Let's make something clear: this is not your mom's Pocket Instamatic. The EasyShare P880 is an 8MP electronic viewfinder camera with a 24-140mm equivalent f/2.8-4.1 Schneider zoom, dedicated TTL flash shoe, RAW capture, and tons of control. In other words, it's almost an SLR, at a pedal-to-the-metal street price of $530.
If it sounds like a good deal, our test results definitely confirm it. It has Excellent resolution (an average of 1,770 lines) and stunning color accuracy, with one of the best Delta E readings we've obtained. Noise was Moderately Low up through ISO 200, just creeping into Unacceptable at ISO 400. And viewfinder accuracy, at a whopping 99 percent, beats what you get on an SLR-whether digital or traditional.
The somewhat ungainly proportions of the P880 (it's nearly as tall as it is wide) belie superb handling and control accessibility. The tall grip allows a comfortable hold even for large hands, and the shutter button and input dial are right where your index finger and thumb expect them. A slew of buttons and dials spread out over the camera may look daunting at first, but this arrangement makes for much faster adjustments than the menu-surfing demanded by so many other cameras.
One well-conceived touch: a translucent bar at the bottom of the frame (in both LCD and EVF views) that displays settings such as shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation.
Spin the thumbwheel to highlight the desired control in the frame, poke the Set button, and you can make that particular adjustment-although the recessed Set button is hard to find with gloved hands. Metered manual can thus be done quickly with only the thumb while the camera is at eye level; shutter- and aperture-priority auto are similarly speedy. And (four cheers for Kodak!) these on-screen controls include flash-exposure compensation.
The P880 also lets you program your favorite shooting configuration into a custom setting (actually, three of them), accessed right on the mode dial. When you do have to delve into the menus, you'll find that they're logically arranged and easy to navigate. While you're there, you'll also find surprising sophistication. For example, you can set a custom white balance from a white card or from the last picture taken, and then tweak the color using a two-axis graph on the screen.
You can check your exposures with a histogram, as well as with a graphic highlight/shadow warning. And both these features are accessed by the quick info button-no menu forays necessary.
More smartness comes by way of the battery system. The P880 is supplied with a beefy Li-ion rechargeable that consistently gave us more shots than the CIPA rating would suggest. The battery compartment can also take the skinnier Li-ion battery (the KLIC-5000) used in Kodak pocket compacts, and both battery types fit on the same charger. We could get used to interchangeability like this.
The P880 will also work with current EasyShare camera docks (for quick uploads of pictures and battery charging) and printer docks (for all of the above, plus computer-free, one-touch 4x6-inch dye-sub printing).
This is a hard camera to find fault with. The 237,000-pixel EVF is a bit on the grainy side, but it has decent magnification, provides excellent eye relief for eyeglass wearers, and has very fast redraw-almost no jumpiness even during quick panning. If you shoot with both eyes open, you may notice a slight tilt in the viewfinder image, but this has no effect on the final image. The autofocusing can be quite balky in low light, even when focusing on a detail with the bright (and very obtrusive) red focus-assist lamp. The oddest (and most annoying) anomaly is the automatic orientation sensor: If you take a vertical shot, the camera will balk, sometimes for several seconds, while it's storing the image. The simple fix: Use the menu to turn off the orientation sensor.