Kyocera Finecam L3V

SAN FRANCISCO (10/06/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: A luxuriously large LCD display (2.5 inches diagonally across) easily qualifies as the Kyocera Corp. Finecam L3V's best feature. Toshiba Corp.'s PDR-M700 has an LCD of the same size, but the L3V's body--about the size of a computer mouse--is much smaller than that of the M700. The Finecam L3V operates quickly, especially when playing back images; shots fly back almost as fast as you can press the navigation button. Kyocera furnishes a complete, well-written manual.

WHAT'S NOT: Test shots taken with the L3V looked undistinguished, scoring in the lower third overall among all cameras we've tested. Our cropped-and-magnified shot looked especially fuzzy. For the most part, this is a point-and-shoot camera with a few manual controls added, such as the option to choose from two aperture-priority settings. In our test shots using full automatic in bright light, the camera chose the larger of the two apertures (f2.8), resulting in poor depth of field: The center looked focused, but objects in the foreground fuzzed out.

Images displayed on the big LCD look fine, but on-screen text appears grainy and stretched. The camera struggles to focus in dim settings, and it doesn't have a no-light illuminator to help it. You must spin the mode dial to review images; the camera lacks a quick-review feature.

WHAT ELSE: Using a single, disposable, lithium ion CRV3 battery, the Finecam L3V lasted for 2 hours (349 shots) in our battery life tests. That's average for all the cameras we've tested, but about 20 percent worse than the average for cameras using the same quantity and type of battery. The large, power-hungry LCD may have contributed to that gap.

You can choose from a few long-shutter settings (2, 4, or 8 seconds), but that's the extent of the L3V's shutter-priority options. You can take movies of up to 30 seconds using 320 by 240 resolution, or up to 120 seconds using 160 by 120 resolution; the video quality is fine, but the audio sounds very weak.

UPSHOT: For people who are tired of peering at the tiny LCD displays on other cameras, the Finecam L3V is one of the few alternatives, and it's relatively small. But aside from that, it's not a standout model.

Kyocera Finecam L3V

3.2 megapixels, 2048 by 1536 maximum resolution, 38mm to 115mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f2.8 to f7.5 aperture range, shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/2000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, video recording with audio, 16MB Secure Digital media card, one 3V disposable lithium ion battery or two AAs, 7.3 ounces with batteries; Adobe Photoshop Album software. One-year parts and labor warranty, 8.5-hour daily toll-free support.

US$349

+1-800/421-5735

www.kyoceraimaging.com

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