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PalmPix for m500 Series Review
By Ed Hardy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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