posted by Eugenia Loli on Sat 15th Dec 2007 08:34 UTC
IconWe don't publish lots of camera reviews at OSNews, but sometimes something refreshing and interesting comes out, and we feel the need to report on it. Geeks.com sent us for the purposes of this review the Kodak V1253, a 12 megapixel digicam with a 3.1" screen, that can also record 720p MPEG4-SP video at 30fps. At just $220, this must be one of the cheapest 720p solution in the market.

General

The V1253 uses a 1/1.72in CCD that captures 12.1MP pixels. It features a 3x varizoom, an electronic image stabilizer, and a huge 3.1" LCD screen. It comes with a 32MB flash storage and it accepts SDHC cards up to 8 GB. The camera sports two microphones, so it's able to record in stereo mode. We tested the camera with a 2 GB Sandisk SD card that Geeks.com also send us in order to properly review the HD capabilities of the camera.

In the package we found the camera, a rechargeable battery, a camera bag, a wrist wrap, a USB cable that fits on Kodak's proprietary slot, a composite A/V cable, an insert dock for Kodak printers, a CD and a manual in 4 languages. The camera is refurbished, but we found no blemishes or scratches.

On the top of the camera you will find the Favorites button, Video button, Picture button, on/off and flash button's on/off/auto/red-eyes modes. At the far right there is the zoom slider button and the snapshot one. Vertically, along the screen, you will find the review, delete, menu and Kodak's "share" buttons. On the top right there is a good quality speaker to review your videos, and on the bottom right you will find the joystick that let's you navigate on the different menus. When not on menu mode, the joystick allows you to go into landscape/macro mode, and enable/disable the guidance text from the screen.

The camera is surprisingly thin and small, considering its feature-set. The screen takes over most of the back side and it's very bright. I shot the video below in the afternoon when the sun was high, and I could still use the screen with no problem. At low light, I found the flash very powerful, surely more powerful than my Canon's A700 digicam. Another interesting tidbit is that pressing the video or picture buttons the camera will turn ON, you don't have to press the on/off button to do just that! If there is only one usability issue, it is the two mics on the two edges of the front side, because someone not too careful can easily cover those with his/her fingers. The only technical issue I had was that while XP would recognize the camera, it wouldn't mount it as an external drive, I had to use the EasyShare software or a flash reader to get my media out of the camera.

Custom settings include LCD brightness, LCD dimmer, image storage, album, orientation sensor, camera sounds, sound volume, date & time setting, digital zoom setting, auto power off time setting, video out setting, language, reset camera and memory format. Firmware version used was 1.01.

Battery life was good. The camera still had 75% of juice left after 20 minutes of HD video recording with its big screen always ON. That's on par with some miniDV cameras.

Picture mode

Pressing once the picture button the V1253 will get itself in "auto" mode. But pressing once more, it will bring up scene options: portrait, sport, landscape, close up, night portrait, night landscape, snow, beach, text/document, fireworks, flower, museum/manner, self portrait, hi-ISO, children, backlight, panning, candle light, sunset, custom, panorama R-L, panorama L-R, digital image stabilization.

The camera allows for custom white balance, normal, micro and infinity focus modes, auto and two other types of macro focus ranges, several exposure control techniques and compensation (including selectable ISO values). The V1253 allows for a single shot, burst mode up to 3 frames, and self timer up to 10 seconds. There are also several color modes (high color, natural color, low color, sepia, black and white) and three sharpness levels. You can shoot 12 MP 4:3 pictures or 9 MP 16:9 ones. Other options include 6.0 , 3.1, 2.2, 2.1 MP (1920x1080) and 1.2 MP.


Reviewing pictures was a bit slow because loading 12MP pictures is not always an easy task. You can view by date, view by album, view by image storage, add a new album, view a multimedia slide show etc.

The picture quality of the V1253 is acceptable for its price range. It has the recognizable Kodak "look" where some surfaces look "mushy". There is some noise when zooming in and it tends to over-expose a bit too easily. It does well under low light though. I had to turn off the "Continuous AF" option though because trying to focus all the time was pretty slow compared to the Canon cameras. By pressing lightly the snapshot button, you can instruct the camera to autofocus only when it's needed (this works for video too).

Video mode

Ah, my favorite subject. The V1253 supports QVGA, VGA, 720p (10mbps) and 720p HQ (13mbps). I shot all the videos in high quality mode. You will need a 2 GB SD card for 16 minutes of 720p HQ recording (files will be cut off at 2 GBs because of the FAT limitation). Audio quality from the stereo mic was very good as you can see in this unedited, straight out of the camera, sample video (right click to download and view). The camera records in MPEG4-SP at 30fps, although unfortunately the frame rate is not constant. There are variations between 30.04 to 30.73 fps. Although this doesn't seem a big deal, it's enough to bring difficulties during video editing or TV viewing.

Unfortunately, there are more bad news: there is a lot of over-exposing going on and there is absolutely no exposure control in video mode. There is no manual focus either, which half of the time made impossible to focus on the flower I wanted to instead of the ground (I find Canon's autofocus more intelligent). Then, there is this noise everywhere in the video that becomes even more apparent when zooming in. The final strike comes from the video format, which is extremely slow to edit. I had to create proxy files on Sony Vegas in order to put together a presentable video for this review. There is a possibility that iMovie will be faster to edit these clips though as .mov is its native container format.

Without a doubt, there are problems on the video side, as this is a new front that Kodak is stepping into. However, if you just want some quick HD video, it will do the job. Overall, its HD quality is as good as some higher-priced miniDV camcorders, so there is definitely some winning situation here. To view your HD files you need to buy the Kodak cradle that costs $100 though, and apparently it's kind of hard to find. A smarter way to view these files in HD is to edit one way or another, and export in .mp4 h.264 6mbps, and then view these files on either the XBoX360, AppleTV or the Sony PS3.

Conclusion

For the price, this is a good digicam with an added value. It lacks some basic video features and enough zoom for both video and picture modes, but the result is not too bad. It takes good pictures so at $220 this makes an impressive Christmas gift. I am thinking of getting one for my brother in Greece too who's currently stuck with an old 3.2 MP digicam. Given that he will be a dad soon, taking 12 MP pictures and HD video is possibly something that his child will appreciate more in 20 years from now when viewing back the family's digital album.

Rating: 7.5/10

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