This is a love letter to my first digital camera, the Kodak EasyShare Z730.
My road-trip hobby drove this purchase in 2006. I was dedicated to film and had been using a 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. But developing all of that film sure put a pinch on my wallet, even in those days of $5 drug-store processing and scanning. I figured that an entry-level digital camera it would pay for itself in three or four road trips. Philip Greenspun listed his top recommended digital cameras every year on photo.net in those days, and the Kodak EasyShare Z730 made the list. 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, like a Hyundai Accent. It wouldn’t be anything special, but it would seem wonderful compared to the discarded ’92 Buick that didn’t always start. After a while, it would show its true colors as an entry-level car.
I was wrong. In all the years this was my primary camera, I enjoyed it very much and made many wonderful photographs with it. True to Kodak’s mission, it’s a point-and-shoot for the masses. But for its time, 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 equivalent, which is good for roadscapes. It offers a 4x optical zoom, to 132mm equivalent. Shake is a problem at maximum zoom, but 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 and it’s easy to shoot past the mode you want. 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 struggles 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, with diopter control, which is fabulous for my middle-aged eyes. 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 that gives me up to 700 images. 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.
I love the vibrant greens in this shot of a lonely, dead-end dirt road.
The Kodak EasyShare Z730 excels in diffused and indirect light. This covered bridge is in Putnam County, Indiana.
This camera was born to take photos of big brick buildings against the blue sky. This is the Johnson County Courthouse in Franklin.
Its 132mm (equivalent) zoom is handy to bring in details. There were times on road trips where I wished I could have zoomed deeper, to 200mm perhaps. But the Z730 zoomed enough in most cases.
The Z730 does passable work in available light. I made this image inside the Hook’s Drug Store Museum on the Indiana State Fairgrounds. You can see noise in this image, but it’s not intrusive. The image is a little soft, but not terribly so.
I made this image just past dusk in Logansport, Indiana. The highlights are intense, and again things are a little soft. But this is a usable image.
In its time, the Z730 was a terrific camera for the road-trip, built-environment photography that I do. It’s a passable camera for it even today.
The good results I got from my Z730 encouraged me to practice photography and get better at it. At a 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.
The lens is also plenty sharp, which you can see best in good light. Here’s my dear, departed friend Gracie, exhausted in the back of my car as we drove home from a long road trip. Check out this image 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 became my digital workhorse and I’ve shot thousands of photos with it. Since then I’ve upgraded to a luxurious Nikon Df DSLR. But none of these cameras can touch the lovely, vibrant 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. It’s especially brilliant during the height of autumn’s color.
I almost never used the Z730’s various modes, but here I did try its black-and-white mode.
I have used this camera’s macro mode a lot. It works best when the lens is zoomed all the way out, but that distorts perspective.
Many modern digital cameras render purple poorly. Not the Z730.
When I take the Z730 out today I’m well aware of its limitations. My newest digital cameras can get so many shots the Z730 just can’t, thanks especially to its maximum ISO of 400 and its slow autofocus. So I make sure to take it out only on the 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?
I’ll get out the Z730 every year or two for fun, until either the battery won’t hold a charge anymore or the camera itself fails. I’ll be sad for a while when that happens.
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.
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