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Kodak has been a major player in the digital camera industry from the very start, producing some of the first digital SLR cameras such as the revolutionary DCS420 in conjunction with Canon and Nikon over 10 years ago. It has also been making consumer digital cameras since 1998, which is much longer than most of its rivals. It’s rather odd therefore that until comparatively recently Kodak’s digital cameras have been regarded rather poorly, and the company’s share of the lucrative digital compact market is not as large as one might expect, given that the name Kodak is practically synonymous with consumer photography. Part of the reason for this is that many of its cameras, although generally reliable, capable and easy to use, have lacked a certain style. In fact, many of them have been downright ugly. But all that is about to change, with the launch of the V series, including this, the top-of-the-range V550.
Initial reactions by people who saw this camera while I was testing it were unanimously positive, including one person who made a fairly determined attempt to steal it. I can’t really say that I blame them, because there’s no denying that the V550 is a very pretty camera. In general style it bears some resemblance to the Pentax Optio S5z, including the etched pattern of concentric rings on the front panel.
Measuring 94 x 56 x 22mm and weighing 160g with battery it is slightly larger and heavier than the Pentax, although its specification does include an optical viewfinder alongside its huge 2.5in high-resolution (230,000 pixel) LCD monitor. Priced at £232.70 the V550 is also somewhat more expensive, but it does offer a lot for the money.
The V550’s case is solidly constructed from aluminium alloy and is available in silver or a very attractive black finish. The design and control layout is simple and logical, although the main mode buttons on the top panel are quite unusual. They aren’t really buttons as such, but sprung cut-out areas that are pressed down to activate them. This means they aren’t easy to distinguish by touch, but they are illuminated from below with a cool sci-fi blue light, so at least they are easy to find in the dark. This is good, because they include the buttons for Auto mode, portrait mode, movie mode and scene mode. This last function brings up a screen full of icons on the monitor, with options including sport, landscape, close-up, night portrait, night landscape, snow and more. One unusual option is a setting for panning shots of moving objects. Each option has a small piece of explanatory text, including advice on holding the camera steady.