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WHAT'S HOT: The Konica KD-300Z is almost identical to the Kyocera Finecam S3, which we reviewed in our January 2002 issue. Both models offer 3.34-megapixel resolution and very small (slightly smaller than a pack of cigarettes) stainless steel bodies; they differ cosmetically. The KD300Z offers higher resolution than the Canon Powershot S110, another small, stainless-steel digital camera, but it doesn't quite match the S110's beautiful case. Still, at 6.8 ounces with its battery, the Konica is over an ounce lighter than the S110, and it costs about $50 less than the Kyocera.
Despite its relatively low price, the KD-300Z comes with a 16MB Secure Digital memory card and a card reader, as well as a rechargeable battery and recharger. Its small, squarish body is easy to hold and shoot with one hand, and the somewhat noisy 2X zoom lens works quickly and accurately. The LCD, though small, is bright and clear, even in sunlight.
At first glance, the Konica's controls seem a bit haphazardly laid out--for example, you must use a menu control to see a matrix of several images during playback. But once you get used to them, you don't have to read their labels to get what you want. The Konica uses five buttons to control menu navigation: four small up-down-left-right buttons surrounding a round eraserhead-size button that selects the options. Many cameras with single thumbpads require you to press them just right to get them to work; the Konica's comfortable buttons have very good action and feedback, so you can fly through the menus.
WHAT'S NOT: The KD-300Z's proprietary rechargeable battery (about the size of three sticks of gum, stacked) lasted only half an hour in our tests, for 90 shots. That's second-worst among all the cameras vying for spots on our chart. A second battery costs $40.
WHAT ELSE: The quality of the test shots taken with the KD-300Z was neither stunningly good nor awful. The 4-by-6-inch images we took of our test mannequin came out best, distinguishing red from orange well, but the flash version of the shot looked bluish, and the nonflash one looked yellowish. A cropped, 8-by-10-inch close-up looked unduly fuzzy, and the camera introduced some color within the black-and-white parallel lines.
The camera lacks program modes beyond a minimalist aperture-priority mode. After you choose between two apertures (f2.8 or f6.2), the camera sets the shutter speed automatically. We'd have preferred preset program modes--for example, portrait mode or sports mode--instead.
UPSHOT: If you want a conveniently small camera, your primary choices are the KD300Z, the Kyocera Finecam S3, and the Canon Powershot S110, none of which offers long battery life. Among those three, the Konica offers the best combination of resolution, price, and ease of use. By Alan Stafford