Kodak EasyShare M381 review

Kodak’s 12-megapixel EasyShare M381 is a good low-priced point-and-shoot camera for anyone who doesn’t want to fuss with a lot of controls—as long as you’re also willing to deal with a few of the camera’s quirks.

The 5X optical zoom (35mm to 175mm) EasyShare M381 looks and feels like many basic point-and-shoot cameras geared toward easy operation. The top of the camera hosts the shutter button, the mode dial, the power button, and a useful flash button for quickly switching flash modes.

Through the mode dial you get access to six shooting modes: Video, Smart Capture, Program, Blur Reduction, Sport, and Panorama. Most people using the M381 will set the mode dial to Smart Capture, which is essentially an automatic mode; the camera determines the settings based on the scene framed in the 3-inch-diagonal LCD.

In my informal tests for image quality, I noticed inconsistencies in exposure. Shots taken within a few seconds of each other in the Smart Capture mode varied noticeably; some images looked fine, while others seemed overexposed.

The exposure issues were especially apparent in outdoor shots. Colours were consistent and accurate, but seemed to lack pop. And sharpness was a little soft, so some fine detail became lost in a blur. Even so, the M381’s overall image quality is acceptable for casual snapshots—aside from the exposure, nothing about the M381’s images in my tests stood out as either problematic or fantastic.

According to the user guide, Program mode lets you access the manual settings, but the only such settings I saw in that mode were exposure compensation, the timer, and focus. That’s a limited set of manual controls, but fairly standard for a bargain-priced point-and-shoot. Blur Reduction mode helps cancel out any camera shake; I found that it worked well, taking clear shots even when I purposely shook the camera while shooting. Sport mode is for action shots, while Panorama mode stitches together three pictures of a landscape taken as left, center, and right.

Also on the mode dial is the SCN selection, which lets you choose from 18 scene modes that automatically set up the camera according to the environment. The SCN options include such standards as Close Up, Museum, Night Portrait, and Portrait.

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