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DCRP Review: Kodak EasyShare M853  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 1, 2007
Last updated: February 25, 2008

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The Kodak EasyShare M853 ($149) is a low-cost, basic point and shoot camera. It features an 8.2 Megapixel CCD, 3X optical zoom lens, 2.5" LCD display, and the ease-of-use that you expect from a Kodak digital camera.

Kodak offers four cameras in their M-series, and they're all very similar. To help clear up any confusion, I created this comparison chart:

  EasyShare M753 EasyShare M853 EasyShare M873 EasyShare M883
Street price
(at time of posting)
$129 $149 $199 $199
Resolution 7.0 MP 8.2 MP 8.0 MP 8.0 MP
Lens max. aperture F2.8 - F5.2 F2.8 - F5.2 F3.1 - F5.9 F3.1 - F5.9
Focal length (35 mm equiv.) 37 - 111 mm 37 - 111 mm 38 - 114 mm 38 - 114 mm
LCD size 2.5" 2.5" 2.5" 3.0"
LCD resolution 154,000 pixels 154,000 pixels 154,000 pixels 230,000 pixels
ISO range 80 - 1250 80 - 1250 64 - 1600 64 - 3200
Face detection No No No Yes
Movie mode quality 640 x 480 @ 15 fps 640 x 480 @ 15 fps 640 x 480 @ 30 fps 640 x 480 @ 30 fps
Onboard memory 16MB 16MB 32MB 64MB
Battery used KLIC-7001 KLIC-7001 KLIC-7006 KLIC-7006
Battery life (CIPA standard) 300 shots 300 shots 200 shots 200 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
Weight (empty) 145 g 145 g 110 g 116 g
Available colors Denim, plum, pink, silver, copper, black Silver, red, white, gray, black Black Red, black, silver

To be honest, the models in the M-series are a little redundant -- especially with the M853 and M873, where you're paying $50 more for a slower lens and 33% less battery life.

Needless to say, the EasyShare M853 that I'm reviewing here has its work cut out for it, with some really tough competition. Find out how it performs in our review!

What's in the Box?

The EasyShare M853 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

  • The 8.2 effective Megapixel EasyShare M853 camera
  • KLIC-7001 lithium-ion battery
  • Insert for optional camera and printer docks
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Kodak EasyShare software
  • 26 page Getting Started Guide

As is the case with most cameras these days, the EasyShare M853 has built-in memory in lieu of a bundled memory card. The M853 has 16MB of built-in memory (of which only 11MB can be used for photo storage), which holds just nine photos at the highest quality setting. Therefore, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, and I'd recommend a 1GB card as a good place to start. The camera supports SD, SDHC, and MMC memory card formats. Spending extra money on a high speed memory card isn't necessary.

The EasyShare M853 uses the KLIC-7001 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power. While this battery only holds 3.1 Wh of energy, Kodak has managed to squeeze some pretty good battery life numbers out of it. See for yourself:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD1000 210 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z77 190 shots
Fuji FinePix F40fd 300 shots
GE G1 200 shots
HP Photosmart R742 150 shots
Kodak EasyShare M853 300 shots
Nikon Coolpix S510 170 shots
Olympus FE-280 200 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 350 shots
Pentax Optio M40 220 shots
Samsung L83t * 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90 350 shots

* Number not officially calculated using CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

The EasyShare M853 is one of the few Kodak cameras I've tested recently that has above average battery life numbers. While not quite the best-in-class, the M853's numbers are still 25% above the group average.

I should mention the downsides to owning a camera that uses proprietary batteries (such as the KLIC-7001). These batteries tend to be more expensive than AAs (an extra KLIC-7001 will set you back at least $18), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery in an emergency. Still, these proprietary batteries are standard features on compact cameras like the M853.

The EasyShare M853 is one of a very small group of cameras that use USB for battery charging. Thus, instead of removing the battery and putting it into an external charger, you just attach the USB cable to the camera, and plug it into your computer. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery.

There are several other ways to charge the camera's battery, though they all require purchasing an accessory. The cheapest option is the USB AC adapter ($10), which is basically takes the AC power from your wall and sends it over the USB cable. A more expensive option is to just buy the camera's 5-volt AC adapter (priced from $26). Kodak's camera and printer docks can be used, as well.

If you want to charge the battery outside of the camera, then you can pick up the K7500-C external charger (priced from $31). I'm not sure what the charging time is for this charger, unfortunately.

As with all compact cameras, the M853 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no pesky lens cap to worry about.

One glaring omission from the M853's box is a video output cable. If you want one, you'll have to buy one (model AV-8, part number 8118390). Kodak sells it for $25 (!), but I was able to get one from Circuit City for $15.

I pretty much touched on all of the M853's accessories in the preceding paragraphs. Kodak does offer a number of camera bags for the M853, and you can see them on all on their website.


EasyShare 6.0 for Mac OS X


EasyShare 6.2 for Windows lets you view your Online Photo Gallery right in the software

The M853 comes with Kodak's EasyShare 6 software for both Mac and Windows. As is often the case, the Windows version (6.2) is superior to the Mac version (6.0) of the software, offering full integration with the EasyShare Gallery photo sharing website.

The main screen in EasyShare is where you'll organize your photos after they've been imported from the camera. You can view your photos by date taken, and you can create both regular and "smart" albums as well.

On this screen you can also view your photos in a slideshow, edit or rotate them (see below), get exposure data, burn them to a CD or DVD, or even upload them to the Kodak EasyShare Gallery for printing and sharing. You can also e-mail them (directly or via a website) and print them in numerous ways.


EasyShare 6.0 for Mac OS X


EasyShare 6.2 for Windows

On the edit screen you've got a bunch of nice tools for fixing up your photos. They include rotation, cropping, "instant enhancement", redeye reduction, brightness and contrast, color, exposure, and instant black & white or sepia conversion. For some edits, you can split the screen (see above) so you can see a "before and after" view of your proposed changes. The Windows version adds a few other "fun effects" as well.


EasyShare 6.2 for Windows

Something else that the Windows version lets you do is create greeting cards. The software includes templates, and Kodak sells packs of additional templates for around $10. Just plug in your photo and you're ready to print your card either yourself or via Kodak's EasyShare Gallery service.

All-in-all the EasyShare package is pretty darn good for bundled software, especially if you've seen the stuff that some other camera companies give you.

On their recent cameras, Kodak has taken a step backwards in the documentation department. In the "old days" (read: last year), you used to get a nice thick manual in the box with the camera. Now you get a "getting started" leaflet which has just 21 pages of actual content. Want the full manual? You'll have to go to Kodak's website and either view it there, or download it as a PDF. It seems to me that Kodak has taken a bit of the "easy" out of their EasyShare cameras with this dumb move.

Look and Feel

The EasyShare M853 is a compact camera made of a mix of plastic and metal. If you want a thinner, all-metal body, then you'll have to pony up for the M873 or M883. The camera is fairly well put together, though I'm not a fan of the tiny buttons on the top of the camera, the plastic tripod mount, and a battery/memory card compartment door that doesn't feel terribly sturdy. The worst ergonomic offenders have to be the flash and power buttons, which are the same size and right next to each other. On several occasions I found myself changing the flash setting instead of turning the camera off.

Now, here's how the M853 compares to other compact cameras in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD1000 3.4 x 2.1 x 0.8 in. 5.7 cu in. 125 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z77 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 118 g
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 153 g
GE G1 3.6 x 2.5 x 0.8 in. 7.2 cu in. 115 g
HP Photosmart R742 3.7 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.1 cu in. 136 g
Kodak EasyShare M853 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 145 g
Nikon Coolpix S510 3.5 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.3 cu in. 125 g
Olympus FE-280 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.5 cu in. 108 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 125 g
Pentax Optio M40 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.7 in. 6.1 cu in. 116 g
Samsung L83t 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.7 in. 6 cu in. 110 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 124 g

While the EasyShare M853 is one of the larger cameras in this class, it's still quite small. It'll fit in just about any pocket, and can go anywhere you do.

Ready to tour the M853 now? So I am -- so let's begin!

The EasyShare M853 has a standard-issue F2.8 - F5.2, 3X optical zoom lens. The lens has a focal range of 6.2 - 18.6 mm, which is equivalent to 37 - 111 mm. The lens is not threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported.

To the upper-left of the lens is the camera's built-in flash. Unfortunately, Kodak only provides the flash range at ISO 200 (instead of Auto ISO, which is the norm), so I can't compare it with the competition. The range at ISO 200 is 0.6 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.0 m at telephoto, which isn't too bad for a compact camera. As you'd expect, you cannot attach an external flash to the M853.

While the item below the flash looks like an AF-assist lamp, unfortunately it is not. Instead, this lamp is only illuminated when the self-timer is counting down, and when you're recording video.

The last item of note on the front of the camera is the microphone, which is located to the lower-left of the lens.

The main event on the back of the EasyShare M853 is its 2.5" LCD display. The LCD resolution of 154,000 is on the low side, which isn't too surprising on this budget camera. Outdoor visibility was decent, though images were "washed out" for a few seconds before the image on the screen was properly exposed (I'm pretty sure the LCD isn't the culprit here, though). Low light visibility was poor -- the screen doesn't brighten at all in those situations.

In case you didn't notice, there's no optical viewfinder on the M853. In fact, you'll have to work pretty hard to find a camera in this class that has one. Whether the lack of a viewfinder is a big deal is sort of up to you -- some people require them, while others could care less.

At the top-right of the photo is the camera's zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.6 seconds. I counted just seven steps in the camera's 3X zoom range.

Below the zoom controller we find the Delete photo and Display/Info buttons. The latter is used to toggle the information shown on the LCD, and it can also display help screens for the menu system (which I'll show you later).

Next up we have the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation and adjusting exposure compensation, followed by the Menu, Review (playback mode), and Share buttons.

When you press that red Share button, a menu pops up offering these options:

  • Tag a picture for printing
  • Tag a picture for e-mailing
  • Tag a picture as a "favorite" for easy reviewing later on the camera or computer

Let's say you want to mark an image for e-mail. Here's what you'll see:

You can select a person or persons to whom you want to e-mail this picture. Once you connect to your computer, the EasyShare software will send the pictures to the chosen recipients.

Selecting photos to print later is just as easy. Just select the photo and the number of copies, and the next time you dock with a printer, it'll prompt you to make those prints. This works with both the Kodak Printer Dock as well as the scores of PictBridge-enabled photo printers on the market.

And that's it for the back of the camera!

The first things to see on the top of the EasyShare M853 are the power and flash buttons. As I mentioned, they're right next to each other, making it easy to accidentally press the wrong one. The flash modes available on the camera include auto, fill flash, auto w/redeye reduction, and flash off.

Next up we have the mode dial, which has the following options:

Option Function
Favorites mode View photos that you've tagged as favorites
Auto mode For general picture-taking
Digital image stabilization The camera reduces the likelihood of a blurry photo by increasing the ISO sensitivity
Close-up (macro) mode For taking pictures of close-up subjects
Scene mode You choose the situation and the users the proper settings; choose from portrait, panorama, sports, landscape, night portrait, night landscape, snow, beach, text/document, fireworks, flower, manner/museum, self-portrait, children, backlight, candle light, and sunset
High ISO mode Boosts the ISO as high as needed in order to get a sharp photo
Movie mode More on this later

The EasyShare M853 is a 100% point-and-shoot camera. You'll find plenty of scene modes, though, covering virtually every possible. The one scene mode I want to mention is the panorama mode. This feature helps you line up three photos side-by-side (in either direction), and the images are stitched into a single panorama. The separate images are not saved, so what you see is what you get.

To be honest, I couldn't see any difference between the digital image stabilization and high ISO modes. Both boost the ISO (as high as 1000) in order to obtain a sharp photo. The results are not pretty, though, so I would avoid these unless you're really desperate.

The last thing to see on the top of the camera is the shutter release button.

On this side of the camera you'll find ports for the optional AC adapter as well as the USB cable. As I mentioned earlier, the USB connection isn't just used for transferring photos -- you'll also use it for charging the camera's battery. If you pick up the shouldn't-be-optional video output cable, you'll plug it into the USB port as well.

Unfortunately, the M853 doesn't support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so file transfers to your computer will be quite slow.

On the other side of the camera you'll find the memory card and battery compartments, which are protected by a plastic door of questionable quality. The included KLIC-7001 battery can be seen at right.

The lens is at the full telephoto position in this shot.

On the bottom of the EasyShare M853 you'll find the dock connector and a plastic tripod mount. The dock connector is what mates the camera to Kodak's optional camera and printer docks.

Using the Kodak EasyShare M853

Record Mode

It takes the EasyShare M853 about two seconds to extend its lens and prepare for shooting -- about average.


No live histogram here

The camera's focusing performance was mediocre in good light, and downright awful in low light. In the best case scenario, the M853 took between 0.4 and 0.6 seconds to lock focus. At the telephoto end of the lens, or if the AF system had to "hunt" a bit, focus times could exceed one second. The M853 easily turned in the worst low light focusing performance of the year, and the lack of an AF-assist lamp probably has a lot to do with this.

Shutter lag wasn't a problem at faster shutter speeds, though I noticed a bit of it at slower shutter speeds, where you should really be using a tripod or the flash in the first place.

Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, with a one second delay between shots, despite how slow the camera seemed at writing images to a high speed memory card. Adding the flash into the mix didn't affect the shot-to-shot times. You can delete a photo immediately after taking it by pressing the delete button on the back of the camera.

The camera displays a "blur warning" on the photo you just took by showing you a "hand" icon at the top of the screen. If it's green, it's sharp, yellow: questionable; red: blurry. You can view this warning in playback mode as well, and you'll see an example of this later in the review.

There are several image size options (but no quality choices) to choose from on the EasyShare M853. And here they are:

Resolution # images on 16MB*
on-board memory
# images on 1GB memory card (optional)
8.1 MP
3296 x 2472
9 873
7.2 MP (3:2)
3296 x 2196
10 949
6.1 MP (16:9)
3296 x 1854
12 1109
5.0 MP (16:9)
2592 x 1944
14 1320
3.1 MP
2048 x 1536
22 1989
2.2 MP (3:2)
1800 x 1200
31 2701
2.1 MP (16:9)
1920 x 1080
32 2789
1.2 MP
1280 x 960
47 4083
* Only 11MB is actually used for image storage

And now you see why I always recommend buying a memory card right away -- that build in memory doesn't store many photos!

There's no support for the RAW or TIFF formats on the EasyShare M853, which shouldn't come as a big surprise.

The camera names files as 100_####.JPG (where # = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.

The EasyShare M853 has a fairly straightforward menu system. For any of the options shown you can press the Info button to get a description of that option (see screenshots). Keeping in mind that not all of these options will be available in some shooting modes, here's the full record menu list:

  • Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec, 2-shot)
  • Burst (on/off) - see below
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Picture size (see above chart)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent, open shade) - no custom white balance to be found
  • Exposure metering (Multi-pattern, center-weight, spot)
  • ISO speed (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1250)
  • AF zone (Multi-zone, center-zone)
  • Color mode (High color, natural color, low color, black & white, sepia)
  • Long time exposure (0.5 - 4.0 secs) - for taking night scenes
  • Set album - preselect an album for photos you're taking
  • Image storage (Auto, internal memory)
  • Maintain settings - the camera can remember the settings for flash, white balance, ISO, color mode, and AF zone when it's turned off
  • Video size (640 x 480, 320 x 240)
  • Setup - see below

As i mentioned earlier, the M853 is totally point-and-shoot, with no manual controls, unless you count the long-time exposure option. I really would've liked at least manual white balance, but alas, it's not here. The lack of manual white balance doesn't matter for most people, but as you'll see in a moment, it will affect photos taken in mixed or unusual lighting.

The M853's burst mode isn't terribly exciting. The camera takes three shots in a row at 1.5 frames/second, but since the LCD is blacked out during shooting, tracking a moving subject is near-impossible. I should also mention that the camera is locked up for about five seconds while the three images you just took are saved to the memory card.

Now here's a look at the setup menu, which is accessible from both the record and playback menus. Here's what you'll find there:

  • Camera sounds (None, default, animal, fun, music) - you can select an overall theme, or change the sound for each function individually
  • Sound volume (Off, low, medium, high)
  • LCD brightness (Power save, high power)
  • Auto power off (1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
  • Date & time
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • Orientation sensor (on/off)
  • Redeye preflash (on/off)
  • Date stamp (Off, YMD, MDY, DMY) - print the date on your photos
  • Video date display (Off, YYYY MM DD, MM DD YYYY, DD MM YYYY, YYYY MM DD HH:MM, MM DD YYYY HH:MM, DD MM YYYY HH:MM) - date/time shown at start of video playback
  • Blur warning (on/off) - described above
  • Language
  • Format (Memory card, internal memory)
  • About - shows current firmware version

Okay, enough menus, let's talk photo quality!

The EasyShare M853 turned in a pretty good performance in our macro test. The camera's auto WB system handled my studio lamps remarkably well, so the lack of a custom WB options wasn't a problem for me (though this may not apply to everyone). The subject is quite sharp, and the colors are saturated (to say the least). I do notice some fuzzy areas here and there, which could be due to noise reduction, JPEG compression, or a little of both.

The M853 doesn't let you get terribly close to your subject in macro mode. The minimum distance is 15 cm at wide-angle and 40 cm at telephoto.

To be blunt, the EasyShare M853 wasn't interested in taking a decent night shot. I took the camera out on two different nights and took well over a dozen pictures, none of which are what I'd call "acceptable". The one you see above is the best I was able to get, and if you view it at 100% you'll see that it's quite lousy. The main problem was that the camera just could not lock focus on the skyline when I was in auto mode (where you can manually set the shutter speed). I got around that by using the night scenery mode, which seems to lock the focus at infinity. I'm still not sure if the photo above is in focus, but it's way better than the rest. There's an enormous amount of noise reduction in the photo, which has really taken out all the details. Bottom line here: the M853 is NOT for night shots.

Since I can't control the ISO and shutter speed at the time, I was unable to perform the low light ISO test. I do, however, have the studio ISO test for you below.

There's mild-to-moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the M853's 3X zoom lens. To see how this affects your real life photos, have a look at the building on the right side of this photo. While the camera suffers a bit from corner blurriness, its more noticeable problem is vignetting, or dark corners. The best example of vignetting can be seen in the first photo in the gallery (plus several others).

Despite its two-pronged approach to redeye reduction, the EasyShare M853 still brought out the demon eyes in our flash test. The camera tries to shrink your subject's pupils by using a pre-flash before the photos is taken, and if that doesn't work, it uses a built-in software tool to remove it. If neither of those work (which was the case here), then you'll have to use software on your computer to get rid of this annoyance.

Here's that ISO test that I promised. It's taken in our studio, so you can compare the test between cameras reviewed on this side. The right side of the photo came out much darker than the left, no matter what I tried. Since we're really looking at noise here, I'll let that slide. So, have a look at the crops below, and be sure to view the full size images to see the whole picture when it comes to the M853's high ISO performance.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1250

At ISO 80 and 100, the M853 produced two good quality photos. They're slightly soft, with a few signs of noise reduction, but overall, pretty clean. Noise reduction starts smudging away details at ISO 200, though you still should be able to make small and midsize prints at this setting. Things get worse at ISO 400, which is probably as high as I'd like the M853 go, as everything after that has a lot of detail loss. You can also notice how the image suddenly became overexposed at ISO 800 and 1250, for no apparent reason.

Overall, I was disappointed with the EasyShare M853's photo quality. On the positive side, they were well exposed, with vivid colors (maybe a bit too much for my tastes) and minimal purple fringing. The bad news is that images are soft, there's visible noise reduction artifacting, even at ISO 80 (look at the sky in some of the pictures), and vignetting is noticeable in quite a few pictures. I'm willing to accept a few photo quality tradeoffs in an ultra-compact camera (such as blurry corners), but the M853 has too many in my opinion. You can find better image quality from other cameras in this price range.

As I always say, don't just take my word for all this. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing a few of them if you can, and then decide if the M853's image quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The EasyShare M853 has an unremarkable movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 with sound, but the frame rate is a choppy 15 fps. The internal memory holds just 14 seconds of video, so you'll want a large memory card for longer movies. A 1GB SD card holds over 22 minutes of video. As far as I can tell, you can keep recording until you run out of memory.

If you want smoother and/or longer movies, you can lower the resolution to 320 x 240 -- the frame rate goes up to a much more reasonable 30 fps. You can hold over 36 minutes worth of video at this setting on a 1GB card.

Like most cameras, the M853 won't let you use the optical zoom while recording a video clip. The digital zoom is available, though.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the Photo-JPEG codec.

Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the VGA quality setting:


Click to play movie (7.9 MB, 640 x 480, 15 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The EasyShare M853 has a fully equipped playback mode. Basic features are all here, like slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge your image by as much as 8 times, and then move around in the zoomed-in area.

Photos can be cropped in playback mode, but not resized or rotated. A video editing function allows you to grab a frame (or a series of them) or remove unwanted footage from a clip.


Photos grouped by date; a calendar view would've been more useful

The camera lets you view photos by date, or by album. And speak of albums. you can put photos into one or more albums that you've previously set up on your computer. When you transfer the photos to your Mac or PC, they'll automatically be sorted into albums in the EasyShare software.

The EasyShare M853 has Kodak's PerfectTouch technology built in, which is an "auto enhance" feature that has been on Kodak's retail photo printing kiosks for some time. All you need to do is press a button, and the camera brightens dark areas of your photo automatically, like so:


Straight out of the camera


After PerfectTouch (too bad it can't fix crazy Siamese redeye)

As you can see, PerfectTouch brightened up this dark flash photo. Watch out though -- it can bring out a lot of noise and noise reduction artifacting in your photos as well. Thankfully, the camera gives you the option of keeping the original image, which is always a good idea.

Another neat feature is the "undo" function that becomes available after you delete a photo. If you hit the wrong button and deleted a photo, you can bring it back to life, as long as you don't do anything else first.

By default, the camera doesn't tell you anything about the photos you've taken. However, if you press the Info button you'll get a lot more, though there's no histogram (not that I really expect one).

The EasyShare M853 moves from one photo to another almost instantly.

How Does it Compare?

The Kodak EasyShare M853 is an entry-level camera that is mediocre (or worse) in almost all areas. While it does offer a simple interface, good battery life, and attractive software bundle, its poor photo quality and miserable low light shooting ability make this a camera that I cannot recommend. Better options are available in this price range.

The M853 is a compact camera that bears a strong resemblance to Sony's W-series models. The body is made of a mix of plastic and metal, and build quality is average for this category. I wasn't a fan of the plastic tripod mount, flimsy door over the memory card/battery slot, or the tiny buttons and dials on the top of the camera. The M853 has a run-of-the-mill 3X zoom lens (with a focal length of 37 - 111 mm) as well as a 2.5" LCD display with a so-so 154,000 pixel resolution. While the LCD's outdoor visibility was okay, in low light the camera becomes almost unusable, as the screen doesn't brighten automatically (like virtually every camera on the market). As with most cameras in this class, the EasyShare M853 lacks an optical viewfinder.

The EasyShare M853 is a point-and-shoot camera, with no "true" manual controls (the exception is a slow shutter speed option). You will find plenty of scene modes though, for virtually every situation you could think of. The camera offers two seemingly identical modes -- Hi-ISO and digital image stabilization -- both of which work by boosting the ISO. Hopefully my ISO test above illustrated why those two modes should be avoided. If you're confused about any of the shooting modes or menu options, you can press the Info button to get a help screen. The camera's EasyShare system, coupled with Kodak's still-excellent bundled software, make sharing photos and videos a piece of cake. Fans of movie modes may be disappointed with the M853, as it can only record at a choppy 15 frames/second at the VGA resolution.

Camera performance was average, except in terms of battery life, where its CIPA standard 300 shots per charge was better than most of the competition. The M853 takes about two seconds to startup, which is just okay. The camera is slow to focus, even in bright light. In low light, you might as well pack up and go home -- the M853 easily turned in the worst low light focusing performance of the year. Shutter lag was noticeable at slower shutter speeds, but in decent lighting it wasn't a problem. Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, though it seemed to take the camera forever to write the image to the memory card. The M853's burst mode was unremarkable, taking three shots in a row at 1.5 fps, with the LCD blacked out the entire time. The camera doesn't support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so file transfers to your Mac or PC will be slow.

The EasyShare M853's photo quality was not good. While exposure was good, purple fringing minimal, and color saturated (too much so, in my opinion), the M853 produced photos that were soft, lacking detail, and loaded with noise reduction artifacting (even at ISO 80). Vignetting (dark corners) was also noticeable in quite a few of my photos. Despite using both preflashes and a software removal tool, the M853 still produced flash photos with lots of redeye (which, to be fair, is common on compact cameras like this).

I have a few other issues to bring up before I wrap things up. First, Kodak doesn't include a full manual with the M853 -- you have to go to their website and download it. You won't find a video cable in the box either, and buying one of those will set you back $15 - $25. And finally, it would've been nice if Kodak had included more than 11MB of usable internal memory -- that doesn't hold many photos.

If you're going to spend $150 - $200 on a digital camera, you should probably spend it on something other than the Kodak EasyShare M853. You'll be better off paying a little more for one of the Canon, Panasonic, or Sony cameras. I've listed some models worth looking at below.

What I liked:

  • Tons of scene modes, including in-camera panorama stitching
  • EasyShare system makes it easy to "tag" photos for e-mailing and printing
  • Handy PerfectTouch, delete undo features
  • In-camera help system
  • Above average battery life; battery can be charged over USB connection
  • Very good software bundle

What I didn't care for:

  • Soft images with lots of noise reduction artifacting, detail loss, and vignetting
  • Redeye a problem
  • Low resolution LCD nearly impossible to see in low light
  • Very poor low light focusing performance
  • No optical viewfinder
  • No manual controls
  • Choppy movie mode; LCD blackout in burst mode
  • No USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Plastic tripod mount; flimsy door over battery/memory card compartment; small buttons and dials
  • Not much built-in memory
  • Video cable not included; full manual only on Kodak's website

Some other low cost, compact cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD1000, Casio Exilim EX-Z77, Fuji FinePix F40fd, GE G1, HP Photosmart R742, Nikon Coolpix S510, Olympus FE-280, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12, Pentax Optio M40, Samsung L83t, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the EasyShare M853 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality looks? Check out our gallery!

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

Want a second opinion?

You'll find another review of this camera at CNET UK.