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Time for me to dip once again into my Big Box O' Digicams. This time I've come up with the Kodak Easyshare C300, which is the bottom of their long-running C-series range and was first released about six years ago. It is still a pretty common sight on eBay, and its very simple nature makes it quite a popular choice as a cheap purchase; you shouldn't have to try too hard to get one in reasonable nick for £10-£15, even allowing for the postage. Its popularity is helped by its accepting standard SD cards and AA batteries; it even has 16 MB of internal memory for emergencies. The question is whether it's worth it, so let's have a look, shall we?
The first thing that strikes you is the slightly unusual styling, with one side rounded and the other straight. It also has quite a bulbous shape all round, being a bit thicker than you might expect from a non-zoom camera. I can't say that it strikes me as a particularly attractive design, but it's not actively awful, I suppose. Of rather more concern is the build quality: the C300, like many cheap Kodaks, feels as though it was built down to a price, and there's an alarming amount of creaking if you try flexing the body slightly. It's also very light, which is not always a good sign, though to be fair it does seem to be reasonably resistant to everyday scrapes and knocks. I do like the separate card and battery compartments, and though a mode dial is overkill for a camera with so few modes, it is satisfying to use.
The LCD is, unsurprisingly for 2004, of the then-standard 1.5-inch size, and it is averagely good: it's a bit dingy for my liking, and rather blocky in low light, but I've seen worse. The four-way controller is, unusually, on the left, which takes quite some getting used to. The on-screen menu system is a bit clingy and hand-holdingy (okay, so that's not really a word, but you know what I mean) and though I appreciate that the C300 is aimed at people without previous experience of digital photography - and there were still a lot of those in 2004 - it is a bit frustrating that you don't have the option of bypassing some of the more basic screens and adjusting settings directly. Still, if you're the sort of photographer who hankers after doing much more than pressing the shutter, then you should look elsewhere anyway.
Talking of settings, there aren't many at all. This camera really is not going to please you if you want even slight manual control over your photos: you can't set the ISO yourself, for example; and (unusually even for simple cameras) you have no control at all over white balance, so indoor shots, especially under tungsten lighting, are prone to coming out strangely. (Talking of indoor shots, the flash is surprisingly bright.) Perhaps surprisingly given the foregoing, you *do* have access to exposure compensation, which works adequately; you also have three photo quality settings - leave it on the top one all the time. There's no optical zoom, but there is a 5x digital zoom; as usual, you'd do better to ignore this and edit on a computer instead.
There is a movie mode, but it is truly, truly dreadful: the absolute limit of your ambitions should be 30 seconds of 320x240 resolution video at 15fps. Oh, and you can't record sound. At all. To be honest, the C300 would have been better off without this, since it may encourage some people to buy it on the strength of what is, frankly, a non-existent selling point. I've now pretty much exhausted the features, except for the self-timer and date stamp... and the shiny red "share" button on the back, which Kodak seem inordinately proud of (look at this camera's name!) and which allows you to send photos to print or email directly. Unfortunately the process is fiddly, and simply using a card reader to get your photos on to a computer, then handling the files from there, is a lot easier.
And so we come to photo quality. Clearly I wasn't expecting miracles from a camera with this specification, but you'd think that Kodak, the original snapshot company, would have learnt how to enable people to take attractive, colourful shots with little or no fuss. I was a bit disappointed, therefore, to discover that quality was uneven. Sharpness is acceptable for a fixed-focus 3mp camera, but the big problem is colour: most shades look fine, but red tones seem to be boosted much too far by the camera's processing and so appear unacceptably garish. It's a shame, since otherwise there wouldn't be too much to complain about at this level.
That colour problem is a serious one, and prevents what otherwise would probably have been an average rating, since this is a two-and-a-half star camera for the most part which could have been bumped up to three for its ease of use. The C300's hand-holding style and pared-down feature set might well not be a problem for many people, but producing photos that look distractingly unrealistic is likely to be one for almost everybody. As such, I would suggest that you look elsewhere for a camera in this class.
I'm a big fan of digital cameras, loving taking snaps of my children as they grow up, on special days together and generally capturing memories to look back on as we all grow older, my husband is also a photographer so I guess it was natural that at some point our kids would show an interest in cameras of some kind. Christopher is only 3 (almost 4) but we thought for Christmas that we would ask his grandma to buy him a camera, nothing fancy, we'd envisioned one of those brightly coloured, chunky plastic devices that he could take a few fun snaps with, you can imagine our surprise to find she'd bought him the Kodak Easy Share C300.
The C300 is from the basic line of Kodak Easy Shares, a 3.2 mega pixel camera aimed at beginners and newcomers to the world of digital photography, it's not overflowing with features making it simple and easy to use. You are able to take still photographs as well as moving images all of which are chosen by moving the dial on top the camera to the matching image.
Still Photo Mode-
The still photo mode is perhaps the most in depth giving you various set up options.
Via the "menu" you can operate and set the 10 second self timer, alter the exposure, choose from 4 levels of picture quality, alter the colour, assign photos to specific albums, choose the image storage mode (external disc or internal memory) set the date & time as well as choose your language.
The 4 levels of picture quality range from "good" 0.8 mega pixels which is great for images that are to be sent via email, "better" 3.2 high compression which is good for small prints, "best 3.2" which is the optimum choice if you like 6 by 4 sized prints and "best" which gives 3.2 mega pixels and is the best mode for larger prints. The C300 has a maximum 3.2 mega pixels which will not necessarily produce the most highly detailed and crisp images but provides a good enough quality image to make the camera worth owning, however you're unlikely to be able to print photo's any larger then 11 by 14 inches, with 6 by 4 and 7 by 5 sized photos getting the best results from the camera.
The camera does not come with a zoom lens however does have a digital zoom capacity, which is operated by pressing the directional buttons while viewing the scene you want to capture via the viewfinder or LCD, this does allow you to get much closer to the subject of your photo however too much zooming simply gives you fuzzy pictures, the pixels just can't handle the top level of zoom.
The "Color" function within the menu allows you to select from 3 colour options, you can take your pictures in standard colour, black and white or sepia (beige brown tones) The black and white option allows you to capture very contemporary feeling pictures and is great for city landscapes and unusual portraits, sepia provides a far more worn, old world feel to the pictures, giving the images a softer look. Naturally the colour option captures life just as you see it and is probably best for capturing day to day life.
The "Review" function allows you to view your previously taken photos and scroll through the images, it's this function which helps you choose which photos to keep and which to delete. The images are displayed on the cameras 1.5 inch LCD screen, by pressing the "Menu" button while viewing your images you are able to magnify them allowing you a closer look at the smaller details, assign pictures to specific photo albums, protect the images meaning they cant accidentally be deleted, choose where the image will be stored (internal memory or card) copy an image so it is on both internal and external memory sources, view the images as a slide show or even as multiple images in a grid form at one time. However using the LCD too much can quickly drain the batteries but the camera does have a form of shut off mode in that if you aren't taking a photo or scrolling through the images within a set amount of time the LCD switches off.
You are able to change your flash options and can have several different settings including Auto flash which decides if the flash is needed depending on the level of light present and Red Eye setting which will flash twice preventing the subject's eyes appearing red in the image.
The main body of the camera features a delete button, one of the appeals of digital cameras is that you can see the images as you take them and keep the best ones, deleting the bad ones, this not only makes sure you get great images but saves you spending lots of money on developing films only to find none of the pictures are any good. You can delete the images in 2 ways, either immediately after capture (the image flashes up on the LCD briefly allowing you to see what you've taken) or by reviewing the pictures you've taken. You are always asked twice if you want to delete the image which saves you from accidentally erasing an image you actually wanted to keep, you can also choose to delete images one by one or delete the whole lot (handy once you've printed them and quickly want to clear the memory space)
KODAK lens 37 mm (35 mm equivalent)
5X continuous digital zoom
Focus range- 2.6 ft (0.8 m) to infinity
LCD- 1.5 in. (3.8 cm) colour display
Shutter speed- 1/2-1/2300 sec.
ISO equivalent- automatic 100-200 (still); 100-800 (video); 140 (flash)
White balance- auto
Flash range- 2.6-7.9 ft (0.8-2.4 m)
Requires 2 AA batteries
Takes SD memory cards
Internal memory capacity 17 pictures
As well as regular photographs this camera can also capture moving images. It's not a camcorder and the function is very basic, you get 30 seconds of capture time which can only capture images and not sound, the zoom function is also not available in video mode so if you want to film close up then you have to physically do it yourself. The video mode has a resolution of 320x240 pixels and captures at a rate of 15 frames per second. It's a nice little extra but with a maximum of 30 seconds being captured you really cant use it for capturing video of any worth and will be better off sticking with a separate camcorder unit.
While Auto mode is great for general picture taking there is also a "Night" mode which is better for being able to capture both the photo's main subject as well as a good degree of background details. This is not however a night vision mode where you could take pictures in the dark with no flash or light source, it is simply designed to balance out both the subject and background giving a better photograph.
Price & Availability-
While we were given the camera as a gift it is still widely available for purchase in shops and online, while specific stockists will vary you can go to Kodak.co.uk and be able to bring up information on local stockist and online dealers. Retailing in the range of £70 you can often pick the camera up 2nd hand on Ebay at very reasonable prices often starting from 99p.
As a basic starter camera the Kodak C300 certainly does its job, taking basic photographs while not being too confusing and overwhelming the user with options and features. It has some good options especially in terms of altering the pixels, colour and even having a brief self timer meaning it is a good introductory camera for someone looking to move up to more advanced digital cameras.
The pictures are clear enough although the low level of pixels means they aren't the crispest and I wouldn't want to swap my 7.2 Mega pixel camera for this one anytime soon. The flash provides good light but in indoor environments it can struggle to really light up the surroundings meaning some of the pictures are dull and grey.
Christopher has a good idea how to use the basic photo taking mode of the camera but none of the other features, he is only 3 and the camera is simply not designed with 3 year olds in mind, older children and adults will be able to operate the camera and make use of its functions well. It is fairly lightweight and modern looking and is a good size to fit well in the hands, it also has a basic wrist strap giving a little peace of mind as to the security of the camera when it's being used in precarious positions.
Certainly a good beginners camera, hey if a 3 year old can use it anyone can, but for more advanced features and better pictures try the Kodak C743.
Review also found on Ciao.
Since I didn't need a camera capable of taking beautiful, professional standard images, and frankly, I couldn't afford that anyway, I stumbled across the Kodak EasyShare C300. It's fairly bottom-of-the-range these days, with 3.2 megapixels, a 5X digital zoom, and a 1.5 inch (38 mm) LCD screen. It's aimed at digital newcomers such as myself, and it claims to make "taking and sharing pictures wonderfully simple". We'll soon see about that, as I took the camera on a proverbial test drive.
On opening the bright yellow box, I'm presented with a plethora of instruction leaflets, the camera itself, USB cable and batteries, a software CD, and a whole host of smiling children. Photos, that is, it would be extremely inhumane to put real children inside a camera box - I'm sure they wouldn't be smiling anyway.
Kodak guaranteed simple, and that's exactly what they deliver. Just put the batteries inside the camera, and away you go, you can start taking photos straight from the box. The EasyShare software CD doesn't have to be installed on your computer (even though that's cunningly the first thing they tell you to do), but it helps you to organise your photos into albums, and gives you the option of sending off your photos to Kodak HQ, who will send you back a set of prints. But we'll have more on that story later.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Very well, in fact. The Kodak C300 is genuinely simple to use, although that's probably because it doesn't have the range of advanced features that better cameras have. You switch it on using the "mode dial", or as I call it, the "turny wheel" at the top, and you can either turn it to regular picture mode, night time/low light picture mode, or video mode.
Taking pictures is just like with a non-digital camera, really. You can look through the viewfinder, and click the shutter button. I think the shutter button is really easy to use, because on some cameras you have to hold it down for a few seconds, whereas on this, one click is all it takes! A big advantage of a digital camera is that you can see exactly what you're taking on the LCD screen, although on the Kodak C300 it's a big battery drain, and they recommend you don't use it all the time. The screen itself on this camera isn't the biggest, it does look a bit pixelated, and it's hard to see in bright sunlight, but it does the job.
There isn't an optical zoom on this camera, which is always a benefit, but there is a 5X digital zoom, which is - yep, you've guessed it - easy to use. For those who know nothing about cameras, a digital zoom isn't as good as an optical zoom because it just makes the pixels bigger, and leaves you with a poorer quality of image afterwards. An optical zoom is where the lens comes forward out of the camera, and actually gets closer to the subject without the pixels being affected. I found that the camera wasn't particularly good for long distance shots, as it has quite a wide range, and if you want to focus in on one area, the digital zoom makes it poorer quality.
After taking a picture, it automatically shows up on the screen for about 5 seconds, giving you ample time to delete it if it's pants. This is very easy, with a button clearly labelled "delete". After that, if you want to have a look at all your pictures, there's another button clearly labelled "review", which you press, then you can flick through them using the directional buttons, and magnify the images up to 4X.
In video mode, you can shoot up to 30 seconds of video, without sound. Maybe not the best quality video, and definitely not the best piece of equipment to use if you're planning on being the next Steven Spielberg, but if like me you just want to capture the moment, it's fine. Again, it's easy to use, you just view the video through the LCD screen on the back, use the shutter button to start/stop recording and then you can review it and delete it if it's not up to your high standards.
MENU AND SETTINGS
As I said earlier, if you're looking for a really comprehensive piece of equipment, packed with features, then this isn't the camera for you. If you're a novice like me and just want something that takes decent photos, then it's pretty good. I'm not going to tell you what the menu is like to use, since you can probably guess already, but you get to it by another button, clearly labelled "menu". Some of the features include a self timer, which gives you 10 seconds to race back and get yourself in the shot, and an exposure compensation feature (far too complicated for me) which basically makes the image darker or lighter.
You can choose from four types of picture quality, ingeniously ranging from "good" to "best" and you can change the screen size to 3:2, for if you want 10x15cm prints. I found that without a memory card, if you want to fill your camera with holiday snaps you have to use the lowest setting, since there isn't enough internal space to hold a whole holiday's worth of top-quality images. On the lowest setting, the memory can hold 67 photos, which is fine. Unfortunately, if you want to have the best quality photos, there's only room for 17.
There are 4 different styles of flash to choose from, depending on what kind of picture you are taking. "Auto Flash" is the standard variety, as doesn't operate in sunny conditions, but does at night. "Red Eye" is ideal if you're taking photos of people, as it flashes twice to adjust the victim's (sorry, subject's) eyes. "Fill" means that it flashes regardless of the conditions. "Off", unsurprisingly, means that it never flashes regardless of the condition. These last two are a bit pointless, and I just keep it on auto flash, since I find that red eye is never a problem with this camera anyway.
But my favourite feature on this camera, rather immaturely, is the ability to take photos in colour, black and white, or even sepia! Hurrah! If you've got a love for black and white photos, you don't have to edit it in a photo package, you can take it in B&W to start with! And sepia is great if you're trying to recreate a nostalgic look of days gone by.
WHAT THE BLAZES IS EASYSHARE?
I was wondering this, too. Well, on the back of the camera there is a little red button clearly labelled "share", and when you press it, it gives you the options of printing the image, emailing it to an address or setting it as a favourite. Basically, the EasyShare facility is for if you have one of the Kodak EasyShare printer or camera docks. These are the fancy devices where you attach your camera onto the top, press a button and your prints come out, or press a button and your images are instantly transferred to a computer. So, this camera is fantastic if you have one of these. Otherwise, there's nothing wrong with just connecting it to your computer with a USB cable and printing off the pictures yourself.
I suppose the EasyShare stuff is helpful if you're the kind of person who loves to email your pictures out to all your friends quickly and simply, using the address book in the software CD. This brings me back to my earlier point. You can send your images off to be printed by Kodak, which is great if you don't have the facilities to print pictures off at home, but if you have a decent printer or the EasyShare printer dock, it's really simple to just do them yourself.
VALUE FOR MONEY?
I've waffled on enough, so now I'll get down to my final thoughts. The average price of this camera, from what I've seen on various websites, is around £70. Being me, I bought mine on eBay, where you can pick one up from around £40. Although it's a bit risky, I'd recommend the eBay approach, since I think paying full price is a bit much for this camera. Obviously shop around and try to find the best deal possible, and it'll undoubtedly be cheaper online than on the high street.
This is a great little beginners' camera, with enough features to satisfy the basic photographer, and Kodak really deliver on their "easy to use" promise. It's definitely better for close-up rather than distance shots, so it's perfect for quick snaps of your mates, not so good for picturesque landscapes. If that's what you want a camera for, I would definitely recommend the Kodak EasyShare C300.
Easy to use!
Good quality prints in the end, with no red eye
Enough features to keep me happy
Screen is a bit small, and drains the battery a little too much
Lack of optical zoom
Internal memory is small - you will need to buy a memory card
TECHNICAL INFORMATION (IF YOU'RE INTERESTED)
Dimensions: width 103.5mm
Weight: 147 grams (excluding batteries)
LCD screen: 1.5 inches (37mm)
280 X 220 pixels
Battery life: non-rechargeable alkaline batteries - around 60-175 photos
rechargeable batteries - 200-300 photos
lithium batteries - 275-375 photos
Lens: aperture f/4.5
focal length 37mm (35mm equivalent)
focus distance 0.8m to infinity
Operating temperature: 0 to 40°C
Tripod socket: Yes
Viewfinder: Reverse Galilean
I hope that's clear to everybody!