Review: $99 Kodak Easyshare Sport Is The Most User-Friendly Pocket-Cam - Plus It's Waterproof

Written by Matthew Lentini     15/11/2011 | 02:05 | Category name i.e.DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY

When you're looking for a low-budget family cam for tossing around at the beach and giving to the kids without them smashing some well-loved equipment, this is a camera that should come to mind. It is a lot cheaper that its competition (including some of Kodak's own alternatives like the PlaySport) and while the picture quality isn't as high, the simplicity and practicality trumps.


The EasyShare Sport redeems Kodak for its PlayFull pocket camera that sat at a similar price point but skimped on quality very badly. While that was more of a toy to challenge smartphone cameras, the EasyShare Sport feels a lot more like a real digital camera, albeit one with limited functionality and quality. It's let down by a lacking feature set, but its rugged portability, user friendliness and overall cute factor easily makes up for it.

The Sport is fairly chunky for a miniature camera of its quality, especially up against Kodak's comparable EasyShare Mini which is half the size and weight, though its fat composition helps its bubble design and ergonomics. The chunky right-hand grip is fitted with a rubber strip, and it fits nicely in the hand. Coupled with the large shutter button, this camera is a breeze to take shots with, even for one-hand use.

The weight (and chunky right-hand grip) can almost completely be attributed to the AA batteries that power the camera. Apart from this, the weight is still very acceptable, and actually adds to the sturdy feel of the camera and ergonomic handling. It isn't shockproof, but it does feel very firm in the hand and doesn't seem like it'd break without a fight. The thick, tactile, rubber buttons add to this feeling of reliability, along with the plastic-cased screen on the back.

The EasyShare sport houses a 12 megapixel sensor on top of a very inarticulate, 2.4 inch LCD screen, though the shots you take with this camera won't warrant much fine-detail examination anyway. The body is built from a hard plastic that feels sturdy all round and is complemented by rubber grips and buttons that are neatly (and conveniently) placed, including digital zoom around the back, a video/still dedicated button up top, and a Share button for Kodak's simple, three-step photo uploading tool.

The major trump card of this pocket cam is its waterproofing and dustproofing that make it ideal for beach-goers. The 3-metre waterproof functionality comes at the trade-off of autofocus on still shots (thanks to a fixed focus) and only a short-range digital zoom. Once you start losing light, shots without a flash start to get blurry since there's no image stabilisation.

The quality starts dipping as soon as the light does, so in any dark spots you'll be needing to jump onto the built-in flash. There's a dedicated flash toggle (through automatic, on/off) on top of the camera which is handy, but using the flash will naturally sap the shot of its natural colour and lighting. But it's either that or noticeable grain - take your pick.

Photo quality in general isn't that great once you start zooming, but standard shots are still clear, though are slightly soft on the edges. Cropping shots will reveal distortion on edges, especially if you try to manually throw the ISO count up (once again, stick to flash on this one). Colours can be tipped to one side of the scale by the white balance that doesn't always perform the best in darker or unnatural lighting, but this wasn't too big of an issue.

The shooting modes are limited, though selecting them is easy thanks to the dedicated shooting mode button up top. Just click the button, and scroll through options like video, automatic, scene selection (like portrait, sport, etc) and a dedicated underwater mode called 'H2O'. This mode is similar to typical automatic shooting in that you can't adjust specific settings like ISO, colour options and the white balance.

Video is capped at VGA resolution (640x480 pixels) at 30 frames per second which is fine for online videos, but nothing at all special. The add-on features like colour modes aren't very useful - with the standards thrown in like sepia, vivid and black and white. Vivid will make otherwise lacking colours pop a bit more, but the rest of the line up is pretty bland, standard fodder.

The camera's also slow to work, taking a few seconds at times to process shots and video. Despite this lag, time between turning the camera on and taking the first shot is very quick, with the camera powering up in a second and taking a shot in the next. But that's with a fixed focus length (which won't help you line up shots at all). If it had autofocus, I'd assume it'd take a lot longer to snap shots.

The Kodak EasyShare Sport is an attractive little camera with an attractive price tag, though it underperforms for all its miniature glory. Lacking autofocus pulls away from the point-and-click fun of the camera that it needs as a camera made for the outdoors. It's built well and plays well, but active shots won't always be tolerated by the fixed-focus. That being said, standard portraits, even of moving targets, rarely blurred in our tests in good lighting, so most shots in the sun will turn up usable. If you're tossing up grabbing a rugged portable but don't want to fork out for the all-out models around, don't overlook this critter for $99.

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

Very cheap camera that can be found for under $100, with much better quality than Kodak's Play- line-up of handy cams; waterproof and dustproof, making it ideal for beach shots; attractive, ergonomic and easy to use – child-friendly

Cons:

Lacks autofocus and image stability; slightly heavy/chunky for a mini-cam (compared to Kodak's other mini digital cameras); no image stabilisers