Kodak M873

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The initial impression is certainly good. There's no denying that the M873 is a nice looking camera, and one of the slimmest on the market (although it's actually 22mm thick, not the 17.9mm claimed in the online spec sheet). It has an all-metal aluminium body with a nice brushed finish and chrome highlights. The overall build quality is quite good and the camera feels a lot more expensive than it actually is. There are a couple of worries though, in particular the flimsy plastic-hinged card/battery hatch and the off-centre plastic tripod bush, both of which could succumb to wear and tear.

The control layout is a bit fiddly, a perennial problem with ultra-compact cameras, although to be fair it's no more fiddly than some of its competitors, and at least the buttons have a nice soft but positive click to them. However the lack of any sort of thumb grip and the position of the buttons on the back panel do make the camera a bit awkward to hold. The shiny-on-slightly-less-shiny labelling of the D-pad is a bit hard to see in dim light, but other than that there are no major problems with the controls. Apart form its position, the zoom control is actually quite good, with a lot of fine control for accurate framing. The zoom action appears to be continuous rather than stepped, so it is possible to move it to any position with a bit of careful operation. The menu system is quite nice, with a single button bringing up a simple, easy-to-read three-page menu, although the actual arrangement of options between the pages seems a bit arbitrary. Exposure compensation, picture size and colour mode are on the first page as you'd expect, but so is the long-time exposure control and digital zoom, while more useful functions such as white balance, exposure metering mode and ISO setting are relegated to the second page. It only means a couple of extra button presses, but it is a bit of a pain nonetheless.

The camera has a small three-position switch positioned on the right-hand side to select the basic shooting modes; either fully automatic, scene mode or video mode. The scene mode has 20 options, covering all of the usual basics such portrait, night portrait, landscape, sport, snow, beach, fireworks, panorama stitching etcetera. The only slightly unusual option is a panning shot mode, which presumably sets a slightly slow shutter speed. There is also a "Digital Image Stabilisation" mode, but as far as I can determine it doesn't actually involve any actual stabilisation, instead as many similarly-named features do it simply boosts the ISO setting to produce a faster shutter speed, with the increase in image noise this usually entails.

The video mode is typical for a recent camera, in that it shoots at 640 x 480 resolution and 30fps, with mono sound and optional electronic image stabilisation. Also typically, the optical zoom cannot be used while filming. Video clips are limited to 80 minutes, but since a 1GB memory card only provides enough storage for 18 minutes of shooting this is largely academic. The flash is also fairly average, with a range of 3.7m at ISO 400, although frame coverage is good, and it recharges in about five seconds so it doesn't slow shooting too drastically.



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