Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent color, generally very good exposure
- Versatile 38-380mm zoom range
- Very compact
- Good handling and easy access to most photographic controls
- Good flash performance
- Good white balance in most situations
- Both screen and EVF work well in low light
- Generally accurate focus
- Lots of features, easy point-and-shoot use
- Huge range of scene modes and simple explanations of features/functions
- Simple, automated picture sharing with supplied software suite
- Good battery life
- Very good price
Conclusion - Cons
- Slightly soft images and lower than average resolution
- Can feel unresponsive in use
- Over-aggressive noise reduction at ISO 200+ (very soft ISO 400 images)
- Some problems with high contrast/wide dynamic range scenes
- Lack of image stabilization limits use of long end of zoom to bright scenes
- Very slow buffering/card writing: camera freezes for up to 40 seconds after 5-shot burst
- No image quality options, images very compressed
- No custom/manual white balance
- Very stiff, very awkward power switch
- Movie mode not up to much
I liked the Z740 a lot more than I expected to; first impressions after months of using the Canon S2 IS and Sony H1 weren't that positive - the Kodak is so small and lightweight that it feels almost toy-like. But of course being light and compact means the Z740 is as near as you can get to a 'carry anywhere' 10x zoom camera, and the ease with which you can use the fairly comprehensive photographic controls puts many more sophisticated cameras to shame. And overall - bearing in mind the target market - I was pleasantly surprised by the out-of-camera results, which produce very pleasing prints.
Of course it's not all good news. The live preview seems to take forever to return after you've taken a shot (it's around a second, much longer than most competitors), the clunky pop-up flash that's linked to the power switch gets very annoying, and the focus can hunt at the long end of the zoom in low light, but my biggest complaint about the Z740 is the painfully slow buffer, which makes shooting extended sequences at best frustrating, at worst impossible. Of course the Z740 is also one of the only models in this class without image stabilization.
But the Z740 does have one really big thing going for it; if you shop around you can pick it up for under $300 (or under $400 with the Printer Dock Series 3), making it anything from $80 - $200 cheaper than most of its competitors. The Digital Photo Solution, with printer dock and rechargeable batteries looks particularly good value, especially if you're not a big PC user. If you're on a tight budget the Z740 would certainly be a more versatile alternative to similarly-priced smaller-zoom 5MP cameras.
So, in conclusion, the EasyShare Z740 is a budget camera that in many respects punches above its weight, and one that is perfectly targeted at the first-time user who wants a bigger zoom and appealing 'straight out of the camera' results. In the bundle form it offers a complete digital photography solution for a very low price. As to whether the camera on its own is a good deal will depend on your priorities - if you rarely shoot handheld in low light then maybe image stabilization isn't a major issue, and if you're on a budget then the $130+ you'll save by not buying a Panasonic FZ5 or Canon S2 IS is going to be a deciding factor. Like everything in this life, you get what you pay for, and the Z740 is a lot of camera for not a lot of money.