Casio isn’t the biggest digital camera maker, but the company turns out decent, affordable aim-and-forget models. You won’t find a D-SLR or mega zoom among its line-up. Casio is all about small and compact. This brings us to the Exilim Zoom EX-Z1050–a 10.1-megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom. Smaller than a deck of cards, the EX-Z1050 has a unique 2.6-inch LCD with the main menu running down the right side of the screen, making it a complete no-brainer to use. Now, is the resulting output (i.e. the photos) as easy to love?
Features and Design
The Exilim EX-Z1050 is as ordinary as can be, looking like every other silver-bodied “Made In China” camera on the market (and there are dozens of them). To spice things up a notch, the digicam is also available in black, blue and pink to match your mood or clothing. The front is dominated by the 3x optical zoom that translates to 38-114mm in 35mm terms. When you power up, it pops out; when shut down it retracts into the body and there’s a built-in lens cover. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. You’ll also find the flash, an AF Assist lamp, microphone and a few decals touting the brand and 10.1-megapixel resolution.
The top is as minimalist as can be with a shutter button with surrounding zoom ring, tiny speaker and power on/off. The right side has a single USB/AV output while the bottom has a tripod mount and the compartment for the battery and memory card. It accepts SDHC and MultiMedia Plus cards along with older SD and MMC media.
The rear is a little more interesting since it has a 2.6-inch LCD screen rather than the much more common 2.5. With this extra space, Casio put in a row of icons so you can make the major adjustments on the fly rather than scrolling through menus. This is really smart thinking. The menus are very easy to follow and you advance through them using the four-way controller to the right of the screen with center set button. There are also simple text descriptions for the various options. For example, if you want to change resolution, at 10MP a graphic flashes this is Poster Print sized rated 3648 x 2736 pixels and so on all the way down to VGA (640 x 480, Email). Similar tips are given throughout the various options. Casio definitely gets a tip of the hat for this design. Other controls here include menu and BS (Best Shot), Casio’s term for the whopping 38 Scene modes. There are also keys for camera and playback. This is as plain and simple as it gets.
Overall the camera measures 3.6 x 2.25 x .95 and weighs 5.4 ounces with battery and card. This one easily fits in a pocket and could be taken anywhere and everywhere.
The Exilim EX-Z1050 comes with a decent bundle including the camera, battery, charger, USB/AV cables and a basic getting-started guide (14 pages in English). The software CD ROM includes Photo Loader with Hot Album ver. 3.1, Photo Transport ver. 1.0 and USB driver. A more in-depth User Guide is also on the disc (PDF). I prefer complete printed manuals since most people don’t carry their laptops around with them in order to read camera manuals. This is unfortunate since the camera has a number of good features that are buried in the menus. You can increase the dynamic range of your shots while shooting plus in playback mode you can adjust brightness, white balance and even reduce the keystone effect of distorted subjects such as tall buildings. Nikon stresses some similar features (D-Lighting), Sony has DRO—Casio should lets consumers know about these features. Too bad…
After charging the battery–which is rated an impressive 370 shots per CIPA–and popping in an SDHC card it was time to start clicking.
Image Courtesy of Casio
Testing and Use
Just as the Exilim looks like almost every other camera, it starts up as quickly. In less than two seconds you’re good to go. Casio uses a newer Exilim Engine 2.0 to speed up the processing and it handles 10MP files fairly well. In Continuous (burst) mode with the flash off at top resolution, the camera clicks away at about 1 fps and just keeps going. This was impressive. Unfortunately the camera does not have optical image stabilization. When you move into the “anti-blur” mode, the camera raises the ISO (800 max). Naturally digital noise appears especially at the highest levels. It’s for that reason you should always shoot at 400 or below with almost every point-and-shoot digicam.
I started off shooting at 10MP Fine. This camera–unlike the Sony Cybershot DSC-W200 and Kodak EasyShare V1003 –lets you choose between three (Fine, Normal and Economy). As usual I began in Auto, then moved to Best Shot modes. This camera has only a few manual options such as focus but not aperture or shutter speed. You can adjust white balance, metering, ISO, exposure compensation and many other options which are probably more than what most buyers of this camera would even consider. Point and shoot, baby! Point and shoot! as hoops announcer Dick Vitale might say.
As I began framing various subjects and taking photos, I thought my eyesight was failing by the minute. Even knowing the AF Assist was doing its thing (can’t miss the orange glow) nothing seemed to be in focus. Usually when you take photos and press the shutter half way, the auto focus locks in and you see this on screen. Not with the Exilim EX-Z1050. Instead the camera beeps, letting you know you’ve got a proper focus. Huh? To make sure I had the correct focus, I checked them in Playback mode, zooming in on the LCD to see if I had sharp subjects. They were still fuzzy loaded with lots of pixel dots. Perplexed, I took the card out and checked them on my computer and discovered the camera had taken in-focus shots. Perplexed even more, I went into manual focus mode and, using the controller, focused on subjects that included flowers and other still objects. They seemed sharper but not “tack sharp.” Sony uses 115K pixel LCD screens and they are far superior to the Casio.
This issue aside (and it’s not a small one), I transferred the images to my Dell and then proceeded to make my trusty 8.5×11 full-bleed prints. The results were pretty good—even though I wasn’t sure the shots were in focus until I blew them up on my monitor. Colors were very natural with true greens and yellows. It even handled red well. I was very happy with the results.
Sad to say, I can’t recommend this camera. It has a lot of things going for it. Solid image quality, excellent battery life, good response and many hidden features that go way beyond what you’ll find in a point-and-shoot camera. Unfortunately, you have to dig into the Owner’s Manual on the CD-ROM to find them. But the Achilles’ Heel is the poor LCD screen, making this the deal breaker. Casio needs to go back to the factory that supplied these screens and ask for their money back. Your money is better spent on another camera.
• Good not great image quality
• Excellent menu system
• Superior battery life
• Difficulty determining proper focus
• Poor quality LCD screen