Casio EX-Z700 Review
|Dimensions:||3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
(88 x 57 x 21 mm)
|Weight:||4.0 oz (112 g)|
Casio EXILIM EX-Z700 Overview
by Dan Havlik
Review Date: 4/19/2007
For a pocket camera that sells for under $300, the Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has a lot going for it. Available in a choice of blue, silver, or gray, the Casio EX-Z700 is a slim camera with a light, but sturdy body made of polycarbonate with nice metal accents. Only 21mm thick, the camera combines a 7.2 megapixel sensor with an EXILIM-branded 3x optical lens (a fairly standard 38-114mm equivalent focal range). There's no optical viewfinder, but the Casio EX-Z700 does have a very bright 2.7-inch LCD.
As usual, Casio packs in the scene modes (which Casio dubs "Best Shot") on the EX-Z700, with a whopping 37 different shooting options. Along with the usual standard Sports, Portrait, and Fireworks modes, Casio adds two new interesting Best Shot features: an Auto Framing mode that tracks moving subjects and crops the frame so they're located at the center of the resulting photo; and a Layout Shot mode where you can combine multiple shots of friends into a collage. In addition, the Casio EX-Z700 has an eBay mode that captures images at reduced resolution with auto macro focusing.
Another cool feature on the Casio EX-Z700 is a Continuous Flash Mode -- known as Rapid Flash -- which allows three flash shots to be captured in a single second. The tradeoff, of course, is that flash range is roughly halved, and the ISO cranks up to 800.
The Casio EX-Z700 also has Casio's well-known, long-lasting battery life. According to CIPA standards, the camera can capture approximately 460 images on a single charge.
Read on to find out if the pocket-friendly Casio Exilim EX-Z700 is worth emptying your pockets.
Casio EXILIM EX-Z700 User Report
by Dan Havlik
Form Follows Function. Though it's not the slimmest model on the market, the Casio EX-Z700 is designed with functionality in mind. Though at 21mm thick the Casio EX-Z700 is not as slim as the EX-S770, it's certainly small enough to carry anywhere without hassle. The Z700's overall dimensions are 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 inches (88 x 57 x 21 millimeters). With the SD card and rechargeable lithium ion battery installed, the Casio EX-Z700 weighs in at a very light 5.01 ounces, or 142 grams.
The design of the Casio EX-Z700 is simple, but attractive. Available in a choice of blue, silver, or gray, the Z700's body is sturdy, with a simple rectangle shape softened by rounded corners. Made primarily of polycarbonate, the Z700 has nice metal accents -- particularly around the lens -- that give it some class.
The metal zoom ring around the shutter button is usually easy to use, but had a tendency to stick when I zoomed all the way in to 3x, particularly in cold weather. It's not a great camera to shoot outdoors on a cold wintery day -- which was the climate in which I tested it -- but it is much easier than the super slim EX-S770.
On Display. The back of the camera is dominated by the 2.7-inch LCD, with some room on the right side for buttons and the multi-controller. While the screen is very bright and easy to see even under outdoor daylight conditions, resolution is substandard at 153,600 pixels. Live preview and playback are just fair. To speed up playback, the Casio EX-Z700's screen takes a second to res up, so each image briefly looks out of focus. The same is true on immediate playback after capture, which made me initially think a lot of my shots weren't sharp.Otherwise, though, the large screen is helpful for reading the current camera settings as well as negotiating Casio's clear and intuitive menu system. In particular, the Casio EX-Z700's Best Shot modes -- which are identified by example photos -- are very easy to figure out with the camera providing extra information about each mode when you tap the zoom dial. Easy is the name of the game with Casio's pocket cameras, and the EX-Z700 continues that tradition.
Pretty Speedy. Like the EX-S770, the Casio EX-Z700 is a speedy little camera that you can depend on for quick, candid shots. The Quick Shutter setting -- which is the default -- lets you immediately shoot a picture without having to wait for the EX-Z700's autofocus to engage. This is a great feature, even though the autofocus is actually quite fast on this camera. The Casio EX-Z700 powers on and is ready for its first shot in just 2 seconds. At the full autofocus wide setting, the Casio EX-Z700 takes 0.64 second to capture a shot, according to our tests. When prefocused, though, the Casio EX-Z700 is one of the fastest compact cameras we've tried, taking just 0.010 second to capture a shot when you half-press and hold the shutter button. That's pretty darn fast, and certainly more than adequate for snapshooting purposes.
The Casio EX-Z700 was very good shot-to-shot as well, with the camera able to take a Large Fine JPEG image every 1.77 seconds in Single Shot mode, averaged over 20 shots. On the downside, the EX-Z700 suffers from "early shutter penalty," which is when a camera refuses to snap another shot if you press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode.
Overall, I was impressed with the Casio EX-Z700's speed and I never felt it was struggling to keep up with my shooting. The camera's flash recycling time -- a nightmare on some compact cameras -- was so-so on the EX-Z700, averaging 5.9 seconds with the flash at maximum output. Better is the "Rapid Flash" function, which is labeled "Flash Continuous" under the Continuous shooting tab in the menu. Rapid Flash allows you take three flash shots in quick succession so you don't miss those important moments. How does it do it? Flash output is roughly halved allowing recycling time to be virtually instantaneous. Unfortunately, it also raises ISO significantly, up to 800 in my informal testing, producing softer images than I wanted.
Night and Day Quality. Overall, the Casio EX-Z700 produced pleasing if slightly oversaturated images in daylight conditions. With its 7.2 megapixel sensor, I was able to create very nice 11 x 14 inch prints with lots of detail. Images were a little soft in the edges -- not unusual for a lens in this class of camera -- but I think most consumers will be happy with the bright, punchy images they can capture and print with the Casio EX-Z700 under normal shooting conditions. Like many pocket cameras on the market, though, the Casio EX-Z700 is definitely not a model to turn to in challenging situations, such as when shooting in low light without a flash, or on bright, snowy days.
ISO on the Casio EX-Z700 is only manually selectable to ISO 400.When its Anti-Shake or High Sensitivity Best Shot modes are engaged, the camera can record up to ISO 800. Though images captured in low light at ISO 800 were cleaner than I expected, they are not recommended for printing because of excessive noise. As a general rule, I would stick to shooting at ISO 200 as a maximum on this model.
At the same time, like other Casio cameras in this class, the Casio EX-Z700 suffers from overaggressive in-camera noise processing that robs shots of detail, regardless of ISO. While images looked okay from a distance, when you zoom in on specific areas there's a noticeable fuzziness introduced by the camera's anti-noise processing, designed to tamp down the image noise. The result is images that look slightly soft, even when they're in focus. The effect becomes clear in printed images, especially at 8.5 x 11. Also typical of super-small cameras, there was some purple fringing in areas of extreme contrast.
Making the Scenes. Along with being known for great battery life, Casio has developed a reputation for offering extensive scene modes on its cameras. With a whopping 37 "Best Shot" settings in all, the Casio EX-Z700 camera can be programmed to adapt to a range of situations.
With so many modes, Casio does a good job of differentiating each one in the Best Shot menu. Hit the metal "BS" button on the back of the camera and you'll be greeted not with worthless conversation, but you'll be shown three pages of boxes with images (these are mostly actual stock photos, not icons) to identify each scene mode. Most are obvious choices such as a mountain landscape to identify the "Scenery" setting, or a child blowing out a birthday cake for "Candlelight Portrait." But some are more difficult to identify such as "Old Photo," which is designed to restore the faded color of an old photograph. If you tap the zoom button when in the Best Shot menu, you'll receive a close-up of the identifying image and text that briefly describes what the scene mode does.
While some companies put a lot of gratuitous scene modes into their cameras just to make them sound more impressive, the latest Best Shot modes on the Casio EX-Z700 are welcome additions. In the new Auto Framing mode, a set of brackets will lock in on a moving subject -- such as a pet or a small child -- and follow the subject as it moves inside the frame. You can tell the focus has locked in on a subject because the white brackets become green. Surrounding the brackets is a larger orange square which will serve as a frame crop so your subject is located at the center of the resulting photo. This mode uses technology that Casio developed called "auto-follow." It's very effective.
The other new Best Shot mode, called Layout Shot, is fun but not as useful. In Layout Shot mode, users can combine either two or three shots of people or objects into a single collage. The mode is fairly simple, though the layouts and opportunities for creativity are rather limited. Users select one of two layout templates and then snap off two or three photos, saving the results to create one composite image.
The Casio EX-Z700 also has an Anti-Shake DSP setting that is designed to reduce photo blur from shaky hands or moving subjects. This setting is not to be confused with Optical Image Stabilization, which the Casio EX-Z700 does not have. Instead, in Anti Shake DSP, the camera automatically chooses a higher ISO setting -- usually ISO 800 -- to help reduce blur. Casio doesn't say so, but the inclusion of "DSP" for "digital signal processor," implies that they're processing out detected blur out of the image after capture. Results are hit or miss, and almost always soft.
The Bottom Line. The 7.2 megapixel Casio EXILIM EX-Z700 is one of the more enjoyable pocket camera's I've tried recently, combining a good mix of special features with more than adequate speed.
While image quality in daylight and normal lighting situations was about average for a camera in this class, you can expect for some softness in the corners, common among smaller cameras. The Casio EXILIM EX-Z700 also really struggled in low-light situations, especially because of its aggressive anti-noise processing. The Casio EXILIM EX-Z700 also deserves points for its excellent battery life, its simple and lightweight design, and its ample Best Shot scene modes; particularly the very useful new Auto Framing mode. Overall, the Casio EX-Z700 is a dependable pocket camera that I would recommend to most first-time camera buyers, with the caution that they'll need to use flash indoors and watch the exposure outdoors.
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Casio EXILIM EX-Z00
- Wrist strap
- USB cradle
- AC Power Cord
- USB cable
- AV cable
- AV adaptor
- Basic Reference manual
- Proprietary lithium ion rechargeable battery
- Large capacity SD/SDHC memory card, 1GB as minimum
- Soft camera case
- Spare lithium-ion battery
Though it's not the flashiest or slimmest model on the market, the Casio EXILIM EX-Z700 has a lot going for it. With a 7.2 megapixel sensor, a fairly standard 3x zoom (38-114mm equivalent focal range), and a 2.7-inch LCD, the Casio EX-Z700 doesn't break any new ground, but it is a good little camera. The Z700's design is simple, but attractive and highly functional. Overall performance was quite speedy. The Casio EX-Z700's prefocus shutter lag was an impressive 0.01 second, making it great for candid shots of the kids. Typical of Casios, the EX-Z700 comes with a whopping 37 specialty modes, including an eBay mode that captures images at reduced resolution with auto macro focusing. More unusual is a new Auto Framing mode which tracks moving subjects and crops the frame so they're located at the center of the resulting photo. Anyone who takes pictures of children or pets will find this mode very useful for keeping moving subjects in focus.
On the downside, while image quality in daylight and normal lighting conditions was above average, the Casio EX-Z700 struggled in low light. ISO light sensitivity is only user-selectable to 400. While there is an Anti-Shake setting and a High Sensitivity Best Shot mode that will automatically boost the ISO to up to 800, aggressive in-camera anti-noise processing tended to blur fine detail. Despite these reservations, the Casio EX-Z700 is a good pocket camera that will help beginning users capture good snapshots outdoors and flash pictures indoors. The EX-Z700 is therefore worthy of a recommendation, but it's not quite a Dave's pick.
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