The Kodak DC265 is a Compact Flash (CF) reusable memory card based digital camera. It has a 3x optical zoom lens and originally retailed for under $900. I have found its performance quite good and feel that it is built to last, under rigorous weekly usage. I believe that the Kodak 265's design was inspired by some of the professional features in Kodak's Professional line of digital cameras that get heavy use on a daily basis.
The picture quality ranges from a maximum resolution of 1536 by 1024 pixels in "best" mode, with an intermediate 1152 by 768 pixels in "better" mode and a 768 by 512 pixels "good" mode. While the "best" mode provides the highest quality and is suited for advanced users, it significantly reduces the number of pictures that the CF memory card can hold. Since this mode required frequent uploads or buying a higher capacity CF memory card (The 265 ships with a 20 Megabyte card), I found that "better" mode was a reasonable compromise that yielded about 50 images per 20 MB memory card instead of only 20.
The camera has enough physical mass to make it ergonomically well suited to my large hands and shooting style. I found this to be quite useful during the intense Democratic National Convention riots. (Read and view my photo essay)
Power, shutter, viewfinder, color LCD screen, zoom control and audio record elements are logically located for rapid shooting. When I was shooting in near dark and fast paced conditions, the controls were straightforward, and I didn't have to resort to a "hunt and peck" mode to find the essential controls.
Taking pictures and immediately viewing them on the camera's display, TV or computer. The DC265 can take quick succession (rapid fire) or time lapse images quickly. I can even add sound voice notes to the images. The organization of images into electronic albums is another useful feature.
Increased low light image capability This feature worked reasonably well. It takes practice and luck to get consistently acceptable images, but is achievable. The DC265 has a tripod socket to help with those really long exposure times that require a tripod.
Mode dial and four-way controller elements These items helped me to quickly capture and review my images, as well as display camera information. This four-way controller was quite intuitive. By having a single control point with a "joystick like" movement, I was able to easily traverse the in-camera menu choices and rapidly scroll through the pictures.
Three soft key buttons Located under the LCD screen, these buttons perform different functions according to what is displayed on the display screen. While these buttons worked most of the time, they periodically locked and required a full camera shut down and start-up to regain proper operation.
Buy more batteries and get a second charger The Kodak DC265 camera is powered by 4 AA NiMh batteries which last about an hour or so of reasonable usage. I highly urge you to getting at one or two extra sets of batteries and an extra K200 battery charger, so you don't have to constantly worry about running out of power at important times. Batteries can take as long as 12 hours to reach a fully charged state. By planning ahead and having extra, fully charged batteries you can shoot confidently and not miss any important shots. Since this camera accepts conventional alkaline AA batteries, these can always be used as backups, but you can easily burn up a dozen alkalines in single day of picture taking.
If you are doing picture taking from a fixed location or a located that has AC power, an optional AC power adapter is available and should be considered. Unfortunately this power adapter powers the camera only and doesn't recharge the batteries. This is too bad, since I have enough accessories, weight and clutter when I travel with high tech devices.
Watch out for accidental power-ons The DC265 has a top mounted power button with a time delayed function built-in to minimize accidental turn on. This sounds good, but in real life, under journalistic conditions, I found that the camera can get accidentally turned on and depletes battery power. I had to regularly remove the unit's batteries to avoid this problem. But then I had a new problem -- the camera then lost its time and date. Since I didn't always remember to reset this each time I added batteries, many pictures have dates in January 1999 (the default date).
I suggest that Kodak consider developing a more positive power lock out. I would also recommend that they add a small coin battery to separately power the time and date functions and other long term essential functions like "next picture" number. Occasional users may not experience any accidental power on situations, since they carry less equipment and operate in far less demanding conditions.
Use Fingertip flash control The high mounted, built-in flash is strong enough for most of my shooting conditions and definitely much handier to use than a separate unit and worked without failure. At times, however, it would provide too much light. In the field, my quick fix was to place my finger over part of the flash unit to control the amount of light. It was a crude, but surprisingly quite effective. The ability to quickly review the images is very important under these conditions.
I wish I had more lens choice The 3X powered zoom (38 to 115mm) is suitable for most conditions and it operates smoothly, but at a very relaxed pace. I feel that power zooms also consumes valuable power for the lens movements, but this may be needed for the automatic focus function.
As a semi-professional photographer, I really long for wider angle focal lengths (24mm or less), which I feel are essential for crowded event coverage. Also, interchangeable, existing photographic 35mm lenses in an affordable and quality digital camera body would also be very desirable. Many advanced users already own an extensive arsenal of excellent 35mm lenses, myself included, and don't want the extra expense and duplication of digital lens. We have learned, over years of experience, which lenses are critical to making outstanding images.
In my opinion, quality images are much more than digital ones and zeros. Menus that are difficult to understand or even read can interfere with the capturing of spontaneous in-field images. Kodak has done a great job making its menus easy to read and understand.
Memory Card Speed is a bit slow The read and write times for the Compact Flash Memory are acceptable for most general purpose imaging, but is frequently too slow for event coverage. I adapted to this by altering my shooting style and leading the action, but I was never exactly sure what I got, until afterwards. The most logical solution was to shoot in burst mode frequently and purchase extra CF memory cards and batteries. Don't forget, after transferring your images, CF memory can be reused over and over.
Use direct Image Transfer The Kodak DC265 can communicate with a computer by RS-232 serial connection (slow), USB (faster), IrDA (infrared and wireless) or directly via a PCMCIA or other external adapter. After my in-field experiences, I find that the PCMCIA adapter is my preferred mode of transfer to a laptop. I'm now looking for a method to incorporate the ease of PCMCIA transfer to my desktops, to help achieve more trouble free transfer.
Kodak should include a Quick Start Guide Kodak's User's Guide and Website has extensive information on the camera system, but could definitely benefit from an essential "Quick Start Guide" for the busy and time-challenged user. Many of us don't have the time to wade through extensive documentation during the important first and primary usage phases. A Quick Start Guide would also help increase customer satisfaction levels by creating a good first impressions and to help avoid long telephone discussions on customer support lines.
Bottom Line The Kodak DC265 digital camera is centered on a robust design with should provide years of trouble free service, once the owner learns all its features and functions. Kodak will likely provide increasingly refined designs, additional ease of use features and improved customer support, as it marches into the digital age.
Based on my experience with this camera and Kodak, I would recommend this camera.
© 2000 Jim Bennett All rights reserved.