The M380’s overall performance is about average for a cheap compact. It takes almost three seconds to start up, but the shot-to-shot time in single-shot mode is approximately 1.8 seconds, which actually seems reasonably quick until you realise that the camera doesn’t wait for the AF system to focus before taking a picture, it just goes ahead a shoots as soon as you press the button. If you wait for the autofocus to finish the shot-to-shot time is a much more likely 2.3 seconds. The M380 has no continuous shooting mode, just a three-shot burst mode that shoots in just under three seconds, but needless to say doesn’t focus between shots.
The autofocus system is reasonably quick in good light, but fails dismally in even a room lit by a 60W bulb, in other words light in which you can read a newspaper. It has no AF assist light, so it’s useless in the dark, however it will happily take a photo anyway even though it will come out as a dark burry mess. I had more disappointing low light shots from the M380 than from any other camera that I can recall.
The camera’s overall image quality is pretty poor even for a camera in this price range. The lens is very soft right across the frame, and although it avoids excessive wide-angle distortion the corners of the frame suffer from visible chromatic aberration. Exposure metering and automatic white balance are both erratic, and colour rendition, something for which Kodak once had a good reputation, is terrible. Darker saturated colours are blotchy, brighter ones are over-exposed and both lack detail.
The M380’s biggest problem is one that has plagued other recent Kodak cameras. Most 10MP cameras produce image files of between 3MB and 4.5MB, a compression ratio of around 7:1 to 10:1. The M380 produces shots averaging around 1.5MB, a compression rate of around 20:1, and as a result fine detail is lost, images are riddled with compression artefacts, and overall image quality suffers. Sure, it can fit over 300 shots on a 1GB card, but really what’s the point of putting a 10MP sensor in a camera if you then cripple it with tiny file sizes? It’s not like multi-gigabyte SD cards are particularly expensive.
The Kodak EasyShare M380 is a reasonably cheap camera considering its specification, but it’s far from being good value. Indifferent build quality, a very limited range of poorly implemented features, non-existent low light performance and shoddy image quality make it one to avoid.