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Hardware Review of:
LS443 Digital Camera

 

Kodak LS443 in docking station

From the October, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

I'm slightly fussy about what camera equipment I use. When it comes to digital photography, I want a camera that is small, light, takes good pictures, and is easy to use. Oh, yes, the camera shouldn't cost an exorbitant amount. Four years ago, I found a 1.6 megapixel Kodak digital camera for what was then a good price, bought it, and have enjoyed the good pictures it produced ever since. But it wasn't perfect: it was large, heavy, awkward to hold, lacked certain features I would have liked, and its 1.6 megapixel images is now rather low-resolution.

I recently bought a 4 megapixel Kodak LS443 digital camera. It's a small (4 x 1 x 2d inches, with the lens retracted), point-and-shoot unit which comes with a base, which serves as a docking station. The docking station provides two functions: it serves as a recharger for the included lithium battery, and it connects the camera via a USB cable to the computer for downloading pictures. A button on the docking station works with the included Kodak EasyShare software to download images into the computer. Couldn't be easier! And it was even cheaper than the previous camera!

Unlike my previous Kodak camera, the LS443 looks like a typical rangefinder 35mm camera - very conventional. Its body is metal, and it sports a high-quality Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon zoom lens (f/2.8-f/9.6), which includes a built-in lens cover that snaps into place automatically when the camera is turned off. A small, flat lithium battery is inserted in a slot on the bottom of the camera, and is rechargeable using the docking station, or directly with supplied cables. A flash is built into the body; there is no external flash shoe. I'm a little worried that the location of the flash makes it susceptible to getting covered up by a finger when I hold the camera, but so far, that hasn't happened.

On the back, a preview screen shows small views of the images that have been taken, and serves as a viewfinder if you wish. It's particularly useful in composing macro shots, or close-ups. Unlike my first Kodak's preview screen, this one seems to not show fingerprints, a boon to my clumsy hands. A large dial on the back is the main control, and includes a joystick for selecting items on a menu. A rocker switch on the upper right-hand corner of the back of the camera zooms the lens in or out (it has a 3X optical zoom). The right side of the camera has a door where you can insert the "digital film", or memory chip that holds images. While these controls are pretty standard for a digital camera, I find that they are laid out very well, so that the camera is easy to operate. That's not always the case; I recently looked at a Nikon camera whose controls were placed so that one essential button fell under one of my glasses lenses when I looked through the camera's viewfinder.

You can set the camera for one of three resolutions: 4.0 megapixels - best (print, enlargement), 2.2 megapixels - better (small print), or 1.0 megapixels - good (e-mail). The camera has 16 MB of built-in memory, but that won't hold a lot of images at highest resolution, so adding a Secure Digital memory chip to increase its storage capability is a good idea. I found a 128 MB chip at Sam's for $50.

The LS443 has a 3X optical zoom and 3.3X digital zoom capability, the norm for this type of camera. Via the dial on the back, you can set the camera for night shots, action shots, landscape shots, or macro shots (close-ups). The LCD screen is turned on to act as the viewfinder for close-up shots, since the optical viewfinder doesn't work well close up. And unlike many other cameras I have examined, you can turn off the digital zoom, or set it to work only if you tell it to.

A menu button on the back brings up the menu so you can set the camera the way you want it to operate. A feature I appreciate is setting the white balance, so you can set the exposure for indoor or outdoor lighting.

So how well does it work? Based on a few trial shots, very well. It's truly easy to use; the automatic exposure setting seems to handle most shots well. One of my test shots was a picture I took with the LS443 of one of the feline inhabitants of our house. Blowing up the photo shows lots of detail, including the very fine fur the cat has (and sheds). Colors are bright and accurate. I couldn't ask for much more from a point-and-shoot camera.

The EasyShare software that detects when the download button is pressed on the docking station moves images into a folder in My Pictures called Kodak Pictures. Within that folder, EasyShare creates subfolders with the date of the download as their name. You can name each image that goes into the folder, or name the folder something more meaningful. EasyShare has some editing capabilities, but I couldn't get it to print, in spite of some menu options that suggested it should print. But Windows XP's photo printing options printed pictures just fine.

The Kodak LS443 has a manufacturer's recommended price of $399.95, but it may be getting phased out, so you may luck out and find it for much less like I did. There are better cameras, but I haven't seen a better value for a 4 megapixel camera.


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