A 10X zoom lens, manual exposure controls, 5-megapixel resolution, a versatile burst-shooting mode, and an electronic viewfinder that works as well in blazing sunlight as in murky interiors--there are certainly aspects of the Kodak EasyShare Z740 that might cause photo enthusiasts to sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, the downside includes rampant purple fringing, a bit of noise (marring otherwise decent image quality), a lack of manual focus, and a low-resolution EVF, which suffers from ghosting and blackouts between shots.
This camera shares many features with its higher-priced stablemate, the Z7590, a slightly enhanced and rebranded version of the DX7590; however, it is a tad more petite, its shutter-speed range is more limited, and its back-panel and EVF LCDs are smaller. Fledgling photo hobbyists who don't take many photos at high ISO settings or shoot the kind of backlit and high-contrast subjects that chromatic aberrations prey upon will probably be pleased with the image quality.
Those who want an easy snapshot-printing solution will want to check out the Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 3, which provides a convenient way to view, print, and transfer images, as well as charge the batteries for this camera. Kodak also sells the two as a bundle. Like those of many EVF-equipped cameras, the Kodak EasyShare Z740's SLR-like layout works better in theory than in practice. When you grip this 13.5-ounce camera's 3.8-by-3.1-by-2.8-inch silver-tone plastic body in SLR fashion, you'll find that a stray middle finger can block both the secondary focus sensor and the focus-assist lamp, which are tucked into the tight quarters between the handgrip and the lens. The view with the 201,000-pixel EVF (more than 100,000 pixels fewer than the Z7590's) is SLR-like--until you take a picture and the view of your subject is replaced by a blue screen with an hourglass icon indicating that the camera is processing the image. Our test camera had a tendency to pop up the built-in flash every time it was turned on, even in full daylight and when the flash had been switched off.
If you can put up with these annoyances, this camera is simple to operate, and all its useful controls are readily accessible. The top surface has a button for flipping up the flash after you've stowed it away; it also has a sliding switch that flips to the left to view photos marked as favorites and to the right to power up into recording mode. There's also a speaker; a shutter release; and separate buttons for burst modes/self-timer (2 or 10 seconds), macro/distance focus modes, and flash options.
The back panel hosts the other controls, including a display/info button and a key to flip between the EVF and the 1.8-inch LCD. Whether you're using a one- or two-handed grip on the camera, you can comfortably nudge the zoom rocker with a thumb while keeping your index finger poised over the shutter release. There's also a delete key, as well as menu, review, and share buttons used to mark images as favorites or select them for printing or e-mailing. A dial for selecting basic shooting modes and scenes surrounds a joystick control that tends to respond a little too enthusiastically; when zipping around menus, it was easy to select the wrong setting.
That's a shame, because the exposure options are otherwise easy to access. With the mode dial set to PASM, the screen displays information about shooting mode, shutter speed, aperture, current EV, and ISO. With the joystick, you can select an exposure mode (auto, program, manual, or shutter or aperture priority) and adjust shutter speed, f-stop, exposure compensation (plus or minus 2EV in half EV steps), and ISO speed--assuming you can keep the skittish button under control. The Kodak EasyShare Z740's 38mm-to-380mm (35mm-camera equivalent) zoom lens is probably its biggest attraction. The all-glass optics come up a little short on the wide-angle end of the scale, but they really reached out to grab all the action at a professional softball game we covered using this camera. Kodak makes up for the wide-angle shortcoming by offering a 0.7X lens adapter, which fits the standard 55mm filter thread on the removable lens hood.
A useful aperture range of f/2.8 to f/8 in wide-angle mode and f/3.7 to f/8 in telephoto mode made it possible, using programmed exposure, to shoot as fast as 1/1,700 second and freeze the action. The top speed is limited to 1/1,000 second in adjustable modes but extends down to 8 seconds for timed exposures. Exposure can be calculated using multipattern, center-weighted, or center-spot metering schemes.
There are scene modes galore, ranging from Sport, Portrait, and Night Scenes, which are accessible from the mode dial, to an additional complement in the menus. These include Children, Party, Beach, Flower, Fireworks, Snow, Backlight, Close-Up, Night Portrait, Landscape, Night Landscape, Museum, Text, and Self-Portrait.
The Z740 lacks manual focus, but the multizone and center-zone autofocus worked well down to 4.7 inches (wide angle) and 3.9 inches (telephoto). We also missed some flexibility in the flash settings, which are limited to auto, fill flash, red-eye reduction, and forced off; neither slow-/front-/rear-sync options nor flash exposure compensation are available. The built-in strobe did provide even exposures out to a commendable 16 feet at the wide-angle setting and to 12 feet using the telephoto (both at ISO 168). That beats the range offered by many digital cameras. We tested with a pair of 2,500mAh nickel-metal-hydride AA cells (the camera ships with AA lithium batteries). Kodak also offers a 3-volt battery pack that can be recharged using the printer dock. Our main complaints about performance are aimed at the EVF and rear-panel displays, which were a little coarse and especially grainy when the electronics gained up the brightness to compensate for low light levels. But at least the viewfinder was usable in dim light, which can't be said for the rear LCD in bright light. It completely washed out, making the EVF the viewfinder of choice outdoors. We found the vanishing viewfinder image particularly troublesome while using the otherwise commendable burst modes; the screen image tended to vanish entirely for the whole burst.
If you don't mind shooting blind, burst shooting was nifty, capturing five frames in about 2.1 seconds at all resolutions. You can choose from First Burst mode, which captures five shots right off the bat, or Last Burst, which grabs up to 30 pictures in about 15 seconds and retains only the last four shots when you release the shutter button. Other cameras also have this feature, and it's great for shooting action when you don't know exactly when the peak moment will occur.
The time to first shot was a merely average 4 seconds, but the Z740 performed speedily thereafter, snapping off pictures every 1.6 seconds (2.2 seconds with flash)--but always with that annoying blank screen between snaps. Shutter lag was moderate at 0.7 second under high-contrast lighting but a languorous 1.8 seconds under more challenging low-contrast lighting, even with aid from the focus-assist lamp.
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|
|Typical continuous-shooting speed|
Purple fringing was the second-most-visible image defect, evident even in small prints of subjects with strong backlighting or contrast. Noise was not too bad until ISO 400 but became quite noticeable at ISO 800, which is available at only the lowest-quality 1.8-megapixel setting.