April 12th, 2010

Kodak's V530: The $40 Pocket Battleship

V530Cameras.jpg

The camera gremlins have been active here this year: Both of mine were stolen at a dog show in February, and Carol misplaced hers last week. Fortunately, I bought a used Kodak V530 on eBay to replace my 5-year-old and now defunct V530, so we were able to take pictures at Aero's pivotal dog show this past weekend. And of course, with the dog show past, Carol's camera turned up again this morning. (I think it's taking lessons from Aunt Kathleen's Lucky Dollar.)

The "new" V530 is black, which wouldn't have been my first choice. Anodized aluminum shows nicks and scrapes much better than plain aluminum. My poor busted V530 rode around in my pockets with my car keys on plenty of back-country hikes, to the point where much of the printing on the body is worn away past legibility. Still, it looks amazingly good, and if it still worked I'd still be using it.

The V530 has a feature important to me: A dock charger. The charger wall wart plugs into this little flying-saucer thingie with a plastic insert unique to the V530 body (other inserts are available for other cameras) and when I come back from a hike, I just drop the camera into the dock and it's charged again within the hour. I know, people who take more than forty or fifty shots in a session will need to carry a spare charged battery, but I'm just not that avid. I have (or will soon have again) a much more capable camera for deliberate photography. Pocket cameras have a different mission in my universe: The V530 rides with me in case I need to take a photo--say, if I spot a bear rifling a trash can or a flock of wild turkeys up on the mountain slopes. Rather than pack a full camera bag when I'm not sure I will encounter anything remarkable, I just toss the V530 in my pocket with my keys so it'll be there if I need it.

The used V530 cost me forty bucks plus shipping. Not too damned bad for a fully-functional camera in better shape than the one I'd been using. It was dusty (especially the dock) and a little greasy where fingers had been gripping it, but a few alcohol wipes took care of that. I'm seriously considering buying a "shelf spare" if another comes up on eBay, just in case the gremlins descend again in the future. It's easily the best digital I've ever had, and for "opportunistic photography" I'm quite sure it's as good as you'll find.