Concord is known for providing lots of features and impressive specifications for a low price. The new Concord 6340z is no exception, with 6 megapixels of resolution for only $229.99. Where it really stands out from the competition, however, is not in its advantage in the price/megapixel race, but in its other features not usually found in this price range.
[Editor: Unfortunately, after we started the review, we heard from Concord that they aren't planning to sell this model in the US and instead are going to sell it in Europe. We'll let you know if this changes. Also, if you have any questions, please use the "discuss this story" link at the bottom of the article.]
With a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, true 3x optical zoom (37-111mm equivalent), mpeg-4 movie mode, and a high resolution LCD, the Concord 6340z allows even the most budget conscious buyers to have features previously unattainable.
The 6340z is surprisingly small and light, and easy to operate with one hand of nearly any size. It is not as thin as some models, but it will still slide into a shirt pocket or loose pants pocket with ease. It features an aluminum case which feels very sturdy and looks much more stylish than plastic.
The built-in 16MB of memory will hold from 4-70 images, depending on quality. This is great in a pinch, but a 256MB or larger SD card would be a wise investment.
The Concord 6340z design is minimalist and simple, not flashy. The button layout is straightforward and intuitive, yet there are provisions for accessing manual and advanced features. To add to its simplicity, there is only one auto mode. Creative photographers can switch to manual mode for full control over shutter, aperture, white balance, and ISO.
It doesn't get much simpler than this. Power the camera on, be sure the mode dial is set to the green camera "A" (auto) icon, zoom if desired, and press the shutter.
Reviewing images takes one press of the play button. Even while reviewing images, press the shutter to get back to picture taking mode instantly. This is a much better option than having to find the right button or control wheel, and minimizes missed shots!
Controls and Buttons
There are very few controls to learn. Moving clockwise from the upper left, they are:
Finally, the top of the camera contains the shutter button centered in the mode wheel to select between movie mode, auto shooting mode, and manual shooting mode.
Menu navigation is simple, and achieved with the 4-way control pad. Selections are made by pressing the "ok" button in the center of the 4-way pad.
There are two menus. One varies depending on which mode, movie, shooting, or playback, and contains options specific to that mode. The other is camera setup and lets you adjust options such as LCD brightness, power saving mode, language, and date/time.
White balance is entirely automatic except in the manual modes. This is great for those who want the simplest operation, but some may want control over white balance without also having to pick an aperture, shutter, or both.
Thankfully, in most cases it is fairly accurate. In this test, the mixed lighting conditions produced the most accurate results. Most indoor photography occurs under mixed lighting, so this is good performance.
The Concord 6340z features an MPEG-4 movie mode, and records as a QuickTime .MOV format file. MPEG-4 is a much more efficient method of compression than the "Motion-JPEG" type that most other cameras use. It should offer smaller file sizes which is helpful to reduce the amount of costly storage required, as well as be optimal for emailing small video clips.
Zoom is not available while recording and digital zoom can't be used at all, which is a shame, because in theory the reduced quality with digital zoom shouldn't affect the tiny movies which are already very low resolution.
The 6340z automatically and smoothly adjusts white balance and exposure depending on changing scenes.
Video options are L and S, for 640x480 or 320x240. F and N are the two quality settings.
I first chose the highest option, 640x480 at high quality. The results are disappointing. The video is blocky with compression artifacts and does not look very sharp. The 15 fps speed is pretty choppy too.
On the positive side, a one minute video file is only about 20 megabytes. Nearly 15 minutes of video could fit on a 256MB SD card. This is 2-5 times smaller than other cameras!
Low quality is, as expected, even worse, with only a small improvement in file size.
Determined not to be too discouraged, I tried the small video size, and what an improvement! Not only does it look much sharper, but when blown up to match the large video it looks almost as good! On top of that, the file size is a tiny 7 megabytes per minute, even though the frame rate is a smooth 25fps. Even the low quality option looks pretty good and drops the file size down to 5 megabytes. This is a big bonus for emailing family video clips without filling up anyone's inbox too much or getting a returned email saying the attachment is too large.
LCD and Optical viewfinder
The LCD is a smallish 1.5" type with a fairly high 130k pixel resolution. It is responsive and fairly sharp for images. Oddly, the menu and information text is somewhat hard to read. For example, the tiny AWB (Auto White Balance) icon is only legible because I know what it is. These photos accurately show this.
The optical viewfinder is the traditional "tunnel effect," but it is useful in very bright light and as a way to prolong battery life by turning the LCD off.
Battery and charger
The battery charges inside the camera via the small charger / A/C adapter. This is perfect for a budget camera where the owner is probably not interested in buying spare batteries and won't benefit from an external charger. Also, if a battery does go dead at an inconvenient moment, the camera can operate plugged into a wall, a feature that usually costs extra.
One charge got me through the entire review, which, other than taking photos, included a lot of LCD use, deleting, menu navigation, and about 40 minutes of movie taking. It is hardly worth testing battery life since your mileage will vary greatly depending on a number of factors. However I'd say it's safe to say this could last almost any day of shooting.
Overall image quality is very good in all conditions. Cameras which pack a lot of megapixels onto a small image sensor often suffer from high noise (which looks kind of like film grain) at their higher ISO settings. While the Concord 6340z only supports up to 200 ISO, the image quality is very good. As long as motion blur or camera shake is not a problem, all possible setting should produce a sharp, grain-free 8x10" prints and possibly larger.
The lens seems to control purple fringing very well. In my outdoor testing under some extremely high contrast scenes, I still did not encounter any significant purple fringing or "chromatic aberration." Even if it was slightly evident, it would be hard to see when printed out.
The Concord 6340z has a surprisingly good close-up mode which allows placing objects just a couple inches in front of the lens.
No manual focus option is available. Auto focusing is very accurate and varies from taking a fraction of a second to approximately 2 seconds. Lower light and greater zoom both contribute to slower focusing.
Low light photography is mostly limited to the flash range. With a maximum ISO of 200 and a somewhat slow lens at F2.8 on the wide end and 5.0 on the telephoto end, a tripod or flash is required for low light and even normal indoor lighting.
Flash range is listed as 9.75 feet for wide angle and only 6.5 feet for telephoto. This seems to be fairly accurate. The flash works well within its range, doing what you would expect it to do. You can even force it on which is useful to soften harsh shadows on people outside in the sun.
The Concord 6340z feels slower than the competition. This is not to say it's terrible to use. In fact most users of this type of camera may never notice. The shutter lag is the most noticeable problem. After first half-pressing the shutter to lock the focus, and then fully pressing it to take the picture, I have time ti swing around and aim at what is behind me before the picture is actually taken. This is even worse when using the flash.
The shutter delay makes it difficult to do any sort of action photography with the Concord 6340z. However, there is a "burst 5" mode which takes 5 photos in rapid succession. However, these photos are only 1.4 megapixels at 1408x1056 resolution.
There are just a few oddities. First, the battery/memory card door is easy to accidentally open just by holding the camera to take photos. This causes the camera to shut down.
Also, in playback mode, while you can zoom into an image for a closer look, there is no way to pan around. So you can only view the center of the image up close.
The Concord 6340z is a fine camera, and a leader in its price range.
Who this camera is for
This camera is for anyone on a budget who wants to just click a button to take photos which can make colorful, very sharp 8x10" prints and beyond. It could be called a PHD camera, for "Push Here, Dummy."
It is also great for taking little movie clips that are perfect for emailing to family and friends.
Who it is not for
This camera is not for anyone who demands ultimate control and wants to spend time on each photo getting all the settings just perfect. Even for those who like simplicity but demand the best image quality, there are better options, albeit at a higher price.
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