Kodak has made a habit of producing flurries of anonymous plastic compact cameras, indistinguishable from one another except for their cryptic model numbers. Here's a surprise in the Kodak EasyShare V1273: it's a designer, metal-bodied compact with a touchscreen interface, automatic scene recognition and priced around £170 to appeal to an altogether more stylish set.
After years of churning out dull-looking -- and often dull-shooting -- digital cameras, Kodak has produced one of the most attractive compacts around. The V1273 (note to marketing: the name still needs some work) is an all-steel, gun-metal nugget of cool that will have designers salivating over their MacBook Airs.
Smooth, rounded edges lead to a subtly backlit power button and down to a massive 76mm (3-inch) LCD, flanked by just three controls. Its weight and construction suggest a build quality and solidity that's often lacking in the compact arena (with the exception of Canon's IXUS range).
The specification seems top notch too: 12 megapixels for still photos and high-definition (720p) movie clips. As is usual with Kodak, colours are bright and cheerful, and exposure is good. The Kodak also copes well with high ISOs, meaning less ugly grain in low light shots. Video clips are soft and clear, although they're not really high definition in any sense other than raw pixel count.
Full marks to Kodak for providing a multi-purpose power/data USB cable, but make sure not to lose the essential -- and rather fiddly -- miniature docking adaptor supplied.
When a camera is relying on its LCD screen for control, as well as framing and playback, it'd better be top notch. The V1273's isn't. In fact, size aside, this display is one of the worst we've seen in recent years.
It's not just that the touch-sensitive action is slow and unresponsive -- a common fault on touchscreens -- the display itself is weak. Its performance in bright light is shockingly bad, fading almost to black and making it difficult to frame subjects, let alone locate the small touch icons. It's nearly as bad in low light, dissolving into a dull mess of grain.
The camera boasts 'Smart Capture' intelligent scene detection, and to be fair, it usually swaps into macro and landscape modes at the right moment. It's much less reliable at activating its face detection function -- Fujifilm remains lightyears ahead of the competition here -- or deciding when to use its rather underpowered built-in flash.
Take any kind of manual control, though, and things get even worse. The menus are sluggish and complicated, taking many finger presses to alter basic settings like sensitivity and white balance. The zoom rocker that looks so small and neat proves to be painfully slow to respond, too.
Don't expect too much from the lens either. Shots are smooth rather than sharp, and busy subjects like trees lack real definition.
What works for books and covers applies equally to cameras and cases: the Kodak EasyShare V1273 is a superbly designed compact, lovingly built from desperately average components and controlled by frustratingly dumb software. The images and videos especially are passable, but it's a heck of job getting that far.
Edited by Jon Squire