Kodak EasyShare Z740
At a Glance
Kodak's $380 EasyShare Z740 is designed to simplify the sharing of photos through prints, e-mail, and an online gallery. The camera's share button, included software, and optional snapshot printer all seem targeted at PC-phobic beginners. This seems at odds with the looks of the camera, which resembles a more advanced model with its rubber right-hand grip and large lens.
The optional Printer Dock Series 3, which costs $100 extra, is a portable dye-sublimation printer with a camera dock on top and is designed to make 4-by-6-inch prints by pressing the print button on its top panel. The test unit sent to me, however, did not work, and I was unable to remove its dye-sub ribbon to replace it. I also thought the small printer felt flimsy. If you forgo this option, the cost of the four snapshot printers we recently tested averaged almost $200.
To help beginners, the camera offers 17 scene modes; an explanation of each mode appears on the LCD as you scroll through. The nub that sits in the middle of the scroll wheel on the back of the camera serves as both a toggle and a button; you press it left/right and up/down to move through menus, and press it inward to select an option. When I was trying to use the manual mode, I found myself accidentally pressing the nub and thereby making a selection when I was trying to toggle to the next selection. Ultimately, using the menus extensively could prove frustrating.
The Z740 has a generous 10X optical zoom, which I enjoyed using at a baseball game to get close shots of far-off players. But I had problems using the autofocus--the camera intermittently had a difficult time locking onto my subject, whether it was a player or the distant right field wall. At first, I thought the stadium lighting might be the culprit, but the camera performed similarly indoors and in bright daylight.
The photos I took using the scene modes under stadium lighting all looked slightly underexposed, though I was able to remedy the exposure with an image editor. Limited sensitivity may have contributed to the underexposures: The Z740's highest ISO setting is 400. Also, the lens is a little slower than most point-and-shoots these days, topping out at 1/1000 second versus the very common 1/2000 second. Admittedly, a sports stadium at night is a challenging setting for point-and-shoot cameras. Even so, compared to other point-and-shoots the Z740 earned below-average scores for image quality, and the sharpness of its images was particularly disappointing in our lab tests.
Once you've connected the printer to your PC, you must press the transfer button to fire up the EasyShare software and upload your photos or send copies via e-mail. The software works with Kodak's EasyShare Gallery Web site (formerly Ofoto), where you can build an online album or order enlargements. I found the software easy to use for transferring and e-mailing files, though I was disappointed by my experience as a recipient. To print the images sent to me via EasyShare, I had to first sign into the service, and then download Kodak's Print@Home software. This software wouldn't work with Mozilla Firefox, so I had to use Internet Explorer. For all that trouble, I would have preferred to receive a standard e-mail attachment, though for users on dial-up that may not be practical.
The Z740's claim to easy photo sharing and its powerful zoom are enticing, but lackluster image quality and tentative focusing make it difficult to recommend.
Kodak EasyShare Z740
5.0 megapixels, 2576 by 1932 maximum resolution, 30mm to 380mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f2.6 to f8.0 maximum aperture range, shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/1000 second, electronic and LCD viewfinders, USB connection, 32MB internal memory and SD Card slot, rechargeable lithium ion battery, 10.1 ounces with battery, Kodak EasyShare software. One-year parts and labor warranty, 11-hour weekday toll-free support.