Camera Reviews

Kodak EasyShare Z730

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.

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, 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.

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 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.

Old US 36

The Kodak EasyShare Z730 excels in diffused and indirect light. This covered bridge is in Putnam County, Indiana.

Old US 36

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

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.

Sim Smith Bridge

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.

Dentifrices

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.

State Theater, Logansport

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.

Old McDonald's sign

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.

70 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.

Sleepy travel companion

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.

Statue

I almost never used the Z730’s various modes, but here I did try its black-and-white mode.

Detail

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.

Coneflowers

Many modern digital cameras render purple poorly. Not the Z730.

Purple flowers

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.

Approaching

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?

Hats

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.

Mailboxes

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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Road Trips

Driving Indiana State Road 236

In late July of 2009, I took my sons to Turkey Run State Park in west-central Indiana for some hiking. That was one of our favorite places to spend a day. I wrote about that day here.

Turkey Run is on State Road 47 at US 41. On the way home, I drove south on 41 a little bit so that I could drive the length of State Road 236. I’d been on parts of it before and it made me eager to follow it from end to end.

When I made this trip, I didn’t know that there was another segment of SR 236 in Hamilton County, a 60-mile drive from the eastern end of this SR 236 segment. It’s weird how Indiana creates discontinuous segments of some of their minor highways. Anyway, I drove the entire western segment of SR 236!

I never wrote a comprehensive report on this trip, so I’m doing that now.

Indiana State Road 236

SR 236 runs a skosh over 40 miles. It’s western end is just west of Marshall and it then heads east through Guion (GUY-un), Milligan, and Roachdale. When it reaches US 231, it follows that north-south road briefly before heading east again through Barnard and North Salem. There it turns southeasterly to where it ends just outside Danville.

I’ve outlined this segment of SR 236 below on a screen shot of Google Maps. I included the Illinois/Indiana state line and the western edge of Indianapolis so you can see the road in context.

Map data ©2022 Google

Above I showed SR 236 eastbound from its western end. Here’s that western end, at US 41.

Indiana State Road 236

SR 236 is a long, narrow two-laner, a minor highway. A drive on SR 236 is interrupted only by a stop sign at US 231. This is the archetypical SR 236 scene.

Indiana State Road 236

SR 236 wasn’t part of the initial wave of signed Indiana state roads. On the 1932 state highway map the portion from US 231 (which was then SR 43) to near Danville was shown as a proposed addition. The next map I have access to is from 1945; the US 231-Danville section shows up there as SR 136. On the 1950 map the road is finally extended back to US 41, but this portion appears to follow a slightly different path, meeting US 41 at a slightly more southerly point and almost immediately making two hard turns to the current path. West of Milligan it hooks north to run through Rusellville and then back south to the current path. Just east of what’s now US 231 it hooks south and meets US 231 at a more southerly point than currently.

In 1950, US 136 was routed along what had been State Road 34 from Indianapolis through Crawfordsville to the Illinois state line. Indiana doesn’t allow State Roads to have the same number as US highways, so it renumbered SR 136 to SR 236.

During these years, SR 236 was a dirt road from US 41 to current US 231, and a gravel road from there to Danville. By 1960, the western section had been realigned to its current path. From US 41 to Guion it was a gravel road. From there to just east of Milligan it was an “intermediate type” road meaning it could have been oiled or even paved in wood chips! From there to current US 31 it was hard surfaced, either asphalt or concrete. The rest of the way it was a gravel road. This kind of thing was still common then as the state worked to improve State Roads to hard surfaces all around the state. By 1970 the entire route was hard-surfaced.

Back to the road trip. SR 236 shortly makes a hard right and enters Marshall, where it passes under this impressive arch.

Marshall, IN

It then immediately turns left and continues eastward.

Marshall, IN

As I passed through the towns on this road, most of the rest of them didn’t compel me to stop.

Indiana State Road 236

In North Salem, there was enough of a “there” there that I did stop and make several photos.

North Salem, IN

North Salem is a fairly old town in Indiana, having been laid out in 1835. But it never grew large, with a population of just over 500 today.

North Salem, IN

The building above was an Odd Fellows lodge, and the building below was a Masonic lodge. You see buildings like these in pretty much every Indiana town.

North Salem, IN

As the road exits North Salem it makes a curve to begin its southeasterly journey toward Danville.

North Salem, IN

Here’s where SR 236 ends at SR 39, just north of Danville.

Indiana State Road 236

Here’s that same end looking westbound. Notice that the road curves to meet SR 39 at a right angle.

Indiana State Road 236

I feel certain that SR 236 used to form a fork with SR 39. Notice how the edge of the field in the lower right of this map snippet follows the line of SR 236.

Imagery ©2022 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA/FPAC/GEO. Map data ©2022 Google.

It may also be that at one point SR 236 was signed with SR 39 from here to Danville. I’ve not been able to find any authority to prove or disprove that. In my lifetime it’s been Indiana’s habit to eliminate concurrencies like that except when strictly necessary.

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Road Trips

Illinois US 50: Heading back to Indiana and finding some never-used bridges along the route

This is the fourth and final installment of my report from a 2009 road trip along the oldest alignments I could find of US 50 across a good chunk of Illinois.

In Carlyle, current US 50 follows the yellow path on the aerial image below. Where the current road turns north, the old alignment of US 50 continues straight. Howevero, the old stagecoach road that formed the US 50 corridor sweeps from there to the northwest.

Sadly, the new alignment interrupted the old stage route, labeled “Old State Rd” on the map below. Overpasses were built for other roads; why not for this historic road?

The stage road eventually curves back to the south. The drivable portion if the stage road ends about 15 miles west of Carlyle, but you can see bits and pieces of its remnants in aerial images. Check out this 1000-foot section of the old road that lies in a farmer’s field! It lines up pretty well with where US 50 curves in this image, suggesting that there US 50 resumes the old stage road’s route.

We drove old US 50 through Beckemeyer, Breese, Aviston, and Trenton, to where current US 50 meets old US 50. Current US 50 continues westward on the original US 50 alignment.

At this point we were starting to wear out from our long day. I wanted to get my friend Michael back to Terre Haute, where he lived, and me back to Indianapolis, where I lived, before we ran out of daylight. So we turned onto current US 50 and headed back east.

Current US 50 is interesting here in that all the signs point to it having been intended to be an expressway – four divided lanes. Overpasses are wide enough to accommodate two more lanes, but that’s not the most telling sign. Remarkably, and mind-bogglingly, wherever a bridge was needed, two were built alongside each other. In each case, one is used, the other has stood unused since it was built in probably the early 1970s. Here’s an aerial view of the eastmost of these twin bridges.

It crosses Beaver Creek. You can walk through the tall grass and stand right on it.

Abandoned, never used US 50 bridge

Which, of course, we did.

Abandoned, never used US 50 bridge

Michael has good balance. I tried standing up there briefly, but felt unsteady.

Abandoned, never used US 50 bridge

There is more to see along US 50 in Illinois. We passed several old motels, some abandoned, some still in business with great neon signs out front. I would have liked to stop and photograph more segments of the old concrete road that parallels current US 50 in many places. I would have liked to drive the entire unfinished expressway west of Carlyle and explored the other three never-used bridges. And I would especially have liked to follow the old stage road west of Carlyle.

But it was time to head home. I was tired, and so was my dog. That’s her tired face.

Sleepy

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Road Trips

Illinois US 50: A surprise suspension bridge in Carlyle

This is the third installment of my report from a 2009 road trip along the oldest alignments I could find of US 50 across a good chunk of Illinois.

After we left Clay City we kept to current US 50 as we headed west. Once again we could see an earlier concrete alignment paralleling the current road immediately to the south.

I’ve heard that there were plans for I-64 to follow the US 50 corridor, and, later, plans for a US 50 expressway from St. Louis to Vincennes, neither of which came to be. The theory goes that Illinois built a new US 50 mostly alongside the old, and planned later to rebuild the old road to modern standards, to be ready for I-64 when it was designated. Unfortunately, I-64 ended up on a much more southerly alignment in Illinois. This is why these abandoned US 50 alignments still exist.

When US 50 approaches Flora, then the old highway pulls away to the south to pass through town while the current highway bypasses it to the north. I’ve marked the old road’s path through town in blue on this map.

The old and new roads merge northwest of Xenia. They stay merged until Carlyle, about 40 miles west.

Just east of Carlyle, the old stagecoach road diverges a bit from US 50’s path. About 3/4 of the way across the map image below, the stage road used to veer north of US 50, cross the Kaskaskia River, and follow Fairfax St.

The stage road is used as a park entrance today, leading to a suspension bridge built in 1859. It’s named after Major General William Dean, a Carlyle native who served during the Korean War.

1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge

The old bridge wasn’t designed to carry automobiles, but was used to carry them for some years anyway. Here’s a photo of a section of the bridge after a truck fell through the deck! A new bridge was built nearby in 1932, and this bridge was closed. In 1936, the then-abandoned and deteriorating bridge was documented for the Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record; here’s its page at the Library of Congress’s Web site. These photos were taken as part of that work.

When the Vincennes-St. Louis mail route was founded, travelers had to ford the Kaskaskia River here. Then a “mud bridge” was built, but it lasted only through 1830. Travelers had to ford the river again until this bridge was built in 1859. After the bridge closed, it was left to rot until the 1950s when it was restored. Today, it’s a pedestrian bridge.

1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge

The current deck is much narrower than the original deck.

1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge

The previous photos are westbound; this photo is eastbound.

1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge

This photo was taken facing southeast.

1859 General Dean Suspension Bridge

The old stage route followed Fairfax St. through town and then angled northeast out of town. It appears below as the road south of “New Route 50” on the map’s left edge. US 50 used to follow Franklin St. all the way through town, but in the early 1970s was rerouted north along State Route 127 and then west along a new alignment.

Next: Remnants of the old stagecoach road west of Carlyle, and beginning a return trip to Indiana on modern US 50 — with some never-used bridges along the way.

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Road Trips

Illinois US 50: Barnstorming through east-central Illinois to find three abandoned bridges

This is the second installment of my report from a 2009 road trip along the oldest alignments I could find of US 50 across a good chunk of Illinois.

I think I’ve never seen a road with so many old alignments as US 50 in east-central Illinois, from the Indiana line to Clay City about 50 miles to the west. I’ve confirmed all sorts of roads that used to be US 50 and I strongly suspect many others.

Along the way, you pass through Lawrenceville, Bridgeport, Sumner, Claremont, Olney, and Noble. Normally I stop and document the towns along a route. Given that this was a recon mission for a later trip (that sadly never materialized), we drove straight through.

We found a stubbed-out section of old US 50 shortly after we entered Illinois. About the first mile or so of old US 50 is signed today as Illinois State Route 33. Where State Route 33 curves to the north to meet current US 50, it leaves old US 50 behind, with this section that ends where a bridge over a ditch was removed.

Old US 50 in Illinois

From the air, it looks like this.

When old US 50 reaches Lawrenceville, it becomes State Route 250. It follows that path to Sumner, where it turns north briefly and then curves back westward.

Do you notice that there are thin traces of road to the north and south of US 50 west of where it merges with SR 250? A previous iteration of US 50, paved with concrete, follows along to the south all the way to Olney. We were able to drive on those sections if we wanted to, but we were short on time and stayed on current US 50. Those sections looked very rough, and all of the bridges had been removed.

SR 250 separated from US 50 east of Olney and followed US 50’s old path through that town. Shortly it reached the little town of Noble, where it made a left, crossed some railroad tracks, and made a right before leaving town.

On the second of these turns stands this old gas station, old pumps standing quietly by.

Gas station and pumps

Just outside of Noble, SR 250 reaches current US 50. The road marked “Old IL 250” in the map below is also old US 50, and it parallels the current highway to Clay City.

We did drive this section, for it is along this old road that the three abandoned bridges lie which sparked my interest in this trip. This concrete is rougher than it looks.

Old US 50 in Illinois

The first bridge spans the Big Muddy River. This eastbound photo from the bridge’s east side shows the condition of the road here.

Old US 50 in Illinois

Here’s the bridge, which I’m told has been closed since 1994. Check out the brick railing. The shot is westbound.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Here’s a closer look at the railing. I’d never seen anything like it before, but perhaps it was once common in Illinois.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Eastbound.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Check out the hole in the deck!

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

I walked out to the west end of the current US 50 bridge here to get this photo.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Big Muddy River

Little Muddy Creek and its abandoned bridge are about a half mile to the west.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

This one is more overgrown than the other.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

At least its deck is whole!

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

Its railing, however, isn’t in great shape.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

Here’s the whole bridge.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Muddy River

Just over a mile to the west is the Little Wabash River and its bridge.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Wabash River

Can you imagine two oncoming semis encountering each other on this narrow bridge?

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Wabash River

Here’s the whole bridge.

Abandoned US 50 bridge over Little Wabash River

The old road shortly reaches Clay City, where it stops being abandoned and starts being County Road 600 N, and then S 1st St. SE. Old US 50 curves onto Main Street and follows it through town, curving west again just before Main Street reaches current US 50.

Next: Quickly through Flora and skirting Xenia on the way to Carlyle, where a small suspension bridge was likely on the original stagecoach road that ran along the corridor of what is now US 50.

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Road Trips

Illinois US 50: Crossing the Wabash River from Indiana

In 2009, my good friend Michael and I made a rush one-day trip along all of the old US 50 alignments we could find in Illinois, starting at the Indiana/Illinois state line. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site, which I plan to deprecate. I’m moving that content to this site.

Someone I follow on Flickr loves bridges. At least, I assume he loves bridges, because every week he uploads another batch of old-bridge photos. Not long ago, he uploaded several photos of some abandoned steel truss bridges along US 50 in Illinois. I knew I had to go see.

Just a couple months before, I totaled my car as I passed from West Virginia into Ohio while exploring the National Road. It made me feel skittish about driving on the highway, I knew I needed to make another road trip as soon as I could. An Illinois US 50 trip seemed like just the thing.

Brick segments of old US 50
Brick section near the Wabash River

As you might imagine, US 50 has a long history in Illinois. Some of my roadfan buddies have shared research with me that take this road’s roots back to 1806, when a mail route and a stagecoach road was created between Vincennes, Indiana and St. Louis, Missouri, along the corridor that became US 50. One part of this corridor may have been part of a trace called the Goshen Road. In 1913, this corridor became part of the Midland Trail, an early coast-to-coast automobile road. Then it became State Route 12 and, finally, US 50 in 1926.

I knew going in that I wouldn’t be able to cover this road to my usual obsessive-compulsive level of detail – just driving to and from the Illinois state line, would consume much of my time, and I was planning to cut 2/3 of the way across Illinois. That’s a lot of ground to cover. I intended this trip to be a recon mission for an eventual return trip. (Sadly, that return trip never happened.)

This trip began in Vincennes with my dog and my good friend Michael along for the ride. We started at the center of this photo, where the bridge crosses the Wabash River. Despite the US 50 shields on the map, US 50 has bypassed Vincennes to the north for many years.

The Abraham Lincoln Bridge that connects Indiana to Illinois here was built in 1933. It’s easy to find photos of this lovely bridge on the Internet – just search on “Vincennes bridge” in Google Image Search. But all the photos are from the Indiana side. Now, perhaps for the first time on the Internet, here are photos from the Illinois side.

Lincoln Memorial Bridge

I couldn’t decide which of these two photos I liked better, so I’m sharing them both.

Lincoln Memorial Bridge

Before 1933, US 50 crossed into Illinois on a different bridge a little to the north. This 1909 postcard images shows that it had a steel arch truss portion and a wooden covered portion.

The old bridge itself was quite a contraption. At its center was a swing bridge which pivoted 90 degrees to allow boats to pass. Originally, wooden covered bridges connected the swing bridge to both shores. In researching this bridge at my favorite bridge site, bridgehunter.com, I found these postcard images that show how the bridge evolved.

In this image, a covered bridge stands on the Illinois side and a bowstring arch swing bridge stands in the middle. By this time, however, the covered bridge on the Indiana side had been replaced with two bowstring arch spans, probably on the same piers and abutments.

Finally, the Lincoln Memorial Bridge was built. The two bridges coexisted for a while. By this time the wooden covered spans had been replaced by Parker through trusses. The swing bridge had been updated with what looks to me to be two pony Warren trusses with verticals.

The blue line on the aerial image below shows where the old bridge used to be and how the road curved a bit on the Illinois side. Notice that the old road is still there.

It’s a brick road!

Brick segments of old US 50

The faint blue line on this aerial image shows the road’s path from the shore. Whoever owns the property now parks his car on old US 50! From the air, it looks like the old bridge’s approach is still there at the shoreline. I would have loved to see if doing so had not meant trespassing.

The road leading to the old bridge site on the Vincennes side is brick, too – check out the lower right quadrant of this aerial photo.

Back to the Illinois side. Here’s old US 50 westbound to where it merges with current US 50.

Brick segments of old US 50

Check out how this brick road was made to curve.

Brick segments of old US 50

Ten feet above the old brick road, along the newer Old US 50, is this memorial to Abraham Lincoln and his family as they first entered Illinois near this spot.

Lincoln memorial

Next: We pass quickly through Lawrenceville, Sumner, Olney, and Noble, to come upon three old bridges on a long abandoned section of US 50.

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