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The MC3 digital camera was released by Kodak in early 2001. It's one of the new generation of convergent portable digital devices, having the form-factor of a small camera, and supporting still photography, the recording of movies with sound, and playing MP3 music files.

The exterior of the camera, being molded curvy plastic in moody dark grey and rubbery cyber blue, is obviously the first aspect of the device that grabs the eye. Holding the device is very comfortable, although there is no peephole viewfinder (all shot composition is performed via the 25mm LCD display).

Upon starting the camera, it is the LCD that first gives away the cost-cutting that Kodak have been able to perform to get this device to market as cheaply as it is. The LCD is not backlit, which is fine when there is enough ambient light to reflect off the back layer of the LCD, but in low light conditions, the LCD is completely useless.

Other cost-cutting measures (er, "features") in this device are the lack of flash, no lens cover, and lack of carrying case (although a wrist strap is included).

The controls are simplicity itself. A colourful "Austin Powers" themed graphic menu handles all operations with two hard buttons. A four-position slider switch allows the user to switch modes of operation, from shooting stills, to shooting movies, to playback mode, to MP3 mode.

Colour saturation is good, with perhaps a pinkish skew. The movie function is fun, creating .mov (QuickTime) movies (although the sound is tinny).

As an MP3 player, the unit is of good quality. Easy to access volume buttons are on top of the device, as it the headphone jack. Navigation of your MP3s is via the LCD menuing system, which displays basic artist/name and time information.

All digital data is stored on CompactFlash cards. The camera ships with one 8Mb card, and larger sizes are available (at the time of writing, 16Mb, 32Mb, 64Mb, 128Mb, 192Mb).

The unit connects to a computer via a cute plastic docking station, which, when the camera is inserted, connects via USB. Software for Mac OS and Windows is included, with basic image editing and MP3 software. On the Mac, the unit appears as a hard disk on the desktop, and supports full drag and drop, and contextual menus.

Overall, I'm pleased with the device, for the low price paid. The unit, as a camera, is limited to broad daylight use, or very bright artificial light. As an MP3 player, the unit is terrific, so long as you have some large CompactFlash cards!

I consider the device a happy snap toy, easy to leave in the glovebox or briefcase.

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