The M580's shooting options are pure point-and-shoot. Kodak's Smart Capture auto mode integrates scene and face detection, optimized auto ISO (see the next paragraph for details), and a broader dynamic range among other things, so as long as you have good lighting you don't have to worry about changing a setting to take a decent picture. This mode also applies Kodak's Perfect Touch technology to help improve detail and contrast. There's a Program mode if you want to take control over ISO, focus, light metering, and sharpness, or use the color effects. It also has a Long Time Exposure setting for keeping the shutter open 0.5, 1, 2, 4, or 8 seconds. There are 20 scene modes to pick from, including Snow, Beach, Text, Fireworks, and Backlight, but nothing too unusual. The Mode dial also has spots for Sport and Blur Reduction modes that boost ISO and shutter speed, as well as Panorama (shoot two or three photos and the camera will stitch them together) and a 720p HD Movie option. Worth noting is that no matter what mode you're in when you shut off the camera, when you turn it on it will always be in Smart Capture mode. It would be nice if there were a menu option to override this, but there isn't.
Generally, I don't bother calling out the range of a camera's Auto ISO setting because for better or worse it is typically the complete range the camera offers at full resolution. That's not the case with the M580, which only uses ISO 80-400 for its Auto setting. By doing this Kodak keeps noise lower, and there's less detail loss from noise reduction so photos turn out their best, but only if there's good lighting. The higher ISO settings are needed to keep shutter speeds fast when shooting indoors or using the zoom lens since its widest aperture is f5.7 when fully extended. That means there's a good chance you'll end up with blurry images in low lighting if you keep the ISO in Auto or only use Smart Capture mode. Basically, if you're using either of those things and you notice your photos are blurry, you should switch to an appropriate scene mode or program and select a higher ISO.
There is one more bit of oddness worth mentioning. The M580 outputs its JPEGs at 480 pixels per inch, so its 14-megapixel images are set to print at roughly 7x9 inches straight from the camera. Digital cameras generally output photos at 72ppi. There's nothing really wrong with this higher density, and it would result in a good print, but it's weird. Kodak didn't have an answer for me as to why it was doing this.
With the exception of its start-up time, the M580's shooting performance is pretty good. From off to first shot takes 2.9 seconds. However, the wait between subsequent shots is 2.2 seconds and goes up to only 2.4 seconds when using the flash. Shutter lag is low for its class at 0.4 in bright lighting and in dim conditions. And although it's limited to just three shots in a row, the camera's burst mode can shoot at 1.1 frames per second.
While the M580 certainly has its quirks, the photo quality was actually better than expected, putting it on par with other similarly featured models. Yes, photos still get noticeably softer, less detailed, and noisier at ISO 400, but that's true of most compacts regardless of price. Its Smart Capture auto mode, as noted earlier, maxes out at ISO 400, so you will in fact get reliably nice results in that mode as long as you have good light. Should you need to use the two higher ISO settings, the results will definitely not be as nice, with slightly washed out or off colors and significantly softer details. The photos at ISO 800 and 1,600 are suitable for small prints or Web use at small sizes with little or no cropping, but that's about it.
Color performance is quite good--at least from ISO 80 to 400. Subjects look natural, bright, and vivid and colors are reasonably accurate. If you want to punch them up a bit there's a High Color setting as well as a Low Color setting should you want them a bit more faded looking. Exposure is very good, as is white balance with the exception of the Tungsten setting, which is a little green. The auto white balance had the same results.
There is slight asymmetrical barrel distortion when the lens is at its widest position, as well as some pincushion distortion when the lens is fully extended. The lens sharpness is good and consistent edge to edge in our lab tests. However, in regular use there is some increased softness on the upper left side when the lens is at its widest position. Kodak does an excellent job of controlling fringing in high-contrast areas, with little to none visible.
Video quality is on par with a basic HD pocket video camera; good enough for Web use and undiscriminating TV viewing. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras. The zoom lens does not function while recording, but you do have a digital zoom; I suggest not using it as the results are not pleasant.
The Kodak EasyShare M580 offers a good deal of camera for the money and gets more attractive at prices below its MSRP. Kodak made some odd choices with features, shooting settings, and design, though that might be more serious for some users than others. For example, the lack of a date stamp for all photos wouldn't keep me from buying a camera, but the inability to raise the maximum available ISO in Smart Capture mode might. If you can live with all the oddness, it's the most consistently good camera in its class.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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