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DCRP Review: Kodak
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: April 21, 2004
Last Updated: February 25, 2008
The Kodak EasyShare Z740 is a midrange ultra zoom camera that fits between the Z700 and the Z7590 (which is remarkably similar to the DX7590 from 2004). It features a 5 Megapixel CCD, 10X zoom lens, 1.8" LCD display, manual controls, and an AF-assist lamp.
You can buy the camera alone ($379) or as part of a "Digital Photo Solution" ($479) which includes Kodak's Printer Dock 3. I reviewed the latter, so you can expect a few comments about the printer along the way.
Get ready to learn about the Z740 -- and it's bundled printer -- our review starts now!
What's in the Box?
The Z740's bundle is somewhat unique. It may come with the Printer Dock, so be sure to find out exactly what you're getting before you buy! Inside the box, you'll find:
As with many of Kodak's other cameras, no memory card is included with the Z740. Instead, Kodak has hardwired 32MB of memory right in the camera. That doesn't hold too many 5 Megapixel images, so I recommend buying a larger memory card right away. The Z740 can use Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMedia (MMC) cards, though I recommend the former due to its superior performance and capacity. I'd recommend a 256MB SD card as a good starting point.
The Z740 can use a number of different batteries, including AA, CR-V3, or Kodak's NiMH pack. If you buy the camera alone, you'll get a disposable CR-V3 lithium battery. If you got the kit with the printer you'll get the NiMH pack, which is basically two 2300 mAh batteries in a plastic case. My understanding is that this battery can only be charged while the camera is on a camera or printer dock. Another option is to buy your own NiMH batteries, and this is what I recommend. Get a four-pack of them, 2300 mAh or greater, and you'll be set. Kodak estimates that you can take 200 shots per charge using NiMH batteries or the battery pack or 350 using a disposable CR-V3. Those numbers are below average. For the sake of comparison, Kodak's Z7590 can take 275 shots per charge using its rechargeable battery. All of those numbers use the CIPA standard, by the way.
One nice thing about the Z740 (versus something like the Z7590) is that you can use AA or CR-V3 batteries when you're rechargeables die -- something you just can't do with a camera that uses a proprietary battery.
Let's talk about that Printer Dock now. More than just a printer, the dock can also charge your NiMH battery pack (and no other type of battery) and transfer photos to your computer via the USB connection. You can print directly from the camera, from your computer, or via the USB cable from any PictBridge-enabled camera. The included dock insert helps the camera fit properly on the dock.
Three views of the Printer Dock
Top: Side where "ink" goes, with ribbon shown at right
Lower-left: Side with USB port for PictBridge-enabled cameras
Lower-right: Back of printer; paper extends a few inches out the back during printing
How easy is it to print? Just place the Z740 onto the dock -- the camera and printer will both turn on automatically. Select the photo you want to print using the controller on the printer and press the center button to select the photo. You can then choose the number of copies you want. Press the print button again and watch as a photo lab quality print appears just under two minutes. The printer makes four passes: three for color and one for a protective coating. Another button on the printer lets you choose how many images should be on a page: 1, 2, 4, or 9.
If the idea of printing your photos at home sounds too good to pass up, consider this. A 40 pack of ink and paper costs about $25, which works out to about 63 cents per print. I can cart my memory card over to Costco and pay 18 cents per print (I've been very pleased with the results, too). The point here is that printing at home costs quite a bit more than taking it somewhere else.
Kodak includes a lens cap (with retaining strap) to protect that 10X zoom lens.
Also included is a conversion lens adapter which allows you to attach any 55 mm conversion lens or filter. Kodak offers a few things to take advantage of the adapter, including a wide-angle lens and two filters. The 0.7X wide-angle conversion lens ($120) will bring the focal length down to 26.6 mm. The filters include a circular polarizer ($65) and a neutral density filter ($22).
Other accessories include an AC adapter ($30), NiMH battery kit, camera case, and camera dock ($60). The camera dock can't print anything but it can be used for battery charging, photo transfer, and photo viewing on a television.
Kodak includes version 4.0.2 of their excellent EasyShare software for Mac OS X and Windows with the Z740. Here's a look at what it can do.
The main screen lets you import and organize your photos. You can view your photos by date taken, or you can create "smart albums" which are totally customizable (just like a smart playlist in iTunes).
On this screen you can also view your photos in a slideshow, edit or rotate them (see below), get exposure data, rotate them, burn them to a CD or DVD, or even upload them to Ofoto (now known as Kodak EasyShare Gallery) for printing.
If you want to edit your photo, there are some basic tools included. They include rotation, cropping, "instant enhancement", redeye reduction, brightness and contrast, color, exposure, and instant black & white or sepia conversion. For some edits, you can split the screen (see above) so you can see a "before and after" view of your proposed changes.
The Print at Home tab will help you print the images you select (either by marking them on the camera or in the software). There are many choices available, including the two 4 x 6 inch per page print layout you see above.
The e-mail tab works in the same way. You can compose messages to be sent along with pictures. You can send the full size picture, or have it reduced automatically to a smaller size. The e-mail system is nicely integrated with OS X's built-in address book system.
Here you can customize the e-mail addresses stored in the camera -- more on how this works later in the review. This feature is also integrated with the OS X address book (for you Mac users out there). Similarly, you can also set up albums on your camera by using EasyShare. You can then tag photos on the camera, and they'll end up in the proper album when you transfer your photos to your computer.
Kodak does a nice job with their camera manuals, with long descriptions and not a lot of fine print. While the manual seems short (and the font is huge), the information you need is all there and it's well presented.
Look and Feel
The EasyShare Z740 is a midsize ultra zoom camera made mostly of plastic (there's a little metal here and there). Despite being plastic, the camera feels solid in your hands. A comfortable right hand grip makes holding the camera easy, even with one hand. The important controls are easy to reach.
Here's a look at the dimensions and weight of the Z740 versus some of the Ultra Zoom competition:
As you can see, the Z740 fits right in the middle of the pack in terms of size and weight. The Z700 is a lot smaller, but then again it only has a 5X lens.
Okay, enough numbers for now, let's start our tour of the camera now!
The Z740 has an F2.8-3.7, 10X optical zoom lens with the Kodak Retinar label on it. This lens looks a lot like the one used in the DX7590, where it's called a Schneider-Kreutznach lens -- food for thought. Anyhow, this lens has a focal range of 6.3 - 63 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 380 mm. The lens barrel is threaded though you'll need to use the included conversion lens adapter to attach anything.
Directly above the lens is the Z740's pop-up flash. This flash has one of my most-hated features: it pops up automatically when the camera is turned on. An easy workaround is to just keep your fingers on the flash when you hit the power switch -- then it won't pop up! The flash has a working range of 0.6 - 4.9 m at wide-angle and 2.0 - 3.7 m at telephoto, which is impressive. You cannot attach an external flash to the Z740 -- if you want that you'll need to spring for the Z7590.
Now onto those two circles to the upper-left of the lens. The top one is the AF-assist lamp, which is also used for visually counting down the self-timer. The AF-assist lamp helps the camera focus in low light situations. Below that is the light sensor. On the opposite side of the lens you'll find the microphone.
On the back of the Z740 you'll find a 1.8" LCD display (the Z700 has a 1.6" screen, while the Z7590's is 2.2"). The LCD here has 134,000 pixels which allows for sharp images. The screen is bright and motion is fluid. In low light the screen "gains up" so you can still see what you're looking at -- nice!
Like every other ultra zoom camera (except for the Z700, though it's only a 5X zoom), the Z740 uses an electronic viewfinder, or EVF. The EVF is a tiny LCD screen that you view just like a regular optical viewfinder. Unfortunately no EVF can rival the quality of a real viewfinder. The EVF here has 201,000 pixels which is about average. The Z7590 has 311,000 pixels and the difference is noticeable. Something missing on this EVF is a diopter correction knob, which is used to focus what you're looking at -- glasses wearers take note! Low light visibility is also good, though the image was noisier than on the LCD.
To switch between the LCD and EVF, you just press the button to the lower-right of the EVF. The button to the lower-left of the EVF is used for toggling the information displayed on whichever screen you'[re using at the time.
Moving onto the buttons on the right half of the above photo, we first find the zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.2 seconds. There were over 25 steps throughout the zoom range, which is very handy for finding that perfect focal length.
The next thing to see is the Share button, which activates Kodak's famous EasyShare system. Pressing the Share button enters playback mode and brings up the following menu:
(Sorry these are so crummy, for some reason I couldn't do my usual video captures for the screenshots)
In share mode, you can do three things:
Let's say you want to mark an image for e-mail. Here's what you'll see:
You can select a person or persons that you want to e-mail this picture to. Once you connect to your computer, the EasyShare software will allow you to e-mail the photos that you tagged.
Selecting photos to print later is just as easy. Just select the photo and the number of copies, and the next time you dock with the printer, it'll prompt you to make those prints. Easy!
The favorites feature lets you save, well, your favorite pictures right on the camera. Note that this does take up a portion of the built-in memory on the camera, and you can choose how much of it is dedicated to favorites by using the EasyShare software.
Below the share button is the mode dial, which has the following options:
Program (P) mode is point-and-shoot but with full menu access (as opposed to Auto mode). Aperture priority (A) mode lets you choose the aperture (range of F2.7 - F8) while the camera takes care of the rest. In shutter priority (S) mode you set the shutter speed (range of 8 - 1/1000 sec) while the camera picks the correct aperture. In manual mode you select both the shutter speed and the aperture from the same ranges.
As you can see there are plenty of scene modes too. I like how the camera manual explains exactly what settings are used for each scene.
Below the mode dial are three final buttons on this part of the tour: Delete Photo, Menu, and Review (enters playback mode).
On the top of the camera you'll find the release for the pop-up flash (which pops up anyway when the camera is turned on), the power switch, speaker, three function buttons, and the shutter release. The power switch moves the camera between the off, favorites (discussed earlier), and record mode.
The three buttons to the right of the power switch (and below the shutter release) are:
There are two burst modes on the Z740. "First burst" takes up to 5 pictures at 2 frames/second -- this is your standard-issue burst mode. "Last burst" is a little different. Hold the shutter release button down and the camera takes up to 30 pictures at 2 frames/second, but only the last 4 images taken before you let go of the button are saved (the rest are thrown out). Regardless of the mode you use, I was pleased to see that there's no "blackout" on the LCD/EVF between shots, so you should be able to follow moving subjects fairly easily.
The only thing to see on this side of the Z740 is the DC-in port which is used for the optional AC adapter.
On the other side of the camera, behind a flimsy plastic door, you'll find the SD/MMC card slot and USB port.
The lens is at the full telephoto position in this shot, by the way.
On the bottom of the camera you'll find a metal tripod mount and the battery compartment. The battery compartment is protected by a sturdy plastic door (without a lock), and it can hold two AA, one CR-V3, or one Kodak NiMH pack (pictured). Remember that you only get the NiMH pack if you get the Printer Dock bundle!
Using the Kodak EasyShare Z740
It takes the Z740 about 2.7 seconds to extend its lens and "warm up" before you start taking pictures. Kodak cameras are always ready to shoot -- even if you're in playback mode, you can take a picture by pressing the shutter release.
No live histogram in record mode
While not quite as fast as the DX7590 was, the EasyShare Z740 focuses quickly in most situations. Typical wide-angle focusing times are 0.3 - 0.5 seconds. At the telephoto end focusing times were slower, and sometimes over a second when the camera really had to hunt for something to focus on. Low light focusing was excellent thanks to that AF-assist lamp.
I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speeds were quite good. You can take another shot in under two seconds, assuming you've turned off the post-shot review (QuickView) feature.
You can delete a photo immediately after taking it by pressing the delete button.
There are just a few image quality choices on the Z740. There's no "fine" or "normal" quality here -- just these options:
There's no TIFF or RAW mode available on the Z740, nor would I expect one.
The camera names files as 100_####.JPG (where # = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.
As with all of Kodak's cameras, the menu system on the Z740 is simple and very easy-to-use. About the only thing missing is a help option describing what each item does. Here are all the menu options:
There are two "AF control" choices available on the Z740. Continuous AF is always focusing, even when the shutter release is not held down. This reduces the delay when you want to take a picture. In Single AF mode, the camera only focuses when you halfway press the shutter release.
Now here's what's in the setup menu:
Okay, let's move on to our photo tests now!
Our macro test shot would've come out great had the Z740's white balance been better. Neither the Auto nor the Tungsten settings got the colors right using my 600W quartz studio lamps. The image above used the Tungsten setting and it has a greenish cast to it. Auto white balance was even worse. If you shoot under "normal lighting" this shouldn't be an issue -- but if you use studio lamps or something less "normal" then you might want to find a camera with a custom WB option.
That said, the subject itself is nice and sharp, with a "smoothness" to it. The colors are saturated as well -- too bad there's that green cast. Speaking of which, here's what this image should've looked like:
I used the Auto Color function in Photoshop CS to come up with that image, by the way.
Getting back to our discussion about the macro mode now. You can get as close to your subject as 12 cm at wide-angle and 1.2 m at telephoto.
The night shot was a mixed bag. On the positive side, the camera took in plenty of light (thanks to that manual control over shutter speed) and there's not too much noise or purple fringing. The bad news is that the image is soft with an "overprocessed" look to it. It looks more like a watercolor painting than a photograph, especially on the right side of the image.
Using that same shot, here's a look at how changing the ISO sensitivity effects the amount of noise in your images:
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The ISO 80 and 100 shots both look pretty similar. Things start to soften up even more at ISO 200, and by ISO 400 things are quite noisy and details are being washed away.
Whoever came up with the redeye reduction system for Kodak deserves a raise -- their recent cameras have all faired well in our flash photo tests. That includes the Z740, as you can see.
The distortion test shows very mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens, and no signs of vignetting (dark corners) or blurring.
Overall I was pleased with the photo quality on the Z740. Photos were well-exposed, with nice saturated colors, low noise, and purple fringing levels comparable to other cameras in its class. While some Kodak cameras have the "overprocessed image" problem in all situations, the Z740 only seemed to have a problem with this in the night shot. I spotted a tiny amount of blurriness in the corner of one of my images, but that was about it.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. View our photo gallery, and print the images just like you would if they were your own. Then decide if the Z740's photo quality meets your expectations.
While decent, the movie mode on the Z740 could be a lot better. You can record VGA video (with sound) until the memory card fills up, but at a sluggish 13 fps frame rate. A 256MB SD card can hold about 16 minutes of video at this setting. If you want a better frame rate, you'll have to drop down to the 320 x 240 resolution. Here you can record at 20 frames/second. You can fit over 30 minutes of video on the 256MB card in this mode.
You cannot use the optical zoom during filming. You can adjust the zoom as much as you'd like beforehand, though.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format using the MPEG4 codec.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the highest quality setting. Speaking of quality, what's with those vertical lines in the movie?
Click to play movie (2.7 MB, 640 x 480, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
As you'd expect from Kodak, the Z740's playback mode is attractive and easy-to-use. The basic features that we all know are here: slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
Zoom and scroll (called Magnify here) lets you zoom into your photo by up to 8 times, and then scroll around in the enlarged image. Everything is nice and smooth!
The Z740 lets you copy images from the internal memory to a memory card, and vice versa. If you've got a memory card inserted, you must switch to the internal memory using the menu if you want to view the pictures stored there.
The sharing and album features were covered earlier in the review, so scroll back up to the tour section to learn about that.
By default, the Z740 shows you no exposure information about your photos. If you want to see that, just press the "i" button and you'll get the screen on the right, which is full of useful information.
The camera moves between photos instantly.
How Does it Compare?
While it's not perfect, the Kodak EasyShare Z740 is a pretty good ultra zoom camera for people on a budget. It offers good photo quality, manual controls, an easy-to-use interface, an AF-assist lamp, and Kodak's famous EasyShare system.
You can buy the Z740 alone or as part of a package including Kodak's Printer Dock 3. While the Printer Dock is a fun toy and is certainly convenient, be warned that each print will cost you 63 cents -- a lot more than having it developed at Costco or similar. The whole system works together very well, so if you don't mind spending more for each print, it's definitely worth getting the printer dock kit.
The Z740 is a midsize camera made mostly of plastic. Despite that, it never felt cheap in my hands (okay, maybe the door over the SD slot does). The camera is very easy to use, with just a few clearly marked buttons and a simple menu system. The camera can be used in auto mode (including tons of scene modes) or in manual mode. While I love having aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual modes available, I wish Kodak didn't have to stick them all on the same spot on the mode dial. Photo quality is good for the most part, though the white balance didn't work well with my studio lights (which is pretty rare) and the night shot was soft and "overprocessed". Thankfully my "regular shots" looked very good. The movie quality wasn't much to write home about, and the frame rate is awfully sluggish. Camera performance is good for the most part, with great low light focusing. In addition, both the LCD and EVF are visible in low light conditions. The camera has a decent burst mode as well, with no "blackout" on the LCD/EVF between shots.
Included with the camera is Kodak's excellent EasyShare software, which integrates very nicely with the camera. You can tag photos on the camera for printing and/or e-mailing, and the software does the rest. It's way better than the garbage included with most cameras. Also bundled with the camera is a conversion lens adapter, which you'll need if you want to use any conversion lenses or filters.
About the only other complaint I should mention (beside the other things I just covered) is that I hate how the flash pops up when you turn on the camera. The remedy is to keep your finger on top of the flash when you hit the power switch -- problem solved!
Bottom line: I like the Z740 and it gets my recommendation, unless you take a lot of photos under unusual lighting. Fans of long exposures may also want to consider another camera, especially if my samples bothered you. While the Z740 isn't as good as the class-leading Panasonic DMC-FZ5 and DMC-FZ20, it costs a lot less and it's easier to use too.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other "budget" ultra zooms include the Canon PowerShot S2 IS, Fuji FinePix S5100, Kodak EasyShare Z7590, Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 and Z20, Nikon Coolpix 4800, Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H1.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Z740 and it's competitors before you buy!
Want a second opinion?
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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