Inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras have become quite feature-laden. Manufacturers are struggling to bring the user added functionality like smart capture, face recognition, and HD video capture, while keeping the cameras easy-to-use. Kodak has so much experience in this field that we were excited to take a look at one of their EasyShare digital cameras, the M580. This camera is designed to not only be easy to operate, but to make sharing pictures and videos extremely simple.
The Kodak M580 comes in a simple box in the traditional bright yellow and black Kodak colors, as shown in Figure 1.
The contents of the box, shown in Figure 2, include the camera, a USB charging and computer-connection cable, and a wall plug adapter for the cable. A small User Guide and a flyer telling you that the software will automatically install when you connect the camera to your computer are also included.
One nice touch is the fact that both the cable and the plug are labeled with the word “Kodak.” Those of you who have struggled to find the proper cable for a device like this will appreciate this small, but thoughtful addition. We also like the fact that there is no extra charging pack. You use the cable to attach the camera to a computer or use the cable and the wall plug to charge it from a wall outlet.
As you can see in Figure 2, this Kodak camera is a typical rectangular pocketable camera that measures 4.0 × 2.3 × 1.0 inches (100.8 x 59.5 x 25.6 mm), and weighs only 5.2 oz (150 g). The M580 comes in silver, light blue, brown, purple, or pink. Although the pink is quite bright, the purple camera that we reviewed was a dark color that often looked more gray than purple.
The body of the M580 is made of mostly metal giving the camera a nice sturdy look and feel. It has several small stylish effects that differentiate it from other cameras of this size and shape. You will notice this in things like the unusual shape of the flash on the front of the camera.
[nextpage title=”The Controls”]
Figure 3 shows the front of the M580. At the left is the stylishly-shaped flash. Next to that is the small self-timer/video light/AF assist light. Under the flash is a narrow rubberized strip that is again, stylishly placed and can be used as an index finger rest to steady your hand when taking a photo. Much of the front of the camera is taken up by the retractable lens which has a built-in mechanical lens cover. The lens has an 8x Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon optical zoom and a 5x digital zoom. It is a wide-angle lens that has a 28–224 mm (35 mm equiv.) focal range. The microphone opening is in the lower right corner right next to the lens.
The back of the M580, shown in Figure 4, sports a 3” color LCD screen. Most of the camera controls are to the right of the screen. At the top is the wide angle/telephoto button. Below that on the left side are the Delete, Menu, and Info buttons. To the right of that is an IR receiver for an optional remote control. Under these buttons in a four-way scroll pad with an OK button in the middle. Below that are two other buttons: a Review button on the left and a red Share button on the right. All of these buttons are raised, have a nice tactile feel, and are easy to access.
The Menu button lets you choose Video, Smart Capture, Scenes, and Program. You scroll through the choices with the four-way option button and make a choice by pressing the OK button in the middle. On-screen prompts give you addition information. For instance when you choose the Program mode, the screen tells you that this if for “Use for general picture taking with access to all capture settings.”
The stylish look of the M580 continues on the top of the camera as shown in Figure 5. The top has four buttons: Power, Flash, Mode, and Shutter. They are obviously designed for a stylish presentation. Unfortunately, that presentation severely affects the functionality of the camera. The shutter button has a slight indentation that makes it fairly easy to find without looking, but the other buttons are irregularly shaped, close together, and not tactily differentiated. Because of this they can be difficult to find without looking and equally difficult to press. Several times during our review period we found an action scene that we wanted to capture and were thwarted by having difficulty turning the camera on.
[nextpage title=”The Hardware”]
Figures 6 and 7 show the sides of the M580. In Figure 6 you can see the openings for the speaker. Figure 7 shows a rubberized door that opens to reveal the USB and HDMI ports. Next to that is a small opening where a strap can be attached to the camera.
The bottom of the M580, which is shown in Figure 8, has a sturdy door that covers the battery compartment and SD/SDHC card slot. Next to that is the tripod mount. It is worth noting that the battery compartment door cannot be opened when a tripod mount is attached. Although this won’t be an issue for most users, we are always aggravated by this type of placement. It means that you cannot keep the tripod mount attached and remove the memory card. If you use a tripod a lot and like to remove the memory card for viewing in the computer, this can be an aggravating design flaw.
[nextpage title=”Using the Camera”]
The Kodak M580 has 14 megapixels of resolution, an 8x optical zoom, and a focal range of 28-224mm making it a very capable camera. Its large 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor help give excellent results. The color reproduction is accurate and highly saturated, but not overly so. Photos are crisp and clear. We found this camera a little more prone to blurriness from a shaky hand than others of this type, but not enough to be a detriment for the average user. The camera’s Face Recognition technology and Smart Capture mode make it a joy to use when you don’t want to play around with the settings. When you do, you have control over things like exposure compensation and ISO. Burst mode, a self-timer, and macro mode are available but there’s no manual control over shutter speed or aperture.
Like other cameras of this type there is noise at high ISOs, which generally appears in low light photos. With adequate light, however, we found the photos to be excellent. The auto-focus in the Macro mode, however was a little out-of-sync, especially for indoor shots. So if you are doing close-ups for something like an auction site, you might want to look at another camera
The three-inch LCD screen is clear and can be seen even in bright sunlight. The on-screen prompts are easy to understand and very helpful to get you used to how the camera works. An example of these prompts is shown in Figure 9.
This camera is ready to take its first picture less than four seconds after being turned on. Shutter lag is not a problem, especially if the camera is pre-focused. We did, however, have a bit of trouble with setting the pre-focus by pressing the shutter half way down. The problem is that it is more difficult to find the halfway point than in most other point-and-shoot cameras. Sometimes we took a picture when we just wanted to pre-focus. Although we did get more used to this as we used the camera, it was still a bit problematic.
The Scene modes feature 20 presets that include: portrait, landscape, close-up, night portrait, night landscape, snow, beach, text, fireworks, flower, museum/ manner, self-portrait, high-ISO, children, backlight, panning shots, candlelight, sunset, sport, and panorama.
In camera editing includes crop, copy, and date stamp. You can also tag people, view thumbnails, and create a multimedia slideshow in camera.
This camera captures video in HD at 720p. When attached to a HD television using the camera’s built-in HDMI connection, the videos looked very good. The microphone, however, seems to be overly sensitive. It sometimes picked up background noise in the video that was not terribly noticeable when taking the video. Although the specs don’t indicate this, we got the best video when using a Class 6 SDHC card, which is a little pricier than the older Class 4 cards. Like many other cameras of this type, the zoom is not available for use in the video mode.
The M580 has a 3.7 V, 740 mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. The battery charges in the camera. While this is a good thing for most users, it can be problematic for those who like to purchase a second battery and have it charging while the camera is in use. Kodak’s claims that you can capture 200 images on a single charge and our testing proved this to be accurate.
Our first and biggest complaint about this camera is the difficulty in using the buttons on the top of the camera. As already noted, this is a major complaint. In several weeks of using the camera, we were never over to overcome the problem that made it difficult to turn the camera on and off and to find the Flash and Menu buttons.
[nextpage title=”The Software”]
The Kodak software makes it extremely easy to transfer and share photos. The software installs automatically the first time you attach the camera to your computer. This EasyShare software allows upload your images to your computer quickly and easily. Prompts are in plain English. For instance, as shown in Figure 10, after the pictures are copied to the computer you are asked if you want to erase the pictures from the camera. So it is easy to understand exactly what you are doing.
The Share button on the camera lets you share your photos and or videos with social network site including Facebook, Kodak Gallery, Flickr and YouTube. It also allows you to email your photos to friends. This works quite well. You can choose the photo to send and enter your recipient’s email address right from the camera. The photo will be automatically sent through the Kodak software next time you connect the camera to the computer. There are quite a few options like the ability to personalize your message and/or to compress the images.
The EasyShare software lets you tag, edit, organize and print your photos. As shown in Figure 11, it keeps your photos in albums and gives you easy-to-understand icons for various functions.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Kodak EasyShare M580 digital camera include:
- Dimensions: 4.0 × 2.3 × 1.0 inches (100.8 x 59.5 x 25.6 mm)
- Weight: 5.2 oz (150 g) without battery and memory card
- 14-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD imaging sensor
- 8x Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon optical zoom lens, 5x digital zoom
- 35mm equivalent of 28-224mm
- 3.0-inch, 230,000 pixels LCD
- TTL autofocus
- Exposure Compensation: ±2.0 EV with 1/3 EV steps
- ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1000, 1600
- 64 MB internal memory
- SD/SDHC card expansion slot
- Face Detection
- Face Recognition
- Smart Capture
- PictBridge enabled
- Burst Mode (three shots)
- Picture Sizes: 4288 × 3216, 4288 × 2848, 4288 × 2416, 2880 × 2160, 2048 × 1536, 1920 × 1088, and 1280 × 960
- Video Sizes: 720p (1280 x 720) at 30 FPS or VGA (640 x 480) at 30 FPS
- Share Menu: Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Kodak Galleries
- Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery
- More Information: http://www.kodak.com
- MSRP in the US: USD 170.00
The Kodak EasyShare M580 is one of several low-cost, mid-zoom, compact point-and-shoot cameras offered this year. It’s a comfortable size and weight, and has some stylish touches and a nice sturdy feeling, and it also has a good range of features. The smart capture and face recognition are accurate and easy to use. The Kodak software is also easy to use and makes sharing photos simple.
This camera’s best feature is its ability to take very good pictures and videos. This, however, is marred by the poor design of the buttons on the top of the camera. With the on/off button and shutter button being especially problematic, using this camera can be a bit aggravating. If you can overcome or ignore that, it could be a good choice. Otherwise, take a pass.
- Sturdy built
- Excellent images
- Good focal range
- 720p videos
- Very good 8x optical zoom lens
- Large 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor
- Easy-to-use software
- Share button
- Small stylish touches
- Awkward control buttons on top of camera including on/off
- Finicky shutter button
- Auto-focus in macro mode not accurate
- Microphone picks up a lot of background noise in videos
- Poorly placed tripod mount