The Kodak EasyShare CX7300 is a minimalist digital camera at a minimalist price. Available for little more than the tariff on a Webcam a few years ago, it's a simple 3.2-megapixel snapshooter that can ease the greenest neophyte into digital photography. If you want just the basics, you probably won't miss all the features this camera doesn't offer, nor will you care that its image quality is mediocre.
You won't get an optical zoom with the CX7300's fixed-focus, 37mm (35mm-camera equivalent), glass-and-plastic lens; there's no burst mode for rapid-fire shooting; and the camera offers just one scene mode, for night photography. The video clips it captures are of the herky-jerky, Charlie Chaplin silent variety. Nor is the CX7300 furnished with a memory card; its 16MB of internal storage can be augmented by an optional SD/MMC card.
Yet the CX7300 produces acceptable pictures for the 3.2-megapixel class; docks easily with Kodak's EasyShare 6000 printer dock for fast downloading and printing; and includes a Share button that simplifies tagging favorites, assembling photos into albums stored in the camera, and sending pictures by e-mail. There are plenty of features for the new digital photographer to explore.
Point-and-shoot is the only way to go with this compact 4.1-by-2.6-by-1.6-inch, 7.5-ounce camera. Spin the top-mounted mode dial from Off to Auto, bring the camera to either eye, press the shutter-release button, and the CX7300 snaps off a picture. As with other recent Kodak cameras, it doesn't matter if you happen to be viewing a menu or reviewing previous shots when a picture opportunity arises: the camera is good to go in any mode. Its silver-toned plastic body is unencumbered by confusing controls. Aside from the shutter release and the mode dial, the only buttons to worry about are the Menu and Review keys to the right of the 1.6-inch LCD, the Delete and Share buttons to the LCD's immediate left, and a four-way cursor pad with a central OK button. There's also a Flash button for cycling through Flash Off, Red Eye, and Fill Flash. White balance and light sensitivity--which the camera sets between ISO 100 and ISO 200--are not user selectable. You'll need to be a little careful about how you handle the camera since there's no lens cap, and it's easy to smudge the glass lens cover with a thumbprint.
Your main shooting choices are likely to be switching to Night mode to reduce the shutter speed and provide extra background detail, and adjusting exposure compensation by plus or minus 2EV in 0.5EV steps--which unfortunately requires a trip to an LCD menu. Among the menus' few options are a self-timer; quality settings that include three levels of JPEG compression at 3.2 megapixels and a 1,024x768-pixel option; color, black-and-white, and sepia modes; and the ability to turn review on or off.
Those who insist on cropping their pictures in the camera can activate a 3X digital zoom by pressing the Right key on the cursor pad. Thereafter, you can zoom in and out by pressing the Left and Right buttons; a magnification indicator appears in the LCD as the image is enlarged or reduced. You'll need to frame your images with the LCD--which is possible even under fairly bright sunlight--since the optical viewfinder, of course, doesn't zoom to match the changing field of view, nor does the viewfinder offer parallax correction.
Because the CX7300's aperture is fixed at f/4.5, it provides optimum exposure by varying the shutter speed from 1/2 to 1/2,300 second. There's no autofocus to slow down the camera, and shutter lag amounted to only about 0.26 second. Once the camera woke up for its first shot (in about 3.8 seconds), we were able to snap off a photo every 1.8 seconds (with or without flash) for three shots. The CX7300 then pauses almost 10 seconds before you can take another shot. There's no continuous-shooting mode, so this isn't a cheap sports-photography option.
While the pictures the Kodak EasyShare CX7300 produced were decent for cameras in its price range, compared to those of other 3.2 megapixel cameras they were a little soft, with a definite tendency to blow out highlights. We noticed some pronounced color fringing and a slight magenta cast to many of the photos. Noise tended to be a problem in low light levels. Photo enthusiasts will find the results subpar, but the entry-level point-and-shoot crowd will most likely be pleased with the images they get for a very low admission price.