The Kodak EasyShare Sport C123 is not really expected to amaze performance-wise. It’s a low-budget, rough-and-tumble point-and-shoot, with underwater capability as its main highlight and selling point. This hunk of camera is designed to take a trip down the river and like it.
Kodak perfectly outlines the role that the C123 is destined to play in advertisements on the camera’s product page: a mud-splattered EasyShare Sport is dipped into the water, with the “waterproof 3.0 meters” emblazoned around its lens clearly shining through the grime.
The Sport has brawn but little finesse, and there’s not much to the shooter when one looks past its underwater capabilities. Kodak has integrated its “Share” button onto the device, a proprietary feature making its way to many of the company’s lower level consumer cameras. Outside of toughness, submarine performance, and this share button, the C123 has little to boast about. Are these features enough to make the camera a good choice for anyone? Read on as we push the EasyShare Sport C123 to its limits.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The C123 is a brick. At least that’s how it felt to me after many years without having to carry a camera that runs on AA batteries. At 6.2 ounces, the C123 is an acceptable weight for a camera in its class, but it still felt like it weighed me down when I took it into the great outdoors.
The right side is about twice as large as the left to accommodate the batteries. There’s a smooth contour as the camera thins out on the left side, which features the waterproof lens, flash, sensor, and microphone. The bulge on the right side features a small, rubberized strip to help users grip the C123.
The body of the C123 is made, for the most part, out of grey and black plastic. The entire front of the camera is grey, while the back has the black panel. In between the two parts is a red rubber seal that runs along a little more than three quarters of the camera, and presumably contributes to the C123’s resistance to water. Aside from the grey color option (featured on our review unit), the C123 is also available in the more colorful shades of blue or red, however the back panel is black on all of the models.
Ergonomics and Controls
The C123’s power button is a bit too far to the left for my tastes, making it difficult to turn the camera on with only one hand. The shutter button is well positioned, however, and once the C123 is on it’s quite easy to use in one handed operation. The top of the C123 features, in addition to the power and shutter buttons, a button to adjust flash, and one to change the capture mode (more on that in the menus and modes section).
The remainder of the buttons not featured on top of the C123 can be found on the right side of the back of the device, next to the LCD. Since the C123 does not have a touchscreen, all of the necessary function keys can be found here. From top to bottom, the C123 has a zoom button, a menu button (next to which is the delete image button), a navigational set of arrow keys, the playback button (next to which is a button that toggles information on and off when in review mode, and can be used to adjust the self-timer and exposure in shooting mode) and, at the very bottom, Kodak’s Share button.
All of the buttons on the C123 are made of rubber, with the exception of the shutter button and the share button, both of which are plastic. These two plastic buttons are by far the easiest to press, which is obviously a boon for the oft-used shutter button. The rubber buttons require a bit of pressure, but are by no means unreasonably difficult.
Menus and Modes
The C123’s menus are simple enough, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are intuitive. As opposed to having a comprehensive main menu, Kodak has scattered options about the camera, and many actions and modes take several clicks to initiate.
On top of the camera next to the on/off switch is the shooting mode button, which lets a user switch between the various camera modes. It’s the second-most extensive menu on the camera, and the one that will most likely be used the most. When first opened the shooting mode menu and is as minimalist as a functional menu could be. Pressing the button brings up a list of four icons on the left side of the screen. These represent the C123’s shooting modes:
Navigation between these settings and making other adjustments to things like ISO and flash settings were generally slow, partially because of the poor user interface, and partially because the C123 takes a lot of time “processing” before switching modes.
The C123’s display is one of its weakest points. The LCD screen is simply not attractive; the colors are flat, it sometimes lags while rendering the scene in front of it (not so terribly as to hinder use, but noticeably enough to register as a con), and it feels cramped in most cases. The EasyShare Sport's screen registered a relatively low 293 nit peak brightness in our lab test and an overall contrast ratio of 488:1. The back of the C123 features a good amount on unutilized space, and it would have been very much appreciated if this had been used to expand the 2.4-inch LCD screen.
The Kodak EasyShare Sport C123’s general performance ranged from incredibly average to poor, with the photo quality one would expect from an $80 rugged camera. Pictures were never particularly vibrant or stunning, and I found I had difficulty capturing sharply focused images with the point and shoot. Also, the exceptionally poor battery life of the device meant that when I went out on an excursion, I would not find myself shooting for very long.
The underwater capability of the camera, as far as I was able to test it, was novel but limited.
The C123 did a generally poor job capturing crisply-focused images. I’m an impatient photographer (I use the term loosely), and considering that the C123 is meant to be an on the fly rugged camera, it felt like it lacked the capacity to come out of a pocket and quickly snag a shot.
The EasyShare Sport didn't score well in our lab timing tests either. With its fixed focus lens, there's no way to focus with a half-press of the shutter - it's all or nothing. Consequently, we don't have a lab score for shutter lag. Several sample images came out exceptionally blurry, including the two below.
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Kodak EasyShare Sport
Canon PowerShot A3300 IS
Olympus Stylus Tough 3000
Kodak EasyShare Sport
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Canon PowerShot A3300 IS
Olympus Stylus Tough 3000
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
After capturing an image the EasyShare Sport takes upwards of five seconds before it is ready to take another picture. The EasyShare Sport did come out on top of our sample group in terms of burst shooting rate, though it may be useful to note that it records only three frames in continuous shooting mode. Images may come out blurry unless you can keep the camera very still in burst mode.
The batteries did not last through the two weeks I’ve had the camera, over which time I only had two really extensive bouts of shooting. I’m currently on my second set of AAs, and the C123 might be the most battery hungry device of any type I have ever used. I did make several videos using the C123, but they were all relatively short, and do not exempt the camera from what is still very poor battery performance. Also, the LCD screen dims after just a few seconds of being on, a bothersome shooting feature considering the screen is difficult to see to begin with, and somehow despite this feature the battery life is still so horrendous.
The entire shooting experience with the Sport is underwhelming, to say the least.
The EasyShare Sport features a fixed focus Kodak lens, waterproof to 3.0 meters with 5x digital zoom. The digital zoom is functional, but nothing to write home about. For the majority of images and videos I had the lens immersed in some body of water, as it is really the only unique or notable feature it can claim.
Using the Sport underwater led to mixed results. On a bright and sunny day the camera performed respectably. However under less ideal conditions, underwater shots became nearly impossible. All shots, underwater or not, were lacking in low-light conditions.
Any subject too close to the lens of the C123 would be out of focus; the C123 lack any type of macro function. My experience with the camera's lens was ultimately not a positive one. For a starter camera, it really did not do much to aid the budding rugged photographer, and felt like one of the cheapest parts of the camera.
The EasyShare Sport takes VGA video at a 640x480 resolution, and really doesn’t offer much in the way of options or modes. Video can either be taken in normal mode or underwater mode, and both were acceptable. The above and underwater filming experience was uneventful and sufficient.
The EasyShare Sport performed well on the one sunny Boston day we've had over my review period. In low-light settings it had some trouble picking up colors, and in indoor situations some images came out grainy. I hate to harp on the subject, but the C123’s comparitively long close-focusing distance is really a big drawback. The Sport offers an acceptable flash, which had an auto mode, always on, always off, and red-eye pre-flash mode.
The camera offers several different color modes, including full color, basic color, vivid color, black and white, and sepia. The disappointing vibrancy of the basic color setting can be seen in sharp contrast to the vivid color setting, which was by no means amazing, but offered significantly richer pictures than the dull default settings of the camera.
The Easy Sport offers, in addition to auto white balance, preset modes for open shade, fluorescent, daylight, and tungsten. Fluorescent and daylight made subtle changes, while open shade and tungsten yielded a markedly altered white balance. I used the Sport primarily on auto, and the results were generally consistent both indoors and out.
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light
Checking noise levels in the studio, we saw acceptable amounts of noise and artifacts at ISO 80 and 100 with more distortion creeping in at ISO 200. ISO 400 presents a noticeable loss of fine detail, though small web-friendly images are definitely usable.
ISO 80, 100% crop
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1250, 100% crop
The ISO 800 and 1250 100% cropped images show very high levels of smudging and artifacts. Neither of those settings produce a good-looking image, even at reduced sizes, and the ISO 1250 images are borderline unusable. For the best results, keep ISO limited to 400.
Additional Sample Images
Almost nothing about the EasyShare Sport C123 stands out, and it has a number of faults and substandard features that make it difficult to recommend. The small screen, the voracious appetite for batteries, the long delay after capturing an image, slow processing times... the list goes on.
The C123 still has a niche however, and could be a good camera for the right person under the right circumstances. It is tough, and I knocked it around a bit during the review and submerged it in plenty of bodies of water, and it’s still photographing as well as it ever was. It’s just unfortunate that that’s not saying too much.
The EasyShare Sport has a very low ceiling. Still, as an $80 investment, it’s not a bad option for someone on a budget who finds themselves destroying weaker cameras. It has basic point-and-shoot functionality, and some decent attributes, and it (and all of its flaws) should dependably survive the bumps, dust, and watery immersion that life sometimes unexpectedly (or expectedly) delivers.