Kodak digital camera raises the industry standard

Digital cameras in this so-called megapixel range have been around for a while now, but
the DC120 is the first at this price. It gets its maximum 1,280-by-960 resolution with
24-bit color through some of the same legerdemain that scanners use to reach
higher-than-actual optical resolutions.


The DC120's actual optical resolution is 836,400 pixels. The interpolation process that
increases the apparent number of pixels by almost 50 percent causes a slight degradation
in picture quality.


This is no tiny device. Weighing in at a little more than a pound, it might at first
glance look hard to hold. However, the adjustable hand strap makes it comfortable. The
motor-controlled 3X zoom lens is equivalent to a 38 mm to 114 mm lens on a 35 mm film
camera. In fact, the DC120 has many of the same features as popular commercial film
cameras.


Auto-focus is available for both single and multiple objects, and a macro mode captures
objects within an 8-inch to 20-inch range. Exposure can be set automatically or adjusted
from the automatic setting in half-stop increments. Manual exposure settings range from a
shutter speed of 1/500 to 16 seconds.


Add-on telephoto and wide-angle lenses are available, as are filters, tripods and other
standard camera accessories. The DC120 uses 37 mm screw-on lenses and filters.


One you'll definitely want is the optional AC adapter. It's pointless to drain the
batteries transferring files unnecessarily. The camera runs on four AA batteries. My test
unit came with 1.7-volt lithium AA batteries, but common 1.5V alkaline batteries and 1.2V
rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries also will work.


The lithium batteries lasted long enough to take about 40 hi-res pictures before it
drained too low to be reliable.


I tested the camera in a variety of lighting conditions and at many resolutions.


To get the maximum testing life out of the batteries, I used the AC adapter for file
transfers to the PC. Note that although the AC adapter powers the camera, it does not
recharge the batteries. Having optional rechargeable batteries or a special power pack
would be a nice addition.


Photo file transfers can be fast or prolonged depending on the resolution of the images
involved. The serial-port PC connection limits transfer speeds to 56 kilobits/sec. When
you consider that a single uncompressed image may be as large as 3.5M, you can expect to
spend a fair amount of time to get nearly flawless images.


Higher transfer rates are possible only if the PC has a high-speed serial port.


The camera comes with enough memory to store two uncompressed images at the highest
resolution, or seven images compressed at 1,280 by 960 pixels. Lower-resolution settings
increase the storable images to 12 or 20, but with a camera of this quality, storing
hi-res images probably will be a priority.


Kodak offers separate, compact memory cards that fit in a slot behind the 1.6-inch LCD
screen on back. These cards come in 2M and 10M sizes.


The DC120's output was some of the best from any digital camera ever reviewed by the
GCN Lab, due in large part to its high resolution and zoom lens. Its 16-bit software
worked well under Microsoft Windows 95. A camera icon even appeared in the My Computer
folder on the Windows desktop to start up the transfer software.


The bundled photo-editing software, though not extremely powerful, was good enough for
many everyday editing tasks such as red-eye removal. The camera is TWAIN
scanner-compliant, and its images are accessible directly in Adobe Systems Inc.'s
Photoshop or Corel Corp.'s CorelDraw.


The DC120 opens up a world of image possibilities with its 1.2 megapixels and $1,000
price tag. If you've been disappointed with the results of other cameras, take a look at
the DC120. You won't find better quality without spending at least twice as much.


Low-priced digital cameras are fine for World Wide Web images and other low-res
environments, but the DC120's images can be used in print media without apology.


Although digital photography gives more convenience and image control than film
cameras, it hasn't shown equivalent image quality until now. The Kodak DC120 illustrates
the mainstream potential for digital cameras.


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