The control layout is less than ideal. The small flush buttons on the top plate are fiddly, and the flat shutter button is hard to find by touch and easy to press accidentally. The position of the rear panel controls doesn’t leave much thumb-room for holding the camera, and the zoom control, while quite large, is very slow and unresponsive. Instead of a D-pad there is a small joystick which is used for menu navigation, with display mode and drive mode as secondary functions. Personally I don’t mind joystick controls too much, but I know some people hate them.
The M1093 offers a number of features which have now become almost universal, including a face detection system which works quite well even in fairly low light, although as usual it will only reliably detect faces that are looking straight into the camera. It also has optical image stabilisation, which is always a welcome addition, although to be honest it’s not that much of an advantage on a 3x zoom camera. Nonetheless it does work quite well, and provides an extra couple of stops of low-speed stability. However like a few other recent cameras with optical IS that I’ve tested, the stabilisation system will actually cause blurring if the camera is too stationary, so always turn it off when using the camera with a tripod.
The stand-out feature for the M1093 has to be its video mode. It can shoot in 1280 x 720 high-definition mode, as well as VGA and QVGA, all at 30fps with mono audio, saving files in the MPEG4 video format. Both autofocus and optical zoom can be used while shooting, and HD video clips can be up to 30 minutes long. This is an impressive performance for a budget-priced camera; there are models costing twice as much that can’t match it. The video quality is good too, although as usual the sound quality could be better.
The only major problem I have with the M1093 concerns its still shooting modes. It has three; a program auto mode, a scene mode with 22 scene programs, and the Smart Capture mode, which attempts to select a scene mode automatically. The camera defaults to this mode whenever it is switched on, but unfortunately it doesn’t work terribly well. It selects landscape mode in almost every situation, unless the subject is less that six feet away in which case it selects macro mode. Unfortunately in both these modes flash is disabled, which means that in social situations, which usually means indoors in low light, you end you having to fiddle about setting it to Program mode and turning the flash on in order to take a picture. This could be solved if the camera simply remembered its current setting when turned off, but unfortunately it does not.
As well as this, the flash itself is very weak. It has a claimed maximum range of three metres, but I’d say this is a bit optimistic. It also doesn’t fill the frame very well, leaving big shadow areas especially in the lower half of the frame.