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The M873's overall performance is reasonable, if not exactly sparkling. It starts up in just over three seconds, which is a little on the slow side by recent standards, and shot-to-shot cycle time in single-shot mode is also a bit slow at an average of 4.3 seconds over ten shots, or 5.2 seconds if the flash is used for every shot. In continuous shooting mode it can shoot at a rate of one frame every 1.1 seconds, but only for four frames before it has to pause to empty the buffer. However this is sequential, so the camera is ready to take another shot in about four seconds. The AF system is quick enough in good light, and appears to be reliably accurate, but it doesn't like low light conditions. It copes adequately in a large room lit with a 60W bulb, but refused to focus at all at lower levels of illumination, and has no AF assist lamp. Kodak makes no particular claims about battery life, but the camera is powered by a fairly small 710mAh Li-ion rechargeable. I took about 100 shots, many with the flash, and the battery level meter was still reading three out of four bars, so it seems to hold up pretty well.
Unfortunately the M873 falls down badly in the crucial area of image quality, and for several reasons. While the exposure metering was generally accurate, I was surprised to find that colour rendition, usually a Kodak strong point, was actually rather poor. Colours lacked saturation and looked very drab and washed-out, and I found image noise in the shadow areas of almost every shot, even at the lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 64. At higher ISO settings the image quality deteriorated even further, and pictures at 400 ISO were very poor. At 800 and the maximum of 1600 the images were pretty much unusable, with distorted colour and loss of fine detail. On some low ISO shots the effects of heavy-handed noise reduction and over-processing made the pictures look blotchy and unnatural, and the level of fine detail was much lower than I would have expected from an 8MP camera. The quality is not helped by the lens either, which is of shockingly poor quality. It suffers from major barrel distortion at wide angle, as well as very poor sharpness away from the centre of the frame, and significant chromatic aberration over a large area of the frame.
While the Kodak EasyShare M873 is unquestionably a very attractive camera, with good build quality and finish, and is certainly priced to sell, it really doesn't compare well with ultra-compact cameras from other manufacturers. The lacklustre performance and poor low light ability are serious handicaps, but the very poor image quality is what really kills it. If you're looking for an ultra-compact camera, save up for a little longer and get something else instead.
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