It seems that Kodak always manages to make at least one splash in the digital camera market in a year's time. Last time, it was the first WiFi enabled digital camera, this time, it's the first dual lens point and shoot camera -- the Kodak EasyShare V570. With some nice retro styling, it's a definite eye-catcher. The dual lens set up provides one lens for an ultra-wide angle (equivalent to 23mm in a 35mm camera) and the other lens provides a 3x optical zoom from 39-117mm (35 mm equivalent).
In the Box
In the box, you'll find the camera, a Photo Frame Dock 2 with insert that matches the camera, USB cable, AV cable, lithium ion rechargeable battery, AC adapter, carry strap, camera case, Kodak EasyShare software, Getting Started kit, and printer dock insert for the camera. The AC adapter can be plugged directly into the camera for charging or into the Photo Frame Dock.
The EasyShare V570 is an ultra slim camera, only 0.8 inches thick. The body is matte black with brushed steel back plate and lens cover. A chrome metal band wraps around the entire edge of the camera. The whole motif gives it a retro look. The camera is very solid and sturdy. All the shiny metal does make the camera prone to fingerprints.
The lens cover slides away from the lens when the camera is powered on to reveal the vertically aligned dual lenses, focus assist light, and microphone.
Along the top of the camera, from left to right, you'll find the Favorites button, a button to access the movie mode, button to activate capture mode or scene mode, the power button, and shutter release.
On the right side of the camera is a silver plastic door to access the SD/MMC card and AC adapter jack.
The bottom of the camera has a tripod mount, the battery access door, and jack to interface with the Photo Frame Dock 2 or Printer Dock Plus Series 3.
There is vertical row of buttons on the back of the camera to the left of the LCD. From these buttons, you can control the flash mode, delete images, access the camera menu, access review mode, and access the share functions. To the right of the LCD is a zoom rocker switch and clicking joystick to navigate menus and confirm choices. I do have a couple gripes about the controls on the back of the camera. The labels of the buttons on the left side of the camera are hard to read in certain light. The font used is narrow and gets lost in the glare off the shiny back of the camera. When using the joystick, while it's very cool, doesn't give me confidence when navigating through menus. For instance, if I need to depress the joystick to confirm a mode change, I always feel like I'm pushing it in a particular direction and that I might change the selection before I manage to confirm it. In the case of this camera, I think Kodak has decided to make some trade-offs to usability for the sake of fashion.
The top billing on this camera is the dual lens system, which Kodak has branded as RETINA. Now, just to clear any misconceptions up, the two Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon lenses are not used at the same time. One is used for ultra-wide angle shots (23mm equivalent), and the other lens provides the typical 3x optical zoom (39-117mm equivalent). When you operate the zoom rocker switch, an illustration on the LCD shows where you are in the range, and which lens is in use. To handle the two lenses, the camera also has two 5 megapixel sensors. Please note, if digital zoom is turned on, the camera will provide digital zoom for the zoom range between the ultra-wide lens and the wide end of the regular lens. Once digital zoom is turned off, there will be a "jump" between the two lenses. Also, you cannot use the ultra-wide lens in Macro or Landscape modes. Also, there are several scene modes where the ultra-wide lens is disabled. When you choose a mode, it provides some explanation text where this is denoted.
In other news, the V570 also features a 2.5 inch LCD for viewing your new wide angle images. A rechargeable lithium ion battery can be charged in-camera by either plugging in the AC adapter directly into the camera or plugging the camera into the powered Photo Frame Dock 2. The dock also allows you to plug in your camera for display purposes. In addition to the power cable, the USB cable can be plugged into the dock for transferring images. The dock base has a nice power meter on it, a button to start a slideshow, and a button to transfer pictures. The camera also includes a live histogram so you can preview the exposure of your image before capturing it.
Kodak has also included a mode for panorama assistance. In this mode, you can take 3 images from either left to right, or right to left. After you've shot your third image in the series, the camera stitches them together automatically. If you use the ultra-wide angle mode, you can get 180 degrees of horizon in one panorama shot. Please note that your image resolution is bumped down to 3 megapixels while in the panorama assist modes.
Videos can be captured at VGA (640x480) and QVGA (320x240), both at 30 frames per second. During video capture, there is some digital image stabilization and the zoom can be operated.
There are 22 scene modes included on the camera. Kodak has also made it very easy to turn the scene modes on or off and pick the one you want. Just push the SCN mode button on top of the camera and the camera enters the last scene mode that you've used. If you need to change the scene mode, just click the joystick and navigate to the one you want. The camera also has 5 color modes.
Kodak's EasyShare features are also available on the camera. You can designate an image as a Favorite by simply depressing the Favorite button. A Share button allows the camera to print or email images the next time it's docked.
Kodak has also provided "click to capture" times, more commonly referred to as shutter lag. Using the ultra-wide lens, it takes 0.2 seconds from click to capture. With the 3x optical zoom lens, it takes 0.3 seconds. The cycle time between images will be around 1 second (while the camera writes to card and recharges the flash).
Images and movies can be stored on a SD/MMC card. The camera does have 32MB of internal memory if you're in a crunch.
Camera Performance and Image Quality
I found the image quality to be average. Colors were accurate and exposure was typically good (especially when you learn how to utilize the exposure compensation adjustment for your tastes). There was a bit of softness in the corners of images. Indoor images, with flash, were too noisy (at auto ISO 125). My outdoor shots had an over-processed feel to them, in my opinion, with too much sharpness. If you notice this as well, you can turn down the sharpness setting.
The V570 can shoot at ISO 64, 100, 200, 400 and 800. I found that noise levels above ISO 100 were pretty noticeable. You could probably get away with ISO 200 in a smaller print (4x6), but any larger and it will probably be too apparent.
I really did enjoy having the ultra-wide lens in the camera. I know a lot of people like their huge optical zooms, but I would much rather have my lens go fairly wide-angle (less than 28mm equivalent) than have a mediocre wide angle with a 420mm zoom. You can take some great landscapes and skyline shots with a camera with a wide angle lens. Congratulations to Kodak for pulling this one off.
Ultra-wide angle lens (23 mm equivalent) [larger] [fullsize]
Wide angle of other lens (39mm equivalent) [larger] [fullsize]
When you use an ultra-wide angle lens, barrel distortion is pretty much inevitable. Kodak includes a feature called distortion compensation to decrease this effect. The compensation is pretty effective, as you can see in the shots below.
With distortion compensation turned on
With distortion compensation turned off
A consistent gripe that I have with Kodak cameras is their LCD screens. They're often grainy and noisy, which makes it hard to determine if the image you just captured is any good. The colors are good and the screen on the V750 adjusts for lighting conditions, but I like being able to review my images on the LCD and be able to make decisions about how to fix my next shot.
Camera operation was quick. Start-up time is under 2 seconds. Auto focus times were quick as well. A focus assist light helps in low-light conditions. I believe the ultra-wide angle lens is a fixed focus lens, so there is no focus time. Shutter lag was average among cameras in the same class.
The movies captured by the V570 were good as long as you don't want sound. The sounds of the zoom and Continuous auto focus mechanisms can be heard in the video. You can disable the Continuous auto focus if you don't need to refocus on your subject. On the upside though, you can use both lenses in video mode, which is a plus.
Battery life was very good. I took over 200 shots and a few several-minute videos and the battery meter still showed two (of three) bars. If you turn on Continuous auto focus, the camera will continuously adjust the focus, and you will burn through battery much faster than if you leave the camera on Single auto focus.
Also, a quick note on the camera menu system: In some menu options, it's hard to tell which option is selected. If you want to delete All pictures, you're prompted with another Yes/No screen to confirm your decision. If you are new to the camera, you may not realize that the highlighted option is the blue one, not the other one. It's just not clear which option is selected by default.
Macro [larger] [fullsize]
Kodak EasyShare V570 Specifications
I like the Kodak EasyShare V570 for its size, looks, and ultra-wide lens. However, image quality is only average. Many of my subjective thoughts regarding the look of the images can be overcome by some adjustments of the default settings (like the sharpness setting). The speed of camera operation was satisfactory, but not amazing, and battery life was very good.
The ultra-wide angle lens is impressive and a great feature to have in a camera of this size. By including the fun panorama assist feature, Kodak has given the photographer a lot of flexibility for fun landscape or cityscape shots.
So, overall, the camera is a mixed bag. Its looks and dual lenses are certainly conversation starters. I like it as a compact, pocketable camera along with my bigger digital SLR. It doesn't produce the greatest images, but you will capture some memorable ones with the ultra-wide angle lens. Also, the Kodak EasyShare system (docks/printers), make it very easy to make prints directly from the camera.