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Kodak's EasyShare: Not So Easy

There's no shortage of photo-sharing and print sites, and in this series of reviews, I'm intent on finding the best. So far I've looked at Snapfish, Shutterfly, and DotPhoto. Now I'm test-driving the Kodak EasyShare Gallery, the site some of you may remember as Ofoto.

Kodak EasyShare, owned by Eastman Kodak (EK), is a mainstream site that covers the basics, giving users a simple way to upload photos, order prints, and share them via e-mail.

BIG IMAGES. The service has a straightforward site, competently handles simple tasks like sharing and print-ordering, and throws in some fun features competitors lack. It comes with enough nuisances, however, that you'll probably want to take your photos elsewhere.

Before I get into EasyShare's drawbacks, there are a couple ways Kodak gets sharing right. First, it lets users decide whether recipients have to register before viewing photos -- a great way to avoid tedious sign-ups just to see some party pics. Also, the slideshow features nice big images of your photos.

Too often photo sites skimp on size and show only a 4-inch-by-6-inch image on the screen -- fine for a print, but not big enough for a computer monitor. Kodak's is a lot better, with photos that are more than an inch larger in length and width.

HEAD-TO-HEAD. While that makes viewing the slide show more pleasant, Kodak still needs to give users the ability to size photos however they like for the slide show. After all, if I uploaded my full five-megapixel file to the Kodak server, I want to be able to view it, big or small -- bandwidth and load times be damned!)

Ordered prints came promptly, arriving with snapshots ordered from Snapfish, Shutterfly, and DotPhoto at the same. A 4-by-6-inch print costs 15 cents, vs. 12 cents to 29 cents at other sites. And in a head-to-head test with prints from the other services, Kodak held its own: Colors were vivid, and photo subjects appeared bright and sharp.

Several aspects of the site are a hassle, however. With sharing, there's no way to send friends just one or two photos -- you can only share whole albums over e-mail.

IT'S A PAIN. Also, the site's features could be laid out better. Often I wanted several features, such as adding captions and making edits, to be on the same page. And it's not clear why they can't be. I felt like I was doing twice as much clicking as I needed to.

What's more, the site can be glitchy when using alternative browsers like Firefox. Drag-and-drop uploading is only available on Microsoft's (MSFT) Internet Explorer, and then only if you download an extra plug-in. With Firefox you have to load pictures one-by-one, and it's a pain.

Also, a few times while editing I was unable to save after rotating and cropping an image. EasyShare has a "flip" button that's supposed to create a mirror image of your snapshot. I hit the function while I was on a photo of my brother and it scrambled and flattened his face like a pancake. I didn't run into such problems while test-driving the site using IE.

MIXED BAG. It would behoove Kodak and its peers that pay short shrift to Firefox and other browsers to get their act together soon. Mozilla said on Oct. 19 that Firefox surpassed 100 million downloads after only five months on the market.

EasyShare's editing tools are mixed bag, too. Cropping and adding borders is easy and straightforward, and the site has almost a dozen photo "effects" that are, in my view, Photoshop-esque gimmicks. For example, you can make photos look like a charcoal sketch or a cartoon. They were fun to mess around with, though I don't know how often I'd really want to use them.

The "instant fix" button, however, which is supposed to repair light levels and contrast, periodically made some photos look overexposed. And as far as I'm concerned, the red-eye correction tool is unusable. When you click on the subject's shiny red eyeball, it smudges out not only the red in the eye but any red hues in the area immediately around it.

MAKE OR BREAK. In the same photo of my brother (I figured out how to unflatten his face), the red-eye tool not only made it look like he had soot on his cheek but the ashen grey color used to "correct" the red turned his eyes into hollow, soulless voids. Not a shot you want to send to Grandma.

None of these is a huge gripe, and a shabby red-eye correction tool alone doesn't make or break a site. But taken together, the shortcomings become tiresome. And when you can choose from any number of other services that lack such nuisances, it's not easy to stick with Kodak's EasyShare.


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