I took my first trip to New York City on May 20, 1965.
I remember it vividly, because it was my ninth birthday and I was given a special present: my first camera. It was a Kodak Brownie. I used it to take the photo you see above.
I don't have a lot of shots from that trip. Film was not only expensive to buy, but it had to be developed, too. And when I used up the roll, I needed my dad's help to put in a new one. This was tricky, because if the film was exposed to light, you could ruin everything. Plus you had to thread it through the camera (yes, this was so long ago that the Instamatic had not yet been widely marketed).
Back then, everyone owned at least one Kodak. Sure, you could buy another kind of camera ... but the film you put in it was usually Kodachrome (unless you had a Polaroid, like the "Swinger" I got when I turned 12).
Times change. Digital photography makes it possible to take hundreds of photos at a time, without the fuss and expense of film and developing. New digital cameras are packed with sophisticated features at ever lower price points.
Photography has been revolutionized -- and venerable American companies like Kodak and Polaroid had to adjust to the loss of their market advantage.
I received my first digital camera as a gift 10 years ago from my parents and once again, it was a Kodak.
It wasn't a great camera by today's standards, but it was a good introduction to digital. I dropped it while taking pictures in the Louvre and after that, it was never the same. I replaced it with a Minolta (which broke after a year)... then a Canon (which also broke after a year)... and then another Canon (which was lost a couple of months ago on our first full day in London).
So I was really happy when I received an invitation from Kodak to join them on a bus tour of Manhattan. We went on a Gray Line tour on that first New York visit in 1965, and I thought it would be fun to do it again,
But most important, the tour would include the gift of a new camera: the M580.
You see, after losing my Canon (which I loved for its 10X zoom), I had to rely on my little Kodak M530 for the rest of my vacation -- and it only has a 3X zoom.
That turned out OK, because thanks to its size and simplicity, I found myself loving the M530. And despite my inability to get really close, I was delighted with the photos I got.
Here's my disclosure: This is the third Kodak-sponsored event I've attended this year. I don't have a formal business relationship with the company. I have not received any monetary compensation for my posts about their events or their products... but I have received products prior to each post. I made no promises that I would write about the cameras. I am expressing my own opinions of the cameras, based on my experience using them.
One Camera to Another
My new M580 is a "point and shoot" type of camera and is designed to be easy to use, even though it offers 22 different "scene" settings you can use for different shooting conditions. It's very similar to the M530.
The most noticeable difference is its size and weight. The M580 is heftier, but that makes sense, given its larger zoom. The M580 also features a high quality Schneider-Kreuznach lens.
You get 12 megapixel shots on the M530, and 14 megapixels on the M580.
I thought the LCD screen on the M530 was big - until I fired up the newer camera. The display on both is bright, but it dims if you go longer than a minute or two without shooting something (a power saving feature, I'm sure).
The menu buttons to the right of the screen are more prominent and easier to access on the M580. This is where you'll find the setup options, a self-timer and delete key. At the top of both cameras are the power button, flash and mode settings. The layout is exactly alike, and after taking hundreds of photos with the M530 on my recent UK trip, I figured I would have a really easy time using the M580, especially if I just kept the camera in "Smart Capture" mode.
Using the M580
Maybe it's the larger size of the buttons. Maybe I was just jet lagged. Maybe I simply had not had enough time with the camera to get used to it. But nearly every time I tried to snap a photo, I ended up hitting the wrong button. I found myself setting up the flash, the self timer, and various scene modes when I didn't want them... and then, as I found myself struggling to put the camera back to "Smart Capture," the bus would move and I would lose the shot.
On top of that, many of the photos I did take look kind of washed out -- because most of them were snapped with the wrong camera settings.
The M580 is great for taking snapshots of people, which I appreciate. After all, the main reason I have a camera in the first place is so I can get pictures of my kid (a practice that embarrasses her to no end).
Colors show up vibrantly on both my Kodak cameras (what I call the "Kodachrome effect"). Thanks to image stabilization, few of my shots come out blurry (a problem I've always attributed to the fact that I'm left-handed and cameras are always designed with the controls on the right).
The M580's 22 "Scene" modes include one for taking close-ups of small objects. When I saw a dragonfly perched on another passenger's handbag, I tested it... and was proud of the results. (Not to mention the fact that I was able to access the menu before the insect flew away.)
The Share Button
Kodak is very proud of their new "Share" button and software, which enables you to upload to some of your favorite social media services as you transfer the files to your computer.
Both the M530 and M580 have the Share feature, and I've played with it enough to upload photos simultaneously to Flickr, Facebook while emailing them directly to family. But I found it a little bit confusing to set up. Kodak says that the camera is capable of recognizing faces that appear in your photos again and again, and you can tag those people before you upload your photos -- but I still haven't figured out how that feature works.
I was also frustrated by the fact that I was unable to designate a Flickr set or Facebook album to place the photos... so I still had to go in and organize them after the upload. (Note: Earlier this week, I downloaded an update to the Share software, so this is a feature that may now be improved.)
Getting Used to the M580
I've had the M580 for nearly a month now, and have used it in different settings. I don't fumble as much for the mode button and have taken some nice shots in various conditions. I can even turn the flash on and off now at will.
I have not yet learned to love the M580 in the same way as its predecessor. It's not the camera I would take with me if I needed professional-looking photos in difficult light... but I am not the kind of person who wants to carry a big, SLR camera with me everywhere. For every day situations, I prefer a point-and-shoot... and this one is just the right size with just the right features for me -- as long as I remember which button is which.