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Kodak EasyShare M590 Review
by Andy Stanton -  12/15/2010

Kodak makes a wide array of point-and-shoot cameras which are very functional and reasonably priced. However, until recently "stylish" was not a word normally associated with Kodak cameras. The EasyShare M590 may change that perception.

Kodak EasyShare M590


The M590 is a small, thin, attractive, 14 megapixel point-and-shoot camera with an internal folded-optics lens, which means the lens does not move in and out when optical zoom is enabled. The M590 has other appealing features - optical image stabilization, 5x optical zoom, HD movie ability and a "share" button which allows the user to tag photos to be emailed or loaded to Facebook, YouTube, Orkut, Flickr, or the Kodak Gallery.

Kodak claims the M590 is the thinnest camera available with a 5x optical zoom at only 0.6 inches thick, and my own research confirms this. Kodak's online store lists the M590 for $199.95, though I've seen it from reliable online retailers for under $150. With all this going for it, the M590 appears to be a good choice for those interested in a modestly priced thin, stylish, camera with an internal folded-optics zoom lens. Let's find out if this is indeed the case.

BUILD AND DESIGN
The M590 has a solid feel for such a thin camera. It appears to be constructed mostly of plastic, with metal support at the top and sides. It comes in several colors, silver, purple, blue and an attractive burgundy. Styling is conservative but sleek, with no protruding buttons and dials. Overall, the M590 makes a good first impression.

Kodak EasyShare M590

The M590 definitely falls within the ultracompact class, with dimensions of 3.8 inches (96.5mm) wide, 2.3 inches (58.4mm) high and 0.6 inches (15.2mm) thick and a weight of only 129 grams, including its battery and memory card. The M590 uses a micro-SD card, which is often used in cell phones but rarely in digital cameras. Kodak ships the M590 with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (KLIC-7000), a USB cable, a USB/AC adaptor that is used, with the USB cable, for in-camera battery charging, a sturdy wrist strap, a useful bag for carrying the camera and a brief paper User Guide.

According to the User Guide, when the camera is connected to the computer, a software downloader automatically runs and will download and install Kodak's software for transferring images to the computer and editing pictures. However, the software downloader did not work for me, but an online chat with Kodak enabled me to download the software manually from Kodak's website. Kodak's website also contains an Extended User Guide.

Ergonomics and Controls
The M590 has a smooth, metallic appearance and fits easily in a pocket or purse. The front of the camera is mostly featureless except for a strip at the top. The lens is in the upper right hand corner, an awkward place as fingers tend to stray in front of it when the left hand is used to steady the camera. Next to the lens is a lamp used for auto focus assist in dim light as well as showing the use of the self-timer and video. The flash is located in the top-center and underneath is the microphone for monaural recording.

Kodak EasyShare M590

The top of the camera contains only two controls, a rectangular power button next to a larger rectangular shutter button. The buttons are similar in size and shape and I sometimes found myself pressing one when I intended to press the other. I did not care for the shutter button as it was not as sensitive as I would have liked.

One side of the camera is bare, on the other side there is a wrist strap mount and a USB port. The port is open at all time - there is no removable cover as in most cameras. That is a concern as without a cover dirt and dust can enter the port.

Kodak EasyShare M590

At the bottom of the camera there is a tripod socket properly placed in the middle (not in the corner as in some cameras), though the socket has plastic grooves that wear more quickly than metal grooves. The bottom also contains the battery/memory card compartment which is covered by a thin, fragile plastic cover.

The rear of the camera contains a 2.7-inch diameter LCD monitor with a 4x3 aspect ratio. There are five menu buttons in a column bordering the right edge of the monitor - flash, delete, menu, info and review. Further to the right, from top to bottom, are a zoom control toggle, a speaker, a four-way controller with an OK button in the middle, a mode button and a share button.

Kodak EasyShare M590

All the controls at the rear of the camera work smoothly and well. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated movie button, which I've found to be very useful. Also, there is no raised area to enable one to grip the camera with the right hand, which makes it necessary to use both hands most of the time.

Menus and Modes
Kodak cameras have always had clear, easily understood menus and the M590 is no exception. The menus change depending on the mode selected by the mode button:

Display/Viewfinder
The M590 has a 2.7-inch diameter LCD monitor in a 4x3 aspect ratio with a resolution of approximately 230,000 dots. The monitor has three different brightness settings, auto where brightness is automatically adjusted based on the environment, high power and power save.

Kodak EasyShare M590

The LCD monitor is a good one, and can be seen well in both shady and sunny conditions. There is no viewfinder.

PERFORMANCE
Performance of the M590 can best be described as mixed. The menus work smoothly and menu selections take effect without delay. Its start-up and shut down time of about three seconds each are not bad. As shown below, it is a quick-focusing camera. However, there is a major problem with the M590's shot-to-shot time. It consistently ran five to seven seconds between shots without the flash and almost 10 seconds with the flash in operation. This was the case in both good and bad light.

Shooting Performance
As shown by the performance tables, the M590 is no slouch in when it comes to auto focus. Shutter lag, when pre-focused (when the shutter is pressed halfway down), was negligible at 0.03 seconds. Auto focus acquisition, the time it takes between pressing the shutter and taking the shot, was a very quick 0.30 seconds. Continuous shooting ability is not the M590's forte, at only 1.1 frames per second. This is slower than Kodak's specification of 1.5 frames per second for a three-shot burst.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 0.01
Canon PowerShot SD4500 0.02
Kodak EasyShare M590 0.03

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 0.19
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 0.28
Kodak EasyShare M590 0.30
Canon PowerShot SD4500 0.49

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Canon PowerShot SD4500 3.3 fps
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX75 3 2.6 fps
Fujifilm FinePix Z800EXR 4 1.6 fps
Kodak EasyShare M590 3 1.0 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

Although the M590's auto focus is reliable in good light, I often had a problem locking focus indoors, in dim light, despite the fact that the camera has a bright auto-focus assist lamp.

Kodak specifies a battery life of approximately 195 shots, which is not terribly long. This should be kept in mind when going out to shoot with the M590. It's probably a good idea to purchase a second battery.

Lens Performance
The M590 has a 5x zoom lens with a range of 35mm through 175mm (35mm film camera equivalent). While the wide end of the lens is not as wide as some, it has a reach that is quite long for a camera of the M590's small size.

Kodak EasyShare M590
Wide angle
Kodak EasyShare M590
Telephoto

An additional 5x zoom is available when using digital zoom, which can be useful since the camera's high resolution 14 megapixel images tend not to show pixelization with modest use of digital zoom.

While the lens is reasonably sharp in the center, I noticed some corner blur in several photos. I did not see any vignetting, but chromatic aberration was a problem in images with high contrast shots. For example in the image below, there is purple fringing on most of the tree branches and severe fringing on the left edge of the tree trunk on the right side of the frame.

Kodak M590 Sample Image

I found minor barrel distortion at wide angle and no pin cushion distortion at maximum telephoto.

Kodak EasyShare M590
Wide angle
Kodak EasyShare M590
Telephoto

Video Quality
Videos shot by the M590 had good color and sound but were a bit choppy. I noticed a problem when using the optical zoom, as the camera at times seemed to lose focus. This is demonstrated in the video below:

HD video can be recorded for a maximum of 29 minutes or until the file size reaches 4GB.

Image Quality
I found most of the images produced by the M590 to be pleasing, especially when high contrast areas showing chromatic aberration were not involved. I did not notice excessive overexposure, which is often a problem with cameras with small sensors. Kodak cameras are known to have strong colors, and the M590 is no exception, but I rarely felt the colors were overdone. The M590 gives the user some additional control over the images when shooting in program mode. Sharpness can be set to sharp, normal and soft. Color intensity can be set to Vivid Color, Full Color, Basic Color, Black and White and Sepia.

Kodak M590 Sample Image
Vivid
Kodak M590 Sample Image
Full
Kodak M590 Sample Image
Basic
Kodak M590 Sample Image
Black and white
Kodak M590 Sample Image
Sepia

The auto white balance setting of the M590 worked well. White balance can also be manually set, in program mode, to daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and open shade. The image below shows auto white balance using the fluorescent setting:

Kodak M590 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The M590's flash can be set to Auto flash; Auto, Fill, Red Eye and Off. Kodak claims a flash range, at ISO 400, of 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) at wide angle and 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) at maximum telephoto. However, the flash seemed underpowered and often failed to produce sufficient light to obtain a pleasing indoor image. Also, as previously mentioned, the flash usually required 10 seconds to recharge.

Kodak M590 Sample Image

As shown by the ISO table below, the M590 produces its best looking images at ISO 100, but even at ISO 800 its images are fairly detailed, with good color, and not excessively noisy. Image quality declines greatly at higher ISO's, but they can still be used in an emergency. Overall the M590's low light image quality is surprisingly good for a 14 megapixel camera with its modest price-tag.

Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 64
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 64, 100% crop
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 100
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 200
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 400
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 800
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Kodak M590 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop

Additional Sample Images
Kodak M590 Sample Image Kodak M590 Sample Image
Kodak M590 Sample Image Kodak M590 Sample Image
Kodak M590 Sample Image Kodak M590 Sample Image

CONCLUSIONS
The Kodak M590 is a very good looking camera with good image quality overall, despite some problems with chromatic aberration. It does surprisingly well in low light situations. It has a quick auto-focus system that is reliable in good light (though not as reliable in dimmer light).


While the camera has a few ergonomic issues, its flash is underpowered and its video ability is only fair, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it at its current street price except for one major flaw - its shot-to-shot time is terribly slow. It's hard to imagine users not becoming frustrated with waiting between five to seven seconds between shots without the flash and ten seconds when the flash is in use.

Pros:

Cons: