Kodak’s unique V570, the first digital compact to feature two lenses and two sensors, is certainly a curio. What you get is an extreme wide-angle lens equivalent to 23mm – ideal for shooting panoramas – and a second lens with folded optics that acts as a regular 39-117mm zoom. You alternate between them via a rocker button on the V570’s back. While it may prove a talking point, does this dual usage result in smooth operation and produce decent 5-megapixel images or is it a gimmick too far?
With its mobile-phone dimensions, polished black-and-silver livery and large 2.5in LCD screen in place of an optical viewfinder, the slimline V570 is certainly better looking than most of the bulky ‘compacts’ Kodak has produced to date, and the price is competitive. It offers 22 optimised scene modes for common subject matters, such as sports, night portraits, or beach and snow, allowing the user to merely point and shoot. It’s not called ‘EasyShare’ for nothing.
The camera is quick to power up in around a second, a brushed metal faceplate flipping aside to reveal the two lenses. Operation is fairly intuitive. A little red and yellow slider on the LCD screen shows which lens you’re using, and its best to disable the digital zoom default setting – hidden in the set-up menu – if you don’t wish to degrade the resultant image. Incidentally, although there are manually selectable light sensitivity settings from ISO 64 to 800, the image quality drops to 1.8MB with the latter to limit image noise (film grain-like flecks). Luckily the screen is bright and clear and the menu systems straightforward, making navigation possible without fully digesting the manual.
Using that wide-angle lens, users can capture complete 180° panoramas with three successive images. A nifty in-camera stitching feature is included to transform them into a single shot; perfect for those missing the panoramas delivered by APS cameras of old. The camera automatically corrects for any fisheye-lens/circus mirror style image distortion caused by the ultra wide-angle setting, but this can be disabled if it’s the funky look you’re going for. Stills aside, the V570 also captures high-quality MPEG-4 format video clips at a smooth 30 frames per second, and, unusually, allows use of the optical zoom in this mode. Individual frames can be selected for printing as stills; a compatible Kodak Printer Dock 3 is available for £129 if you wish to do so via a standalone device. As you’d expect, images are naturalistic and colourful, though the camera noticeably suffers image noise when attempting low-light shots without flash.
One gripe is that there’s no removable SD/MMC media included with the camera, leaving just 32MB of internal memory to fall back on out of the box. Also, although there’s no noticeable shutter delay when taking a shot, the screen blanks out for about five seconds when writing an image to memory at the highest resolution – a speed that could be improved. Watch out too for stray fingers creeping into shot when using the wider 23mm lens.
Despite being a bit of an odd one, and stumbling in low light, I liked the fact that the V570 allows you to achieve in-camera what you’d normally have to dip into Photoshop – or buy additional lens converters – to create. So, offering a greater variety of creative options than the standard zoom compact, and with an attractive casing, the V570 will appeal to those who dare to be different. And since when did Mac users toe the line...