When even entry-level point-and-shoot cameras are starting to embrace high definition, you know the technology has reached the mainstream. This budget Kodak can shoot 10-megapixel stills or 720p video through its modest 3x lens. The EasyShare M1033 is available online now for around £150.
Budget cameras never used to look like this. Kodak has ushered out light plastic bodies and postage stamp-sized displays, and welcomed in a classy matte black all-metal housing and a stonking 76mm (3-inch) screen. Build-quality feels rock-solid throughout, from the low profile buttons to the clever combined power/data USB cable (although sorry, convergence fans, it uses Kodak's custom dock connector).
The M1033 defaults to fully automatic Smart Capture, which analyses the scene and selects from macro (close-up), landscape and face detection focus modes. This works pretty well, although face detection sometimes activates in error when it sees a clock. It also takes the camera about a second to recognise when the scene has changed, so go easy on the shutter in hectic environments.
The Kodak's 10-megapixel pictures look pretty good: bursting with colour, healthy (if slightly ruddy) skin tones and balanced exposure. Movies are similarly lively, giving smooth, bright playback.
While the screen is enormous, and looks great in strong indoor light, it's not so hot in genuine sunlight or deep shade. Tilt the screen more than a few degrees and it fades even more, making for some frustrating framing.
The buttons have had their fiddliness turned up to 11: the four-way controller is all over the place and the menus -- limited as they are -- split up functions fairly randomly.
Changing basic settings, such as white balance and sensitivity, takes two menus and a number of button presses to achieve, although at least the decent built-in flash has its own button.
Shutter delay is about average and the burst mode is also disappointing, freezing after shooting just 3 frames in 2 seconds.
Moreover, the whole hi-def experience is rather over-sold. While the clips themselves don't look too bad, sound isn't great and you only get a standard AV cable supplied. To watch clips in real HD, you'll need to invest another £70 in Kodak EasyShare's HDTV Dock, which itself only has 720p component video out, rather than a HDMI connection.
Both stills and video smear detail into an admittedly pleasing smoothness, which also helps to restrain digital noise at higher sensitivities. But venture above ISO 800, where blotchiness begins to dominate, at your peril.
Perhaps because of the large screen and Smart Capture continuous scene analysis, battery life is below average, at just 220 shots between charges.
Full marks to Kodak for trying to bring a touch of class to the world of budget cameras with the EasyShare M1033. The metal case and large screen are pleasant surprises, while the irritating hand-holding photo modes and expensive HD dock are less so. Overall, it's a fine everyday camera for novices.
Editing by Jon Squire