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Kodak DX3900 Zoom

WHAT'S HOT: If resolution and price top your shopping criteria, the Kodak DX3900 Zoom should make your short list. At $399, it's the least-expensive 3-plus-megapixel camera we've tested. The camera merely sips battery power; in our tests, it lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes, good for an impressive 389 shots, with its standard CRV3 battery (it also accepts AAs).

Within the extremely clear (if not extremely bright) LCD screen, Kodak's menus identify settings with both clear icons and text, so you can pick settings quickly. In playback, one option shows you extensive information about a picture, including the aperture and shutter speed used, the resolution, and whether the flash was off or on. The playback screen shows you a row of pictures with a larger frame for the selected photo. You can set up a hands-free slide show, too, which you can play on a television through the included video-out port.

WHAT'S NOT: If you want a camera that has tons of settings to play with, this model won't appeal to you. It offers no manual or program modes, no exposure lock, and no manual focus option. It does, however, let you adjust sharpness and, oddly for a point-and-shooter, the ISO setting. It takes only JPEG images, with no provision for uncompressed TIFF images. The DX3900 doesn't do movies or audio.

The menus, while very easy to understand and navigate, are required for even simple tasks such as zooming during playback. You can delete an image in capture mode by pressing one button, but to delete an image in playback, you must enter the menu system, and you can delete either one or all pictures (not just a few at one time, as other cameras do). And you must press buttons at least six times to change the resolution.

WHAT ELSE: Like several other Kodak cameras, the DX3900 Zoom works with the company's optional EasyShare dock, which connects to a power source and your computer. Once you've plugged it in, simply place the camera in the dock and hit a button to upload pictures. At $80, the dock's a pretty good deal, because it comes with an NiMH battery pack that the dock will recharge.

Judged by our test images, the DX3900 Zoom doesn't take full advantage of its relatively high pixel count. Our most telling test of detail--of a cropped image of text and a test pattern--showed fuzzy text and noisy line art. We also saw noise in some other images. Still, the camera reproduces colors faithfully, and most people will find the snapshots acceptable.

The camera offers several image-quality settings, plus a burst mode that will let you take eight pictures in rapid succession. Hitting a button on the dock starts up Kodak's simple image-editing software, which lets you e-mail an image very easily.

UPSHOT: Photo enthusiasts will likely sneer at the DX3900 Zoom's simplicity, but people who value ease of use over sophisticated features might find it just the ticket.

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