SAN FRANCISCO (03/26/2004) - If simplicity is a virtue when it comes to digital cameras, the Eastman Kodak Co. EasyShare CX7430 outclasses most of its competition. Kodak gave this camera just the few controls needed for basic snapshot photography, and added text-based help prompts so that even the most neophyte photographer can work through them after a little instruction. Another clue to this camera's lack of complication is its documentation: Though it's fairly comprehensive, the instructional information is only 39 pages long.
One of the CX7430's other virtues is its price--US$280 is excellent for a camera with a 4-megapixel CCD. That resolution may seem excessive for a basic point-and-shoot camera, but it can give you more flexibility in making large prints or cropping images without undue loss of image quality. Its battery life is also surprisingly good for a model powered by dual AAs; in our evaluation, the PC World Test Center took 500 shots, but the batteries still had life left in them.
Our photos taken with the CX7430 were suitable for snapshot-quality prints. It did best in our outdoor test, producing pleasing (though somewhat flat) colors, good details in shadows, and nice contrast. The least appealing shot was with flash, underexposing our model and giving her a slightly off skin tone. Our still life, with daylight-balanced artificial light, had bright colors, but the photo had a slight yellow cast. Moreover, while our 8-by-10-inch photos looked fairly sharp, our cropped-image test revealed a greater loss of detail than we usually see with 4-megapixel cameras.
Though the camera offers relatively few controls, those it has work well enough. The zoom is fairly smooth, and focus lock seemed quick. For fast shots, there can be a significant delay between pressing the shutter and the camera firing. If you've pressed the shutter halfway down for exposure lock, though, the camera is very quick on the trigger. Start-up time is not especially fast, at nearly 5 seconds. Dedicated buttons let you quickly review and delete photos, change flash settings, and set the self-timer. A simple mode dial lets you select one of the five basic special scene modes or switch to video recording. Most of the other controls, including exposure value, are in the large-text menus.
One of the more objectionable concessions to ease of use in the CX7430 is the lack of information displayed on the LCD during shooting--you see no shutter speed or aperture settings, and no indication of whether the camera will trigger the flash in low-light settings.
Extra features and accessories for the CX7430 are few. With both an SD (Secure Digital) card slot and 16MB of internal memory in the camera, you'll never be without your digital "film." The EasyShare software is a basic application for printing, organizing, sharing, and to a limited extent editing your photos. Kodak offers a simple $80 docking station for easier photo transfers to your PC; the dock includes rechargeable batteries (and will charge them). The camera will also dock to Kodak's EasyShare Printer Dock 6000, a portable printer that makes 4-by-6-inch prints.
Upshot: Uncomplicated and inexpensive, the EasyShare is fine for buyers whose interest in photography is limited to recording life's events without the distraction of complicated settings.