Kodak EasyShare V803 Digital Camera Review
Read an expert, independent digital camera review of the Kodak EasyShare V803.
Testing / Performance
So you’re on a trip with some family or friends, and you come across a beautiful landscape. You pull out your camera and snap a photo, capturing the stunning view. However, depending on the camera you’re using, the colors of the landscape and your friend’s faces will turn out very differently. Some cameras may boost the blues in skies, making them brilliant but unnatural, and others may shift reds and yellows making faces look either more enlivened, or extremely flushed.
We test color accuracy by photographing an industry standard GretagMacbeth ColorChecker test chart, and then compare the colors the camera reproduces with the known colors of the ColorChecker. The ColorChecker chart consists of 24 tiles of different colors from around the spectrum. Some of the tiles in the top row are designed to correspond with sky blues, foliage greens, and flesh tones, while the rest of come from all over the color spectrum.
The image below represents the V803’s performance. The outer squares represent the camera’s colors, the inside squares show the actual color of the ColorChecker corrected for the exposure, and the small rectangle shows the actual color of the ColorChecker in an even exposure. Because the V803 lacks manual white balance, the charts show the camera’s tungsten preset white balance performance.
Take a look at the outer squares compared to the inner squares. A few of them are very similar, but many of them stray from the actual colors of the ColorChecker test chart, especially the yellows. The graph below shows this information in a more quantitative way. The actual colors of the test chart are shown as squares on the color spectrum, while the colors the camera reproduced are shown as circles. The line connecting the squares and circles shows the amount of color error.
The V803 has a mean color error of 10.7 in L**a**b* color space, which is almost twice as much error as some other cameras we have tested this year. Notice on the graph how many of the colors are shifted, especially yellows and blues. This color error will definitely affect colors in landscapes and portraits, making faces greener and skies a different shade blue. Many of the colors are also oversaturated. This can look good in some photos, but can also be a distraction. The reds and purples, however, are quite accurate. Overall, the V803 has poor color accuracy, falling well below the 2007 Point-and-Shoot average and similarly priced cameras like the Casio EX-Z75.
**Resolution ***(7.31) *
We test a camera’s resolution by photographing an industry standard resolution test chart at varied focal lengths and exposure settings. We run the images through Imatest to find the settings that produce the sharpest image. Imatest measures resolution in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which correspond to the number of equally spaced alternating black and white lines that can fit in the picture frame before becoming blurred.
The V803 was sharpest at ISO 80, f/4.0, and a focal length of 17mm. It resolved 1766 lw/ph horizontally with 3 percent oversharpening, and 1018 lw/ph vertically with 29.4 percent undersharpening. The camera probably could’ve used some more vertical sharpening, but the images look nice and sharp regardless, and lack any serious image artifacting. The only problem with the V803’s resolution is that the corners of the images are blurred and out of focus. This will definitely be apparent if you try to crop your images, or print them large. In other words, the centers of your photos will be very crisp, but the corners may be blurry.
Noise – Manual*(3.93)*
In a similar way that TVs have static and stereos have a background hiss, digital cameras have image noise. This "noise" often looks quite ugly, showing up in images as randomly scattered bright dots or splotches which can sometimes even be colored. Noise is created inside a camera, and increases as ISO sensitivity is increased. Many new digital cameras this year are applying in-camera noise reduction, which makes image noise less pronounced, but instead blurs over details.
We examine noise levels by photographing our test chart under bright studio lights at every ISO sensitivity. The V803’s noise stays quite low at ISO 80 and 100, but then increased steadily at higher ISOs. Interestingly, noise levels decrease slightly from ISO 400 to 800, hinting at in-camera noise reduction. Closer examination of the images proves this is the case (click on the still life images below to see full resolution versions). At ISO 800 the images are "smoothed", reducing noise but also blurring over detail. At ISO 1600 noise levels are extremely high and blurred. Overall, the V803 scored poorly in noise, though this is often the case with budget cameras. Avoid using it at high ISO sensitivities whenever possible.
Noise – Auto*(1.06)*
We photograph the test chart in the lab under the same bright studio lights with the camera set to Auto ISO. With the camera set to ISO 160, 1.9 percent of the image is lost to noise. This is a lot more noise than we would like to see in such bright lighting, and hints at how much noise you will see in your images in less-than-ideal conditions.
White Balance Performance *(3.03)
*Every kind of light source has a slightly different color temperature, such as fluorescent, tungsten, and daylight. In order to accurately depict colors, a camera must adjust for the different color cast of each kind of light. This is called white balance, and most digital cameras have a manual white balance setting, an auto setting, and presets for different kinds of light. Poor white balance can give a strong color cast to an image, often either yellow or blue.
The Kodak V803 has no manual white balance setting and entirely relies on the auto setting and presets. We photograph the ColorChecker test chart under flash, fluorescent, outdoor shade, and tungsten lighting to see how accurately it reproduces whites and grays.
The white balance using the Auto setting on the V803 is dismal. Flash and outdoor shade lighting produces images with a strong blue cast, while under tungsten the images are extremely yellow. Photos under fluorescent light fair just as badly, and look yellowish-red.
We would suggest using the presets instead of the miserable auto setting, but unfortunately the presets are even less accurate. We have never seen a camera that gives such a strong blue cast to a neutral test chart as the V803’s fluorescent setting. The tungsten preset gives images an odd aqua-colored cast that will only be helpful in shots where you’re going for an "underwater" look, which will probably be never. The Kodak V803 has the worst white balance of any camera we have seen this year.
**Still Life Sequences
***Click to view the high-resolution image*
We dim our studio lights to test a camera’s color accuracy and noise levels in less-than-ideal light conditions. We lower the light levels to 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux to test the limits of the camera’s sensor. 60 lux corresponds to a room softly lit by two lamps, 30 lux is approximately a room lit by a single 40 watt bulb, 15 lux is the light from a TV, and 5 lux is about as dark as a room lit by a small nightlight. All shots are taken at ISO 1600.
The EasyShare V803’s color accuracy is poor in low light, but actually improves as the lights are lowered. The V803 doesn’t quite properly expose at 5 lux, showing the camera has clear limits in low light. Noise levels are very high at all low light levels, again showing how poor the ISO 1600 setting is on the V803. Lower ISO settings produce less noise, but won’t let you shoot in as dimly-lit situations. Overall, the camera is poor in low light, yet performs better than similar budget point-and-shoots, the Casio EX-Z75, and the Olympus FE-230, but worse than the GE G1.
We also test long exposure performance of cameras in low light, but only at ISO 400 so that we can standardize the test. The V803 has a Long Time Exposure menu that allows adjustment of up to 8 second long exposures, but won’t shoot at ISO 400. In a 0.5 second exposure at this ISO, the camera has a mean color accuracy of 12.4 and percent noise level of 2.56, neither of which are good scores.
Dynamic range is an image quality factor that describes how well a camera can discern detail in both bright and dark areas of an image. For example, if you are taking photos at a wedding, a camera with good dynamic range would be able to show lots of detail in a bride’s white dress, as well as detail in a groom’s black tux, in the same photo. A camera with poor dynamic range might just blow out the white dress and render the tux as a shapely black mass.
We test dynamic range by photographing a backlit Stouffer step chart in our lab. The Stouffer chart consists of a row of rectangles, each a slightly different shade of gray ranging from brightest white to darkest black. The more rectangles the camera can discern, the better its dynamic range.
The V803 has mediocre dynamic range at ISO 80 and 100, and then drops to very low levels at higher ISO settings, as you can see in the graph above. Above ISO 200, you risk blowing out highlights and losing detail in dark areas. The V803 had one of the lower dynamic range scores for the point-and-shoots this year, though you’ll be hard pressed to find a budget camera with very good dynamic range.
Speed/Timing **– All speed tests were conducted using a Kingston Ultimate 120X 2GB SD Card
*Startup to First Shot****(3.2) *
The V803 is exceptionally hard to turn on, requiring the On button to be held for a few moments. Once it is on it takes approximately 6.8 seconds to take a photo, which is an amazingly long time for a digital camera in today’s market. Holding the shutter button from when the camera is turned on will not fire a shot. Instead, if you need to take a quick picture, you must continuously click the shutter and wait for the autofocus to adjust.
In Burst mode, the V803 takes four shots in 1.9 seconds, which is approximately 0.55 seconds between shots. This speed will help for capture some good action shots.
The camera takes 0.2 seconds to fire a shot after it has been prefocused by holding the shutter down halfway. Without being prefocused, the camera takes 2.2 seconds to fire a shot.
The V803 took 3.0 seconds to process a 2 MB photo taken at ISO 160. However, the camera can continue to shoot while it is processing.
**Video Performance ***(1.67) *
Bright Indoor Light – 3000 lux
To test video in bright light, we record footage of our color charts at 3000 lux in tungsten light. The V803’s color error is quite high, at 17.3, and saturation is 137 percent. These numbers sound bad, but are actually normal for a camera recording video in tungsten light with auto white balance. That is to say, cameras don’t shoot great video, and this Kodak is no exception.
*Low Light – 30 lux *
At 30 lux the V803 can barely expose well enough to make out the chart. See the image of the video color test chart below, and note how incredibly dark it is. The numbers are hardly even relevant here; the V803 cannot shoot record video at 30 lux. Good luck trying to get a video of your friends in a low-lit bar or bowling alley, let alone anywhere outside at nighttime.
We also recorded video of our resolution test chart to see how crisp a camera’s video mode is. Note that video is shot in 640 x 480 resolution, not the 8-megapixels that the still images are. The V803 has trouble focusing in Movie mode. It records 160 lw/ph horizontally with 26.9 percent undersharpening, and 167 lw/ph vertically with 26.7 percent undersharpening. These numbers are extremely low even for video resolution.
We took the V803 down to the street to capture some action. When recording motion, the video had really bad moiré, soft focus, poor detail in dark areas, image artifacting from over-compression, flashing from inexplicable exposure shifts, and some stuttering. On the good side, the colors looked nice. Overall, the video of the V803 looks terrible, so don’t buy this camera expecting to get much of anything out of the video mode.