White Balance

The Z740 has just four white balance presets in addition to the auto default; daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and open shade. There is no manual (measured or custom) white balance function. It's a good job then, that the auto white balance performs fairly well, particularly in 'difficult' lighting (fluorescent and incandescent). There is a slight warm tone to both our artificial lighting samples, but it is no worse than most of its competitors, and better than many. We did find a few situations where outdoor shots produced a very slight color cast, but nothing that would be really noticeable in a print.

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red -2.7%, Blue 2.8%

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 4.2%, Blue -3.0%
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 3.8%, Blue -3.6%

Flash Performance

Aside from some cut-off when the flash is blocked by the lens with very close subjects there's little to complain about here. Exposures are excellent and color almost perfect (unusually for a built-in flash it's slightly warm, which is no bad thing most of the time). Fill flash is well balanced and the slow-sync works very well.

Skin tone
Good color, very slight underexposure
Color chart
Slightly warm color, very slight underexposure

Macro Focus

The Z740's macro function gets you down to about 12cm (4.7 inches) at the wide end of the zoom, capturing an area just over 5cm across, though there is obviously a price to pay in the form of distortion (common to most digital camera macro modes). At the telephoto end of the zoom the area captured is around four times bigger (just under 10cm across), and there is still some distortion, though less so (there is, however, noticeable corner softness).

Wide macro - 52 x 39 mm coverage
49 px/mm (1243 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness: Average
Equiv. focal length: 38 mm
Tele macro - 99 x 74 mm coverage
26 px/mm (660 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness: Above average
Equiv. focal length: 380 mm

Noise Comparison

Here for visual comparison are three identical shots taken at 80, 100, 200 and 400 ISO settings in our studio. There's some fairly heavy noise reduction going on here - the results look pretty clean, but the results get softer as you increase sensitivity. At ISO 80 and 100, and 200 shows very little noise. The impact of noise reduction on detail is clear at ISO 200, and ISO 400 results - though better than some of its competitors - do show fairly heavy chroma noise and the softening characteristic of heavy noise reduction.

ISO 80 100% crop ISO 100 100% crop
ISO 200 100% crop ISO 400 100% crop

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

No real problems here - 0.6% barrel distortion is well within the expected boundaries of a lens of this type, and there very slight barrel distortion at the telephoto end of the zoom, though 0.1% is hardly worth worrying about.

Barrel distortion - 0.6% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 38 mm
Barrel distortion - 0.1% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 380 mm

Specific image quality issues

First the good stuff. Images from the Z740 have typical Kodak color - rich, saturated and vibrant, yet very natural, meaning most of the target audience will be overjoyed at the bright punchy prints they get without any post-processing. Exposure is good - though far from foolproof - and I reckon I got a hit rate of about 90%, with the remainder marred mainly by focus errors or camera shake at the long end of the zoom or by exposure problems caused by unusually contrasty scenes. We saw no significant difference in sharpness between this camera and the DX7590, with its supposedly superior Schneider lens.

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Viewed on-screen the images lack the biting sharpness of the best cameras in this class (such as the Panasonic FZ series), but the pictures are relatively noise-free, and sharpen well in post-processing. In the final assessment, it must be stressed that for most users the Z740's results will be more than satisfactory, and the softness will have little impact on the standard postcard-sized prints most people will produce. If you're a detail freak, however, you may find the images lack the critical sharpness you demand.

Color fringing

Although it's worst in areas of high contrast and/or overexposure, and at the widest (F2.8) aperture, strong fringing is visible in the corners of the majority of wide angle shots. To be fair this example is about as bad as it gets.

100% crop 38 mm equiv., F2.8

Burnt out highlights/Dynamic range/Exposure problems

As is common with such small, high pixel count chips, the Z740 struggles with scenes containing a wide dynamic range, causing some problems in scenes with lots of contrast (such as very sunny days with very dark shadows). This isn't helped much by the fairly steep contrast curve applied to the JPEGs in-camera (something you can't override), and the tendency for the exposure system to be fooled by scenes with large areas of sky.

100% crop 51 mm equiv., F3
100% crop 51 mm equiv., F3
100% crop 38 mm equiv., F2.8