Although not small for a 4-megapixel camera, at eight ounces, the Kodak EasyShare CX7430 feels light for its size. Its rounded corners fit comfortably in your hand. You'll notice the EasyShare CX7430's clean design right away, and it makes even more sense after you've used the camera for a while. For example, while the top shutter release and the rear-mounted zoom rocker are located exactly where your right index finger and thumb expect to find them, the knurled power/mode dial is also within easy reach of your thumb, so you can simultaneously bring the camera to your eye and turn it on. Similarly, the dime-size four-way controller pad is located to the left of the LCD, where your left thumb can rest on it, ready to activate exposure compensation with a quick press in the down direction, followed by nudges left or right. There's no need to dive into the menus to make a quick exposure adjustment. Rounding out the controls are a quick-delete key and Kodak's Share button for marking images to print or e-mail to addresses that you can download from your computer.
The Menu button produces a clear and easily navigated two-level LCD menu system that lists the most frequently accessed settings, including quality, white-balance, ISO, exposure mode, and autofocus options, roughly in the order you're likely to need them. A second setup menu is accessible from the bottom of the list. Farsighted photographers will be pleased by the relatively large type used in the menu text.
The big news for indoor photographers is the relatively wide view at 34mm (equivalent to a 35mm-camera lens) offered by the 3X zoom lens. As long as you're not trying to shoot sports from the stands, the 102mm (equivalent) maximum focal length is probably long enough for everyday use, and it provides a pleasing perspective for portrait photography.
Kodak's Sport and Portrait scene modes do a decent job of optimizing shutter speed and aperture, though you won't find any manual settings suitable for fine-tuning exposures for either of these activities. The camera also has modes for night photography, landscapes, and close-up work. You can choose multizone or center-spot focus--there are no manual focus adjustments--and focus down to 5 inches in macro mode. The automatic-picture-rotation feature will correctly orient your vertical and horizontal shots when you review them on the camera's 1.6-inch LCD. The screen itself, however, is too small for gauging picture quality, especially under bright light. In Review mode, a magnification option that makes it easier to evaluate your shots is available from the menu.
Metering options include multipattern, center-weighted, and spot. The EasyShare CX7430 will automatically choose shutter speeds from 1/2 to 1/1,400 second, an f-stop from f/2.7 to f/5.2 (f/4.6 to f/8.7 when zoomed all the way in), and ISO settings from 80 to 160. You can also manually set light sensitivity to ISO 80, 100, 200, or 400.
What you don't get partially accounts for this Kodak's sub-$300 price. A rechargeable battery and a charger are optional, but the camera works just fine with two nickel-metal-hydride or lithium AA cells or a single CRV3, so you're free to use the power source of your choice. Nor do you get a memory card; the internal 16MB of memory is good for only about 10 shots, so an SD card should be at the top of your shopping list.
If you're a minimovie fan, the top-mounted speaker is clear as a bell during playback, but the Kodak records 640x480 movies at a jerky 13fps. On the plus side, clip length is limited only by the size of your memory card, so a 512MB card will record 36 minutes or more of action.
The EasyShare CX7430 is compatible with Kodak's EasyShare docks and software, which facilitate one-touch printing and sharing.
Once you wake the EasyShare CX7430 from its slumber, which takes about 3.8 seconds, only a slow trigger finger will waste your picture-taking opportunities. For example, if Bigfoot jumps out from behind the brush while you're fiddling with a menu setting, go ahead and bring the camera to your eye and take a picture. This camera is good to go regardless of the menu, review, or shooting mode you happen to be using when you press the shutter release.
A fast finger will also yield a flurry of shots. Shot-to-shot times averaged just 1.8 seconds without flash and only a smidge longer (2.3 seconds) with the flash turned on. With the camera set to burst mode, we were able to grab six shots in a little more than 1.5 seconds at both full and minimum resolution. Shutter lag was commendably brief, at 0.6 second, when we photographed high-contrast subject matter. Lacking an autofocus-assist lamp, the EasyShare CX7430 has a shutter lag of about 1.1 seconds under low-contrast shooting conditions.We were generally pleased with the photos that the EasyShare CX7430 produced. Colors were not highly saturated, so if you like a punchy look, this isn't the best choice. Exposures seemed to favor the darker areas of the photos. The camera revealed good detail in the shadows, but lighter areas were sometimes a little faded, and whites tended to wash out. Our photos had pleasing flesh tones, however.
We noticed less of the overprocessed look that has plagued images from Kodak's EasyShare cameras in the past, although we did see a little bit of it in areas with a lot of texture, such as grass or gravel. It causes some blurring of detail, but that shouldn't be a problem in snapshot prints. We also saw some moderate purple fringing in shots with harsh lighting--again, not a problem that will affect most pictures or be visible in smaller prints.