Timing Test Results
|Kodak has done well with the M550, which actually performs better than the more expensive M575. This unit offers great performance and great image quality for a camera that costs only $150 US or less. |
Pick This Up If...
|You are looking for a style friendly camera for your teenager (or yourself) that will take nice snapshots under various conditions, while not having to break the bank. |
For a camera that costs $150 or less, the M550 is put together well. The front panel of the body is mostly metal, giving it a higher quality feel if you hands. This should also help the camera stand up to typical wear an tear. There are only a few controls located on the body, which goes along with the M550's ease of use design. These buttons are spread out comfortably across the frame, all within reach of you right index finger and thumb. While the M550 uses a smaller 2.7-inch LCD screen, it still boasts the same amount of resolution as the M575's 3.0-inch display at 230,000 pixels. This allows for a nice clear picture with good color reproduction. The screen is viewable in a variety of lighting conditions thanks to three brightness control options (Auto, High Power, and Power Save).
The M550's image quality results were good for a camera in this class. Images are clear, bright, and show pleasing colors. In fact, the M550 captures images that are equal to, if not better than it's big brother (the M575). We did see a bit of edge softness present in several photos as well as some purple fringing (aka Chromatic Aberrations) in areas of high contrast. The M550 also showed the same over processing we saw with the M575, where some of the fine details (specifically blades of grass) look "fake" when viewing images at 100%. All framing is accomplished via a nice wide 5x optical zoom lens. This unit covers an equivalent range of 28-140mm, which is ideal for most of your typical snap shots. The wide end is great for indoor shots of friends and family, while the telephoto end will help you tightly frame individuals or other objects that are not too far away; just don't expect to zoom across the football field with this lens. Noise levels are typical for a consumer point-n-shoot; as the ISO setting increases, so does the visible noise.
Using the camera to capture photos of your family and friends is a snap thanks to Kodak's Face Detection and Recognition technologies. When using Smart Capture or the dedicated Portrait Scene mode, the camera will quickly detect faces within the frame (up to 5 at one time) and lock focus and exposure on them to produce the best possible photo. With the face recognition feature, your favorite "faces" can be saved in the camera (up to 20), and the camera will then recognize a saved face and tag it whenever it comes into the frame. These tagged photos also carry over when you upload them to Facebook, FLICKR or Kodak Galleries.
Video is not the M550's strong suit, however it does still offer some basic recording options. You can record SD (Standard Definition) video at VGA (640x480) resolution with a fixed frame rate of 30fps. While you won't be filming the next trilogy master piece, the VGA movies from the M550 will allow you to capture some moments where a picture is just no enough. Overall the video is decent for the resolution, just be aware that in lower lighting the live image can get a bit grainy. Also, as with most digicams, the microphone is super sensitive and will pick up all kinds of background noise.
The M550 is powered by the same KLIC-7006, 3.7V 740mAh Li-ion battery pack found in the M575. Kodak claims a battery life of up to 220 frames on a single charge, which we found is quite accurate during out tests. While we do recommend you pick up a second battery pack, it is quite hard to have two packs ready for action at all times since they are charged inside the camera. Unlike most digicams on the market, Kodak does not offer an external AC battery charger with the M550. Instead, you use the supplied USB cable and either a powered USB port (slower) or the included AC adapter (faster). Many won't see this is an issue, but it's worth noting.
Bottom Line - Yet another affordable little camera from Kodak this year, the EasyShare M550 performed quite well in the shooting performance and image quality departments for a camera that has a price tag of just $150 US or less. That said, there are some obvious features lost when looking at a budget camera like this one, however if you are looking for an inexpensive camera for yourself, or a teenager, the M550 will surly please for the investment made.
Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.