Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Introduction

The Casio EX-Z1 (also known as the Casio EX-S5) is a new ultra-slim and stylish compact point-and-shoot digital camera. Featuring a a 10 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens and a 2.7-inch LCD screen, the Casio Z1 also offers 23 Best Shot scene modes, Face Detection, Easy Mode for beginners, electronic anti-shake, YouTube mode for uploading video and 16:9 wide-screen format movies. Available in no less than 6 different colours for a recommended price of £149.99 / $159.99, find out if the Casio EX-Z1 / EX-S5 is a great introduction to digital photography in our expert review.

Ease of Use

The Casio EX-Z1 is an extremely well-made, very compact digital camera, with a shiny metallic pink metal body (other colours thankfully available) and excellent overall finish. It’s easily small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, measuring just 96.8 (W) x 56.5(H) x17.8(D) mm.

The Casio Z1 features a 3x optical zoom lens that’s equivalent to a focal length of 35.5-106.5mm in 35mm terms, not the widest of zooms, but it does benefit from a longer telephoto length ideal for head and shoulder portraits. The maximum aperture is a fairly quick f/3.1 at the wide end, but a much slower f/5.8 at the other extreme of the zoom range. The EX-Z1 is very slim, making it well suited to either a trouser or shirt pocket or handbag, and it weighs just 100g without the battery or memory card fitted.

As with almost every Casio camera that we’ve reviewed before, the EX-Z1 is one of the better models around in terms of build quality, despite being made predominantly of plastic. The overall finish is excellent, looking and feeling much more expensive than its budget price-tag might suggest. The only minor criticism is the lack of any handgrip on the front, with just a smooth, flat finish embossed with the Exilim brand name, making it more difficult to hold than it really should be. Also, changing cards or batteries is not possible while the Z1 is mounted on a tripod, because the compartment door hinge is too close to the tripod socket.

The Casio EX-Z1 has relatively few external controls, just 10 in total, which reflects the fact that this is a simple camera in functionality terms, with very limited photographic control on offer. All the controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology, with just a couple of Casio-specific buttons that require a quick read of the manual. Located on top of the EX-Z1 are the On / Off button and the tactile Zoom Lever and Shutter button. On the bottom are the tripod mount and battery compartment, which also houses the SD memory card slot.

Casio EX-Z1 Casio EX-Z1
Front Rear

On the rear of the EX-Z1 is the 2.7 inch LCD screen, with a number of controls to the right, including a traditional round navigation pad. You can directly access the various flash options by clicking down on the navigation pad, whilst up is used to toggle between the various Display modes (no information, shooting info, shooting info with histogram). The Set button in the middle performs two main tasks – it selects menu options, and also accesses the EX-Z1’s Control Panel.

This is a vertical list of options displayed on the right of the LCD screen, which provides quick access to some of the camera’s more important options, including image size, ISO speed, white balance, and exposure compensation. This system is a good compromise given the size of the camera’s LCD screen and therefore the limited space for external controls. It takes a little while to get used to the presence of this on-screen list, but you can toggle it off using the Display mode if it proves too distracting.

Directly above the navigation pad are the self-explanatory Playback and Camera buttons, which switch between the two modes. Above these buttons is the very welcome inclusion of a dedicated Movie button, which makes it quick and easy to shoot a movie without missing the start of the action. The EX-Z1 can record standard quality movies at 640×480 pixels at 30fps in the AVI format, or wide-screen quality movies at 848×480 pixels at 30fps.

There are some limitations to the EX-Z1’s movie mode. The AVI format choice results in some massive file sizes that quickly fill up your memory cards, and the length of a movie is bizarrely limited to only 10 minutes. The sound quality is not that great, with the usual background noise that accompanies movies shot with cameras that only have mono sound. Even worse, you can’t use the optical zoom at all during movie recording (although there is a digital zoom setting available).

Casio EX-Z1 Casio EX-Z1
Front Front

The Menu and Best Shot buttons are positioned below the navigation pad. The menu system on the Casio EX-Z1 is perfectly straight-forward to use. Quite a lot of the camera’s main settings, such as white balance, exposure compensation and ISO speed, are accessed elsewhere, so the main menu system isn’t actually that complicated. A row of 3 icons along the top of the LCD screen represent the Record, Quality and Set Up sub-menus, with most of the options being the kind that you set once and then forget about. Due to the large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 6 are shown onscreen at one time.

Easy Mode is targeted at beginners, effectively setting all of the camera options apart from the flash, self-timer and image size. It’s perfect for the less experienced members of the family who literally want to just piont the camera and press the shutter button. Accessed via the Best Shot button, the Casio EX-Z1 offers Auto and a comprehensive range of 23 different scene modes aimed at the user who just wants to point and shoot, making this camera particularly well-suited to the beginner.

There is a single port on the right side of the Casio EX-Z1 (when viewed from the back) which accepts both the USB interface cable required to connect the camera to a printer or computer, and the AV cable. There are no controls on the left side of the EX-Z1. Overall the camera body feels very well-designed and not at all cluttered, despite the presence of the large 2.7 inch LCD, which has a wide viewing angle from left to right, rather poor resolution of just 114,960 dots, and is visible in most conditions. There is no optical viewfinder on this model.

If you have never used a digital camera before, or you’re upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Unfortunately Casio have chosen to cut costs and only supply the full manual as a PDF on a CD, rather than in printed format. Not much use if you’re taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does.

Casio EX-Z1 Casio EX-Z1
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The start-up time from turning the Casio EX-Z1 on to being ready to take a photo is quite quick at around 2 seconds, and it takes about 3 seconds to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations, although there’s no focus-assist lamp. It takes about 0.5 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card – there is a very quick LCD blackout between each image. In Continuous mode the camera takes just 0.7 frames per second at the highest image quality, which is very slow for this class of camera, although the shooting rate is at least maintained until your memory card is full.

Once you have captured a photo, the Casio EX-Z1 has an average range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view up to 12 thumbnails onscreen at once, and zoom in and out up to 8x magnification. You can view slideshows with different effects and interval settings and set the print order and the transfer order.

You can also protect, rotate, resize, trim, and copy an image. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance, and there is a small histogram available during playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure. A third press of the Display button shows just the image with no information displayed.

In summary the Casio EX-Z1 is a stylish and well-built point-and-shoot digital camera. Now let’s take a look at its image quality…

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Casio EX-Z1 produces images of above average quality. The biggest issue is noise and loss of detail at relatively slow ISO speeds. The 1/2.3 inch, 10.1 megapixel sensor recorded noise-free images at ISO 64-200, but there’s some noise and slight softening of detail at ISO 400. ISO 400 shows a little more noise, and ISO 800 and 1600 are signficantly worse, with obvious loss of fine detail, colour desaturation and even more noise. The Casio EX-Z1 handled chromatic aberrations very well, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations and generally at the edges of the frame. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure. The night photograph was poor, with the maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds not being long enough for most after-dark shots, resulting in under-exposure. Macro performance is disappointing, allowing you to focus as close as 15cms away from the subject. The images were soft straight out of the Casio EX-Z1 at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting. Significant barrel distortion is evident at the wider-angle focal lengths.

Noise

There are 6 ISO settings available on the Casio EX-Z1. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Sharpening

Here are two 100% Crops which have been Saved as Web – Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

The Casio EX-Z1 has 3 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

10M Fine (4.94Mb) (100% Crop) 10M Normal (2.46Mb) (100% Crop)
   
10M Economy (1.63Mb) (100% Crop)  
 

Chromatic Aberrations

The Casio EX-Z1 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with just a small amount of purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Casio EX-Z1 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 15cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

Flash

The flash settings on the Casio EX-Z1 are Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Soft Flash, and Red Eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off – Wide Angle (35.5mm)

Flash On – Wide Angle (35.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off – Telephoto (106.5mm)

Flash On – Telephoto (106.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Auto setting or the Red Eye Reduction caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red-eye Correction

Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)

Night

The Casio EX-Z1’s maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night scene mode, which isn’t good news if you’re seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 64. I’ve included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Casio EX-Z1 camera, which were all taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 848 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 12 second movie is 18.5Mb in size.

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Product Images

Casio EX-Z1

Front of the Camera

 
Casio EX-Z1

Front of the Camera / Turned On

 
Casio EX-Z1

Isometric View

 
Casio EX-Z1

Isometric View

 
Casio EX-Z1

Rear of the Camera

 
Casio EX-Z1

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

 
Casio EX-Z1

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

 
Casio EX-Z1

BRear of the Camera / Main Menu

 
Casio EX-Z1

Rear of the Camera / Best Shot

 

Casio EX-Z1

Rear of the Camera / Set Menu

 
Casio EX-Z1
Top of the Camera
 
Casio EX-Z1
Bottom of the Camera
 
Casio EX-Z1
Side of the Camera
 
Casio EX-Z1
Side of the Camera
 
Casio EX-Z1
Front of the Camera
 
Casio EX-Z1
Front of the Camera
 
Casio EX-Z1
Memory Card Slot
 
Casio EX-Z1
Battery Compartment

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Specifications

Recording Element 1/2.3 inch square pixel primary colour CCD
(10.1 million total pixels; 10.1 million effective pixels)
Recording Format Movies: AVI (Motion JPEG), IMA-ADPCM (mono)
Still Image: JPEG (Exif. Ver. 2.2), DCF 1.0 standard; DPOF compliant
Audio: WAV (mono)
Recording Medium Card slot for SD / SDHC / Eye-Fi Wireless Card compatible
Image Resolution Still images: 10M 3648 x 2736, 3648 x 2432 (3:2), 3648 x 2048 (16:9), 7M (3072 x 2304), 4M (2304X1728), 2M (1600 x 1200), VGA (640 x 480)
Movies: 640 x 480 (STD, 30fps), 320 x 240 (LP, 15fps)
Image Deletion One image, all images
Lens 6 lenses in 5 groups, incl. aspherical lens
F3.1 (W) to F5.6 (T)
f=6.3(W) to 18.9(T) mm (equivalent to approx. 35.5 to 106.5mm in 35mm format)
Zoom 3x optical zoom, 4x digital zoom (12x total when optical and digital zooms are used in combination)
Focus Mode Manual focus
Infinity mode
Pan focus
Auto focus
Macro Focus
Exposure Metering Multi-pattern, centre weighted, spot by imaging element
Exposure Control Program AE
Exposure Compensation -2EV to +2EV (in 1/3EV steps)
Shutter CCD electronic / mechanical shutter
Shutter Speed

Night: 4 to 1/2000sec.
Auto: 1/2 to 1/1000 sec.

Sensitivity Movie: Auto
Still Image: ISO64, ISO100, 1SO200, ISO400, 1SO800, ISO1600, ISO3200
SOS/ REI) *SOS: Standard Output Sensitivity. *REI: Recommended Exposure Index
Recording Functions YouTube(TM) Capture Mode
Face Detection
BESTSHOT (23 predefined scenarios)
Voice recording
Self-Timer Triple self-timer
10 seconds or 2 seconds
Flash System Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Soft Flash, Red Eye Reduction
Monitor 2.7″ digital TFT colour LCD; 114,960 pixels (479 x 240)
Other Focus Type: Contrast Detection, Auto Focus
AF Area: Spot or Multi
Timekeeping Date and time recorded with image data; auto calendar up to 2049
World Time 162 cities (32 time zones); city names; date and time; daylight saving time
Input/Output Terminals Built-in speaker (mono)
Built-in microphone
USB / AV connector
USB USB 2.0 (Full-speed) compatible
Power Requirements Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (NP-80)x 1
Battery Approx. 210 still images
Dimensions 96.8 (W)x 56.5 (H)x 17.8 (D)mm
Thinnest part:15.8
Weight Approx. 100g (excl. batteries and accessories)
Bundled Accessories

CD-ROM
AV cable
Battery charger
User’s quick reference guide
USB cable (Full speed USB 2.0 compatible)
AC power cord
Wrist strap

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Conclusion

The Casio EX-Z1 offers a tempting mix of style, ease-of-use and value for money. The slim and light Z1 is easy on the eye, even in our rather garish pink review sample, and more importantly its very well-suited to its beginner target market. The user interface and handling are more or less spot on, and there’s even a completely point and shoot Easy mode for the technophobes in your family. Officially priced at £150 in the UK, shopping around on the web brings the price much closer to just £100, a real bargain for such a well-made and designed 10 megapixel camera.

As it’s a budget model, the feature list is rather short on headline-grabbers, so the EX-Z1 isn’t going to impress with the latest must-have gizmo. Image quality is also satisfactory rather than outstanding, with noise and loss of detail at relatively slow ISO speeds, significant barrel distortion at the wider-angle focal lengths, and a disappointing macro mode. This isn’t the camera to buy if you’re looking for the best ever image quality, but it does produce well-exposed and accurate photos that will please its target audience.

So in summary, the Casio EX-Z1 is one of the better budget digicams on the market, hitting the right balance between style and substance. It might not be the most exciting cameras around, but it is a very well-balanced, easy to use model for all the family.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4.5

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Casio EX-Z1.

Canon PowerShot A480

Canon PowerShot A480 Review thumbnail

Are you feeling the economic pinch, but still want a more than capable compact camera? Then you could do a lot worse than Canon’s cheapest camera, the Powershot A480. With a 10 megapixel sensor, 3.3x zoom lens and 2.5 inch LCD screen, the A480 offers a solid base onto which it adds a 1cm macro mode, face detection and digital anti-shake system. The Canon A480 doesn’t offer the bells and whistles of more expensive models, but it can be yours for just $129.99 / £129.00 / €159.00. Read our in-depth review to find out if the Canon PowerShot A480 is worth the modest investment.

Canon PowerShot A1100 IS

Canon PowerShot A1100 IS Review thumbnail

The Canon PowerShot A1100 IS is a brand new 12 megapixel compact digital camera with a 4x optical zoom lens. Offering a focal range of 35-140mm, the A1100 offers Optical Image Stabilization and motion detection technology to help combat camera shake. There’s a 2.5 inch LCD screen on the back with a wide viewing angle, plus a traditional optical viewfinder, new Smart Auto mode with Scene Detection Technology for true point-and-shoot operation, and a veritable wealth of Face Detection options. Available in silver, grey, blue, pink and green, the Canon A1100 IS won’t be available until early-April, but that hasn’t stopped us from already reviewing this $199.99 / £219.00 / €259.00 camera.

Nikon Coolpix S60

Nikon Coolpix S60 Review thumbnail

The Nikon Coolpix S60 is one of the more distinctive compact digital cameras around, with a “wave-surface” design and large 3.5 inch LCD display. Furthermore, the S60 is almost completely controlled via its touch-screen LCD, even including zooming in and out. Other standout features of the Nikon S60 include a 5x zoom lens with Vibration Reduction, Scene Auto Selector for beginners, Smile Timer with blink detection, and and a HDMi output for viewing photos on a HDTV set. The Nikon Coolpix S60 costs around €349 / £299.99 / $349.95.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 Review thumbnail

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T90 is a new slim and stylish digital camera with a large 3 inch touch-screen LCD. The 12.1 megapixel Sony T90 features a Carl Zeiss branded 4x optical zoom lens complete with optical image stabiliser. HD video is recorded at 1280×720 pixels at 30fps in the MPEG4 format. Available in silver, black, pink, blue and brown for around $300 / £289, Gavin Stoker discovers if the Sony Cyber-shot T90 picture quality matches its good looks.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T900

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T900 Review thumbnail

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T900 is a new compact and stylish digital camera with a large 3.5 inch touch-screen LCD and 720p HD movie recording. The 12.1 megapixel Sony T900 features a Carl Zeiss branded 4x optical zoom lens complete with optical image stabiliser. Video is recorded at 1280×720 pixels at 30fps in the MPEG4 format. Available in black, silver, bronze and red for $380 / £369, Gavin Stoker discovers if the Sony Cyber-shot T900 is a triumph of both substance and style.

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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Review Roundup

Reviews of the Casio EX-Z1 from around the web.

trustedreviews.com »

The Z1 certainly makes a good first impression. It has a strong all-metal body with coloured semi-matt panels and plenty of bright chrome trim. Like most Casio compacts the Z1 is available in a wide range of colours, including black, silver, blue, purple, pink and the gold of my review sample. It is an exceptionally slim camera, just 20mm thick including the lens surround, although as usual whoever wrote the spec sheet measured it ignoring this somewhat vital feature, giving a figure of 17.8mm. It’s also very light, weighing approximately 120g including battery and memory card. With its sleek shape and rounded edges it slips easily into a shirt pocket.
Read the full review »

reviews.cnet.co.uk »

‘Sleek and sturdy’ is, we’re told, the design concept behind the Casio Exilim EX-Z1. Sleek it certainly is, though its sturdiness is unproven. It feels well-made, but it’s not guaranteed waterproof or shockproof or anything like that. That’s a pity, because, with a typical street price of £150 or so, this 10-megapixel camera needs something clever to distinguish it from the rest.
Read the full review »

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

Casio EX-Z1 Review Image

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