The Kodak EasyShare M590 has a pocket-friendly flat frame and a wallet-friendly $199 price tag. Like all Kodaks in the EasyShare line, it's designed to make sharing photos convenient. It can tag photos and videos for automatic upload to social networking web sites. It is one of few Kodak digital cameras with an internal lens and earns itself the distinction of “the world’s thinnest 5x optical zoom digital camera” at 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.6 inches. It's an aesthetically appealing camera, but like many cameras at this price point, performance and image quality leave plenty to be desired.
Body and Design
The Kodak EasyShare M590 is designed for convenience rather than comfort. At just over a half-inch thin, the M590 slides easily into a pocket but isn’t very comfortable to hold. The Kodak M590 comes in red, purple, silver, and blue and has shiny silver highlights.
The M590 is more durable than most digital cameras its size. Its body is built mainly of thick plastic, and it also has metal plating on the top and sides of the camera that make it feel sturdy. Despite its sturdy body, Kodak built it with wimpy buttons. Most of the buttons have a slippery, glossy finish and hardly any tactile feedback when you push them.
The biggest problem with the buttons is atop the camera: The power button is too sensitive, and the shutter button isn’t sensitive enough. The M590 would get bumped in my pocket and turn on, wasting battery power. The shutter button was frustrating to use for the first few days until I found a “sweet spot” that actually took the picture when I pushed it (or at least a second later: shutter lag is another issue with the M590).
The EasyShare M590 has a bright and nicely sized 2.7-inch LCD screen that was easy to see in the sun and shade. In the playback mode, pictures look better on that small screen than they really are -- meaning that you’ll be disappointed once you upload them to a computer and view them on a bigger screen.
The camera runs on an included lithium-ion battery. Also included in the standard package is a USB cable that attaches to a plug and can fit in an outlet for in-camera battery charging. I am a fan of anything that produces less clutter, so this design appealed to me.
Image Quality and Performance
The body of this little camera may be attractive, but the M590 often took less-than-appealing photographs, especially when shooting indoors.
The M590 has a Smart Capture mode that automatically chooses a scene mode depending on the lighting and subject that the camera detects (similar to Smart Auto or Intelligent Auto modes on competing brands). This mode worked fairly well. If you want a little more freedom, there’s a Program mode that allows you to adjust the ISO and white balance. You can also select your own scene mode from a list that includes a three-shot in-camera panorama stitching mode. The panoramas are handy, as the camera’s 5x optical zoom lens starts at a narrow 35mm.
Rounding out the mode options is the movie mode, which can record in both 720p high definition and standard definition, with decent audio, too. Video quality is good in good lighting, but very poor in low light. Unfortunately, videos cannot be recorded to the internal memory; they must be recorded to a microSD card, the required memory card for the EasyShare M590.
Shooting indoors yielded ugly pictures. Without the flash, they were blurry, and with the flash, they were splotchy. Even with the high ISO sensitivities, optical image stabilization, face detection, and tracking autofocus technology turned on, the Kodak EasyShare M590 consistently blurred indoor shots and even some outdoor shots too. You can turn on the flash to eliminate the blur, but the bright light blows out the subject and leaves a black background.
No problem, you say. You’ll just pump up the ISO sensitivity to compensate. It goes up to 3200 at full 14-megapixel resolution, but that isn’t a foolproof solution to indoor photography either. As usual with compact cameras, when you increase the ISO, colors fade, details disappear, and white specks of noise creep in until the image looks like a watercolor painting that’s been dipped in the bathtub.
Adding to the ugliness was the overdone colors; this problem occurred in every kind of lighting. Perhaps this is a matter of personal preference, but the Kodak EasyShare M590’s pinks and reds popped out a little more than they should, and other colors are just not the same as what your eye sees.
Another problem with the Kodak M590’s performance was that it took its sweet time to take a picture -- even when you found that sweet spot on the shutter button. I took dozens of pictures of my two young kids and ended up with lots of turned heads and missed moments. The M590 is clearly not designed for shooting spontaneously.
On a positive note, one of the main draws of the Kodak M590 is the automated upload feature. You can tag photos to be emailed or loaded to Facebook, YouTube, Orkut, Flickr, or the Kodak Gallery by pushing the Share button in the playback mode. The tagging process is simple, and the transfer is simple – once you spend a few hours setting up the software and linking all of your accounts. I just wish the actual pictures being posted looked a little better.
I loved the convenience of the skinny-yet-sturdy Kodak M590. The concept of easily transferring images and videos directly to social networking sites with one platform is very appealing. But the poor image quality ranks down among camera phones (which are just as convenient and often link to social networking sites just as easily). Perhaps if you always take outdoor pictures at midday and your subject is always still, then this camera will keep you satisfied. If not, there are plenty of other digital cameras out there that are convenient and easy to use.
In the Kodak family, the $299 Slice is the M590's closest relative with its flat body, internal 5x lens, and 14 megapixels. The pricier Slice has a touchscreen interface while the M590 keeps a 2.7-inch standard LCD screen. The M590 has another close sibling, the M580, which shares many of the same modes and features but differs with a wider external 8x lens and 3-inch LCD. Similar models from Panasonic and Sony are worth a close look as well.