* Prices may differ from that shown
== Introduction ==
It would be wrong of me to try to claim that I'd ever jumped up and down with excitement when a Kodak C-series camera, such as this five-megapixel C360, had come into my possession. If you exclude the out-and-out poor stuff from no-name manufacturers (and Vivitar) then they're perhaps the least exciting old digital cameras you can buy. I do try to remind myself, however, that not everyone *wants* excitement and adventure and really wild things when they buy an old camera, and for those looking for a simple, straightforward unit Kodak is always likely to be on the brand shortlist. In fact, though, the C360 is rather more interesting than I first thought.
== Looks and handling ==
With its boxy, almost square, shape, the C360 is not a pretty camera, although some may be attracted by its difference from the norm. Personally I'm not terribly enamoured of it, in particular the way that the side of the lens barrel protrudes slightly from the side of the camera proper. On the plus side, Kodak did provide a very substantial hand grip; this is of little use if you're left-handed, but then that could be said of the majority of camera grips. Assuming you are holding it right-handed, it's surprisingly comfortable given its angular shape and inspires confidence.
Most simple cameras are quite light, but the C360 a bit of an exception, and feels quite solid. You can certainly hold it up in one hand for an extended period of time without its causing you any fatigue, but its heft does mean that it doesn't tend to wobble about unpleasantly in the way some featherweight digicams are prone to. The camera is actually a little more satisfying to handle overall than I thought it would be, this feeling being assisted somewhat by the inclusion of a proper mode dial on the top plate. All right, so it's overkill for a snapshot camera, but it's one bit of overkill that I'm happy to see.
== Optics and screen ==
For this class and age of camera, there's nothing remarkable about the C360's "taking lens", as the manual rather endearingly calls it. It uses the standard Kodak Retinar glass (more expensive Kodaks have Schneider-Kreuznach lenses) and a conventional 3x optical zoom with autofocus. This has a range (equivalent) of 34 to 102 mm, which is *very* slightly more wide-angle than the average, although the difference is so tiny that you're most unlikely to notice it. There's an automatic protective lens cover which works very well and hasn't stuck once (so far, anyway!) on my own camera. The zoom motor can sound a little buzzy, but it does its job well enough.
I was pleasantly surprised by this camera's rear LCD panel. At two inches it's (slightly) larger than some of its contemporaries' screens, and it has a decent resolution (110,000 pixels) for a simple camera. Kodak's bright and colourful menus show up very clearly, though you may start to tire of their relentless "hey guys, look how easy this is!" vibe, and there's no way of toning them down or accessing a more "advanced" menu mode. One plus point of older cameras is that they tend to have optical viewfinders as well. It's nothing special, but it can come in handy in very bright conditions.
== Features and settings ==
It's perfectly possible just to use auto mode for the majority of your pictures, and I'd suspect that Kodak's target market for this digicam are likely to do just that. However, it was a bit of a surprise to discover that the C360 offers a fairly good range of settings for the slightly more adventurous to play with. Most important of these is - hurrah! - the ability to override automatic ISO. You get to choose values from 80 to 400; there's an ISO 800 mode but it reduces resolution to 1.8 mp and its results are probably better suited to an experimental art gallery than to your living room. It's a shame (as with one or two other things) that the manual's relentless focus on ease of use prevents it from giving a better explanation of this very useful feature.
Other relatively advanced settings include exposure bracketing - in which the camera will take three photos, one darker and one lighter as well as your original - and the option to use continuous or single autofocus. (Personally I tend to leave this set to single: continuous AF is a great thing, but to make the most of it a camera really needs to be faster to react than the Kodak.) The C360 has a basic multi-zone focus system (just three zones) by default, although you can select centre focusing if you prefer. There are the usual white balance (no manual, sadly) and exposure compensation settings, and spot metering is present and correct. Colour and sharpness levels can also - to a certain extent - be controlled on-camera.
There is also a reasonable array of scene modes, including all the usual suspects (snow, fireworks, etc) and my favourite: "Manner/museum" - which keeps flash disabled. The C360's movie mode is a little bit unconventional, in that it records at 24 frames per second. I can only imagine that this was supposed to be a nod to traditional 24 fps movie film; I'd have preferred 30 fps, though! Unusually the Kodak records in MPEG4 QuickTime format rather than the more common AVI; playing this back shouldn't be a problem on most modern computers. You can record sound with your videos, but the zoom lens will not work. (Well, the optical zoom, anyway; the digital zoom - which, very annoyingly, can't be disabled - is another matter.)
== Consumables ==
A straightforward camera should be straightforward to get up and running, and where a vintage model is concerned that means AA batteries; as used laptop purchasers will know, buying proprietary Li-ion batteries for old electronic devices can be an almighty headache. The C360 accepts two AA cells, and its battery life (assuming good NiMH rechargeables) is fair; I'd want to take a second pair with me on a long day out, but you shouldn't find yourself swapping the things around every ten minutes. Storage is by means of either ordinary SD or the prehistoric MMC cards in capacities up to 512 MB, though 1 GB cards seem to work fine. Startlingly, Kodak have actually provided an almost useful amount of internal memory: 32 MB, enough for 17 photos at the highest quality settings.
== Photo quality ==
In my experience Kodak have had a decidedly mixed record when it comes to this most vital of areas, a surprise for a company with such a long and generally good record in the photographic industry. The C360, I'm pleased to say, comes out on the plus side of the ledger, in particular in terms of colour reproduction. I've been very pleased indeed with this: Kodaks tend to give a slightly more "film-like" colour balance than Canons or Fujifilms, and that continues to be the case here. The more subdued tones won't be to everyone's taste, but I think they work pretty nicely and give your shots a slight "classic" feel that marks them out from the rest.
Things aren't quite so good once you move indoors: the flash can be a little harsh, and focusing isn't always accomplished particularly accurately. This does tend to lead to the dreaded "skin shine" effect, which appear distinctly unflattering! This was one of the few *unpleasant* surprises about the Kodak: I had rather imagined that a camera clearly aimed at snapshooters would be optimised for social portraits and the like, but in fact the C360 seems considerably happier outside and in better lighting conditions. It's not a complete dunce inside, but it's not a genius either.
== Oddities ==
There's a rather weird line hidden away at the back of the manual which reads: "Use of this product in any manner that complies with the MPEG-4 visual standard is prohibited, except for use by a consumer engaging in personal and non-commercial activities." Taking this at face value, it means that if you take movies and then sell them, or even use them to advertise your business, you're breaking Kodak's terms and conditions and (presumably) invalidating your warranty! This is of academic interest only nowadays, but it's another sign of just what knots electronics companies have tied themselves in trying desperately to signal to regulators that they're aware of intellectual property rights...
== Buying and verdict ==
The C360 is one of the better C-series cameras, certainly on another plane from the likes of the frankly rather mediocre C300. Its biggest plus point is most certainly ease of use, an area where Kodak has often led the way. If you're not new to digital photography you might find some of the hand-holding rather annoying, but as a gentle introduction to novices it might well be just what the doctor ordered. This is one of those cameras where setting everything to automatic and just pressing the shutter will probably give you as good results as doing anything else in 90% of settings.
The Kodak EasyShare C360 wouldn't be a very good camera for someone who wanted to take finely-tuned shots in difficult lighting conditions, but as a holiday snapshot camera to take to the beach so that you can avoid risking damage to your expensive pride and joy, it could be very much worthy of consideration. Not a lot turn up on eBay for some reason, but if you can find one for under about £15 then it's probably one for the shortlist. A good effort by Kodak, and (judging it for what it is) three and a half stars, just about worthy of being bumped up to four.