Years ago, Kodak made simple, boxy film cameras called Instamatics. They were cheap, easy to use, and took pretty good snapshots. Gateway's DC-M42 is a sort of digital reincarnation of an Instamatic--it's boxy and simple. And like an Instamatic, it keeps to the basics, making it easy to learn and use. The camera's concessions to advanced photography are its 3X optical zoom and 4.2-megapixel imaging, which should be good for enlargements up to at least 11 by 14 inches. Plus, the price for the DC-M42 is a fairly reasonable $250--and at the time we tested this model, Gateway was offering a $50 rebate.
Test images taken with the DC-M42 were serviceable--not fine enough to please a serious photographer, but certainly up to snapshot quality.
There's nothing fancy about the DC-M42's controls. A dial on the top of the camera lets you choose among five scene settings, such as portrait, macro, and action. Switching to the manual mode adds adjustments for color balance, saturation, and sharpness. A dedicated button on the back of the camera lets you delete images quickly. The simplicity of the menus makes them easy to navigate--especially helpful for occasional photographers.
Gateway includes a nice software bundle with its camera. Roxio's PhotoSuite SE 4 should provide all of the image management and editing tools any snapshot photographer could need.
What you don't get is a long list of controls commonly found on more expensive models: continuous shooting and metering options, just to name a few. You get no audio with your video clips, either. Also, boot-up time is relatively slow. But our biggest disappointment with Gateway's camera is its abysmal battery life. Use the most powerful disposable AAs you can buy. In our battery tests, a fresh set of AAs lasted only 70 shots. And in less-formal tests, the camera sucked rechargeable Ni-MH batteries dry in minutes.
The DC-M42 is a good choice for a first-time digital camera buyer or for anyone whose concept of photography goes little beyond point and click.
This story, "Gateway DC-M42 " was originally published by PCWorld.