Kodak’s camera business has been chugging alongside those of big names Canon and Nikon. Canon currently dominates the digital camera market, but that hasn’t stopped Kodak from bringing models out. Today, we look at one of their latest offerings.
The heart of the Kodak EasyShare M550 is a 12 MP CMOS sensor. The built-in 5x optical zoom lens should make it capable enough for most photography styles. The ISO sensitivity ranges from 64 and 1000. How well it performs under low-light and high ISO settings is something we’ll find out very soon. The screen is only a 2.7-inch, but it’s a reasonably detailed one. Video resolution is limited to 640 x 480 at 30 frames per second, which isn’t great at all. A lot of the cameras, even entry-level cameras will soon start coming with inbuilt 720p video recording capability. Overall, this is an average spec’d point and shoot.
Design and Build Quality
The body of the M550 is marginally larger than models from Canon’s IXUS or Sony’s W range of cameras for example. It’s probably because of the larger 5x zoom lens. The design isn’t classy as such, but it’s one of the nicer looking models from Kodak. It’s not very bulky or heavy either; it feels a little heavier than a decent sized phone. The camera is predominantly plastic including the buttons and even the shutter release trigger. The screen is snugly built into the body of the camera. The battery and memory card bay door are flimsy because of the weak hinge holding it in place. Other than that, the camera is pretty study and should be able to take some abuse.
The poor quality battery bay door of the M550
The directional keys are small and have an OK button at the center of layout for navigation. There is also a Share button which allows for easy sharing of photos. You are required to have the necessary software installed on your PC though. Tagging of photos is also possible; much like you would on a social networking site or a photo management software. Face detection is also available and you add names to faces on the camera itself as well as tags. All these are fun features, although doing the same would be quicker on a PC.
Some of the controls are positioned at the top of the camera, while the rest are positioned alongside the screen. The zoom controls are buttons unlike the trigger design that other camera models normally use. The camera controls are self explanatory, and therefore using the camera is extremely simple.
Pressing the shooting mode selection button on the top of the camera throws up an onscreen menu, where the complete shooting modes are present. All the other shooting options are available through this software interface. This even includes all of the essential settings such as the ISO sensitivity and the macro mode selection. This might seem like it’s a good thing, but it’s not. Not having dedicated buttons for selecting the modes and having to select everything through a menu means more time is spent. Nevertheless, the controls and interface are simple to understand and get used to.
Image quality of the photos is decent at low ISO levels of 200 and below. Above 400, the sensor noise goes up exponentially thereby adding a lot of distortion to the image. There also appears to be some level of image enhancement being done by the processor, which shows up as sharp edges along outlines of objects in the photos taken. A lot of noise and sharpening adds to the disastrous recipe. Focussing is pretty quick and accurate. Colours in the photos are fairly normal. The flash is pretty powerful and is enough to lighten up a very poorly lit room. Colours appear washed out with the flash on.
One of the things you notice when you first power on the camera is the startup time. The camera powers up within one and a half second from a complete off-state. The zoom lens motor mechanism isn’t the most refined one we’ve seen. It’s noisy and it vibrates while operating the lens; it’s most obvious when you turn off the camera and the lens retracts fully. There is also some motor noise present at all times as the camera tends to focus if the continuous focus mode is left on.
Some of the playback and option controls line the 2.7-inch screen
After using it for a while, it’s obvious that the Kodak EasyShare M550 does not come across as a good performer. Priced at a moderate Rs. 7,499, it’s affordable for one and it includes a lot of the features that you would find on somewhat more expensive cameras from other brands. At the same time, you’ll also notice missing features such as the HD video recording. You won’t get the best looking indoor photos with low light. But for outdoor photography, it’s a decent camera and the 5x optical zoom helps too. If you have a slightly larger budget, it would make sense to look at some of the other offerings.
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