We look at two reasonably priced cameras, the Kodak DX6490 and Nikon's CoolPix 4200, and a surprisingly simple printer Kodak's EasyShare printer dock to find out how they perform in the work-a-day world.
The Featured Contenders
Both cameras offer four-megapixel quality which means you'll get 4 x 6 prints comparable to pictures taken with a 35mm film camera and 8 x 10 prints that are nearly as good. That's as large as you'll want to go with a four-megapixel camera since photos larger than 8 x 10 lose color and image detail. If you're looking for large prints, you'll need a 10-megapixel camera or higher.
|The compact, lightweight CoolPix 4200 takes great photos on the run.|
Weighing just 5.5 ounces, the Nikon CoolPix 4200 is noticeably smaller than the DX6490 small enough to slip into a pocket to have on hand for unexpected shots or if you need to carry it all day. The camera offers a 3x optical zoom lens, an optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch LCD. The LCD is great outdoors, but doesn't perform as well as the Kodak in very bright sunlight.
It's compact size makes it easy to take the CoolPIx everywhere, and the images it produced were bright and vibrant. You can even take pictures as close as 1.6-inches.
Both cameras are easy to use, and have combinations of dials and menus that let you select the type scene you're going to shoot. The settings include portrait, landscape, action and backlit subjects. The DX6490 even senses when you've turned the camera 90 degrees in order to take a vertical shot. During playback either on the camera's LCD or on a TV, the image automatically appears as it was shot so you don't have to turn the camera or your head to get the right view.
|The full-figured Kodak DX6490 produces beautiful shots and its 10x optical zoom lets you capture every detail.|
The Kodak DX6490 comes with 16MB if internal memory while the CoolPix 4200 has 12MB. Both cameras accept postage stamp-size SanDisk flash memory cards for additional storage, and both can record QuickTime format videos with sound.
Printing Photos No PC Required
Kodak's EasyShare printer dock is a small printer designed specifically to print 4x 6-inch images quickly and easily. Since the dock and both cameras all support PictBridge (an industry-wide standard that lets you print from a digital camera to a printer through a USB cable), we used the EasyPrinter dock to print images from the Kodak and the Nikon no need to download images to a computer first. You'll find a growing number of cameras and printers adopting the PictBridge standard.
You select the images you want to print by using the standard DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), which is part of the menu structure in each camera. This is handy when you want to print multiple copies of different pictures. Once you make your selections, and you've camera connected to a printer, simply choose Print from the camera's menu to print the requested images.
|Features||Kodak EasyShare DX6490||Nikon CoolPix 4200|
10x optical zoom
3x optical zoom
|Printer options||EasyShare Print Dock;
(Digital Print Order Format)
|Size/Weight||3.9 x 3.1 x 3.2 inches;
|3.5 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches;
The EasyShare doc includes a cradle for Kodak cameras, so if you're using the Nikon, you'll have to stick with the USB connection. Using the cradle is more flexible because the camera's LCD display becomes the control panel for the printer. Use the buttons on the printer to select pictures and quantities. You can even have the printer put one, two, four or nine images on each sheet to create thumbnail previews.
The printer uses a thermal transfer process to put color on the paper. Each sheet of paper passes through the printer four times, each time receiving another layer of color. Printer supplies come packaged as a combination of paper and thermal transfer ribbon. A package of 40 sheets goes for about $20, and contains a ribbon that prints exactly 40 images, so there's never a question about running out of ink in the middle of printing.
While you give up the control you would have if you first put your image files on your computer and edited them with Photoshop or another image editor, you do get a quick and easy way to make photo-store quality prints. Our only complaint is that the printer doesn't take batteries it requires a wall outlet. A battery-operated model would make it perfect for working out of the office.
|Kodak's EasyShare Printer Dock prints 4x6 photos directly from your camera.|
The Bottom Line
The Kodak EasyShare DX6490, priced at $399, feels and acts like a 35mm SLR, has a powerful 10x zoom lens and shoots clear, beautiful images. It's great for general-purpose photography and matches perfectly with its EasyShare printer dock$149. It's larger and not nearly as sleek and light as the CoolPix, but it makes an excellent choice for anyone who needs high-quality photos and prefers a camera with a more substantial feel.
Nikon's CoolPix4200, priced at $399 takes great photos, and while its 3x zoom can't match Kodak's, it's small size makes it easy to take anywhere, and yet fits comfortably in your hand. If you're looking for a camera that won't weigh you down, this fits the bill.
Scott Koegler has been in the technology field for more than 25 years, and has written a book about systems integration as well as hundreds of articles about computers, software, digital photography, and networking over the last 12 years. He has been an IT executive in industries as diverse as health care, printing, and custom apparel.
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