Cameras, Photography

Kodak EasyShare Z730

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Kodak EasyShare Z730Even though I’ve collected cameras for 30 years, I’ve only had a decent everyday camera for the past few years. By “decent,” I mean a point-and-shoot camera with autofocus and zoom, by no means anything fancy. I am a cheapskate, you see. I used garage-sale fixed-focus cameras until my budding road hobby made me wish for slightly more respectable equipment. I dangled my toes in the water in 2006 when I bought an Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, but even then I picked it up for $20 on eBay. The little Stylus came with me every time I hit the road, and the results were so good that I wanted to share my photos online. I put up my personal site and posted photos from my first three road trips (see them here, here, and here).

I found myself shooting lots of film, and my wallet was feeling the pinch from having it all developed. I figured that if I bought an entry-level digital camera it would pay for itself within three or four road trips. So I went shopping. Based on Philip Greenspun’s recommendations (at the time) on photo.net I settled on the Kodak EasyShare Z730. Not only did Mr. Greenspun have nothing but good things to say about it, but Kodak was selling refurbished units for far, far less than list price. I love a bargain, so I bit.

Kodak EasyShare Z730

I figured I was going to be like the guy who’d owned a succession of beater cars but had just bought his first new car – basic transportation, a Hyundai, maybe. The Hyundai isn’t anything special, to be sure, but it would seem wonderful compared to the discarded ’82 Buick that didn’t always start. After a while, the Hyundai would show its true colors as an entry-level car.

I was wrong. More than two years on, I enjoy this camera as much as when it first arrived. That’s not to say it’s a great camera – true to Kodak’s mission, it’s a point-and-shoot for the masses. It’s just highly competent.

Kodak EasyShare Z730

The Z730’s five-megapixel resolution was on the small side even when I bought the camera, but who really makes huge enlargements? What it lacks in resolution, it makes up for in lens; its f/2.8 Schneider-Kreuznach Variogon is very sharp. It’s also a bit wide, at 33mm, which is good for roadscapes. If I’ve ever talked to you about this camera, I’ve probably said it sports a 28mm lens, which is just wishful thinking. I’d love to have a 28mm lens. It does have a 4x zoom, though. It lacks image stabilization, but shake seems to be a problem only at maximum zoom. I have found that if I back off a hair from max, my photos are crisp.

The Z730 is ready to shoot within a couple seconds of turning it on, and its autofocus quickly sizes up a shot. I seldom have to wait for it. I’ve missed shots only while trying to turn the camera on – the mode-selector dial, which doubles as the on/off switch, is fiddly and hard to work. While I’m complaining, I might as well mention that the sun washes out the little 2.2-inch LCD, but at least the Z730 has an optical viewfinder. Also, the battery that came with the camera was good for only about 300 shots, which isn’t enough when I’m on the road. I bought a stouter battery and have shot 700 in a day with it. Finally, its aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual modes are limited. The Z730 is aggressively about pointing and shooting, not about giving control to the photographer.

But I haven’t needed much control to get good results with the family snapshots and roadside landscapes that make up the bulk of my photographs. The Z730’s autofocus, coupled with its strong lens, does a great job nearly all the time.

This photo is of the original alignment of US 36 in Parke County, Indiana. (Yes, the original route was a dirt road.) I love the vibrant greens in this shot.

Old US 36

The Z730 excels in diffused and indirect light. This covered bridge is also in Putnam County, not far from the road above.

Old US 36

I took this photograph of the Michigan Road (US 421) in Decatur County on a hot and hazy day.

Michigan Road, Decatur County, Indiana

This shot, north of Rochester on the Michigan Road (old US 31), is the abutment from a one-lane truss bridge that used to cross the Tippecanoe River.

One-lane bridge approach

I’ve had a lot of fun shooting wildflowers by the roadside with the Z730’s macro mode. I am so pleased with the detail the lens brings out.

Roadside chicory flower

It’s somewhere between difficult and impossible to control depth of field on the Z730. I just press the macro button and hope for the best. Sometimes you get a little bokeh, as above; sometimes you don’t, as below.

Orange roadside flower

At the other extreme, this camera was born to take photos of big brick buildings against the blue sky. This is the Johnson County Courthouse in Franklin.

Franklin, IN

This is Eminence High School, along State Road 42 in Morgan County.

Eminence High School

I’ve also been happy with how well the Z730 handles available light. I left the flash off during my entire visit to the 2009 Mecum Original Spring Classic auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds last May. To be fair, the joint was bathed in fluorescent light.

67 Chevy Impala SS

This shot, of the State Theater on State Road 25 in Logansport, does a better job of showing how well the Z730 handles available light.

State Theater, Logansport

The good results I get from my Z730 have encouraged me to learn a little about photography. I always wanted to take better photographs, and because a digital camera shows results instantly, I’ve found it easy to practice. I’ve read a little bit about composition and light, and have had fun experimenting. This photo, of South Bend’s State Theater, was one of the first times I moved in close. I still like the result. (I saw my first movie, Bambi, here when I was little.)

State Theater

Wandering around Downtown Indianapolis with my camera one afternoon, I was looking for good interplay among the planes of buildings and signs. I especially like how this shot turned out.

Artsgarden

I also spent some time at Crown Hill Cemetery shooting the James Whitcomb Riley gravesite. I like the monument’s strength in this shot. (This is the highest point in Indianapolis. On a clear day, you can see Downtown four miles to the south.)

Riley gravesite

At the muscle car auction, I shot a lot of car details. I learned a lot and got some satisfying results, such as this photo of the hood scoop on a 1970 Dodge Super Bee.

70 Dodge Super Bee

I’ve also practiced getting in closer when photographing people. My favorite subjects have been my sons, and I have some great shots of them, but in deference to their mother I don’t publish their photos online. You’ll have to settle for a photo I took of my dog! Gracie is a frequent road-trip companion. I fold down the back seats of my wagon, spread out her blanket, and off we go. She comes along on the leash when I stop to explore, and by the end of the day she’s usually so whipped that she snoozes soundly all the way home. I took this photo as we were heading home after a long day exploring US 50 in Illinois. (Check it out at its full size – you can almost count her hairs.)

Travel companion

I’ve enjoyed taking photos with my Z730 more than with any camera I’ve ever owned, and I’ve owned a lot of cameras. But there are times now that I’d like to have more control that a better camera would bring. And I really want a wider lens! I’m currently drooling over the Canon S90 and I’ve flirted a bit with the Nikon D40. But both of them represent investments I’m not willing to make right now (see above, re: cheapskate). And if there’s anything my Kodak Z730 has taught me, it’s that even a meager camera can do a great job.


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10 thoughts on “Kodak EasyShare Z730

    • Thanks, David! Of course, these are the best dozen or so photos of the thousands I’ve taken with this camera — most of my efforts are a lot less pleasing!

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  1. Lone Primate says:

    You really HAVE gotten your money’s worth out of that Kodak. :) I shot with Kodak digital cameras for years, from about 1996 to 2006… the first camera I routinely carried around with me was a CX7330. I felt they had an unfortunate tendency to add a purplish-brown cast to images taken in portrait orientation… exactly why, I couldn’t say. I migrated to Canon cameras starting in 2005.

    I can certainly understand why you’d be interested in the D40. I’ve only just gotten back into using my Rebel XT and I’m getting really good results of shooting RAW with it, though it takes time to process the shots. But one thing I can say from personal experience, if it’s going to be an either/or decision, you’ll get a lot more work done with the S90. Your Z730 looks compact, but I’m reasonably sure it’s still not comfortable in your jeans pocket. The S90 is something you can, and probably will, carry with you nearly all the time. The S90’s got a couple of things you’re clearly interested in – a good wide angle (28mm) and it’s a surprisingly fast lens for a compact (f/2), which ought to yield impressive bokeh in close-up shots.

    I replaced my CX7330 with an S80 in May of 2006, and I took 27,000 shots and little clips with it before I sold it to a friend when I moved up to the G9. I don’t know how many shots he’s taken with it, but I know it still works. I eventually even went looking for, and found, a cheap one on eBay just to have around. If you’re not ready to spend $500 or so on the S90, might I put in a word for the S80? You could probably find one for under $200 on eBay, and aside from not being able to shoot RAW, it’s a fantastic little Swiss Army knife of a camera. It’s 28mm and f/2.8 at the wide end, all the controls can be operated with your right thumb, it does AEB spreads so you can do HDR work with it, and has phenomenal macro abilities for a compact. It’s not much wider than a fist and about half as thick, and it’s good on power consumption. I’ve had other cameras that do more, but usually at the cost of being larger and more power-hungry. Ounce for ounce, the S80 might be the best camera I ever owned. It’s certainly the one I’ve taken the most shots with.

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    • It will be an either/or decision, and I think you’re right, that tips the scale in favor of the S90.

      But I do have the S80 on a saved eBay search. What keeps me from pulling the trigger is primarily that if I had a couple hundred bucks, it would go to a number of other things first. Once that’s cleared off, we’ll see what happens!

      Yes, the Z730 is NOT a pocketable camera. When I need that, I borrow my son’s Kodak C613. It does a good enough job.

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  2. Great shots! I like how much you’ve gotten out of the camera. A good photographer will take good pictures no matter what camera he uses. Of course, a nice camera will both make some shots easier and others possible. Good job with working what you have.

    The S90 looks sweet. I would love to have something I’d carry everywhere. Although the 3MP camera on my Pre is great for reasonably decent spontaneous shots. Most of my twitter pics have been from the Pre’s camera. I’ve even gotten some decent fireworks pictures with it.

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    • The best camera is always the one you have with you! I just got film developed from an old Canonet I picked up on eBay and it did a nice job. Anyway, I’ve absolutely gotten my money’s worth out of my Z730.

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  3. I’d never even heard of bokeh before your post, though I did know what it was. I assumed you used aperture priority for both those shots? I think the real difference was the background vegetation is clearly farther away in the top one.

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    • The aperture- and shutter-priority settings on the Z730 are cumbersome and severely limited, so I just gave up on them. Honestly, all I did for the two flower shots was push the flower/mountain button so that it was in flower mode. Also, those shots are cropped (the only crops in the post) to just one bloom; they came from wider shots. You’re probably right about the distance between the flower and the vegetation affecting the amount of blur, but also available light may have adjusted the aperture wider on the chicory (blue flower) shot.

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  4. I’ve had a KZ730 for years now. I researched for a week online before buying it. It was the only digital in its class that had consistent high ratings with virtually no negatives from anyone, professional, or amateur. I haven’t been disappointed. I have several cameras and plan on moving up to a DSLR when I can afford it. I do have the adaptor ring for the telephoto and wide angle (lots of barrel distortion :) ) for the KZ30 with the good retinar lenses. They work great. You can see an example here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/third-floor/4167467028/sizes/l/ and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/third-floor/4167445564/sizes/l/in/photostream/

    I spent 200 Euros on mine new, but it was worth it. All my other cameras have cost me under 10 Euros on Ebay though. I’ll probably pay new for my next camera. Especially if it’s DSLR, or it will have to be from someone trustworthy.

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    • Rob, I’m glad to hear from another Z730 afficionado! I’m glad you’ve gotten satisfying results from your camera as well.

      You’re right, there is a lot of barrel distortion on your wide lens!

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