While most midrange cameras force you to make tradeoffs between style and performance, the Kodak EasyShare LS743 has almost everything: It’s a slim, elegant camera that shoots fast, takes good pictures, and is remarkably easy to use.

The long and narrow lines of the LS743 echo those of a disposable film camera. But the technology underneath is far beyond that of a mere drugstore camera, with a 4 megapixel image sensor, 2.8x optical zoom, and 16MB of internal memory for capturing snapshots when your SD card fills up (or goes missing).

Instead of the usual mode dial with icons on it, the LS743 uses a jog dial located just forward of the shutter button. As you roll this wheel back and forth, icons on the back of the camera light up to let you know what you’ve selected (though the default sound effects that accompany this make the LS743 sound a bit like a miniature slot machine). Press the jog dial down to make your choice, and then push the shutter button to take a shot. When shooting indoor, outdoor, and low-light scenes, the Kodak yields quality images that have good detail, balanced exposure, and excellent focus. In our tests, its overall image-quality score was brought down by the camera’s substandard color fidelity, but most amateur photographers are unlikely to notice this shortcoming in everyday use.

If you want to delve further into the camera’s settings, it’s easy to do so through the menus, which you navigate using a five-way controller in the upper-right corner of the camera’s body. These menus let you adjust exposure compensation, white balance, ISO film speed equivalent, image quality, and more. You can adjust these settings even when shooting in auto mode, which is unusual and convenient.

Our one difficulty with the LS743’s interface is that the Delete, Menu, and Review buttons on the left side of the LCD are too similar in appearance and labeling, so it’s easy to confuse them.

The LS743’s removable battery recharges in a slim charger that plugs directly into the wall, so there’s no electrical cord to worry about. For easy image transfer and recharging, you can also drop the LS743 into an optional Kodak EasyShare dock, a $70 accessory.

Overall, the Kodak LS743 strikes an excellent balance between usability, speed, image quality, and good design, making it our top choice for a midrange pocket camera. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Speedy snapshots that don’t skimp on image quality
Worst Feature: Easy-to-confuse control buttons

Kodak EasyShare LS743
Weight: 6.4 ounces
Size: 4.3 x 2 x 1.3 inches
Specs: 4 megapixels; 2.8x optical zoom; 1.7-inch LCD; 640 x 480-pixel, 13 fps QuickTime video with audio; integrated flash; SD slot; 16MB of internal memory; USB 2.0; video-out port; lithium-ion battery

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Link: Kodak EasyShare LS743

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