Kodak M1033 Review
By Movable Type Admin
Continuing the "M" series of EasyShare digital cameras from Kodak for 2008, the EasyShare M1033 is a 10-megapixel model that offers users plenty of high-end features along with very "intelligent" exposure modes. Sharing many features with the M883 from last year, the M1033 adds more resolution, a slightly wider view (35mm compared to 38mm), increased ISO sensitivity (up to 6400), an impressive 720p HD movie mode as well as a new fully automatic Smart mode. This compact digicam is offered in 6 stylish colors (Dark grey, Silver, Black, Pewter, Red and Pink) and is slim enough to be tucked in to a pants pocket or small purse. Features that have been carried over from the M883 include a 3x optical zoom, 3-inch LCD screen, Kodak's EasyShare capabilities, Face Detection AF, Perfect Touch and Blur reduction technologies, and 16:9 still image capture. With 22 scene modes and the new Smart capture mode, the M1033 can be used by everyone in your household or office. There's also a Program mode that gives those with a bit more experience access to advanced exposure settings for ISO, White balance, Metering, AF mode, and so on.
As mentioned above, this is one compact camera. I had no problem slipping it into the front pocket of my shorts while out taking sample photos. The body seems pretty durable too, thanks to the partial metal construction. The various camera controls are laid out in a comfortable manner, and were within easy access of my right thumb and index fingers. While the LCD is nice and large, I was a bit disappointed with the display when shooting outdoors. The surface is very reflective, which made it very hard to frame a shot. It was also impossible to share the picture with my subject, without having to "cup" the LCD with our hands. Indoors however, the display worked great, gaining up well to help you see in lower lighting. Another issue we have with this model, which seems to be prevalent among many Kodak EasyShare cameras, is the fact that it only outputs video when using optional accessories, like an EasyShare Camera Dock. This means you can not plug the camera into your TV set to share pictures with friends and family unless you purchase additional devices like these: either the USB A/V connector ($7.99) + AV-8 A/V cable ($24.99) or the EasyShare HDTV Dock ($99.99).
The shooting performance was average. Power up to first image captured measured 2.1 seconds. Shutter lag averaged between 1-2/10 of a second when pre-focused and about 2-8/10 of a second including autofocus, depending on the amount of focus change. In single drive mode, you will be able to capture an image every 1.5-2 seconds without the flash or every 2-3 seconds using the flash (depending on light, distance and battery power). One annoyance I found was, the camera will only take three full size images before the buffer fills. If then takes about 7 seconds to take another shot, but a total of 29 seconds to completely clear a full buffer of only 3 images! This was with us using a very fast Extreme III SD card too. Continuous shooting mode was quite fast, capturing 3 images in just 1.3 seconds. However, again the buffer fills with 3 full size images, and you have to wait about 30 seconds for the buffer to flush and shoot another set of 3. All test were done using a Sandisk Extreme III 1GB SD card, using 10MP image size, flash off, Smart exposure mode, and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The EasyShare M1033 has shown a great improvement in the image quality department when compared to its predecessor. I found image quality was good for a 10-megapixel, sub $200, compact digicam. One thing I noticed while testing this camera was that the intelligent "Smart Capture" exposure mode seems to produce the best results. You can see several examples of both Smart and Program modes on our samples page. Outdoors, the majority of our samples showed good exposure, with the exception of Program mode. It seemed to produced more images that were a bit overexposed, especially when you look at the sky in many of our shots. Switching to Smart mode with the same subject and same lighting conditions produced beautiful sky/cloud detail. However, under some extremely harsh sunlight, there were still a few images that showed areas that were a bit "blown" out. Colors are nice and saturated, which will give your prints nice "Pop" or "Wow" factor. The M1033 also does well when shooting portraits indoors. Again, Smart mode produced great results. Skin tones are very pleasing, and the flash does well when shooting from about 5 feet away, using the mid telephoto end of the zoom. Overall, it seems Kodak has created a very intuitive and successful exposure mode. One annoyance that bothered me at first with this camera was the fact that every time you turn the camera on, it would automatically be in Smart mode, even if you left the camera in Program mode when it was powered down last. Now, after finding out that Smart mode produces the best images, this isn't that big of a deal. I highly recommend that you use this mode for all of your picture taking needs.
When we reviewed the M883 last year, we found it had real problems with image noise, even at the lowest settings. This is not the case with the M1033. Noise levels are below average from ISO 64 all the way up to 1600. The M1033's noise reduction system does well, only adding a bit of detail loss or softness to the image at 800 and above. I feel that ISO 800 can still make large prints without any problems, as long as it is a well lit image. Even 1600 has the potential to create a usable 8x10 or larger. While there is also a 3200 settings, there is still a lot of noise as well as detail loss due to the heavy NR. I was very glad to see that Kodak corrected this issue with great high ISO performance on this new model.
Movie mode produced good results in both standard and HD modes. Video is smooth thanks to the 30fps frame rates. The exposure system also seemed to do well when shooting outdoors in bright sunlight. The camera also captured nice clean sound. A feature that is not available on most digicams is that the optical zoom is functional while you are recording. While it zooms slowly, this helps makes it easier to control. You may notice a slight humming sound from the zooming mechanism when you use this, depending on how loud the background noise is when you are recording. The AF system does well, correcting focus quickly when zooming.
Battery life was average. Kodak claims the proprietary KLIC-7004 3.v 940mAh battery pack has enough power to capture 220 images on a single charge. I was able to capture about 125 samples (mostly still images with several short movie clips) and conclude some of our other test before having to charge the battery to continue. This is the second Kodak model we have seen that uses the USB cable to charge the camera. You simply plug the adapter into the bottom of the camera, then attach the USB cable and plug it into a USB port on your PC or use the included AC adapter. As with almost all Kodak models, there are also EasyShare Camera and Printer Docks that charge the battery as well as perform other useful functions. We highly recommend you add a second battery (US$29.95) to your purchase, especially if you are planning on taking the M1033 with you on vacation.
Bottom Line - Kodak has made a huge improvement over the M883 with the new EasyShare M1033. While we have some issues with the camera's shooting performance, mainly with the ridiculous buffer flush times, this camera still offers great image quality, awesome high ISO performance, nice video results, and a very intelligent and useful Smart capture mode. The only other issue we had with this camera (and many other Kodak models), is the fact that you have to purchase a Kodak Camera Dock (US$49.95 - $99.99) in order to use the A/V output capabilities. This means you can't just purchase the camera, snap some pictures, then plug it into your TV set to share pictures with friends and family. That said, with a street price of US$199 or less, I feel the Kodak EasyShare M1033 offers a good value and with make a nice camera for the family or office user.
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