From Digital Science to EasyShare
1996 - January 9 - 2006
Today, exactly ten years ago, Kodak announced the first sub-$1000 digital zoom camera with external storage, the Kodak Digital Science DC50. To illustrate how digital
have evolved over this last decennium from "Digital Science" to "Easy Sharing", we have compared the properties and features of the vintage Kodak DC50 to one of Kodak’s most recent models, the Kodak EasyShare V550, now selling for around $300.
The Kodak Digital Science DC50 is a further development of one of the early digital cameras known as the Chinon ES-3000, the Ritz Dakota, and the Dycam 10-C. Kodak's DC50 uses a proprietary Kodak image sensor
with a resolution of 756 x 504 pixels, versus 640 x 480 on the other models, and can store its images not only in internal memory, but on removable PCMCIA-ATA memory cards too. In spite of its initial hefty price tag, the Kodak DC50 has
been the first step into digital photography for many amateurs and professionals with a strong interest in both photography and personal computers.
The Kodak EasyShare V550 is currently the tiniest Kodak digital camera and it is the top of the Pocket Series. Slimmer than a deck of cards this extremely pocketable digital camera offers you 3x optical zoom, VGA movie
mode with sound, a huge 2.5-inch color LCD screen, and a tiny viewfinder, normally not found on such super compact cameras. Of course, the V550 comes with Kodak's Easyshare One Touch simplicity to share your photos online or have
prints delivered right to your door. If you are considering to enter the wonderful world of digital photography and you are looking for an easy to use compact
digital camera that combines compactness with style and
performance, the Kodak EasyShare V550 would be an excellent companion for you.
|Kodak Digital Science DC50
||Kodak EasyShare V550
|Heavy and solid
|0.38 Mp CCD
||5.4 Mp CCD
|756 x 504
||2576 x 1932
|37 - 117 mm
||36 - 108 mm
|1.2 inch B&W (data only)
||2.5 inch color
|PCMCIA - ATA
||SD / MMC
|RS232C / RS422
|4.7 x 2.5 x 6.0 inch / 119 x 64 x 152 mm
||3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 inch / 94 x 56 x 22 mm
|1.2 lbs / 525 gr.
||5.1 oz / 143 gr.
||Full specifications & full review
|The Kodak DC50 has an unusual horizontal body, different from anything seen before and after, and of course only available in black. The fabric hand strap on the right provides a firm grip (for right-handers). The camera not only feels solid, it is solid. The two cameras that I own are still in perfect working condition!
||The Kodak EasyShare V550 is finished in black or silver with a stainless steel strip running along the side of the camera. This gives it a very classy and trendy exterior that can easily spilled into a
shirt pocket of ladies purse. The V550 comes with a camera bag, not often seen in his class,
|On the top of the camera you'll find the shutter control button and two buttons that control the zoom lens. On the back of the camera, below the LCD screen, are three buttons for mode set, function
selection and image erase. All in all a very simple setup that allows straight forward operation, and even big fingers have no problem with the well sized buttons.
||Along the top are four controls for various picture taking modes, together with the shutter control, on/off switch and flash control button. The four mode controls are flush against the camera body and
light up in bright electric blue when selected. To the right of the screen is a small zoom switch and a tiny 4-way controller which is really too small for big fingers.
|The camera features a sliding front panel, that protects the
viewfinder lens. Sliding the panel to the side reveals this lens and powers the camera at the same time. On the left, a rubber cap covers the 8-pin DIN and the power connector and a plastic door on the right covers the
||Caps and covers
||The metal cover for memory card and battery of the Kodak V550 is located at the bottom and feels more robust that the plastic doors found on many other cameras. A small door on the right covers the USB
and AV ports. The lens retracts into the camera when switched off and is protected by a lens shutter.
|The DC50 has a small black and white LCD-screen that is only used to display the camera settings. The settings are
not displayed in the viewfinder. In the viewfinder we only find a solid circle to mark distances to infinity, a dotted circle to mark the closest
distance, and a smaller frame as the target mark for close-ups.
||LCD and viewfinder
||On the back of the camera there is a spacious 2.5" LCD screen with a good resolution of 230.000 pixels and a wide angle of view, which is brilliant enough even in bright outdoor conditions. A tiny
viewfinder is placed to the extreme left of the camera. Its arguably odd location could prove to be quite convenient actually. The
finder's unusual location on the V550 means your nose is now below or to the left of the camera and this will take away the need for frequent LCD cleaning.
|The camera has an optical zoom lens with a range from 37 to 117 mm (3x), which doesn't extend from the camera, and is completely integrated in the body. This same concept
is now used in many ultra compact digital cameras.
||The optical zoom range (3x) of the Kodak V550 varies from 36 to 108 mm. The zoom lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach C-Variogon, seen on many Kodak digital cameras today. The V550 features an advanced 4x digital zoom
|The Kodak DC50 provides only for automatic shutter control at speeds of 1/15 second to 1/500 second. ISO setting are not selectable nor is it specified. A self-timer option can be used to delay the
picture for 10 seconds.
||Exposure and ISO
||shutter speeds vary from 8 to 1/1448 seconds. The only manual exposure setting is in night shots, where it is possible to select a shutter speed between 0.5 and 8 seconds. The camera offers ISO speeds
from 80 to 800.
|Auto focus is straight forward, the DC50 has 3 modes: Multi-spot, Single-spot and Close-Up. Auto focusing is done through two infrared sensors, located on the right front of the camera. The focus motor does
its job rather loud.
||Focusing is also automatic only and works quick and positive; the camera swiftly locks on to most subjects. There is no noticeable shutter lag and thanks to the green AF-assist light low light focusing is above average.
|The DC50 stores 7 to 22 pictures in its internal 1 MB memory, depending on the picture quality You can save pictures on PCMCIA-ATA memory cards. The camera connects through a slow serial port to the
computer (4 images per min.)
||Storage and connectivity
||The Kodak V550 has 32Mb of internal memory which allows you to get started right away. Optionally you can save your pictures on SD / MMC memory cards. The camera connects though a high-speed USB 2.0 to a
|The camera comes with a small user guide, four AA batteries, a serial cable for Windows and one for Macintosh systems. A limited edition of PhotoEnhancer, for Windows 98 and for Macintosh operating
systems is provided.
||In the Box
||Besides the usual array of USB, AV cables and wrist strap you get a nice soft pouch for storing your camera while on the move. A printed manual in three languages is also included. Kodak's full software
suite is provided too.
|The DC50 is ready for operation in about two seconds. Focusing is relatively fast within half a second, however writing the image (in highest quality) to the ATA memory card can take as long as five
seconds. The DC50 is certainly not your favorite companion to take to the stadium.
||Power on time is quite quick, the camera is ready for taking pictures in less than two seconds. With a burst mode of five images at 3fps, mild action shots - are surely an
option but you shouldn't expect to capture more demanding speed sports, as there is no manual control over shutter speeds or aperture at all.
|The DC50 stores its pictures in KDC file format, which uses a proprietary RADC (Run Adaptive Differential Coding) image compression (file size similar to jpeg). Through the accompanying Photo Enhancer software, these KDC files can be converted to TIFF, BMP, JPEG, EPS and PICT
(for the Mac).
||The Kodak V550 uses the today's standard JPEG/EXIF format, TIF or RW are not available. Rather than using resolution numbers, and leaving a difficult choice to most users, the camera displays 5 categories,
from 5.0 MP for prints up to 20 × 30 in. (50 × 75 cm) to 1.8 MP for small prints.
|Of course, we can't compare the 0.38 Mp images of the DC50 with the 5.0 Mp images of the V550. Nevertheless, we've re-shot some images from our earlier Kodak V550 review with the DC50 and you'll
find the results on our sample page, so you can draw your own conclusions.
||Images are sharp from corner to corner and well-exposed with nice saturated colors. In
bright lighting conditions saturation might prove to be a bit much, but if you prefer more subdued colors you could set color mode to Low for more realistic results.
||Click here for more sample images
|It's clear that digital camera technology has evolved at an incredible pace over the last decennium, but it does not give us a clue as to how digital photography will evolve in the next
decennium. We may just hope that the development of digital photography will be driven by the user requirements and not by the technology.
But then again, foreseeing the future has always been difficult...
Back in 1996 Eastman Kodak Company CEO George M.C. Fisher was only half right, when he foresaw the Easyshare concept, but overrated the resilience of film:
"Over time, consumers will be able to store and index images on a worldwide server and to send pictures to a friend halfway around the globe. We will even be able to interact with photofinishers to preview images over phone lines and
select sizing and editing of the pictures we want."
"Despite fears that digital will cannibalize film, we haven't seen it. In a good number of venues, like with digital print stations, we see digital supplementing traditional imaging and providing us with new profit streams for media."