** printer friendly version for non-commercial use only **
DCRP Review: Kodak
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: May 30, 2004
Last Updated: May 30, 2004
The Kodak EasyShare LS743 ($350) is a compact 4 Megapixel camera with a design quite unlike any previous Kodak camera. Along with its 5 Megapixel sibling, the LS753, this camera features a 3X zoom, point-and-shoot operation, a user friendly interface, and support for both Kodak camera and printer docks.
There's a done of competition in this class. How does the LS743 perform? Find out in our review!
What's in the Box?
The LS743 has a very good bundle. Do note that depending on where you live (especially outside of the U.S. and Canada), your bundle may be different. Inside the box, you'll find:
As with other recent Kodak models, the LS743 has internal memory plus a memory card slot. Kodak includes 16MB of internal memory (and no memory card), which is barely enough to get started with, so do yourself a favor and buy a memory card. The LS743 can use Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMedia (MMC) cards, and I recommend the former because of its superior capacity and performance. I'd say that a 128MB card is the minimum that you should buy.
The LS743 uses the familiar KLIC-5000 lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which has a fairly low 3.9 Wh of energy. Kodak estimates that you can take between 200 and 250 photos per charge, which seems pretty good to me. As frequent readers of this site know, I'm not a huge fan of proprietary batteries like this due to their cost (this one's a bargain at $20) and the fact that you can't use alkalines if you're in a jam. But I don't think you could fit AAs into a camera this small.
When it's time to recharge the battery, just pop it into the included external charger. Expect a three hour wait while the battery is charged. This isn't just one of those "plug in right into the wall" chargers -- you can swap plugs too, allowing you to use it all over the world. I'm not sure if you can buy the plugs separately, though.
The ultra-compact LS743 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no lens cap to worry about.
The LS743 is compatible with Kodak's camera and printer docks. The camera dock 6000 ($80) provides battery charging and photo transfer capabilities. You can do both without buying the dock. The cooler accessory is the printer dock 6000 ($150), which produces a 4 x 6 inch print in just 90 seconds. Just pop the LS743 onto the printer and you're set. The printer dock 6000 can also be hooked into your television for slideshow viewing.
Aside from those two items, the only other real accessories for the LS743 are an AC adapter ($30) and various camera cases.
My LS743 includes version 3.3 of the EasyShare software for Mac OS X and Windows (and 1.4.2 for Mac OS 8 and 9).This software really is impressive, with a simple interface and loads of features. Here's what you can do with it:
The main screen lets you import and organize your photos. From there you can print, edit, and e-mail photos, and you can even burn a CD of your photos. A nice slide show feature is also available. Nothing seemed to happen when I clicked on the EasyShare center tab.
If you want to edit your photo, there are some basic tools included. They include rotation, cropping, "instant enhancement", redeye reduction, brightness, contrast and color, exposure, and instant black & white or sepia conversion.
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 layouts available, including the two 5 x 7 inch per page prints you see above. The software will warn you if the resolution of the image is too low for the chosen print size.
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.
You can also customize the e-mail addresses stored in the camera -- more on this later in the review. This feature is also integrated with the OS X address book.
Much like with the address book, you can also set up the albums on your camera. 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. Cool!
One final option is to transfer files (presumably images) from your computer to your camera.
One other software-related note: the camera did not mount on my Mac's desktop like some other cameras, but Image Capture, iPhoto, and of course the EasyShare software can see it just fine.
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the LS743's manual is a lot thinner than those included with older Kodak cameras. It's also in three languages (English, Spanish, French). Despite that, the quality of the manual is above average.
Look and Feel
The LS743 is a small (but wide), all-metal camera that will fit into any pocket with ease. It's well built, and can take whatever you throw at it. In terms of usability, I'm not totally thrilled with it. The jog dial is placed right by the shutter release button, and I pressed it accidentally many times. I'm not a big fan of the unusual zoom controller either.
The official dimension of the camera are 108 x 30 x 49 mm / 4.3 x 1.2 x 1.9 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs just 165 g / 6 oz. empty.
With the boring stuff out the way, now we can get started with our tour of this camera!
The LS743 has a compact 2.8X optical zoom Schneider-Kreuznach lens, with a rather slow maximum aperture of F3.0 - F4.9. The focal range of the lens is 6 - 16.6 mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 100 mm. The camera does not support conversion lenses.
Above the lens are the self-timer lamp, microphone, optical viewfinder, and light sensor.
To the left of all of those is the built-in flash, which has a relatively small working range of 0.6 - 3.0 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 1.8 m at telephoto. The LS743 doesn't support and external flash, nor would I expect it to.
The LS743 does not have an AF-assist lamp, which greatly aids in low light focusing.
The LS743 has a very nice 1.8" LCD. This LCD is what Kodak calls "indoor/outdoor", and it really is easier to see outdoors than your typical LCD (though the screen on the DX7630 is better) . Images on the screen are sharp, thanks to the 134k pixel resolution, and everything is fluid as well, as the frame rate is 24 frames/second. The brightness is not adjustable, though, and the screen will be too dark to be usable in low light conditions.
At the top-left of the photo, you'll see the optical viewfinder. This is a pretty tiny one, so I recommend trying it out before you buy in case it's too small. The viewfinder shows 80% of the frame, and it lacks a diopter correction knob to focus what you're looking at.
To the left of the LCD are four buttons:
Pressing the Share button enters playback mode and brings up the following menu:
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. A related feature that I hinted at before is the album feature, which is accessed via the playback menu. Pick an album (in the same way that you would an e-mail address), and the camera will dump the photos into the proper album the next time you transfer photos to your Mac or PC.
Back to the tour now. On the opposite side of the LCD are the six modes the camera supports. You select them by using the jog dial which is on the top of the camera. The modes are:
The final item on the back of the camera is the four-way/zoom controller, and I don't like it. I found it difficult to use the four-way controller, especially when you're trying to press it inward to select a menu option. The zoom controller around it is unusual and takes some getting used to. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in two seconds. There are six steps in the zoom range.
If you like pulsating blue LEDs, then this is your camera! You'll never have trouble finding the power button, which is that blue thing toward the center of the photo.
To the right of that is the speaker, followed by the flash button, shutter release button, and jog dial. The available flash modes are auto, off, fill flash, and auto w/redeye reduction. Pressing the flash button also gives you a quick overview of camera settings and shots remaining. The jog dial is used for selecting the camera mode. I don't like its placement, either -- it's too easy to bump.
On this side of the camera you'll find the LS743's I/O ports, which are kept behind a rubber cover. The ports include USB 2.0 (don't worry, you can still use it with the "old USB"), video out, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter).
You'll have to excuse the scale of things in this picture. The battery doesn't really tower over the camera like that.
This side of the LS743 is where you'll put the battery as well as an optional SD/MMC memory card. They are kept behind a plastic door that could easily bust off if forced.
I don't think I have to tell you that the included KLIC-5000 battery is shown at left.
The final stop on our tour is the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find the metal tripod mount as well as the dock connector. The tripod mount is neither centered nor inline with the lens.
Using the Kodak EasyShare LS743
It takes the LS743 about four seconds to warm up before you can start taking pictures.
The LCD in record mode
The LS753 focuses quickly in most cases. It takes about 1/2 second at wide-angle, and about a second at telephoto. The camera did not focus well in low light -- no doubt an AF-assist lamp would've helped here.
Kodak has done a good job at minimizing shutter lag -- even at slower shutter speeds.
Shot-to-shot speed is average, with a 3 second delay between photos. You cannot turn off the post-shot review feature, so you must halfway press the shutter release to return to shooting if the photo you just took is being displayed.
You can delete a photo immediately after it is taken by pressing the delete button.
Like all Kodak cameras, the LS743 is always ready to shoot, even in playback mode. If you're reviewing a photo and want to take another, just press the shutter release.
Kodak uses a "star" system to represent photo resolution and quality. Here's a look at the available (and quite limited) quality choices:
photos on 16MB
|# photos on optional 128MB SD card|
2304 x 1728
2304 x 1536
1656 x 1242
1200 x 900
There's no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera. The camera names files as XXX_YYYY.JPG (where X = 100 - 999 and Y = 0001 - 9999), and remembers the numbering even if you switch cards or delete photos.
Kodak has created an attractive, easy-to-use menu system for their cameras, perfect for those new to digital photography. Here are the LS743's menu options:
Everything up there should be self-explanatory. One particular annoyance about this camera is that all the settings go back to their defaults when you power off the camera. That's bad!
In addition to the record menu, there's also a setup menu, which has the following options:
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of menus. Let's talk picture quality.
The LS743 produced a very "smooth" rendition of our 3 inch tall macro subject. Colors are mostly accurate, though the red cloak seems a little off to me. I was a bit concerned about how the camera would handle my 600W quartz lights without manual white balance, but the tungsten setting did a good job.
The focal range is macro mode is 5 - 100 cm at wide-angle and 30 - 100 cm at telephoto.
The camera did a fairly good job with the night shot. The camera brought in plenty of light and noise levels are low. My only complaint is about the patches of purple fringing in the shot.
The only way to take long exposures is to use the LT mode in the record menu. This will allow you to keep the shutter open for as long as 16 seconds (the shot above was an 8 sec exposure). Do note that in LT mode, the ISO is fixed at "auto" and you cannot use exposure compensation.
I was shocked to see how well the camera did in our redeye test. There really isn't any to speak of, save for a little flash reflection.
The distortion test shows mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens, and a slight hint of vignetting, or dark corners. I did not notice any vignetting in my real world photos, though.
Overall, the LS743's photo quality is good. Colors are saturated, exposure is accurate, and everything is sharp. Purple fringing was not a major problem. Photos from Kodak cameras do tend to have a "fuzzy" look to them, which you'll notice on things like grass, trees, roof tiles, etc. I also noticed that the sky had a fair amount of noise in it... it's not just flat blue. Finally, I should mention that file sizes are awfully small for 4 Megapixels -- a higher quality (lower compression) option would've been nice.
Please don't take my word for all this -- have a look at the photo gallery and judge the LS743's quality for yourself.
The EasyShare LS743 has a VGA movie mode, but don't get too excited -- it has a sluggish 13 fps frame rate. A 320 x 240, 20 fps option is also available. Whichever mode you choose, sound is recorded, and the movie recording stops when the memory card fills up. In the case of the on-board memory, that takes 1 minute at the VGA setting and 2 minutes at the QVGA setting. A 256MB SD card holds 18 and 36 minutes, respectively.
Kodak also gives you the unusual option of limiting the length of your clips to 5, 10, or 30 seconds. By combining this with the self-timer, you can put yourself in the video.
Since sound is recorded, the optical zoom cannot be used during filming. Movies are saved in QuickTime format.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the VGA setting. I wasn't thrilled with the quality, especially with regard to exposure.
Click to play movie (2.4MB, 640 x 480, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
If you've read this far, you can probably guess that the LS743 has an easy-to-use playback system. And you'd be correct.
The basic features that we all know are here: slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.
Zoom and scroll (called Magnify here) lets you zoom in 2X or 4X into your photo, and then scroll around in the enlarged image. You can activate this function by using the menu system or pressing the center button on the four-way controller. Everything is nice and fast -- good job Kodak!
The LS743 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 LS743 shows you no exposure information about your photos. You'd think that the "Picture Info" menu item would show you some, but it really isn't helpful.
The camera moves through images fairly quickly. A low res image is shown instantly, with the high res version appearing about a second later.
How Does it Compare?
The Kodak EasyShare LS743 is a nice choice for those looking for a compact, high resolution point-and-shoot camera. Enthusiasts will be turned off by its lack of manual controls and limited image quality choices, but the average shooter probably won't miss either. The LS743 has a compact body made mostly of metal, and it's very slick. I did not care for the clumsy four-way and zoom controllers, though. Photo quality is good, though a bit "fuzzy" at times. The sky seemed mottled, as well. Kodak puts the word "Easy" into the product name for a reason -- cameras don't get much easier to operate than this one here. The camera is responsive and all the menus are simple and understandable. The EasyShare system lets you tag photos for printing, e-mailing, or organizing right on the camera. Combine this with the excellent software on your Mac or PC, and you've got a complete system for sharing your photos. Other nice features on the LS743 include USB 2.0 and support for Kodak's camera and printer docks.
There a few downsides in addition to those listed above. Low light shooting wasn't so hot: there's no AF-assist lamp, and the LCD was too dark to be usable. The camera doesn't store settings when it is powered off, which can be frustrating. And finally, the movie mode, while having a VGA resolution, the frame rate is slow and the quality was not great.
All-in-all, I do recommend this camera, especially for beginners who want nice photos from a small, super easy-to-use camera.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Other compact point-and-shoot cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot S410, Casio Exilim EX-Z40, Fuji FinePix F700, HP Photosmart R707, Konica Minolta DiMAGE G400, Kyocera Finecam SL400R, Nikon Coolpix 4200, Olympus Stylus 410, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC70, Pentax Optio S4i, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P73. A long list, I know, but there is a lot of great competition out there!
If you like the LS743 and feel that 4 Megapixels is just not enough, you may want to consider its big brother, the LS753.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the LS743 and it's competitors before you buy!
See how the photo quality stacks up in our LS743 photo gallery!
Want another opinion?
Read another review over at Steve's Digicams.
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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