Much renowned for its inkjet printers and scanners when it comes to photography, Epson’s digital cameras have yet to make the same impression. Will this latest 5-megapixel compact, whose chief talking point is a larger-than-average ‘Photo Fine’ 2.5-inch LCD screen be the camera to confound modest expectation?
Intended to be not just a digital camera, but, rather grandly, a ‘high-definition photo viewer’, the metal-build LV-500 comes supplied with 16MB of Secure Digital (SD) memory; a capacity that affords the storage of just seven top-resolution images, so budget for an additional card. The large screen comes in handiest when earmarking shots for printing – there’s both direct print and a Print Image Framer (PIF) buttons, the latter adding a choice of four frames – doubtless to encourage purchase in conjunction with Epson’s standalone PictureMate printer.
Since there’s no optical viewfinder, the LV-500’s LCD is in constant use for shot composition and review. Just as well that a battery charger and mains adaptor come bundled. The screen itself reveals noise when used as an electronic viewfinder indoors, though outside it’s distortion free (there’s actually an outdoor mode for bright or high-contrast conditions), while playback images appear are sharp and clear.
Although the sausage-fingered may baulk at the tiny zoom lever, menu button and the four way ‘joystick’ that controls menu selection, flash, macro and self timer operation, overall (fully auto) performance is smooth – the camera powering up in 2-3 seconds and, once focus/exposure has been determined, little in the way of shutter delay. Aside from JPEG stills there’s the ability to capture TV-resolution video clips at 30 frames-per-second, while a manual mode – ranged around a familiar dial – allows hands-on adjustment of ISO-equivalent sensitivity (ISO 100 to 400), exposure and white balance.
Viewed full size, stills are colour-rich – with a slight tendency to meter on whatever colour is dominant in the scene – and reassuringly sharp. In fact, they’re ideal for making unadulterated hard copies from.
Although a Trinny and Susannah-style makeover has been directed at Epson’s latest digicams, the LV-500 is still slightly confused about its image. It’s plain and boxy compared with its immediate competition (Canon’s IXUS 500, say), and though the LCD and black finish may appeal to serious photo enthusiasts, the tiny controls, twee framing options and ease-of-use suggest a younger, family-orientated target base. That said, decent image quality is evident, operation is fuss free, pricing is very reasonable, and for those looking to print and share most of the images they shoot (and own a Epson printer) the choice of a LV-500 is, as they say, a no-brainer.