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Operation and controls

The EasyShare concept is one Kodak has been pushing - and refining - for several years now. At its heart is a friendly user-interface and the ability - with the supplied software - to transfer and 'share' images with as little fuss as possible. And there's no doubt that as a point-and-shoot camera, the Z650 is supremely user-friendly, though one that offers a fairly comprehensive feature set and an excellent 'one screen' interface for changing standard shooting options without resorting to menus.

Rear of camera

The majority of the Z650's controls are found on the rear, in a cluster to the right of the new larger 2.0-inch LCD screen. Directly above the LCD we have the Info button (used to turn on and off the information overlay when shooting or reviewing) and the EVF/LCD switch. To the right of this are the zoom controls.

Next down is the bejeweled 'share' button, used to tag images for printing or emailing (using the supplied EasyShare software). Below this is the main mode dial. In the center is a small silver 'joystick', which replaces the more common arrow keys on most cameras and is used to navigate menus. I found this particularly fiddly, as it is all too easy to accidentally press it ('Enter') when you're trying to move up, down, left or right. Again, I'm sure this is something you'd eventually get used to. Then again the joystick really comes into its own in PASM modes where it allows you to control apertures, shutter speeds, ISO and AE compensation without ever going near a menu.

Finally, below the main mode dial are three buttons; review (switch to playback mode), menu (to activate on-screen menus) and delete.

Top of camera

The top of the Z650 is home to the main power/mode switch (record, off, favorites), the pop-up flash and its switch, the shutter release and three buttons for flash mode, macro/infinity AF mode and burst mode.

Display and menus

The Z650's user interface is as user friendly as you could ever hope for - despite the full feature set. The menus are written in plain English with large, easily understood icons, meaning the manual is rarely needed when exploring the range of features. There are even little on-screen 'tips' to tell you a little about each exposure mode as you select it. The main record mode screen is - when you're not in the fully automatic auto mode - rather cluttered (though much less so now the screen is larger), with a huge amount of information on display. What you do get, once you've mastered the controls, is the ability to change a lot of settings without having to enter menus, simply by selecting and changing them using the joystick on the back of the camera. This approach means that experienced photographers have virtually all the control they need at their fingertips without once seeing a menu or leaving record mode.

Here's the display in fully automatic mode, with the information overlay turned on. You can see at a glance your exposure mode, AE compensation setting, flash mode, picture size/quality, remaining frames and AF mode. The blue brackets indicate the AF area (in this case we're using the 3-area AF). In P, A, S and M modes you get a lot more information - and more control. Moving the joystick highlights each of the available settings in turn (AE compensation, shutter speeds/apertures, ISO); press the joystick and push it up or down to make changes. You can turn this information off with the 'i' button if you find it distracting.
One of the Z650's new features is a live histogram (activated by pressing the 'i' button below the viewfinder). Half-press the shutter and the camera focuses, indicating the auto focus (AF) point and auto exposure (AE) settings chosen.
As you switch between the various modes a brief description appears on-screen. When you get sick of this 'feature' you can turn it off in the setup menu. Turn the mode dial to SCN and press the menu button and you'll get access to 14 more scene modes (in addition to the portrait and sports settings on the dial itself). Each has a brief explanation of what it does and how to use it.
Pressing the menu button in record mode brings up the menus shown above. You use the joystick to move up and down the list, and press it to select a setting to change. Here you'll find some pretty basic shooting options covering white balance, metering, focus, picture size and sharpening. In each case, pressing the joystick brings up a page of options with plain english descriptions, rather than incomprehensible icons. The last option in the list takes you to the setup menu.
Pressing the review button switches the camera to playback mode. Note that portrait images are rotated automatically (you can turn this option off). Pressing the info button toggles between three views, including a (tiny) histogram option (shown above)...

Pressing the info button a second time brings up a fairly comprehensive overlay of shooting information (shown above).

Push the joystick down and you get a grid of 3x3 small thumbnail images (why, for consistency, this isn't activated by the zoom lever I do not know). Push the zoom lever to the right and you can magnify the image up to 8x
Pressing the menu button in review mode brings up the usual array of options to protect (lock) images, watch slideshows and so on (deleting has its own button). You can also copy images to and from the internal memory/SD card and use albums (which have to be created when the camera is attached to the PC). Pressing the 'Share' button allows you to tag images for printing or emailing, or designate them as 'favorites'.
Images can be tagged for emailing when transferred using the EasyShare software. All contacts need to be created on the PC (you can't do it in-camera). You can set up in-camera 'albums' - though again, not using the Z740 itself (you have to use the supplied EasyShare software). If you transfer the images you shoot via the EasyShare software they are stored on your PC in the albums used in-camera.
One unusual feature is 'favorites' - add an image as a favorite and next time you transfer your pictures to the PC a small (screen resolution) version will be copied back to the camera's internal memory so you can carry it with you at all times. Not sure how useful this is, but it's very 'Kodak'. Last but not least is the setup menu (accessible from both record and playback modes). Here you can set the date/time and change basic camera behavior, including date stamping, orientation sensor (auto rotate), sounds and volume and digital zooming. It is also here that you'll find the command to format the card or internal memory.
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