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“The Kodak DX6490 camera is a good-quality SLR-style...”

Written on: 15/11/2004 by John Orrell (1 review written)

Good Points
Good lens; good array of traditional features; acceptable image quality; battery-life is good; very good zoom range.

Bad Points
No hot-shoe; photos are only saved in one fixed JPG (compressed) format.

General Comments
The Kodak DX6490 camera is a good-quality SLR-style digital compact with as many features as most users will ever need. The lens quality is good, and it has a strong armoury of features found on traditional film SLRs, such as programmed exposure, shutter-priority, aperture-priority and manual. There is also matrix metering, centre-weighted metering and spot metering, though changing the metering options is not fast or intuitive, and requires the user to scroll through various menus to get there.

The LCD screen on the back is big and clear, and the viewfinder is also of an LCD design, so you get what you see, like on an SLR (no parallax error). The viewfinder also has a dioptre adjustment. The downside of an LCD viewfinder for spectacle wearers like myself is that in very bright sunshine it can be just as difficult to see the viewfinder as the LCD screen, as I recently discovered, and I found myself taking a number of similar shots of the same scene hoping that one of them would come out as I imagined.

The quality of the photos is acceptable, and will be a revelation if this is your first digital camera after having lived all your life on a diet of £25 fixed-focus viewfinder cameras that you've bought from such as Dixons, Boots or Argos.

So, it's easy to throw compliments, what are the things you should be aware of if you're thinking of buying this camera? Well, one criticism which Kodak could address with a downloadable software upgrade - but won't do because there's no money to be made from it - is that the camera will only save your photos in a JPG (compressed) format. JPG is what's called a "lossy" format, in other words saving your photos as JPGs looses fine detail. There is no option to save the photo you've just taken in any kind of "lossless" format, such as Raw or TIFF. Neither is there any way of adjusting the degree of JPG compression applied. The result is that areas of similar shade loose their detail, such as sunlit grass which can look like someone's just painted the scene with green paint, instead of there being at least some suggestion that the area of green splodge is actually made up from individual blades of grass.

Also, the camera suffers from "fringing" in areas of high contrast (such as where rooftops meet a grey cloudy sky, or if you're photographing someone in a dark suit against a brightly-lit background). The result is that a strip of bright-white pixels outlines the darker areas where the dark and light areas meet. This apparently is a common complaint with digital compacts, and one that the manufacturers seem to expect the consumer to just accept. However if the lens of a similarly-priced film-camera were to create such an effect on film, it would get slated by the photography press. That smacks of double standards to me, but there you go.

There is no integral hot shoe to attach an external flash, nor indeed any other way to do so (such as with a PC socket) but the internal flash is pretty strong and can be used with the camera on higher ISO settings to light up sujects upto around 4m away quite effectively, as well as providing a naturally-balance fill-in flash as and when needed. Watch for red-eye, though: this camera's a killer for it. If you're photographing someone who even slightly suffers from red-eye, then they'll look like the Devil incarnate with this camera.

The software supplied is quite comprehensive, but if you already have your own favourite image-editors and printing-software you won't need most of what's there. If you don't then there is enough there for doing basic prints and touch-ups.

Overall, this is a very capable compact digital camera, let down in my eyes only by the same failings seen on many of its peers. Having used it you won't be E-Baying your Leica M7, Olympus OM4Ti, Canon EOS-1V or Nikon F5, but instead you'll find it compliments them admirably.

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