Kodak Z740 Review
The Kodak EasyShare Z740 holds the "top of the line" spot in Kodak's new "Z" series line, which it shares with the Z700. This "super zoom" model features 5-megapixels of resolution coupled with a 10x optical zoom, all packed inside an SLR-style body. It offers an exposure mode for every member in your household, satisfying beginners with its point-n-shoot automatic mode, intermediate users with its wealth of scene modes, and experts with its wide range of exposure controls in Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Program modes.
The most noticeable feature of the Z740 is its Kodak Retinar 10X optical zoom lens. Ranging in focal length from 38 to 380mm in 35mm equivalence, it offers the photographer enormous versatility in image composition; the 38mm wide-angle covers most interior and landscape shots, while its 380mm telephoto magnification will please the nature and sports photographer by bringing distant subjects closer. Its zoom control allows you to precisely adjust focal length; tapping it slowly moves the zoom in small increments, while pushing it fast will quickly go from wide-angle to telephoto.
Overall the lens produced sharp results throughout its zoom range, with an average amount of barrel distortion at wide angle and slight pin cushioning present at telephoto extremes. There is a moderate amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing in high contrast areas) present throughout the zoom range, but this is something we see on almost all of the "super zoom" digicams. The lens is relatively fast, with a wide-open aperture range of F2.8 (wide) to F3.7 (tele); this allows the use of faster shutter speeds which minimizes camera shake when shooting at the telephoto end of the zoom range. However, camera shake is always an issue at longer focal lengths; an inexpensive monopod or tripod would be a worthwhile addition to your Z740 camera kit.
The Z740s shooting performance was very good. From power up to first image was captured measured just under 5 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, measured less than 1/10 second when pre-focused and only 2/10 second including autofocus. The shot- to-shot delay averaged 1.6 seconds without the flash and only 1.8 seconds using the flash. The Z740 has two burst modes: Using First Burst, I was able to capture 5 images in 1.9 seconds. Last Burst continuously captured images at the same 2.6 per second rate, saving only the last 4 shots. The viewfinder (either EVF or LCD) briefly displays the last captured image in either Burst mode, allowing you to follow a moving subject. The Z740 flushes its buffer at a relatively fast rate, taking only 7 - 10 seconds to empty a 5 image burst, and allow you to start shooting again. Our test were done using a Sandisk Ultra II 512MB SD card, Program mode, ISO Auto, flash off, preview off, and all other settings at default (unless noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was very pleased with our outdoor results. The Z740's 10x zoom lens adds to the overall fun factor, allowing you to capture images that you wouldn't even attempt with a typical 3x zoom digicam. The majority of our images were sharp, well-exposed and richly saturated. Sky detail was beautiful, thanks in part to the very low noise levels in high/low contrast areas. Its Auto white balance setting produced true to life colors in a variety of lighting conditions. We found the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and LCD quite usable in bright sunlight, and the rubber eyecup around the EVF helps tremendously to block out ambient light.
Indoors the moderate wide-angle lens affords reasonable field of view, and its built-in pop-up flash has a generous (by consumer digicam standards) range of up to 16 feet and an effective red eye reduction mode. You won't be illuminating a banquet hall at the family reunion, but your living room shots and small group portraits will please. In low ambient light, both the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and large LCD "gain up" and were easy to view; this is very useful considering most digicams don't do this and you can't see in the dark with an optical viewfinder. Its autofocus system also does very well in these conditions, thanks to its (green) focus-assist lamp. The camera was also able to squelch its flash at close range, making it a good choice for Macro photography.
Motion video can also be recorded at VGA (640x480) resolution with audio. Our movie samples were good, with little compression noise and the AF system does an excellent job keeping up with fast moving objects. You can see what I mean by looking at our example on our Samples page.
The Z740 can be powered by either two AA-type batteries, one CRV3 or the optional Kodak NiMH battery pack. When you purchase the Kodak EasyShare Camera and Printer Docks, this pack is included. Battery life was impressive during our tests, capturing more than 120 images and concluded our other test before the battery was exhausted. The optional Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock Series 3 charges the battery and produces high- quality 4x6-inch prints using a 4-pass, dye sublimation process in just two minutes. These prints are the equal of any that you can get from your local photo finisher. Be sure to use the Best (3:2) quality setting - this mode creates images with a 3:2 aspect ratio which yields perfect 4x6" size photos with no cropping. When it's placed in the printer dock, the camera is turned on and printing can be initiated by simply depressing one button. The camera's LCD is used to preview and select images for printing. With a Kodak EasyShare camera and the printer dock, you'll have the modern equivalent to the old Polaroid system but with much better image quality. Click here to view our EasyShare Printer Dock mini- review.
Bottom line - With an MSRP of under $400, excellent image quality, 10x optical zoom and a great deal of versatility, the Kodak EasyShare Z740 represents a terrific value. If you're in the market for an affordable "super zoom", then be sure to put this one on your short list. You can also buy the Z740 "bundled" with the EasyShare Printer dock for just $499 and have a complete digital photo system at a very affordable price!
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