The Kodak EasyShare C653 (available for around £85) is a simple, inexpensive point-and-shoot camera with a built-in help system.

It's not the most stylish camera, although you get a lot for relatively few dollars: 6.1Mp imaging, a 2.4in LCD screen, and, most important, good-looking photos. Thankfully, there's also an eye-level viewfinder for framing your shots, because images in the Kodak EasyShare C653's LCD can be difficult to see in bright sunlight.

Operating the Kodak EasyShare C653 is comfortable and trouble-free, for the most part. Startup is a very quick 2 seconds. The Kodak EasyShare C653's large shutter release button is surrounded by an easy-to-rotate mode dial with positions for auto, macro, movie, and scene mode; the last of these offers a choice of 19 shooting conditions, such as low light, sunset, and children, plus one you are unlikely to use: close-up self-portrait.

There's an in-camera photo-enhancement tool called Perfect Touch, although we found this hit or miss. The Kodak EasyShare C653 has a dedicated delete button that lets you trash photos during preview.

Perhaps the most novel feature is the Kodak EasyShare C653's ability to stitch together up to three consecutive shots in a panorama. Its stitching method is really simple - the Kodak EasyShare C653 displays a small portion of the previous photo on the LCD to help you line up your next shot - but it limits each image to 3.1Mp.

Processing the first two shots took us about 9 seconds each; after shooting the third image, the Kodak EasyShare C653 took roughly 22 seconds to produce the final panorama. However, our efforts at panoramas when holding the camera by hand (no tripod) produced poor results. Differences in the exposures were evident in blue sky, and some edges did not line up properly.

As you'd expect with a low-cost camera, the Kodak EasyShare C653's advanced exposure controls are few. An exposure value control on the four-way thumb button helps you compensate for difficult lighting. But you don't get automatic exposure bracketing, manual focus, or even white-balance calibration, a standard feature in most digital cameras. We were pleased, though, to find a gridline option for keeping my horizons level with the Kodak EasyShare C653.

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Given the Kodak EasyShare C653's low price, the C653's photos came out quite well - and earned an overall image quality score of Very Good in our lab tests. Our informal shots looked sharp and nicely exposed, although they suffered from a slight blue cast in a waterfront scene with lots of sky.

Compared with our 5.1Mp Olympus C5060, the Kodak EasyShare C653 was least sharp when it was set to full telephoto.

The Kodak EasyShare C653's bundled EasyShare software is a fine image-management application that automatically creates a thumbnail database of all photos on your hard disk and offers a burn to CD/DVD function for backing them up. Although limited in capabilities, the photo-fixing tools are easy to use. The manual is thorough, but you'll have to download it from Kodak's website.

The Kodak EasyShare C653 runs on AA batteries, which lasted just 160 shots in our tests, far less than the average of 260 frames.

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Kodak EasyShare C653: Specs

  • 6.1Mp
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 2.4in LCD screen
  • SD memory card compatible (not included)
  • 32MB internal memory
  • ISO range - 80-200 Auto
  • video output
  • movie capture and sound recording
  • USB connection
  • Kodak Alkaline digital camera battery provided
  • PictBridge compatible
  • 1-year guarantee
  • batteries, USB/AV cables, wrist strap, Kodak Easyshare software, Getting Started Guide
  • 145g (excluding batteries)
  • 66x89x35mm
  • 6.1Mp
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 2.4in LCD screen
  • SD memory card compatible (not included)
  • 32MB internal memory
  • ISO range - 80-200 Auto
  • video output
  • movie capture and sound recording
  • USB connection
  • Kodak Alkaline digital camera battery provided
  • PictBridge compatible
  • 1-year guarantee
  • batteries, USB/AV cables, wrist strap, Kodak Easyshare software, Getting Started Guide
  • 145g (excluding batteries)
  • 66x89x35mm

OUR VERDICT

The Kodak EasyShare C653 isn't a good choice for anyone who's moved beyond novice photography. But its simplicity is a perfect fit for someone who just wants to take the occasional family snapshot.

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