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The Price:
  • $130
The Pros:
  • Take pictures from 4 inches to infinity
  • Convert images to JPEG on handheld
  • Store/view images on SD card

The Cons:
  • Difficult to focus
  • No lens cap

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PalmPix for m500 Series Review
By Ed Hardy
7/16/2001


Overview
The Kodak PalmPix for m500 is a small digital camera that connects only to the m500 series and allows the user to save pictures in RAM or onto an expansion card.

Hardware
The PalmPix is a small device that clips on to the serial port of the Palm. It uses the new Universal Connector. One end fits over the serial port and the other clips into the two openings in the middle of the Palm's back. This holds the camera on securely but it takes some practice to do this easily.

It folds in the middle and is 3.0 by 2.0 by 1.1 inches when folded and 3.5 by 3.0 by 1.1 inches when open. It weighs 1.92 oz. It is easy to carry around though the lack of a lens cap means you are constantly risking dust, lint, and scratches if you put it in your pocket. This means you need to get a case of some kind, which takes away some of the advantages of its small size.

A major complaint with the previous versions of the PalmPix is that they were fixed focus. This new one is not. The lens can be rotated to focus on objects as close as 4 inches and as far away as infinity. It has a four-element (f2.8) glass lens.

The other major complaint with the previous PalmPixs hasn't changed: It still doesn't include a flash. I think this was a mistake. While it would surely drain the Palm's battery, as it is now there are numerous pictures that I can't take because the light level is too low.

Software
It comes with an application that allows you to use the Palm's screen as a viewfinder. Unfortunately, this is in black and white and low resolution. You can tell what you are pointing at but not much else.

You use the Palm's buttons to control the camera. Pushing the Date Book button activates the viewfinder and pushing it again takes a picture. The up/down buttons activate the zoom mode.

Pictures can be taken in three different resolutions: 320 by 240, 640 by 480, or 800 by 600. Naturally, the main limitation is how much memory you have left on your Palm. Pictures can't be taken directly to the SD card, though this would be a nice improvement.

It has what it calls a zoom but this doesn't do what I think a zoom ought to do. If you zoom into something it doesn't become larger in the final image. Instead, a smaller image is saved with everything but what you zoomed in on cropped out. For example, if you are in 640 by 480 mode and you zoom in on an object and take a picture of it, you get a 320 by 240 picture of the object. You could get the same effect by taking the 640 by 480 picture and opening it with an image editor and cutting out an inch or so around the outside of the picture. No enlargement takes place.

There is a self timer but it is of limited usefulness. The Palm doesn't stand up well on its own and there isn't a tripod for it. So unless you are looking for time-delayed pictures of the ceiling...

Once a picture has been saved in RAM, it can be copied to the SD card. Images that are 320 x 240 can be converted to JPEG files right on the handheld, which can also be saved on the SD card. The software will also let you view any JPEG file saved onto the SD card as long as it is in the correct folder.

Usability
Frankly, after playing with the camera for several weeks, I'm not overly impressed. I've had problems taking pictures in focus. It is possible to take good pictures with the PalmPix; all you have to do is hold the camera at exactly the right distance from the object you are trying to photograph. Unfortunately, there is no way to know ahead of time if you are at the right distance. The image in the view finder app isn't sharp enough to tell if the picture is in focus. So you end up doing a lot of pictures at different distances to get one good one.

This seems to be incredibly sensitive. For example, if I'm taking a picture of a business card, I have to hold the camera exactly parallel to the card. Just a few degrees off will make one side of the card out of focus. And I don't know what to do about long-range pictures. They all seem to be just a touch off.

After a couple of weeks of playing with it I'm starting to learn its foibles. But there is a learning curve and it is more art than science.

The fact that the viewfinder is in monochrome doesn't help. I think they ran into the limitation of how much data they could stream through the serial port at one time so they made some compromises. These lead to the viewfinder being without color and in low resolution.

Examples

  I took this one in portrait mode, which is for pictures between 2 and 12 feet away from the camera. This is the meat and potatoes of amateur photography and the camera should be its best at this range. A quick look at the picture will see that it is quite fuzzy, no pun intended. It is possible that the PalmPix is very sensitive to camera movement which would throw these off.
 
  This picture was taken in landscape mode, which is for images greater than 8 feet away from the camera. It doesn't look too bad, though it isn't as sharp as it could be.
 
  I took this at the Business Card setting. It works OK, though as you can see, if you don't hold the camera exactly parallel to the card, one side is out of focus. Also, you are holding the camera just a few inches from the card so avoiding getting a big shadow on the card can be tough.
 
  The PalmPix can take pictures as close as four inches from the camera. This works pretty well though in this picture you can again see that if you are just a bit off the correct distance from the lens, the image is out of focus.

Conclusion
Oddly enough, I'm left wondering if this version is an improvement over the original, fixed-focus, PalmPix, which I bought for my IIIx. While it was limited, and low resolution, at least the pictures it took were in focus.

A camera very sensitive to focal distance and a low-res viewfinder makes a poor combination. Maybe I'm being too hard on this version of the PalmPix. I've gotten some decent pictures out of it. But there is a steep learning curve and you need a bit of luck.

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How does it compare to EyeModule 2

fkclo @ 7/16/2001 11:57:59 AM #
How it compare overall to EyeModule 2 for the Visor series ?

Francis Lo
Hong Kong
RE: How does it compare to EyeModule 2
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/1/2001 2:01:26 AM #
Eye 2 is much better. It's so compact in size. I took my VDX and Eye 2 to Australia a few weeks ago, and I found that it's able to take good pics even at museums where flash photography was not allowed.



why bother?

ajf @ 7/16/2001 1:04:14 PM #
exactly who is the target market for a low-res, hard-to-focus, easily-damaged digital camera?

i had thought of getting one when i first read about them (the kodak website makes them sound interesting and useful, at least), but this review has nixed any plans i might've had.

Too expensive and too poor quality.

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/16/2001 12:54:20 PM #
$130 for crappy pictures doesn't sound like a good deal to me. This is too bad I really thoght Kodak would have done a better job with this. I just can't wrap my mind around a varible-focus lense without a decent viewfinder? How are you supposed to focus? Does it auto-focus?

As for no flash, that's just hooey! Even your cheapest of cheap disposable cameras have flash systems. While the flash is only good for about 3'-12' that's all most people really need. Disposables run off a regular AA battery and a 300v capacitor (believe me, I used to zap myself regularly taking the film out disposables when I worked in a photolab.)which, including the actual strobe unit wouldn't significantly increase the size of the camera.

Also -- How about posting some of the good pictures referred to in the article. A best picture/worst picture side-by-side would be nice.

RE: Too expensive and too poor quality.
EdwardGreen @ 7/16/2001 1:16:19 PM #
I found the origional PalmPix quite useful. I kept it in a business card box (with my flash plug) and used it for a range of photo's some of which came out well. Using Pixe Mail i could convert the pics to JPGs and send them via multimail. Nice.

The new PalmPix almost seems a step backwards. The USB port is more than capable of handling a full colour view finder, and the fact than the PalmPix can't write direct to the SD card in JPG is a terrible oversight.

It looks like Kodak have skimped on the software and over complicated the hardware on this one.

-
kHiTeDev

RE: Too expensive and too poor quality.
bcombee @ 7/16/2001 3:11:01 PM #
The PalmPix is using the serial connection, not the USB one. It may be using it at the new 230KBps rate, but its still serial. Peripherals for Palm devices can't use the USB part of the connector, since USB doesn't support device-to-device communications. Only host-to-device is allowed, where host is a PC that is constantly polling the USB port. Implementing a host mode on the Palm would be a major battery drain, and has not been done.

RE: Too expensive and too poor quality.
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/16/2001 10:14:11 PM #
I've been using my PalmPix & m505 for about 3 weeks now and have had similar experiences as the reviewer. The pictures do come out blurry very often, and it seems due to the sensitivity to movement - a very slight movement will completely blur the picture.

As for the zoom, though - it DOES zoom in, not just crop. Unfortunately, the resolution changes from 800x600 to 400x300 on the picture.

You can easily TRANSFER files to and from the memory card, but can't have them show up there. Oddly, you can't transfer them as bitmaps - only PPX or JPG formats. The Kodak software also lets you view the pictures from the card.

I can't say I'm particularly displeased with my purchase - I just wasn't expecting better for $130. I bought it because it is very easy for me to carry it around (my m505 goes in my front pants pocket and the PalmPix in my shirt pocket). It's easy to snap a quick picture when I want to.

No sale for me

mikefoley @ 7/16/2001 1:28:47 PM #
Well, after that review, my plans to get a PalmPix for my m505 have been nixed. I WANTED a cheap camera for my Palm so I could snap quick pictures when I'm out and about. Nothing of great quality, but certainly better than what we see here. The lack of a flash is very disappointing.

Sorry Kodak, I had high hopes, but I'm going to pass. Maybe if someone comes up with a m505 to Palm III adaptor, I'll get a fixed-focus PalmPix.



mike

long awaited rewiew

Pepper @ 7/16/2001 2:47:30 PM #
well, Ed finally released his long awaited review of the m500 series palmpix. the review itself is good, by the camera is crap. after petting the III series palmpix, I learned what a piece of junk it was. I was hoping to see a strong improvement in the m500 series camera, but I guess that didn't happen

-Pepper

I love my Palm . . . do you?

RE: long awaited rewiew
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/16/2001 3:35:40 PM #
Thanks for the review Mr. Ed, though I had wish for a better product. This has to be the coolest gadget of all the handheld world IF IT WOULD HAVE WORKED !!!!!

My first Digital Cam was giving me 640 X 480 with a flash (that was in 97) and it costed me 400$. I would have been satisfied with something giving me pics near that quality. But all your examples just show me that I'll have to wait one more generation before mixing cam and handheld.

I am waiting for an IPalm (Panasonic with SD memory card) that I just bought on EBay, I guess I'll send my pics that way, but I would have like a smaller, lighter camera for a quick picture.

Thanx for the review, but a pic of your wallpaper would have greatly enhance your review...

Solo

RE: long awaited rewiew
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/16/2001 7:18:05 PM #
LOL! That wallpaper cracks me up. You should take more pics of it. Or use it as an April fools joke

who is surprised?

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/16/2001 3:53:49 PM #
All 'combo' devices come with sacrifices. I wouldn't expect my digital camera to be a very good datebook, address book, or mp3 player. Why would I expect my PDA to be a good camera? If you want the highest quality, buy a dedicated device. It's just that simple.

RE: who is surprised?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/16/2001 6:51:21 PM #
You'd think they could make a decent device since it attaches to the Palm, and basically just uses it as storage and a viewer.

What?!!? You can't store to SD? Duh?!

I owned the PalmPix for the III series for about 2 days. About 6 photos and I new it was crap. They were the worst photos I'd ever taken. They were blurry, fish-eyed, and overwhelmingly reddish.

What's in this thing that makes it cost more than a disposable camera? It really is a joke.



A Real Shame

mondo @ 7/16/2001 6:45:19 PM #
Anyone who posts on the forums will know that I have been waiting for this review.

Frankly, the review tells me I am better of getting a digital camera with proper resolution and functionality, and in-built SD card.

I can't believe the following
- poor resolution
- useless zoom (zoom to me means getting far away objects at better resolution)
- no flash
- no sd card compatibility
- no lens cap

There are other issues that Ed has pointed out, but these alone make it clear that I won't be buying this generation of PalmPix.

Ed, thanks for the review and saving me that money

-----
mondo
Downunder

RE: A Real Shame
Ninja @ 7/16/2001 10:46:33 PM #
A big ditto to everything mondo said.
A big thank you from me to to Ed also.
I also was about to waste my money.
Maybe the next generation will be the long awaited improvements we have all beem waiting for.

RE: A Real Shame
Ed @ 7/17/2001 12:08:19 AM #
Mondo said:
"no sd card compatibility"

Pictures can be moved to the SD card. You just can't take pictures directly to it. When an image is first created, it is always stored in RAM. Later you can put it on the expansion card in JPEG or the PalmPix proprietary format.

---
News Editor
Palm Infocenter

RE: A Real Shame
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/10/2001 5:02:05 AM #
The luck is on my side. Because you've taken the bad luck. Thanks for the advise.

On the bright side...

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/16/2001 6:59:43 PM #
Hey, at least they made this hunk of junk a little sleeker and ergonomical :) You can load a landfill easier with them.

good for portability

shoryu @ 7/17/2001 1:30:44 PM #
This is good for carrying around fora quick snapshot of something.
RE: good for portability
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/17/2001 11:35:52 PM #
I just received my camera today. I got it for $108.00. My first impresssion was that this little piece of plastic wouldn't do me much good. However, after figuring out the "focus factor" I am really impressed with the quality of the picture. Not the quality you seen on the Palm, but the quality you see on your computer after syncing. I really did not expect much better quality because this is just a peripheral. That being said, I will be able to take some decent pics and am really quite happy with this peripheral. If I wanted much better pics, I would buy a dedicated camera, but I really don't think you can beat this little device for decent (not great) pics and coolness! I am not disappointed.

Eye Module2! Eye Module2! Eye Module2!

I.M. Anonymous @ 7/17/2001 10:24:38 PM #
I'm just gloating because the M50x form factor is cooler than my Prism.

[ No Subject ]

AlexFromAthensGR @ 7/19/2001 2:59:56 AM #
As far as i can see from my Album To Go pics and the pictures from the review, someone would by such a peripheral only if he wants to waste his money...The quality is so poor that hardly anyone can recognise the pictures!!!Marketing games

It's really not that bad

Manofword @ 7/19/2001 9:23:17 AM #
I just received my PalmPix this week and have taken a number of pics with it. I have moved them to my expansion card, converted them to .jpg and sync'd with my laptop. I have taken pics with all 3 different resolutions (except the macro)As far as having a device with multiple functions that was designed for a personal organizer and can do what the M505 does, I am extremely happy with the pics and quality I get with the camera. No, it's not a Mavica or other higher quality camera, but it didn't cost $900 either. For me, armed with my M505, the Palm keyboard, and the PalmPix, and my cell phone interface (which should be available soon) I am extremely flexible and versatile. Am I awestruck by the PalmPix's quality? No. Am I bummed because I spent $108 on a small plastic camera? No. Yes, the quality of the pics on the M505 screen is terribly, terribly poor, but when you upload them to your desktop or laptop, the quality is very, very good. (depending on what resolution you take them in) So in comparison to my $3200 laptop, I spent $370 for my Palm (ebay), $25 for my Palm keyboard with discounts, $108 for the PalmPix and let's say I spend $50 for a cell phone cable to connect with my M505, which comes to $553. That is incredible when you consider the total mobile computing capability. So, I'm not whining but I'm not ecstatic either. I am pleasantly equipped to do just about whatever I need to do. But I'll have to admit, the "geek factor" and "coolness level" are extremely high!

[ No Subject ]

SunRay @ 7/19/2001 9:01:13 PM #
I've had my Palmpix for about 3 weeks now, so far I'm impressed. The original Palmpix that I was using with my Palm V took better pitcures that this one. As of yet, I haven't been able to produce one picture that was not blurred. Needless to say mine is going back to the store!!

don't waste your money

I.M. Anonymous @ 8/2/2001 2:31:50 PM #
The PalmPix is trash. I bought it and returned it after much frustration at trying to get the pictures in focus. Like the review said, you have to take several pictures of the object and just hope that one will be in focus since you can't tell from the screen's low resolution image. Not only that but when you download your pix, the colors are whacked most of the time. No thanks. I'll just stick with a real digital camera and transfer images I want onto my Palm using a mobile photo app.

needed review

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/16/2002 8:27:47 AM #
Thanks, I was looking for a review. This review shows that I will not buy it, due to sharpness of the pictures.

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