There's no shortage of 12-megapixel cameras on the market today. One of the slimmer and simpler competitors, the Kodak EasyShare V1253, not only maxes out the megapixels but stretches its LCD to a wide-screen 3.1 inches, as well. The V1253 keeps up with the times by offering 720p HD movie capture, but, at its core, the camera is a basic snapshot camera with few surprises.
Available in matte black or white, at 4.0 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.9 inch, the 6.2-ounce V1253 is small enough to fit into all but the skinniest jeans' pockets. Given its size and large LCD, Kodak does a good job of arranging external controls to be both functional and fit with the camera's basic but attractive design.
Along the top edge of the camera to the left of the shutter/zoom control lies the Favorites button for tagging an image into the Favorites category, as well as Video, Scene mode, Power, and Flash buttons. Despite the fact that these buttons are all low profile, I had no problems locating them by touch. The active buttons light up in blue, which also helps to keep track of them. Even the HD logo lights up when the camera is set to HD (wide-screen) format.
Four buttons align vertically with the right edge of the large LCD, providing direct access to the camera's no-brainer Share function, as well as Delete, Menu, and Review. You use a tiny joystick to navigate menus and images in Playback, and to cycle through several display variations (including a live histogram), access exposure compensation, and toggle macro/infinity focus modes.
Of all the controls, the joystick probably seems the likeliest to pose a problem for snapshooters with large hands. Otherwise the camera should be a good physical fit for everyone. Just be careful when gripping the camera during movie or audio playback--the tiny thumb-rest sits directly below the speaker and you'll cover it with your thumb.
The camera is generally easy to use, and thanks to its onboard help system, even newcomers to digital photography will be able to understand how to operate it. Its three-tabbed menu system can get a little confusing, though; in addition to Setup, there are two Capture menus labeled Capture and Capture +, so you may have to scroll through both to find the functions you want.
Because the V1253 is strictly point-and-shoot, you won't find manual exposure controls other than exposure compensation. But it does have a whopping 23 scene modes that cover all the basics including portrait, night portrait, landscape, night landscape, flower, fireworks, snow, beach, text, and even two panorama-assist modes (one from left to right; the other from right to left). There's also a custom settings mode that allows you to save and quickly access your favorite settings.
HD is definitely one of the most buzz-laden digital-camera features, although it sometimes comes with limitations. The V1253's 16:9 HD view looks great on its wide-screen LCD, but remember that images at this aspect ratio are cropped from full resolution: 9 or 2.1 megapixels. To take advantage of the camera's full 12 megapixels, you'll need to shoot at 4:3. Movies are captured as MPEG 4 (QuickTime) files with a maximum capture of 720p at 30 frames per second. Although the camera's movie mode is good, don't expect to win any awards with your footage. Other than the fact that you can't edit your movies in-camera, there's a nice set of video options in playback including the ability to move through the footage by frame, add a bookmark or even print a frame.
When budgeting, you should probably take into account about another $10 for an AC adapter; otherwise you'll have to charge the V1253 via your computer's USB port, which requires a tiny, easy-to-lose bundled USB adapter that makes USB connections possible. You'll also want to seriously consider $100 for the EasyShare HDTV Dock. Without it, there's no HDMI output for optimal HD viewing on your high-def television. In fact, all the camera supplies is a cheap composite cable, which also requires that USB dongle. Also plan on visiting Kodak's Web site to download the full manual (PDF); the camera comes only with a printed QuickStart Guide.
Overall, the V1253 is a pretty peppy performer, with decent automatic face detection, little shutter lag (other than a slight increase in AF time under low light), good shot-to-shot time even with the flash, and about 2.5 frames per second continuous shooting. On the other hand, the camera can capture only three frames in burst mode, which almost defeats the purpose of having a good capture rate. It wakes and shoots in a hair less than 2 seconds. Under optimal conditions it takes only 0.4 second to focus and shoot, and that rises to only 0.8 second in lower-contrast conditions, quite good for its class. From shot to shot, it runs only 1.2 seconds, increasing to 1.6 seconds with flash--also quite good.