Although it took nine months from announcement to shipment, the Kodak EasyShare One arrived with its promised three-inch touch-screen LCD and Wi-Fi transfer capabilities. With them, the camera opens up genuinely original possibilities for travelers, business people, and government agencies that need instant photo sharing. But all is not perfect in Kodak's wireless utopia. While the EasyShare One is great for sharing photos, it's not so great at shooting them. The user interface, optimized for maximum simplicity, can be slow and annoying for anyone unwilling to settle for complete automation. The poor image quality further compounds our disappointment. The Kodak EasyShare One is an attractive, well-built, compact camera made from high-quality brushed metal accented in white. The camera's control layout and menu interface, however, could use some improvement. Designed for snapshooters, the interface favors automation and doesn't allow you to change many settings. While this might work for an insurance agent at an accident scene or a foreman documenting a construction site, it's not as suitable for someone who may need to change a few settings to get a better shot.
Changing settings can be slow and annoying. You access them mostly through a three-inch LCD using either the touch screen or a four-way directional pad. Adjusting common parameters such as ISO sensitivity and white balance requires digging into the setup menu; changing from Auto ISO to ISO 400 requires a whopping 13 button presses!
The only time-saving controls on the Kodak EasyShare One are Flash and Share buttons. All of the buttons are small and fairly recessed; they're difficult to trip accidentally but equally difficult to activate without some nimble fingerwork.
Many of the icons are too small and too close to the edge of the screen to use your fingers, forcing you to use the small stylus nestled in the side of the camera--at least until you lose it. Most of the icons make immediate sense and don't require a trip to the manual, but some are more opaque. A stack of two offset rectangles, which usually indicates a continuous-drive mode, instead controls stored album names. To change the drive mode, you press the shots-remaining icon. Furthermore, adjusting exposure is a tedious process. Rather than a Windows-style slider control, you must cycle through 13 one-third-stop increments. If you miss your stop, you must cycle through them again.
The Kodak EasyShare One's big LCD flips and twists on a hinge on the side of the camera. You can flip it forward for self-portraits and timer shots, down to hold the camera above your head, or against the camera body to protect it. However, you can't flip it up to shoot with the camera at or below your waist.
There is one potential silver lining to the EasyShare One's interface woes: because it's entirely menu driven, in theory Kodak should be able to update it with a software download. While Kodak plans no such update at the moment, it remains an option. While the Kodak EasyShare One excels at sharing pictures over the Internet, those who want manual control during shooting will be disappointed.
When it comes to sharing photos, the EasyShare One is almost like a minicomputer, with multiple options at its disposal. Primarily, you can upload your images to KodakGallery.com (formerly Ofoto.com) directly from the camera via a Wi-Fi hot spot. You can also e-mail thumbnails of selected pictures, including links to the full photos in your Gallery page, to one or more recipients. Finally, you can even use the camera to browse your friends' KodakGallery.com pages.
In practice, the Kodak EasyShare One doesn't incorporate the same universal hot-spot access that a notebook or a PDA may have. While it works seamlessly with home and office networks as well as the T-Mobile hot spots found in many coffee shops and other public places, it doesn't work with some public networks that require you to click a user agreement within a Web browser--the type you find in hotels, for example, or Wi-Fi networks such as the one in New York City's Bryant Park. While Kodak promises a firmware update soon to upgrade the camera to the WEP security protocol as well as support for a faster 802.11x Wi-Fi protocol--it is only 802.11b now--Kodak tells us a fix for the user-agreement problem isn't in the works right now.
The EasyShare One can also transfer images directly to a PC using Wi-Fi and can print wirelessly to Kodak's EasyShare Printer Dock Plus Series 3, provided you spring for a Kodak Wi-Fi Card (the camera comes with its own). Wireless printing doesn't require a computer after a one-time setup using a USB cable.
As for photography tools, the Kodak EasyShare One is fine for a snapshooter who only uses cameras in full automatic mode. For that user, Kodak includes multiple scene modes complete with little sample photos and written descriptions, including the usual portrait, macro, and landscape settings.
Those who like to adjust settings themselves will find that the camera has a large number of notable omissions in its feature set. You cannot adjust JPEG compression, and the only white-balance settings are Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, and Fluorescent. You can't manually set slow-sync flash, focus, or adjust colors. You can adjust sharpness, however, and there are multizone and more targeted focus and exposure modes.
For those wanting to capture moving images, there is a 640x480-pixel, 24fps MPEG-4 QuickTime movie mode with zoom and autofocus capabilities. Despite its slow user interface, the Kodak EasyShare One is a pretty brisk performer when it comes to the simple business of snapping photos. After a painful 8-second start-up-to-first-shot time, the camera bests most in its class and many above it in other speed parameters.
The camera takes between 1.2 and 1.9 seconds from one shot to the next, and it can shoot about 3.2 frames per second in its two five-shot burst modes. Shutter lag, including autofocus time, is only about 0.4 second even in a low-contrast situation, which is very good.
However, it's a good thing the EasyShare One comes with two battery packs, because the oversize LCD--there is no optical viewfinder--and the Wi-Fi antenna both drain power quickly. And while the LCD wows with its size, it falls short on quality, exhibiting significant moiré, displaying crossed or parallel lines with rainbow-colored distortions. Fields of color also sometimes look blocky and dithered. While the Kodak EasyShare One can produce images of sufficient quality for casual snapshots and simple illustrative applications, the photos produced by this 4-megapixel digital camera falls short of similarly priced competitors.
To its benefit, the EasyShare One has a fairly good auto white-balance program, sometimes producing more accurate colors than its user-selectable presets. The color produced by the camera is a bit on the poster-paint side, though: very saturated and nonadjustable. Dynamic range is also a bit compressed, with easily blown-out highlights.
The sharpness of the lens-sensor combination is acceptable but is marred by too much in-camera processing. Thin white halos along high-contrast edges, as around dark text against a light field, indicate oversharpening and excessive compression. While you can reduce the appearance of halos slightly by decreasing the in-camera sharpening, you can't adjust the compression ratio. Other compression artifacts include blockiness and dithering in some areas of uniform color.
Some image noise is visible at ISO 80, ISO 100 and ISO 200 but doesn't break away from the pack until ISO 400, the Kodak EasyShare One's highest sensitivity rating. At this speed, graininess increases slightly and demosaicing artifacts, like the yellowish marble pattern that appeared in one picture we took of a piece of paper on a textured wall, become quite apparent. Blooming, in which color leaks onto backlit objects, is also easily visible under some conditions.
The 36mm-to-108mm lens, with its slowish f/2.8-to-f/4.8 maximum aperture, suffers from some distinct issues, as well. Purple fringing around backlit objects, such as leaves against a sky, is easily visible under normal conditions. Barrel distortion, in which straight lines in the image's edges curve outward, is quite noticeable at the lens' wide end, though the squeezed-in look called pincushioning is hardly apparent at the telephoto end, where it usually appears. Vignetting, in which the corners of an image are darker than the rest of it, is quite noticeable at the wide angle but less so at the telephoto end.
The Kodak EasyShare One is fairly good at avoiding red-eye, though the camera doesn't use its multizone metering and focus capabilities to consistently make smart flash exposures--off-center subjects sometimes appear blown out.
The EasyShare One's movie quality is decent, with little of the jaggedness in diagonal lines that many other digital cameras exhibit.