This is a love letter to my first digital camera, the Kodak EasyShare Z730.
My road-trip hobby drove this purchase. I was dedicated to film and had been using a wonderful used Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 to document my road trips. The little Stylus came with me every time I hit the road and delivered great results every time. As I started sharing my photos online and building a following, I only wanted to hit the road more and more.
My wallet was feeling the pinch from having all that film 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.
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. It wouldn’t be anything special, but it would seem wonderful compared to the discarded ’82 Buick that didn’t always start. After a while, it would show its true colors as an entry-level car.
I was wrong. 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. But for its time (2006), it was highly competent.
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 good. It’s also a bit wide, at 33mm, which is good for roadscapes. It offers a 4x optical zoom, to 132mm equivalent. 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. The mode-selector dial, which doubles as the on/off switch, is fiddly; I’ve missed a few shots trying to turn the camera on. Its autofocus was fast enough in its day but seems sluggish today, and in low-contrast scenes it struggled to lock. While I’m complaining, I might as well mention that the sun washes out the little 2.2-inch LCD. Fortunately, 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 images 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. Under those conditions, the Z730 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.
The Kodak EasyShare Z730 excels in diffused and indirect light. This covered bridge is also in Putnam County, not far from the road above.
I took this photograph of the Michigan Road (US 421) in Decatur County on a hot and hazy day.
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.
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. However, 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.
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.
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. To be fair, the joint was bathed in fluorescent light.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Gracie was a frequent road-trip companion until she passed away. 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.)
In time I started using newer, more capable digital point-and-shoot cameras, first a Canon PowerShot S80 and then a Canon PowerShot S95. The S95 has become my digital workhorse and I’ve shot countless thousands of photos with it. But it just can’t touch the vibrant, lovely color I get with the Z730. I still get the old Kodak out from time to time, charge up a battery, and take it for a walk.
I almost never used the Z730’s various modes, but here I did try it’s black-and-white mode.
Many modern digital cameras render purple poorly. Not the Z730.
When I take the Z730 out today I’m struck by its limitations, the shots it just can’t get. It’s maximum ISO of 400 limits its usefulness in low light. Its autofocus is relatively slow and sometimes just won’t lock. So I make sure to take it out only on the clear, sunny days this camera was born for.
But isn’t it true of every camera, that it is a tool for a particular job? That you have to know when a job calls for that camera?
See more photos from this camera in my Kodak EasyShare Z730 gallery.
The Kodak EasyShare Z730 was a brilliant camera for its time, and still delivers gorgeous images under the right conditions today. Mine introduced me to the possibilities of photography. For that, I’ll always be grateful to it.