Kodak M380 Review
By Mike Flacy
Kodak's new EasyShare M380 is a versatile yet compact digicam. This camera has been upgraded with a 5x optical zoom lens, which is not found on any other M series camera. Other major features of this camera include a 10.2-Megapixel imaging sensor, Blur reduction, 3-inch LCD screen, Smart Capture Technology, and the ability to shoot 640x480 resolution video with sound. As always Kodak has included its famous Easy Share button, allowing you to upload your photos to a computer or even the internet with just the touch of a button.
This compact camera is easy to handle and operate in most cases. One thing that you will have to get used to is the shutter release and the flash mode buttons blend in to the top of the camera. The shutter release sits directly next to the raised mode dial. More than once I tried to capture an image by pressing the mode dial, before relocating my finger to the correct place. Basic shooting is easy to do with one or two hands, whichever is more comfortable for the user. The camera controls and menu systems are easy to use and navigate. Kodak has also included a couple shortcut items that can be altered at any time with the 4-way controller.
Viewing and framing your images and movies is done via the 3-Inch LCD screen on the back. This not only makes it easy to see and frame your images, it also makes menu navigation simple, providing large, easy to read text. While framing your images, you will have no problems in most situations, including dark settings as the screen gains up. I did have a little trouble; however, in direct sunlight, as the LCD was just not bright enough, even when set to high power.
Performance from the EasyShare M380 is very good for an entry level digicam. It takes 2.2 seconds for the camera to capture its first image after turning it on. Shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and between 2/10 and 4/10 of a second when you allow the autofocus to work. In single shot mode, I was able to capture 5 images in 5.9 seconds without the flash and using the flash captures 5 in 6.4 seconds. You can also set the camera to burst mode, which allows you to capture 3 images in just 2.1 seconds before the buffer fills up. All of our tests were completed using a Patriot 2GB SD memory card, program mode, flash off, ISO auto and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
The image quality of our outdoor images is good overall. They show excellent exposure and bright vivid colors. However, when viewing the images at 100%, there is a noticeable amount of noise in the dark areas, even at ISO 80. This is not acceptable at any low ISO setting, especially since all of our outdoor samples were recorded at ISO 80. The 5x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 38-190mm adds some versatility to this camera. The wide end is very good for landscape and group portrait shots, but keep in mind you will see some slight barrel distortion. Opposite the wide end, the 190mm telephoto end gives you the ability to get much closer to distant subjects and is great for framing. Blur reduction helps with handheld shots by increasing the ISO and decreasing camera shake.
Our indoor image samples show us a crisp picture from side to side, along with excellent exposure and color that we saw in the outdoor images. We also saw the noise present in the dark areas inside as well. When using the built-in flash inside, you will have no difficulty lighting a small room and keeping the ISO down as it has a range of up to 2.5m (8.2 ft.) at ISO 400. Our flash sample shows that the flash has enough power to correctly light the image from 6 feet away at ISO auto and mid-telephoto zoom.
Portrait mode worked very well, as long as the subject was facing the camera. When the head turns away the camera quickly loses track. Exposures and color create a very natural look, very similar to what the photographer actually sees.
Capturing video with sound at resolutions of 640x480 and 320x240, the M380 does a good job of keeping your moving subject in focus. In good lighting conditions, it captures smooth, bright videos with very little noise in the image. The built in mic allows you to capture all sounds that are near the camera including background noises that you may not notice at the time of recording, such as the air system in the pool of our sample video. Kodak does not include A/V cables with the camera, so in order to view your movies on a TV you will have to purchase one of their accessories with the A/V option.
Powering the M380 is a 3.7V, 1020mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery that is able to capture up to 310 images via CIPA testing methods. While completing our tests, we captured approx. 100 images and several videos with the camera still showing a half battery charge. Kodak does not include an external battery charger. Instead they give you an adapter which allows you to charge the battery inside the camera. This makes it a little more difficult to keep a spare battery charged all the time, but we do recommend having one, especially for long trips and vacations.
Bottom Line - The Kodak EasyShare M380 shows some improvement over the previous M series models, as they have added a more versatile lens and the Kodak Perfect touch helps to adjust the pictures inside the camera. Performance was also good, but the quality still needs a little improvement. The level of noise present in the photos is more than normal. With a MSRP of US$179.95, there are comparable cameras worth looking into, such as the Canon PowerShot A1100 IS.
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