Kodak’s latest V-series cameras have two new additions; identical apart from the V803 has an 8-megapixel sensor the other, the V1003 has a 10-megapixel sensor. Each is available in a range of natty colours and here I test the black 8-megapixel variant, the V803.
Initial impressions are very good, the camera features a nice 3x-zoom lens that pops out ready for action and the large 2.5-inch LCD makes for easy use of menus and keeping abreast of the key features you are using when shooting.
Five buttons across the top plate deal with a "favourites" settings (a press and you’re back to your favourite pictures you’ve earmarked to keep on the camera at all times), the 640 x 480-movie mode (at 30fps) the scene/shooting button for switching between the camera program AE and its scene modes; finally, there is a larger-sized shutter release.
So far so good. On the left side of the back plate we find Kodak’s “usual” array of flash, delete, menu, review and share buttons while to the right side, across the expanse of LCD is a rather fiddly to use joy stick-style button for display, info, macro and landscape settings. Plus it helps scroll those nice menus and “OK” them with a press down.
Other kit includes the ability to edit video in camera, make “quick-fix” style picture edits using the Kodak’s Perfect Tough technology and you can save oft-used settings in the new Maintain Settings system, which holds info on flash, white balance ISO and resolution for example.
Standard noise issues aside when using the higher ISO settings, what makes the V803 stand out from the crowd is the fact it is simply the single most frustrating digital compact camera I’ve ever used. Why? Once it is turned on, it is slow in almost all the key areas it should not be.
Focusing (in macro mode – or any other for that matter) is fantastically slow. A half press of the shutter button initiates the focus system and metering. At which point the lens starts to hunt through its entire range, helpfully the bright orange beam of the camera’s AF-assist emitter fires up – if required – but helps … not a jot!
After around 2 seconds the camera will either have focused on the wrong point, not focused or will tell you with a little beep that it is focused. And it does this even if it has obviously not focused. Some of my more complex subjects (that is, a tree, a persons face, a watch face, a flower a … well, anything really) took an age before I could get a snap.
Once the focusing has finally got it right, continuing to press the shutter to take the shot results in … a further delay while the camera gets going once again. What it is waiting for at this stage I’m not sure, suffice to say, any chance of a spontaneously snapped shot is almost impossible. I had a crack shooting in the sports mode to see if it speeded things up a bit. It did not. At one point, while trying to snap a single blue static bloom in a flowerpot in macro mode for the 15th time, the focus system still got it wrong and I almost had to admit defeat.
Persevering further – while trying not curse any more loudly for fear of upsetting the neighbours – I ended up with a pleasing (almost correctly) focused shot; the specific point of focus I wanted still eluded the camera. But at least it had taken the picture. It took 20 minutes to take that one picture however.
Unfortunately for the V803, if you need to use the flash as well, the delays only grow even longer as the flash recharge cycle takes half a second and the double pre-flash (used for exposure setting and white balance calculations) means that the subject (if a person) usually tends to think the shots taken and moves off before the actual third “exposure” flash fires. And yep, you guessed it; use of red-eye reduction flash makes this worse too.
Switching to the camera’s Landscape mode, one of 22-scene modes including portrait, night scene, party, and the other “usual” gamut of options, helped a tad, but because it sets the focus to infinity you have no control over the focusing and it turns the flash off too. Yes, you do shave a couple of seconds off the shot time but it is hardly an ideal solution. However, there is some good news.
At those lower ISO settings the picture quality is surprisingly good, I was pleasantly surprised by the metering performance (it works well on almost all subjects), the lens packs in that detail too, that thankfully is not smoothed away by image processing, at least until you get to ISO 400, so all is not lost.
The V803 bucks a trend in terms of the level of detail captured for high-resolution compact digital cameras (that – normally – over processes noise and detail) its pictures look great.
It is also inexpensive at a penny under £150, but while it looks nice, is well made, has some nice features, and is simple to operate, its problems with all those frustrating delays means, in the end, I cannot recommend this camera.