Casio EX-Z75 Overview
by Theano Nikitas
Review Date: 7/20/2007
Casio is well-known for producing some of the sleekest cameras on the market and the 7.2 megapixel EX-Z75 is no exception. Slim enough to fit into a tight pocket or small purse, you can carry this camera anywhere. And with the optional underwater housing, good to a depth of about 10 feet (3 meters), even the great outdoors won't hinder your picture-taking when the EX-Z75 is encased in the housing.
Like its predecessor, the EX-Z70 and most of Casio's EXILIM models, the EX-Z75 is designed for point-and-shoot ease. There's even an Easy Mode that limits the number of options available to streamline operation. But in the Snapshot mode, users have access to a whopping 34 Best Shot (scene) modes that range from the standard Portrait and Landscape to the more esoteric Soft Flowing Water, Collection, and eBay. While there are no manual controls per se, the Casio Z75 offers a number of options to control various attributes like Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, as well as the more common White Balance, ISO, and Exposure Compensation controls. The output produced by the built-in Flash can also be adjusted.
At best, though, the Casio Z75 is only a minor upgrade to the EX-Z70. Two additional choices in body color--blue or pink--have been added to the standard black or silver. The LCD on the Casio Z75 is slightly larger at 2.6-inches (versus 2.5-inches), and the display can be changed from 4:3 to widescreen (14:9) aspect ratios. A new display panel option makes changing settings easier, and battery life has been slightly improved.
Basically, though the Casio Z75, with its standard 3x optical zoom (38mm-114mm/35-mm equivalent) is your basic snapshot camera with some useful extra features and decent, albeit not great, image quality (as long as you avoid high ISOs and the noise-inducing Anti-Shake DSP, which automatically boosts the ISO). The combination of the camera's small and stylish design, ease-of-use, affordable price and respectably fast performance will appeal to point-and-shooters who want a camera without a steep learning curve to capture their snapshots. Of course, anyone who wants a highly portable, unobtrusive camera to supplement a more sophisticated camera will appreciate this camera's low profile and simplicity.
Casio EX-Z75 User Report
by Theano Nikitas
Intro. Measuring 3.75 x 2.38 x .77 inches (WxHxD) and weighing in at 4.3 ounces, without the tiny battery and SD card, the Casio Z75 truly is a take-everywhere camera. And with the addition of two new colors, the petite camera affords the style-conscious snapshooter a chance to go beyond the more common black or silver color scheme. The camera is almost as easy to use as it is to tote around thanks to its feature set, clear menu interface, multiple Best Shot (scene) modes that offer descriptive text for each scene option. But there are enough tweaking features to allow snapshooters to step out of the point-and-shoot zone without falling into the abyss of more complicated cameras.
Although it's a point-and-shoot camera in both form and function, the Casio Z75 and others like it have found their way into my pocket, purse, and even camera bag. While I might think twice about bringing a larger camera to a party, out to dinner or on a walk, the EX-Z75 is small enough and simple enough for grabbing quick shots of family and friends or an interesting scene or flower. I have also slipped the Casio Z75 into a camera bag along with a digital SLR and lenses just to have a quick and easy alternative for grabbing quick shots. There are enough small adjustment features to keep me happy without intruding on the spontaneity that this camera inspires.
Design. Despite the Casio Z75's attractive design, its physical dimensions may prove problematic for those with large hands. Because of the large LCD, the external controls -- other than the power button and shutter button, which are located along the camera's top edge -- are relatively small and contained in a compact area. Although the zoom controls are isolated enough to be easy to use, it's more difficult to access the Review and Record buttons and the Menu and Best Shot buttons, which are located above and below the 4-way controller. Even with my relatively small hands, I sometimes hit the controller and changed the Display settings (up arrow on the controller) instead of the Review or Record button. The same happened with the Flash (down arrow on the controller), although less frequently, when I pushed the Menu or Best Shot button. So men who are considering this camera should try it on for size before buying.
One of my pet peeves is that the power button lies flush with the surface of the camera. I understand that it helps eliminate accidentally powering on the camera but it also makes it difficult to locate and press when you're concentrating on composing via the LCD. This design feature is so common on sub-compact cameras that I've learned to live with it; but that doesn't mean I have to like it. On the EX-Z75 and most other Casio models, you can press either the Playback and Record button to turn on the camera and go directly to that mode. This option can be turned off, which I usually do before storing the camera, since these buttons can be easily activated in a pocket or bag.
The tabbed menu system on the Casio EX-Z75 is clear and easy to navigate. I really like the new panel display; when activated, a vertical panel appears on the LCD making it convenient to change various settings such as image quality/size, ISO and others with the 4-way controller and Set button. I also enjoy the Histogram, which I use to tell whether or not the image will be properly exposed.
Display/Viewfinder. Although Casio increased the LCD size by a fraction of an inch, the resolution is low, which makes for a less-than-ideal composing experience. It was difficult to use the LCD in noon sunlight, and the screen seems washed out and grainy in low light. I know Casio can do better than this, but my guess is that they wanted to keep the price low. Under normal lighting conditions (not too bright, not too dark), the monitor functioned well enough to accurately compose shots.
Even with the display panel on the screen, there's no loss of viewing area, since both the 4:3 and 14:9 aspect ratio screen options produce a sort of vertical letterbox (black bars at the right and left of the screen) effect. When the display panel is turned off, the letterbox effect disappears.
The up arrow of the 4-way controller cycles through the Display options, which include no information; full shooting information, including flash mode, ISO, image resolution, including battery life, date and time; and full shooting info with a live histogram. Fortunately, when you push the Shutter button halfway, the shutter speed, f/stop, and ISO show up on the screen. So, at the very least, you can judge whether the shutter speed is fast enough for you to handhold the camera.
Considering the size of the camera and the LCD, it's no surprise that the EX-Z75 doesn't have an optical viewfinder.
Performance. Overall, the EX-Z75 is pretty peppy. Start up is pretty fast if you turn off the start-up screen in the Setup menu. Autofocus is responsive and generally accurate, and is partly responsible for the camera's minimal shutter lag. Shot-to-shot time isn't bad either, although it slows down a little when using the flash. Shooting can be sped up by turning on Quick Shutter, which relies on a special fast autofocus, hence the lack of shutter lag. However, our out-of-focus test shots showed that it's better to put up with a little shutter lag and have the autofocus work properly than use the Quick Shutter.
The Casio Z75's continuous shooting speed isn't bad for this class of camera, but you'll want to avoid using the internal memory, which will slow it down to a crawl. Using a 4GB Kingston SD card, the Casio Z75 managed to shoot at about 0.7 shots per second, up to the capacity of the card (but my fingers got cramped long before the card was filled).
As expected, the camera is powered by a small rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Compared to the EX-Z70, battery life is up slightly from 200 shots on a freshly charged battery to 230 shots. But if you don't use the flash and don't spend too much time reviewing your images on the LCD, the battery will last longer than that.
Shooting. Packing my gear bag to photograph the Joint Services Open House Airshow at Andrews AFB, I realized that while the Canon EOS-1D Mark III and a telephoto zoom lens would serve me well when shooting aerobatics high overhead, I needed a camera or two to photograph the static displays on the ground. So I put the EX-Z75 and the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ3 in my bag as well. Although I could have taken a wide angle lens for the Mark III, I didn't want to hassle with changing lenses at the show, because I wanted the DSLR to be telephoto-ready at a moment's notice.
Mostly sunny skies worked for and against shooting with the EX-Z75. There was plenty of light to keep the camera's ISO set at 50 for cleaner images. Unfortunately, reflections off the cockpits and metal airplane bodies showed up as washed out hot spots in a handful of test shots. With the relatively narrow wide angle lens (38mm) it was difficult to get full shots of most displays without including the crowds. Because the camera's telephoto reach only extends to 114mm (35mm-equivalent), there was little hope of capturing any decent shots of the planes on the runway. Between the limited zoom range, the LCD and shutter lag (even though it was minimal), trying to capture a flying airplane--even a slow WWII model--was next to impossible.
I never expected to be able to shoot aerobatics with the Casio Z75, but the experience of shooting the static displays was plagued most by the LCD. I often had to shade the monitor with my hand to view the menus. The LCD was also difficult to use in bright sunlight, which occasionally kept me from making a shot at all.
On the other hand, I was able to keep the little camera dangling around my neck on a lanyard, even when I was shooting with the Mark III, so it was always at hand. And despite the hot spots and burned out highlights, the EX-Z75's automatic exposure did a good job. Test shots showed rich and well-saturated colors, even on the default settings. While images were nicely focused, there was a lack of fine detail. Occasional purple fringing or light colored/white blooming appeared along high contrast edges and it's likely that it could be worse, depending on conditions. Some of the photos I took at the airshow were more than respectable for this type of camera.
Image quality. Regardless of the experience, you should judge a tree by its fruit, and though we'd call the Casio Z75's images competent at ISO 50, they quickly degrade at ISO 100, until they're really soft at ISO 400. These images will still make a passable 5x7, so if all you're planning is 4x6, you might be perfectly happy with the Casio Z75. If you plan on enlarging, stick to ISO 50 and find yourself a lot of light.
Summary. Sleek and slim, this point-and-shoot camera makes a good take-anywhere companion for spontaneous snapshots, so long as you're in bright daylight. Generally speedy performance and comparatively decent image quality for outdoor shooting unfortunately do not offset its tendency toward image noise above ISO 50. Images are soft and a little noisy, even at ISO 100. While we liked using the Casio Z75 and love its sleek look, the image quality just isn't up to snuff with so many competing offerings delivering better performance.
- 7.2-megapixel CCD
- 3x optical zoom lens (equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera)
- 4x digital zoom.
- 2.6-inch color LCD monitor
- Automatic exposure
- Built-in flash with red-eye reduction and Soft Flash modes
- SDHC compatible
- 8MB internal memory
- USB 2.0 full-speed
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger included
- Software for PC
- ISO from 50-400
- Anti-Shake DSP and High Sensitivity Best Shot modes boost ISO to 800
- Thirty-four Best Shot scene modes, including movie mode, with text descriptions
- In-camera adjustments for Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation
- Voice recording
- Live histogram and Grid Overlay
- Direct power-on Playback and Record buttons
- In-camera Keystone and Color Correction
- Assignable function for Left/Right Key of 4-way controller
- Image resize and Cropping
- F/stop and shutter speed appear on LCD before shooting
- Shutter speed from 4 sec. - 1/2000 sec
- Multi-, Center Weighted, and Spot metering modes
- White balance (color) adjustment: automatic, six presets, custom
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), PictBridge printing compatibility
- Movie recording with sound
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Casio EX-Z75 camera
- Wrist strap
- Rechargeable lithium-ion battery and charger
- USB cable
- AV cable
- Printed Basic Reference manual
- Windows Software CD with electronic User Manual, Photo Loader with Hot Album, Photo Transport, USB drive, Adobe Reader, Direct X; User Registration
- Large capacity SD or SDHC card (These days, 512MB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity but you'll need a larger card, preferably high speed, for shooting long video clips.)
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Underwater Housing for snorkeling (to 10 feet) or using the camera in inclement weather or at the beach, hiking, etc.
Though it's hard to tell the Casio EX-Z75 from other recent Casios, there's no denying that it's a handsome little devil. But the Devil's in the details, and it's the Casio Z75's small buttons and lack of image detail that give us pause.
When it comes to interesting and useful features, it's tough to beat a Casio Exilim. Several Scene (Best Shot) modes go beyond the usual fare, including the Autumn Leaves, Soft Flowing Water, Food, Text, and eBay modes; there's even a Business Card and Whiteboard mode that automatically corrects keystoning. We also liked the Live Histogram for checking exposure while we compose; and the Panel on the right of the display makes both verifying and making changes to settings quite easy.
In the end, though, it comes down to image quality. The 7.2 megapixel sensor in the Casio Z75 should be good enough for prints up to 11x14, if not higher, but the image noise and suppression-softening is prominent even at ISO 100, and gets worse from there. If you keep the Z75 at ISO 50 and shoot in daylight, you'll be reasonably happy with the pictures, but if you venture indoors, your images will be soft and slightly noisy. Noise and noise suppression both muddle the images badly enough that it's tough to give the Casio Z75 the high marks we want to for its other aspects. If you're sticking to 4x6, however, you might be very happy with the Casio Exilim EX-Z75.