Among a certain techno-savvy crowd, the touch screen interface epitomizes "cool." With this in mind, Kodak is among a handful of manufacturers who have decided to go the touch interface route for their premium ultracompact cameras. In Kodak's case, the camera is the Kodak EasyShare V1273.
If you've come to associate Kodak with the often mundane compact cameras that the company churns out on a regular basis, be prepared to be surprised: the V1273 is a high-end camera with impressive build quality and one of the most polished touch interfaces around. Indeed, the camera's physical presence sets a high bar – one that the V1273's performance and image quality will have to clear in order to earn our praise as a well rounded total package.
The Kodak EasyShare V1273 is a high-resolution, high-spec ultracompact that features, most notably, a minimalist design and interface driven by a large touch panel display. Positioned as a premium product, the metal-cased V1273 targets a consumer market that appreciates a well-made product but as a rule is seeking a high-tech, fully automatic shooting experience.
To this end, the 12 megapixel, 3x zoom V1273 delivers, defaulting into Kodak's Smart Capture shooting mode on startup, which utilizes several behind the scenes technologies to control exposure and contrast, reduce motion blur, and set accurate white balance. With the V1273's processor making the overwhelming majority of basic picture taking decisions for you automatically in its default mode, the camera aims to provide point-and-shoot picture taking, but with more consistent results than your average auto-exposure camera offers.
Although it does provide almost no user controls by default, there's more going on than initially meets the eye in the V1273's menus. Click the shooting mode icon in the touch screen's upper left corner and the V1273 provides you with a short list of touch-to-select shooting mode options:
Beyond the touch interface, the most highly touted feature on this ultracompact is its ability to capture HD (1280x720) video. The camera has no problem grabbing smooth looking clips in its highest-res mode, and appears to be able to shoot clips of unlimited length up to the capacity of its memory. Predictably, the camera's mono sound is rather boxy and unflattering, and we did have some focus acquisition issues when shooting video, even with the camera set to continuous auto focus. If you're looking for a pocket camera with a little more kick in the video department, however, the V1273 mostly delivers.
Playback mode provides a surprisingly limited number of post-shot processing tools for a premium device. Other than cropping images to suit or appending audio notes, there's not a lot to play with here – though the "roulette wheel" scrolling style that lets you quickly flip your way through images using the touch interface is good for wasting a few minutes at least a few minutes of your day.
The V1273 does provide Kodak's PerfectTouch in-camera post-processing, which claims to open up blocked up shadow areas and subtly add more vibrancy to colors. In testing, we were generally pleased with the results that this handy little tool provides.
For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
Styling and Build Quality
"Kodak" and "style" haven't traditionally gone together where the company's digicams are concerned, but if you think of Kodak as a maker of nondescript consumer ultrazooms and me-too compacts you may be in for a surprise with the V1273.
Spying the Kodak's sleek, minimalist form from across the room, DesktopReview.com editor J.R. Nelson asked, "Is that a Sony?" Given how much emphasis Sony places on style with their Cyber-shot line, that's a pretty big compliment, and shows just how much work Kodak has done to make this camera a serious contender in a style-conscious market segment. In fact, the word that keeps coming up again and again around here to describe the EasyShare's fit and finish is "sharp," and it's a fair description: with high-end materials and a unique, clean-lined look, the V1273 conveys the right visual message for its technologically savvy audience.
Other than a battery door that doesn't inspire confidence, materials used on the V1273 are all first rate. The camera's body is mostly brushed metal, which gives the device an extremely well-made feel and a high resistance to any kind of flex. With a metal case, the only trade-off for this premium construction is weight: the EasyShare tips the scales at a hefty 5.9 ounces with a battery and SD card in place.
Ergonomics and Interface
Putting the touch interface aside for the moment, the V1273's physical layout is easy enough to comprehend: three dedicated buttons and a zoom toggle on the back panel, and power and shutter release controls on top. That's it.
As expected, the touch interface does open up a whole other can of worms in the interface department. On the one hand, the touch interface makes it easy to see what's going on, and easy to find what you're looking for and select it. On the other, some less technologically savvy tester who I showed the V1273 to seemed initially baffled by all the tapping and scrolling involved. Our First Thoughts video gives a more in-depth look at how Kodak's touch interface works, which may be helpful in deciding if this kind of control arrangement is right for you.
The V1273's touch interface is both polished and transparent, but all this tapping may also be enough to drive shooters who just want to make basic adjustments nuts (doubly so if you have big fingers, as many of the V1273's touch-responsive screen icons are tiny...). A menu structure that puts some crucial parameters fairly deep in combined with the fact that there are no physical control overrides (as on the Panasonic FX500, for instance, which allows most functions to be adjusted via a d-pad instead of the screen if desired) proves to be a tough combo under close scrutiny. For instance, from start-up the V1273 requires six taps and two button press to change the white balance setting; for common adjustments, this song and dance can get a little trying.
More generally, a problem unique to touch interface cameras (at least those without redundant physical controls as well) is that one-handed settings adjustments become next to impossible. Try reaching the thumb of your right hand all the way from its natural rest position to the upper left corner of the V1273's screen to make a shooting mode change and you'll understand what I'm talking about.
In case you haven't picked up on it by now, the V1273's one and only shot composition option is a 3.0 inch touch-sensitive panel. In terms of color reproduction, the panel looks alright, though contrast is more than a bit watery.
Display gain-up in low light is automatic on the V1273, and although the image is still grainy, the camera continues to refresh smoothly in dark shooting situations – something few ultracompacts can claim. Screen brightness is also manually adjustable via two settings, High Power and Power Save modes, though a too-reflective coating that's bad about glare and too little power even in High Power mode make composing shots on the V1273 a chore outdoors, or even in rooms with strong overhead light.
Somewhat obnoxiously, regardless of LCD power mode, the V1273's screen is set to automatically dim after 10 seconds by default, though this function can (and should, in my opinion) be disabled.
Timings and Shutter Lag
In our basic timings testing, the V1273 turned in a 0.07 second number for pure shutter lag (time to take a shot with focus and exposure locked), and a 0.42 second AF acquisition time (press-to-capture time without pre-focusing). With the performance standards for ultracompacts having edged up over time, these are mediocre numbers for the V1273 on balance, especially in the shutter lag department. AF speed under controlled testing at wide angle is good, though not always consistent around this number in actual shooting.
The V1273 exhibits better than average continuous shooting performance as well, although a highly limited number of frames per burst and an average buffer clearing time hurt numbers here. At its best, the camera hits speeds of 2.3 frames per second when shooting full-res files, though you're limited to three shots and will have to wait more than 7 seconds for the V1273 to clear the buffer and ready itself for another burst.
With a comparatively long startup cycle (and a goofy power-on sound that apparently can't be disabled) of 4.6 seconds, the V1273 struggles to grab unfolding action in a reasonable amount of time – though the camera will grab a shot as soon as it's ready if you hold the shutter release.
Befitting its target market of family snapshot takers, the V1273 has a limited array of AF options. Single and continuous drive modes and joined with automatic multi-area or center-area point selection, combined with a separate setting for engaging face detection AE/AF.
Working mostly in Program shooting mode with multi-area AF and single shot drive selected, I found the V1273's performance to be acceptable if not great. The camera had a tendency to hunt against textured or reflective backgrounds, didn't handle low light particularly well, and was inconsistent in terms of speed. In good light when it's hitting it's marks, the V1273 is quite good, but throw it a curve ball in terms of subjects and the camera seems to be unsure of itself.
Interestingly, I actually found the focus setup in the EasyShare's default Smart Capture mode a little more intuitive to use. In keeping with its high-tech vibe, AF in Smart Capture mode is a full-time tracking system: half-press the shutter release to lock onto a point (or a face – it works with face detection too), and the camera will hold that focus point even if you recompose the shot, assuming the object/area that's being tracked doesn't go outside the composition frame. The tracking function is definitely more flash than function as a rule (it can't grab multiple points across a wide area, for instance), but it tracks with surprising accuracy just the same.
Overall, better AF performance all around in Smart Capture mode further reinforces the idea that the V1273 is, first and foremost, a responsive, intelligent auto-exposure camera.
Lens and Zoom
MFor all its high-tech build, the V1273 looks a bit weak in the optics department. The lens is a 3x Schneider-Kreuznach unit, with an effective range of 37-111mm that's neither very wide nor very long. These days, the bar is pretty high for cameras in the V1273's up-market class, and some distinguishing performance feature in this area would help this camera's case with consumers.
Operationally, the barrel feels solid and moves smoothly and quietly, but a small number of stops (we count six) from one end of the other and some weird "settling in" motions making zooming in or out anything but a smooth experience.
Even in macro mode, the lens's measured close-focus limit was nearly 6 inches – not exactly close by any standard – and I was further put off by the fact that getting a lock under 9 inches or so took multiple attempts most of the time.
Other than its poor positioning on the body – it's too easy to partially obstruct with a finger – the V1273's flash unit turns in an overall performance that's surprisingly good for a small camera. Exposure is consistently even, with balanced skin tones in portraits and very little wash-out even when shooting up close in difficult exposure environments.
The flash unit doesn't have a huge amount of power, so if you need a burst of illumination to light up a dark room, for instance, it's best to give the V1273 some lead where ISO is concerned.
The advantage of limited power, however, is snappy flash recycle: the V1273 is recovered from a full-power burst and ready to shoot again in a mere 3.2 seconds.
The V1273 utilizes optical image stabilization for blur-free shooting at slower shutter speeds. The system is so unobtrusive that, barring the "IS" in "V1273 IS," you'd probably never even know it was there.
Image Stabilization disabled
Image Stabilization enabled
IS can be enabled or disabled via a setup menu option, but there are no advanced modes for vertical/horizontal panning in this case.
In spite of 1000 mAh battery, a 3.0 inch touch screen simply kills any prospect of a reasonable performance here. I had trouble finding a CIPA spec for this particular camera, but after a little more than 100 shots (with a fair amount of reviewing and some flash and video shooting, admittedly), my fully charged V1273 was giving me a battery warning. To say that this is at the low end of average would probably be to generous: rather, even in light of a large, battery hungry touch panel, the V1273 falls short of expectations in the battery life department.
With 12 megapixels of capture from its sensor, the V1273 is unquestionably capable of producing images that are big enough for just about any use. The more important questions in this case have to do with whether the V1273 provides enough smooth, clean resolution to make this impressive megapixel spec worth it.
In terms of baseline performance, this EasyShare doesn't turn in a bad one: our control image is smooth and richly detailed, with strong, vibrant colors. At the end of the day, a performance that's generally solid in this regard may be all that potential V1273 customers care about, but if you're interested in digging a little deeper into the EasyShare's imaging nuances, there's definitely more to find.
Exposure, Processing, and Color
The V1273 provides as much exposure control as any ultracompact, and with multi-area, center-weighted, and spot metering modes, more than many. Having a spot metering system is a nice touch for more advanced shooters, though even in the default multi-area mode I didn't find much to take issue with.
Like most high-res, small-sensor compacts, the V1273 can lose detail at the very top of the spectrum if you're not careful (note the lack of definition in the fur on the bear's head in the image above). Keep a careful eye on your highlights, however – the V1273 has an on-screen histogram option to assist in this regard – and the camera is otherwise hard to fault.
Default processing is a touch hard for my taste, exhibiting the kind of oversharpened look common to consumer point-and-shoots. While it makes for highly printable images, more advanced users may lament the haloing around essentially every defined edge.
To the positive, default color rendering is pleasingly vivid without excessive saturation – the V1273's shots definitely have that vibrant Kodak signature look – and contrast isn't so strong as to interfere with a smooth shadow roll-off.
In addition to the default Natural Color rendering mode seen above, the V1273 provides both High Color and Low Color alternatives for boosting or cutting saturation and contrast as desired.
The High Color mode shows a marked increase in contrast, with more abrupt transitions on both ends of the spectrum. Increased saturation is most noticeable in the green channel, making our sample image look a little sickly (though poor white balance may be partially to blame for exacerbating this issue in this case). Low color mode is slightly more muted all around, though in both cases hue accuracy is generally preserved.
Is worth noting that black and white as well as sepia rendering modes are also available.
The V1273 throws a bit of a curveball where white balance performance is concerned, leaving us unsure about whether to rate its overall performance above or below average at the end of the day. The issue stems from the fact that the camera's white balance system leaves images somewhat warm of neutral under tungsten light, even using the appropriate preset.
Incandescent White Balance, 3200K incandescent light
Most people won't find the slight additional warmth indoors objectionable (it's probably closer to what we actually see than the artificial cool incandescent balance provided by many cameras), but it's certainly not as pure white as we've come to expect.
With that said, auto white balance performs almost as well indoors – a pleasant surprise, in truth, given that the performance here is much closer to accurate than the nasty, yellow skewed images produced by many cameras in this situation.
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light
Ultimately, assessing the V1273's performance in this area comes down to whether you find its warm rendering with the preset objectionable. If you can look beyond a slightly warm image tone all around indoors, the camera does remarkably well otherwise.
Lens faults were well controlled with the V1273, befitting the unit's Schneider-Kreuznach badging. There was some mildly objectionable barrel distortion at wide angle, but no pincushioning at telephoto.
Some vignetting was apparent at full wide as well, but the camera does a remarkable job (for a compact) of controling fringing/visible aberrations across its range.
Sensitivity and Noise
In its lower register, the V1273 is relatively clean in spite of huge resolution. All those pixels in such a small space begin to make themselves known, however, at settings as low as ISO 200.
ISO 64, 100% crop
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 3200, 100% crop
By ISO 400, the V1273's extremely aggressive noise reduction system has jumped into action, largely obliterating extremely fine detail even at this relatively low setting.
ISO 400, 100% crop
Things remain fairly messy from this point on up, though the V1273 does do something few of its competitors do in providing a full-resolution ISO 3200 setting. You can certainly get decent small prints out of the ISO 1600 and 3200 settings, though the colors have lost most of their punch, and given the amount of downsampling involved, it's not clear if these full-resolution settings are any more useful than the pixel-binned, low-res options on competitive models.
Additional Sample Images
At the end of the day, the V1273 isn't a bad little camera, though poor battery life, nearly unusable high-ISO settings, sluggishness in odd places, and images that seem to emphasize quantity of pixels over quality generally hurt its chances with consumers. As a device, the V1273 has a great look, but struggles at times to keep up appearances as a high-performance camera.
If the V1273 were a bit cheaper, it would likely earn a ringing endorsement from us as an alternative to current premium, touch interface ultracompacts like the Sony T cameras – offering most of the performance of these cameras at two-thirds of the price, say. As it is, given all of the great choices in this market segment if you're at all ambivalent about the touch screen this certainly isn't the camera for you, and even if the touch interface is important to you, there simply may be better options for the same money.
|Sensor||12.0 megapixel, 1/1.72" CCD|
|Lens/Zoom||3x (37-111mm) Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon, f/3.1-5.7|
|LCD/Viewfinder||3.0", 230K-pixel TFT LCD with touch interface
|Sensitivity||ISO 64-3200 (6400 in High ISO mode)
|Shutter Speed||8-1/1164 seconds|
|Shooting Modes||Smart Capture, Program, Scene, Movie
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Sport, Landscape, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Snow, Beach, Text, Fireworks, Flower, Manner/Museum, Self-portrait, Stage, Backlight, Candlelight, Sunset|
|White Balance Settings||Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Open Shade|
|Metering Modes||Multi-Area, Center, Spot|
|Focus Modes||Single AF, Continuous AF
|Drive Modes||Normal, First Burst, Last Burst, Self Timer|
|Flash Modes||Auto, Fill, Red-Eye Reduction, Off
|Self Timer Settings
||10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
|Memory Formats||SD, SDHC
|File Formats||JPEG, MPEG|
|Max. Image Size||4000x3000|
|Max. Video Size
||1280x720, 30 fps
|Zoom During Video||Yes|
|Connections||USB 2.0, AV/HD output (via dock connector)|
|Additional Features||Face Detection, Optical Image Stabilization, Red-Eye Reduction, HD video, PerfectTouch