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Concord Eye-Q 6340z

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      24.08.2010 17:00
      Very helpful



      There's a reason Concord isn't a well-regarded brand...

      Concord is a name that holds some memories for me, albeit not particularly happy ones. It was the make of the first digital camera I ever owned, quite some years ago now, and although the model I had was, to be honest, of poor quality it opened my eyes to what could be done with digital photography and so caused the interest that some might say has now become something bordering on an obsession! So when I saw this 6340z, a camera which I'd never even seen before but which is at least ostensibly quite well specced, on sale in a second-hand shop complete with manual for a tenner, I couldn't resist giving it a whirl.

      On the face of it, the capabilities of this camera are quite impressive, even allowing for the fact that it dates from 2005. It has a six megapixel sensor, slightly larger than most compacts' at 1/1.8", which if married to good optics (we'll come to that later) is more than enough for everyday photography. It also offers a full range of manual modes, in the shape of aperture priority (where you select the f-stop and the camera handles the shutter speed), shutter priority (which is the other way around) and full manual (where you select both). It's a shame that these are squeezed into one "A/S/M" position on the mode dial; considering that the only other positions are "A" (auto) and movie that does seem a bit poor! Still, a shutter speed range of 8 to 1/2000 second is very decent.

      You may have noticed the absence of any mention of a "P" (program) mode in the last paragraph, and this is a major failing of the 6340z. It is immensely frustrating that if you wish to have control over even such oft-used settings as exposure compensation, white balance or ISO (50, 100 or 200 only), you *must* use one of the A/S/M modes. In other words, there is no way (as there is on almost every other digicam with manual controls) to change the ISO - for example - unless you are *also* prepared to take control of at least one of shutter and aperture values. It's a really strange design decision, and one which would drive me up the wall if the camera were otherwise good enough that I wanted to use it very much.

      Which it isn't.

      The lens is a straightforward 3x optical zoom type, with a 35 mm equivalent range of 37 to 111 mm, so you won't be able to get much of a wide angle view. Speed is average: f/2.7 at the wide end and f/4.9 at full tele is just what you'd expect from a compact. I was a little surprised to find out (from the manual; it's not printed on the actual camera) that the lens was manufactured by Samsung. All I can say is that either Samsung's quality control on their own models is a lot better, or else they've improved out of sight in the last five years. The zoom control (a rocker switch) is a bit puddingy, and the movement of the lens barrel doesn't seem the smoothest, though I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet it was: not brilliant, but quite acceptable.

      I'll get to photo quality later on, but the main problem with operating this camera is just how slow it is, in particular from a "standing start" including powering up. It can be seven or eight seconds from pressing the on button to being able to take a photo, and that feels like an aeon these days. The Concord doesn't really perform like its near-namesake airliner in other areas either. Shutter lag is irksome, and the incredibly annoying phenomenon of having to stop and wait for buffering comes into play, at least at the higher quality settings, after just a couple of pictures. That's very poor performance indeed for a 2005-vintage camera. At first you might be surprised to find that the five-shot continuous mode is actually quite fast, taking well under a second per shot... but then you'll realise that this mode is only available in 1405 x 1056 mode. Yes, that's 1.4 mp: it's a bizarre size, isn't it? I have no idea why it was chosen for "M2" mode ahead of more usual dimensions.

      The 1.5-inch LCD screen on this camera is not very good. In particular, it's even more subject to reflections than most similar models, and you really will despair if you try to use it in bright sunshine. Still, credit where it's due: the 6340z does have a quite usable optical viewfinder. You will need the LCD to view menus, though, and these are just about acceptable. They certainly won't kid anyone that this is an expensive camera, and they're a bit blocky, but they do at least tell you what's going on fairly well. Elsewhere on the back you have the usual jumble of buttons, which were acceptably laid out and not the worst I've ever had to press.

      Ah yes, the movie mode. I'd rather forgotten about that, and it might be a good idea if you did as well. If you read the spec sheet in the user guide (which rather unexpectedly is very clear and goes into plenty of detail about each aspect of the camera) you might think it's fine: 640 x 480 pixels at 15 fps, or 320 x 240 at 25 fps, and in the useful MPEG4 format. Unfortunately the results are pretty dire: focus is frequently lost when you move the camera around, and sound quality is dreadful with heaps of interference. There isn't much point in using the larger size of movie, either, since there are so many artefacts that it just looks like the smaller size magnified! Even by the standards of those pre-HD days, this isn't impressive.

      And nor, I'm afraid, is photo quality, though to be fair its colour reproduction is adequate. I'm afraid that if I'd been shown a sample image from this camera and had to guess its resolution, I wouldn't have got anywhere near six megapixels. Three or four, perhaps. They're just not sharp enough - but the compression performed by the camera itself means that if you try to rectify this on your computer you just end up with rather nasty-looking jaggedy photos. (Irritatingly, there's no on-camera processing control at all.) Don't bother with taking pictures in low light conditions: by 2005 most half-decent cameras came equipped with a focus assist lamp of some sort, but - guess what? - not this one. Flash photos fare a little better, but will be blurred unless you hold the camera very still indeed (or use a tripod).

      The 6340z is powered by a proprietary Li-ion battery, something which may have its attractions for new digicams but which is an absolute pain when it comes to old ones. The one that came with mine seemed okay cosmetically, but I can't say that life was any more than disappointing; it's probably a fair bet that it was a bit better when the camera was new, though. It accepts standard SD cards, which is fine, and there are no particular problems with fitting or removing them from the camera. As usual, I recommend you use a card reader rather than messing around with direct USB cable transfer, especially as the Concord only supports the old USB 1.1 standard.

      As I'm sure you've worked out by now, I have not been particularly impressed with this Concord. It looks - and, at first at least, feels (thanks to its metal body) - like quite a good camera, but it is a classic example of a model which has sacrificed quality for quantity in order to attract budget-conscious buyers. Price is no longer much of a concern, as my £10 example shows: finding one at all is likely to be your biggest problem! But however tempting the 6340z's feature list may look, it's a false economy. A contemporary camera from one of the better regarded brands, even if it doesn't have quite so many things to play with, is likely to prove a much better budget buy. Not recommended.


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