The M1033 is out of production, replaced by a newer model. Here's what we had to say when it was released in April 2008.
The Kodak Easyshare M1033 has a pretty simple marketing focus: with a lack of manual controls and a huge variety of automatic features, it's designed for those who want a camera that's easy to use and helps them create great pictures effortlessly. The question of whether the M1033 accomplishes either of those things is what I intended to find out during this test. The truth of the matter is that I was pretty disappointed, and I have the feeling the 10-megapixel label of this camera is going to earn it a lot more buyers than it deserves.
Design: A Joystick That Doesn't Live Up To Its Name
The M1033 is touted as "thin and stylish" by the manufacturer, and it certainly does have a nice, sleek little body in a variety of cool colors. It also has a three-inch, wide-angle LCD screen that offers a great view. But for me, at least, the pleasure of the layout stops there. Perhaps in an effort to cut down on buttons on the back of the camera, the Mode button is located up top, and the arrow buttons have been replaced by the joystick, which is essentially a small nub that, when pushed in any direction, controls the cursor, and when pushed straight down, acts as the Select button. The problem is the sensitivity of this little nub as well as its size. I have very small hands, and I had a heck of a time controlling it. Pushing straight down to Select is difficult; any small tilt will be taken by the camera as a directional push, and I ended up cruising through (and getting stuck in) a lot of menus I didn't want in an effort to escape back to shooting mode.
Poor Menu Design
Speaking of menus, this may be a personal gripe, but Kodak's system has always seemed to me to be unnecessarily confusing, with settings located in unexpected places. The instruction booklet (skimpy, and filled mainly with self-explanatory diagrams) offers some assistance, but I do wish the layout was a bit more intuitive. I wouldn't have guessed that the self timer was accessed by pushing "down" on the joystick.
Performance: Perfect Touch and Smart Capture, More Misnomers
Much is made of the M1033's built-in photo technology, which is designed to help you create great photos under a variety of settings. The camera features Kodak Perfect Touch (KPT) technology and Smart Capture Mode as the default setting. KPT and Smart Capture feature automatic face detection, noise reduction, and much more, all of which adjust automatically as conditions change, to help you get the best possible shot. You can shoot outside of Smart Capture by putting the camera into Program or Scene mode, and then choose to apply KPT adjustments to the photo afterwards. When you do this, the camera shows you a pretty nifty split screen that indicates your photo before and after the retouching. Unfortunately, the photos I tested looked better before the retouching was applied. What the KPT seemed primarily to do was to blow out the highlights and lose detail in the shadows; skin, white walls, and lamplight all became glaringly and obnoxiously white, and colors lost their natural hues due to the retouching. There was no noticeable difference in graininess or clarity that would justify the application of the KPT, at least not in the tests that I did.
As for the Smart Capture mode, frankly, it seemed pretty glitchy. During use of this mode, the camera displays a small icon in the corner of the LCD that shows you what mode the Smart Capture is using depending on where you point the camera. Swinging it to a darker area will cause the mode to flicker into night mode or candlelight. And "flicker" is the word I want; the Smart Capture icon changes constantly, sometimes even without you moving the camera. Focusing on an object and then watching the mode icon scroll through a variety of random settings is somewhat disturbing. Another mystery was the Macro mode, which seemed to be some sort of default; while the camera claims that Smart Capture pulls up Macro mode automatically when a subject is within 28 inches of the lens, according to that icon, I was in Macro mode much more often than that, even when focusing on things at least ten feet away. I ended up waving the camera around and doing some fancy wrist motions trying to get the Smart Capture to land on a mode that seemed like it might work for the scene in front of me.
Having owned an Easyshare in the past, I was on the lookout for a few things that I understood to be weak spots of the line. All of these things showed up in the M1033. Flash recycle and response time is slow, as is the zoom lens, surprisingly so, in fact, more so than on the older Easyshare that I used. Night shots take several seconds to process, and can't typically capture any detail (even in night mode) beyond a few feet away (Night Portrait mode is somewhat more successful). Color reproduction of sunlit green grass is a bit too yellowy, while flash portraits result in Casper-like complexions and very dark backgrounds if the subjects are anywhere near the camera.
One Bright Spot: Motion Detection with Intelligent ISO
There is one thing that the M1033 did handle surprisingly well, and that was what is advertised as Motion Detection plus Intelligent ISO. This feature, part of the Smart Capture Mode, is meant to let you shoot photos of moving subjects while the camera adjusts ISO sensitivity and white balance, and uses a fast shutter speed to capture the moment. I tested this several times, and the camera was faultless at capturing even quickly-moving subjects in sharp clarity, without a trace of motion blur. The result was quite impressive, actually. It's a pity that the rest of the features of the M1033 don't live up to this one.