posted on Jun 22, 2009 at 5:56AM
Head-2-Head Review: Kids Cameras Compared
Spotlight: “Diego” NpowerBy Emily Raymond
“Diego” Npower flash jr. Rugged Digital Camera
This digital camera isn’t as obnoxiously chunky as the Kid-Tough and Kidizoom, but still comes in a sturdy casing that is coated with rubber for kids to get a good grip. The Npower camera comes in two versions: Dora the Explorer or Diego, both characters from popular TV shows that promote exploration and bilingual speaking. We reviewed the green Diego digital camera, which has a picture of Diego himself on the lens cap.
When you pry the lens cap off, you’ll be surprised at the size of the lens. It’s like opening a birthday present the size of a washing machine and finding a tiny Slinky in the bottom. The lens looks like it was borrowed from a cell phone camera. The quality of the images look like they were borrowed from a cell phone camera too. Come to think of it, the tiny screen on the back may have come from one too. Perhaps Npower partnered with a cell phone manufacturer to bring you this little camera.
Indeed, the LCD screen is only 1.4 inches. The resolution is awful. There is a single optical viewfinder, but most kids are inclined to look at the LCD screen anyway: there’s just something about a moving picture that intrigues them. Unfortunately, the quality of the picture on the LCD is lacking: the pixels are so big that subjects look like they were built from Legos.
My son likes the “smile button” best because it says little phrases like “Excellenté” and “one, two, threeeeee” in that perky Diego voice. There were a few times that I pushed the button when my son was in another room and he rushed in to ask if Diego was on TV. When I told him it was just the camera, he seemed a little bitter. The smile button is on the front, as is the shutter button. This seems a little strange to me (again, why not on top like other digital cameras?), but my son picked it right up and started taking pictures. The two big buttons on the front have stickers on them, but after three days the stickers are already peeling at the edges so I doubt they’ll last long.
The buttons on the back are fairly intuitive (except for the exclamation mark that represents the self-timer mode!), but a little small for kid fingers. Reviewing images may be difficult for young kids; it requires a little push to the rotary dial around the power button. The rotary doesn’t rotate fully though, so you give it a push and then navigate using the arrows on the multi-selector.
The Npower camera takes four AA batteries, which fit into the bottom of the camera. There isn’t a legit-looking battery cover, in my opinion. You just have to unscrew the entire bottom panel. Also in the battery compartment is a slot for an SD card; the Kidizoom was the only other kid cam we reviewed that had space for extra memory. The SD card ensures that your photos won’t be lost when the batteries run down, but its placement in the battery compartment makes it easier to whip out the USB cable for transfer to a computer rather than slipping the card out and into a reader.
This digital camera produced the absolute worst images from all the cameras we tested. It had some of the same problems as the other kid cams – overblown flash, blur with the slightest movement, soft focus, and an abundance of noise in low light – but the Diego camera added to the mess a series of horizontal lines across each image.
Of note is the photo editing CD-ROM included with the camera; it works on Windows and Mac platforms. It isn’t suited to small children as it has lots of editing options and requires reading skills and a little more coordination with a computer mouse to navigate. But if parents are into simple photo editing software, there are options to make colors into black-and-white images, add text, add special effects, and paint and draw on the photo. And similar to the Vtech software, you can add stamps and frames to images. The Npower software, however, has Diego-themed stamps and frames.
Overall, the Npower flash jr. rugged digital camera is the most properly sized camera of this bunch. It isn’t too big and chunky and it isn’t too heavy, but it is still sturdy enough to withstand a few drops and other such kid-abuse. This camera comes with a nice neck strap that will keep it from getting lost and will make your kid feel like a pro. The Diego camera has some serious marks that keep it from being “excellenté” though. The tiny LCD with its awful resolution and the images with their poor quality and horizontal lines through them should be enough to scare small children away from this digital camera.