkaline batteries will power the camera, but it looks like you can expect to waste a lot of them. A pair of freshly charged, previously used NiMH Ray-O-Vac AAs (1600 mAh) gave me only seven flash photos before dying. Ultimately, I broke down and spent another $10 on a pair of 2500 mAh batteries on sale; but that meant I would be dependent on that pair. So far, I have recharged them weekly and that has been good enough. I used the camera to shoot some video. It acted like it was continuing to record for more than 15 minutes before the camera shut off due to dead batteries. It ultimately turned out that the camera would use up the batteries in just a few minutes; the video indicator was incorrectly conveying the impression that recording was continuing when it wasn't. Unfortunately, the camera didn’t save my video file in usable format. I couldn’t view it in QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or IrfanView. The best I got was that WMP played the audio. So don’t let your batteries die, I guess. Kodak’s own EasyShare software played it, but it would not save it in any format other than .MOV. So I saved it to another MOV file; but to do that, EasyShare played the whole thing again. In other words, it took 15 minutes to make a copy of the downloaded MOV. When it was done, I did find that the copy was playable in QuickTime and IrfanView. I was still getting nothing but the audio portion in WMP. Anyway, it seems that I won’t be using up the full capacity of 30:11 of video that the LCD reports – not unless I buy more expensive batteries and/or an optional power adapter and shoot while that’s plugged into the wall. Once the batteries are dead, you have to replace them before you can download your shots; the device does not seem to draw power from the USB connection. The camera is slow downloading video. I didn’t time it, but I think those 15 minutes of video took something like 10 minutes to download. Definitely not USB 2.0! The file size for that video was 486MB, so it consumes memory at a rate of about 31.5MB per minute when shooting video. I like the camera. I didn't expect it to be a video camera. It has some rough edges, but it does what I wanted. The software is the real weak point.