Saturday, 9 November 2013

A Homage to the Kodak P880

The end of this year, 2013, is shaping up to be a thrilling time for new camera models. The camera industry has been seeing a decline in sales over the past few years. To excite and motivate the market, we’re seeing ground breaking new models at the full frame end (Sony A7, A7R), exciting challengers for the middle position in Micro Four Thirds (the OM-D EM-1) and a revitalisation of the bridge, all-in-one camera (the Olympus Stylus 1 and Sony RX 10).  But what about the old digital old timers – the ones that were an earlier part of digital history?

The Kodak P880

The P880 is my third digital camera – after the Nikon Coolpix 775 and the Olympus C-750 Ultrazoom. For those of you who just came in, there was a time (around 2005) when DSLRs were expensive and not consumer items. The age of the all singing, all dancing bridge camera. Olympus had the remarkable C-8080. Konica Minolta had the DiMage A200Z (remember Minolta?). Nikon had the Coolpix 8400. Canon had the G6 and S2. Panasonic had their Lumix FZ-20. Samsung had their Pro815. Fuji had S9000.

The Kodak company was in its death throes – it had managers who were experienced in film and print. It had a digital sensor division and a digital camera division – but, in the field of digital, it couldn’t focus on how to make the migration. The P880 was not well built or robustly designed. It didn’t use premium parts. It was offered for sale at a crazy Recommended Retail Price. So what did it have going for it? A Schneider Kreuznach branded zoom that starts at 24mm equivalent. A slightly larger than sensor for a bridge camera (hence the limit on the 5.8x zoom range). And that Kodak Color Science chip. Yes, the Color Science chip. For some reason, the Kodak JPEG engine is exemplary in handling the way the highlights when they hit the limit. After this, engineers created cheaper, larger sensors. Intelligent dynamic range compression. But this camera was designed before then.

So, for Melbourne Cup Day 2013, I took out the old, cranky, faltering P880 and shot some bright sun, harsh contrast, Melbourne spring scenes. And was pleasantly surprised.

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