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Design and Handling

Gone are the days when Kodak only sold big, plastic (and dare I say ugly) digital cameras; the V610 is a real head-turner with beautiful detailing and a build quality to die for. The rear is dominated by a huge 2.8-inch screen, though there are a smattering of buttons down the left hand side - and the ubiquitous four-way controller on the right. The front of the camera is clean and simple, and looks a little unusual thanks to the twin lens arrangement (which when not in use is hidden under a brushed metal cover. At around 160g (5.6 oz) it is pretty heavy for such a small camera, adding to the impression the all-metal body gives of being built like a tank. The use of different surface textures and chrome accents gives the V610 a high quality 'designer' feel, and sitting with it in your hand it's hard to believe this little camera has the equivalent of a 38-380mm 10x zoom lens squeezed inside.

Handling

The downside of that super cool, super slim styling is that the V610 is very much a camera where form triumphs over function. The lack of any meaningful grip on the front or rear means it doesn't feel that safe when shooting single-handed, nor is it easy to keep it stable when using the long end of the zoom. I only felt safe when the strap was firmly wrapped around my wrist.

On the upside, the camera feels as good as it looks, and is one of the few I've used recently that everyone wanted to try...

Key body elements

The V610 is unashamedly 'point and shoot' in both features and design, which means the external controls are basic, but user-friendly.

The top plate is home to the shutter release, flash mode and main power switch. To the left of these are three mode buttons giving one touch access to stills (auto), movie and favorites modes. A cool blue light in each of the buttons lets you see at a glance what mode you are shooting in. The zoom control is on the rear of the body, just below the shutter release.
The 230,000-pixel, 2.8-inch LCD screen is nice and bright, and the anti-reflection coating means it only becomes problematic in very bright direct sunlight. The live preview is a bit disappointing; not very clear at all (it looks like it's a lower resolution video signal upsized to fill the screen) and a bit laggy. The coating is also very susceptible to fingerprints. To the left of the screen are five buttons; scene mode, delete, menu, review and share.
The V610's dual lenses (each with their own sensor) together cover a 10x optical zoom range (38-114mm F3.9 - 4.4 and 130-380mm F4.8). In use the only difference to using a single zoom is a pause in the middle of the zoom range and the lens/sensors swap (you can't just hold down the zoom buttons to go from one end to the other). The only major downside to such small lenses is that the maximum aperture isn't great, so you need good light or high ISO.
The four-way controller is used to navigate the on-screen menu system (the little blue button in the middle acts as an 'OK' or 'Enter' button). Additionally, when you're not in the menu system, the 'up' button changes the amount of information displayed on screen, and the down button activates macro or infinity focus modes. The left and right buttons give direct access to AE compensation - for anything else you need to delve into the menus.
As with all EasyShare cameras the V610 has an optional 'dock' for charging the battery and easy image transfer.

Controls & Menus

There was a time when Kodak's interpretation of 'user friendly' resulted in an interface with cartoon-style text and icons that was actually more difficult to comprehend than a simple text-based series of menus. Thankfully the latest models have a much more sober (and easy on the eye) interface, though there is still a tendency to use icons when a text description would be easier to understand. Niggles aside there's some unique features on offer, though they are mainly found in playback mode (the options available in record mode are fairly basic). My only complaint is that the menus seem very slightly unresponsive.

The live view screen in record mode offers several options for the amount of information you have overlaid, from nothing but the focus brackets to a grid and (as here) histogram. Unfortunately there is no option to view exposure information (please Kodak... let me see the shutter speed... please!). The left and right arrows control the AE compensation setting for making the picture lighter or darker. Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the AF area used (in multi AF mode). Strangely there's no camera shake warning until after you've taken the shot, when a neat three color warning - from green (ok) through yellow to red (camera shake probable) appears on the instant review whilst the image is saved to the card. Why not tell me it's likely to be a problem before I take the picture?
Press the Scene button and you're presented with a grid of small icons representing the 22 subject modes, including a 'custom' mode, where you can save your favorite settings. The record mode menu has options for self-timer, burst mode, image size (though not quality), white balance, ISO, color, AF modes, metering and storage options.
The final option takes you to a separate setup menu where basic camera options (sounds, BlueTooth settings etc) can be found. In playback mode you can choose to view basic shooting information as an overlay (with histogram), though aperture and shutter speed information is still the V610's little secret.
You can magnify images to take a closer look, view thumbnails (3x3) or view images by date in a calendar view. As usual with EasyShare cameras you can also set up albums (using the supplied software) and save around a hundred low resolution 'favorites' on the internal memory for, erm, carrying with you at all times and sharing with everyone you meet. The playback menu offers the usual array of options, including slideshows, copying (to and from the card/internal memory) and cropping.
There are several neat playback options, including 'Perfect Touch Technology', which offers a pretty effective image correction for those without access to a PC (though I'd advise using the 'save as copy' option as the 'correction' can sometimes be a little extreme). You can also stitch frames taken using the panorama mode in-camera, and remove red-eye. The share menu (used for direct printing, marking images for email via the EasyShare software and designating images as 'favorites') is also home to the Bluetooth features. From here you can send images to (or receive them from) a Bluetooth-enabled computer or printer (or even a mobile phone). It's incredibly easy to use and works perfectly (if a little slowly). We were able to send files to a computer and phone effortlessley (with no setup at all), and receive files from a phone in seconds. Very impressive, even if you're only likely to use it infrequently.
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