Taking pictures

When I first used the older DC265 I was surprised how much I enjoyed using it.. Though it was a bit clunky the results were good. Funny thing is the DC290 has made much less of an impression on me.. Perhaps I'm now spoilt by beautiful beasts such as the Canon S10 and Olympus C-2500L.. But the DC290 feels like last years camera with a larger CCD shoehorned into it (hmm). Don't get me wrong, photos come out well, excellently colour balanced (as you'd expect from Kodak) but they don't have the sparkle or sharpness I've seen in nearly every other 2+ megapixel digicam.

The operation of the camera is very press-the-button and wait a couple of seconds before it reacts which for a photographer is a big no-no. It also gulps batteries which often left me hunting around my camera bag for yet another spare set. I'm amazed Kodak haven't been able to improve its energy saving in all this time...

And the same annoyances I had with the DC265 are still here on the DC290, the noisy zoom mechanism, the complete lack of support for macro shots, on-off times are just too long (most new digicams startup in ~3 seconds, this camera takes a whole 8 seconds), poor focusing causing you to need to re-press the shutter release to get a good focus was a bind and the shutter release lag caused more blur shots than any other recent digicam I've reviewed.

Anyone who's used to / happy with Kodak's previous incarnations of the DC290 will no doubt love this camera, but it really didn't do anything for me...

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 1792 x 1200 JPEG image @ BEST quality compression.

File Size Notes: All file sizes as an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary wildly depending on the content of the image (especially the amount of detail captured). For example, take a photograph of a fairly empty wall and you'll get a small JPEG, take a photograph of a bush with a lot of detail and you'll get a larger image. File sizes here are closer to the later, the larger size of file you should expect.

The estimated number of images per 20 MB Compact Flash card is given as a guide to beginners (as a 20 MB Compact Flash card is supplied with the camera).

Action Time taken
OFF to CAPTURE 8.1 (System power-up & lens extension)
OFF to REVIEW 7.7 (LCD appears and image is displayed)
CAPTURE to OFF 5.0 (Lens retraction)
REVIEW: Image to Image <1.0  
REVIEW: Magnify wait time 12.3 Wait time before you can magnify image
REVIEW: Thumbnail view <1.0 Almost instant
Auto Focus LAG ~1.4 Slow by modern standard but acceptable
Shutter Release LAG 0.9 Slow, Slow, Slow...

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to "flush" the image out to the CF card (by observing the indicator light in the CF bay). They in no way affect the ability of the camera to "recycle" and shoot again, the DC290 has an internal RAM buffer (I've estimated it to be around 2 MB which is enough for 4 shots at HIGH quality) however because the camera ain't the fastest shooter in the west you still have ~5 second delay between shots.

Action Time taken
File size Images on an
20 MB CF card
Store 2240 x 1500 BEST * 41.2 ~ 980 KB 20
Store 2240 x 1500 BETTER * 41.2 ~ 800 KB 25
Store 2240 x 1500 GOOD * 40.0 ~ 420 KB 47
Store 1792 x 1200 TIFF 31.0 6,330 KB 3
Store 1792 x 1200 BEST 25.0 ~ 860 KB 23
Store 1792 x 1200 BETTER 23.0 ~ 560 KB 35
Store 1792 x 1200 GOOD 23.0 ~ 320 KB 62
Store 1440 x 1200 TIFF 27.0 4,081KB 5
Store 1440 x 960 BEST 21.2 ~ 620 KB 32
Store 1440 x 960 BETTER 21.2 ~ 320 KB 62
Store 1440 x 960 GOOD 21.0 ~ 180 KB 111
Store 720 x 480 TIFF 16.0 1,043 KB 19
Store 720 x 480 BEST 15.0 ~ 220 KB 90
Store 720 x 480 BETTER 15.0 ~ 180 KB 111
Store 720 x 480 GOOD 15.0 ~ 100 KB 200

* Note that 2240 x 1500 is an interpolated (internally stretched) image size and that 1792 x 1200 is the native image size.

Well, these results don't read well for the DC290, not surprising really as it's obvious there's very little difference in processing power inside the DC290 since the DC265, as I pointed out in the intro paragraph these timings reflect the time taken for the camera to flush data to the CF card, not time between shots. However, you can't remove the CF card until the data is flushed to the card and if the cameras internal RAM buffer is full you must wait until an image has been flushed out of the buffer before you can take the next shot. Comparing these timings to other digicams (Nikon / Canon / Olympus) shows that they have much more processing power / bigger internal RAM buffers which makes for quicker recycle times and overall faster shooting.

Battery life

Cool.. I can reuse my bit about battery life from the DC265 review... (grin, sigh)

Traditionally here I'd start ranting and raving about how they'd only supplied Alkaline batteries and how they only last for half an hour.. But NO, Kodak have been smart enough to supply the camera with a charger and a good set of 1450mAH NiMH rechargeable batteries... What does this mean? Well, once you've got them charged (not that quick, 8 hours for a full charge.. I preferred to use my Maha C204F, only 4 hours) you can zip off and easily fill the supplied 20 MB card (another good choice by Kodak, WHY oh WHY do we still get megapixel cameras supplied with 4 or 8MB cards??).

I managed to get around 100 shots on my 48MB SanDisk before the batteries started to give up (and that was over a about an hour). Important thing here though is that the DC290 is a power monster (just like the DC265), more so than previous cameras I've reviewed (and they were bad enough), so USE the supplied batteries AND get some spares (I used GP 1300mAH NiMH's as backup). Oh, and batteries get REAL hot inside the DC290.. Take care when removing them.