The EASYSHARE M550 is one of the latest products in the series, and sits towards the extremely affordable range of the scale. The model features a sizeable sensor, decent LCD screen and the expected range of simple functionality – all of which is available at a bargain price. But how does the M550 perform? Is it solely an entry-level shooter, or does it offer something for the more experienced photographer as well?
Despite all of the trials and tribulations that have faced Kodak over the past few years, one glimmering light has been the brand’s EASYSHARE series of cameras and peripherals. While they may not have received the critical acclaim placed upon other brands and ranges, the series has been a commercial success. This owes a lot of the no-frills interface and easy-to-use nature of the products, as well as a host of one-touch sharing facilities that give the series its catchy moniker.
The EASYSHARE M550 is one of the latest products in this series, and sits towards the extremely affordable range of the scale. The model features a sizeable sensor, decent LCD screen and the expected range of simple functionality – all of which is available at a bargain price. But how does the M550 perform? Is it solely an entry-level shooter, or does it offer something for the more experienced photographer as well?
Kodak EASYSHARE M550 review – Features
For a compact camera that is available at around the hundred pound mark, the EASYSHARE M550 feature a pretty impressive specification. First up is the sensor – the compact offers a resolution of 12.7MP in total, housed on a 1/2.3in CCD sensor, which produces images of 4096 x 3016 pixels. The optics featured offer a 5x optical with a wide-angle of 28mm, covering a range of 28-140mm in old money, though this isn’t optically stabilised. The shutter speeds in normal capture modes range from 1/8 – 1/1400 seconds, though in manual mode the maximum shutter speed is extended to between 1/ – 8 seconds.
The M550 sports a reasonable LCD screen – its 2.7in size is larger than a lot of compact cameras on the market, though unfortunately the 230k resolution is towards the lower end of the market. The ISO covers an interesting range of settings, from 64-640 in smart capture mode, though this extends to ISO 1000 in manual mode.
While on exposure modes, best to address the modes present on the M550. The model features a ‘Smart Capture’ mode, Kodak’s packaging of the prevalent intelligent auto setting, which allows the camera to decide upon which scene mode to use relevant to the shot. Alongside Smart Capture sit a range of scene modes, while a more adaptable program mode also features for those looking to take more control over their settings.
The M550′s movie mode does not, unfortunately, capture in HD format, instead recording at VGA resolution and 30fps. The camera also features several in-camera editing functions – Kodak ‘Perfect Touch’ technology features, as does the ability to crop and copy images, as well as basic video editing functionality.
The real sell of the EASYSHARE series that they make sharing images across a range of social networks a painless process. With the M550, Kodak has placed a large red share button on the camera rear which, when pressed, bring up a choice of platforms across which you can share the images. However, this only marks the photo for sharing – the actual sharing process comes about open plugging the memory card into the camera and then browsing the shots through the supplied software.
Design, Performance, Value & Image Quality
Kodak EASYSHARE M550 review – Design
One area where Kodak will not be winning awards with the M550 is design. The consumer compact end of the market is one that normally welcomes enterprising an innovative design, though it seems that Kodak has missed that memo. The M550 has the looks like a camera designed several years ago with a view to designing a camera of the future. Button layout and design is also fairly disappointing – the buttons on the top of the camera sit flush to the camera’s body and quite close together, making pressing them individually a complicated task. The buttons on the rear of the camera are slightly better and more sensibly sized, but are placed very close together making it difficult to operate the camera without accidentally pressing the undesired button.
Kodak EASYSHARE M550 review – Performance
Luckily, the Kodak EASYSHARE M550 is a decent camera in use. Once you’ve adjusted to the camera’s less-than-desirable button layout, it’s not that much of a pain to operate. The focus system is fairly prompt, with AF tracking working noticeably well. Unfortunately, the zoom is fairly noisy in its travel from wide to tele, and is slow, making it a fairly painful experience.
One of the plus points is the LCD screen. Despite being at the low end in the resolution stakes, the 2.7in screen displays exposures well and show a good amount of detail. Once you get used to the slightly unintuitive button layout, the menu system is nice a simply laid out in a linear fashion. Various buttons on the rear of the camera are customisable, meaning you can add quick / favourite functions where needed.
Kodak EASYSHARE M550 review – Value
One of the major sells of the Kodak EASYSHARE M550 is its price. Currently priced around the £100 mark, it’s difficult to expect too much from it. However, the bar has been raised recently with some fantastic models in this price range, and for that reason the EASYSHARE M550 starts to look as though it’s slightly lacking at this price point.
Kodak EASYSHARE M550 review -Image Quality
Image quality is another area in which the Kodak M550 falls down. There seems to be a real struggle with the rendering of fine detail. In what appear to be an act of overzealous compression, definition in subjects such as trees or a field of grass is almost completely lost, with the latter appearing solely as a multi-toned patch of green. White balance is also far from reliable, varying from cold to warm in between shots. ISO performance is also fairly poor, with noise appearing even at the lowest of settings. One of the redeeming factors with regards to image quality is the reliability of exposures – more often than not this is an area in which the M550 produces the correct result.
In theory, there is a lot to like about the Kodak EASYSHARE M550. It’s affordable price means that those new to photography can get a foot on the ladder for very little cash. Then there’s the specification – the 12MP sensor, 5x optical zoom with 28mm wide-angle and 2.7in LCD screen all result in what looks like a good value package. However, the problems soon surface upon closer inspection. As mentioned, the compact is poorly designed and looks dated, while button layout is unintuitive and complicated. Performance is generally sluggish, with zoom and focus being less than prompt, though AF tracking does seem up to the job.
Finally, there’s the image quality, which is amongst the most disappointing of compact cameras to recently grace the WDC testing bench. All in all, if your looking to get one of the most affordable cameras on the market and really aren’t fussed about performance, design or image quality, then the Kodak EASYSHARE M550 may be right for you. If any of those factors are important to you however, there are much better options out there.
Kodak EASYSHARE M550 sample image gallery
1/2.33in CCD, 12.7MP
28-140mm equiv., f/2.4-5.9
2.7in, 230k pixel
Smart Capture, Program, scene
64 – 1000
Auto, 4 preset
Auto, fill, red-eye reduction
SD / SDHC
99 x 58 x 23mm