Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom Digital Camera
Dave Etchells & Shawn Barnett
digital camera Design
|Good, 5.0-megapixel CCD|
|11x17s or 8x10s with heavy cropping|
Suggested Retail Price
The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 is one of the latest offerings from a company with a long history of innovation in the digital camera field. They promise the "Unexpected Extra" in their products, and the Casio EX-Z50 lives up to that billing, with no fewer than 23 special shooting modes, including ones for capturing and straightening images of white boards and business cards or other documents: Perfect for business or school note-taking. Compact, well-constructed, and stylish, the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 is a great "bring along" camera for casual outings, business, or vacation trips. Read on below for all the details on the Casio EX-Z50!
Rivaling some of the smallest digital cameras currently on the market, Casio's newest addition to its Exilim line of digital cameras is the EX-Z50 Zoom. It is sleek, stylish, and very tiny, but don't let its small size fool you. The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom has a lot to offer. Measuring 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches (87 x 57 x 23 millimeters) and weighing just 5.3 ounces (151 grams) with the battery and SD memory card, the EX-Z50 Zoom is a perfect match for small shirt pockets and purses. Clearly meant to tag along to just about any destination, the EX-Z50 Zoom is well-suited for travel, as it's about as thick as a deck of playing cards. The built-in lens cover automatically opens whenever the camera is powered on, and the lens telescopes outward in just under two seconds, making it quick on the draw. You can quite literally slip it in a pocket and hit the road. With its 5.0-megapixel CCD, you can capture high resolution images, good for printing as large as 11x17 inches, or 8x10 inches with some cropping. (A lower resolution setting is perfect for email attachments.)
The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom features a 3x, 5.8-17.4mm SMC Pentax lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.6 to f/4.8, depending on the zoom position, and remains under automatic control. Focus covers a range from 1.3 feet (40 centimeters) to infinity in normal shooting mode, with a Macro range from 2.4 to 19.7 inches (6 to 50 centimeters). The EX-Z50 Zoom offers both manual and automatic focus control, and features Infinity and Pan Focus settings as well. The Pan Focus option simply ties the focus to the zoom position, so that you can quickly snap an image without waiting on the autofocus to set. It essentially establishes a zone of focus, whose dimensions are shown when you press the shutter halfway. At wide angle 3.2 - 16ft (1.0 - 4.9m) will be in focus, and at full optical zoom 8.5 - 15.7ft (2.6 - 4.8m) will be in focus. In manual focus mode, the central portion of the image is enlarged 2x as an aid to focusing. An AF Area option under the Record menu sets the AF point to Spot or Multi, with the Multi setting automatically choosing the focus point from one of seven AF points arrayed in the center of the frame. A maximum of 4x digital zoom is available in addition to the optical zoom, effectively increasing the zoom capabilities to 12x. Keep in mind, however, that digital zoom always decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image.
For composing your shots, the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom features a tiny, real-image optical viewfinder as well as a generous 2.0-inch, TFT color LCD monitor (which takes up most of the back panel). The LCD monitor reports basic camera settings information, including camera mode, the number of available images, focus mode, date and time, and battery power, among various other mode information. Additionally, it reports the selected aperture and shutter speed, whenever the Shutter button is halfway pressed. (So, though you can't control the actual exposure, you can at least get a good idea of what it will be, and whether any exposure compensation is needed.) The Display button not only controls the amount of information on the LCD display, but also enables a small histogram for checking exposure. Through the Record menu, you can enable a Grid option that divides the image area into thirds, horizontally and vertically, making it easier to line up the shots.
The Casio EX-Z50 Zoom offers automatic exposure control, which keeps things simple for novice users, but allows for little control by more sophisticated photographers. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to four seconds, with the available range depending on the exposure mode. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on, and the Playback and Record buttons on the rear panel control the main operating mode. To determine exposure, the camera uses a multi-pattern metering system, which takes exposure readings from areas throughout the frame and then determines the best overall exposure. In keeping with its basic point-and-shoot design, there are no options for center-weighted or spot metering. You can increase or decrease the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments, either by pressing the right and left arrow keys in Record mode, or through an option in the LCD menu. An ISO adjustment offers an Auto setting, as well as 50, 100, 200, and 400 equivalent settings. White Balance options include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, and Manual settings, which handle most average lighting conditions. Image sharpness, contrast, and saturation options are also available.
Although you can't control exposure directly, the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom does offer 23 preset "scenes" for specific shooting situations, through the Best Shot mode option of the Record menu. Scene modes include Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with Scenery, Coupling Shot, Pre-Shot, Children, Candlelight Portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Sundown, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Collection, Monochrome, Retro (sepia), Twilight, Business Cards and Documents, White Board, and Register Favorites (which lets you register favorite images and save them as presets).
Most of the scene modes are self-explanatory, but a couple call for further explanation. In Coupling mode, the camera lets you combine two separate images of people into one. For example, you could take one image of a friend in front of some scenery, and then have your friend take another image of yourself (on opposite sides of the frame). When shooting in this mode, the camera splits the screen in half, with the active half brighter than the inactive one. After you've shot the first image, a translucent copy of that image remains, making it fairly easy to line things up so the background will be in the same orientation for both shots. After the second image is shot, the camera combines the two images into one so that both subjects are in the shot. There's always a very slight seam down the middle of the image, but if you're careful lining things up, it's hardly visible. Pre-Shot mode is a bit of a variation on the Coupling mode, and a good choice for those instances when you need someone else to take a picture of you. (Think vacation pictures.) This mode lets you set up the framing and then hand off the camera to another person to capture the shot. First, you frame the background you'd like to have, and then press the Shutter button. A ghost-like image of the background remains on the monitor, helping the other person to line you up in the shot and capture the background you had in mind. The Business Card option not only optimizes the camera for capturing images of dark text on a white background, but also applies a keystone correction to minimize any distortion from the shooting angle. This option works best with rectangular objects, and it's best to fill the frame as much as possible with the document. White Board mode also corrects keystoning, but is intended for larger objects, like white boards and easel pads.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom also features Movie and Audio modes. Movie mode records moving images with sound for as long as the memory card or internal memory has space. Movies are recorded at the 320 x 240-pixel resolution setting. The Audio mode records strictly audio, also for as long as the memory card has available space. You can also add short audio clips to captured images through the Record and Playback menus. A Self-Timer mode provides either a two- or 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and when the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots. An X3 Self-Timer setting takes three consecutive self-timer images in rapid succession, with a 10-second shutter delay before the first. The camera's flash operates in either Auto, Off, On, or Red-Eye Reduction modes, and features an intensity adjustment. The EX-Z50 also features a Flash Assist option, which digitally brightens underexposed flash shots.
The Casio EX-Z50 Zoom stores images on SD / MMC memory cards, and also features 9.3 megabytes of internal memory. Since the camera does not come with a memory card, I strongly recommend picking up at least a 128- or 256-megabyte card at purchase, so you won't miss any shots due to lack of memory space. A USB cradle also comes with the camera, and provides quick connection to a computer for downloading images. The cradle also provides in-camera battery charging for the NP-40 lithium-ion battery pack. An AC adapter is included for the USB cradle, but the camera itself does not have a DC-In terminal. Since the EX-Z50 Zoom does not accommodate AA batteries in any form, I also highly recommend picking up an additional battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. A software CD loaded with multi-language Casio Digital Camera Software and a detailed instruction manual comes with the camera, and provides minor editing tools and image organization utilities. (I applaud the inclusion of an electronic version of the manual, but really think that not including a full printed instruction manual with cameras is a disservice to consumers.)
- 5.0-megapixel CCD.
- Real-image optical viewfinder.
- Large, 2.0-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
- Glass, 3x, 5.8-17.4mm SMC Pentax lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera.
- 4x digital zoom.
- Automatic exposure control, plus 23 innovative preset Scene modes.
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to four seconds.
- Maximum aperture of f/2.6 to f/4.8, depending on lens zoom position.
- Built-in flash with four modes.
- SD/MMC memory card storage, though card not included.
- 9.3 megabytes of internal memory.
- Power supplied by one NP-40 Long Life rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
- Software CD loaded with Casio Digital Camera Software and instruction manual for Macintosh or PC.
- USB cradle for quick connection to a computer and charging of the camera's battery.
- Movie with sound mode.
- Audio record mode.
- Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release, plus Triple Self-Timer mode.
- Macro lens setting.
- Manual focus, Pan Focus, and Infinity fixed-focus settings, with an adjustable AF area.
- Saturation, Contrast, and Sharpness settings.
- White balance (color) adjustment with six modes, including a manual (custom) option.
- Sensitivity adjustment with four ISO equivalents and an Auto setting.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
- Photo Album utility with USB cradle.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom's tiny dimensions and user-friendly interface should make it a popular option for anyone frequently on the go. The camera's point-and-shoot style should appeal to novices, while the 23 preset shooting modes give the camera more exposure versatility than most standard point-and-shoot designs. A 5.0-megapixel CCD delivers high quality images, good for printing or distributing via email, though noise suppression tends to flatten out subtle detail a little, even at low ISO. One standout feature though, is its ability to convert angled shots of whiteboards or computer screens to neatly cropped, square images. - A great tool for students or anyone else who needs to take copious notes! When it comes to downloading images, the EX-Z50 Zoom's USB cradle makes it easy, and provides a few unique image management tools as well. An excellent choice for novice photographers, the Casio EX-Z50 Zoom's small size and well-rounded and utilitarian feature set should also appeal to more experienced photographers looking for a fun "take anywhere" camera for snapshots.
Thin, compact, and always ready to shoot, the new Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom digital camera is fun, user-friendly, and a sure bet for consumers with active lifestyles. Its sleek, smooth styling is free from any extreme protrusions except for the lens, which telescopes outward when powered on. Measuring 3.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches (87 x 57 x 23 millimeters), the EX-Z50 Zoom fits well into small shirt pockets, hip pockets, and evening bags. With the battery and memory card, the Casio EX-Z50 Zoom weighs just 5.3 ounces (151 grams). Because the small size might be a little difficult for larger hands to hold onto, a thin wrist strap is included for some security if the camera slips through your fingers. The camera's built-in, shutter-like lens cover means you can stash the camera in a pocket and go, without worrying about scratching the lens or losing a lens cap.
The front of the camera features the lens, flash, optical viewfinder window, self-timer lamp, and tiny microphone. A shutter-like, retractable lens cover protects the lens whenever the camera is powered off, sliding quickly out of the way when the camera is turned on. The lens then telescopes out from the camera body a bit less than an inch into its operating position. When powered off, the front of the camera is flat with only a small raised finger grip, so be sure to keep the wrist strap securely around your wrist when holding the camera.
The right side of the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom features only the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.
The left side of the camera is smooth, with only a shiny brushed metal strip running down the center.
The Casio EX-Z50 Zoom's top panel is mostly flat, although a small ridge protrudes from the surface on the right side. The Shutter and Power buttons are located on this ridge, the Power button recessed flush with the surface to help prevent accidental activation when the camera is carried in a pocket.
The rest of the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom's controls are on the rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and large LCD monitor. At the top of the panel are the Playback and Record buttons, with the Zoom rocker button in the top right corner. A Multi-Controller is just right of the LCD monitor, with a Set button at its center. In addition to navigating menu screens, the Multi-Controller accesses a number of camera functions, depending on which arrow keys are pressed. One of the only usability concerns I have about the Casio EX-Z50 is placement of the Macro mode button at the top of the Multi-Controller. This button is too easily pressed while holding the camera; this is made more disconcerting because not only does the button activate Macro mode, it accesses every focus mode on the device. It's too easy to accidentally put yourself in Infinity, Manual Focus, or Pan Focus instead of AF, so users should be careful. The Menu and Display buttons are at the right corners of the LCD monitor, and a tiny speaker is on the left side of the LCD. The EX-Z50 Zoom's optical viewfinder is quite small, with a moderately high eyepoint for eyeglass wearers. Two LED lamps on the right side of the eyepiece report camera status, such as when focus is set, the flash is charging, the camera is writing to the memory card, etc. (A full listing of the light patterns and their meanings is in the instruction manual.)
The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom's bottom panel is flat and smooth, featuring a metal-threaded tripod mount, the Cradle connector jack, and the memory card and battery compartment. (Kudos to Casio for using metal for the tripod socket, rather than the more common plastic.) A sliding door protects the memory card and battery compartment, and slides out before opening. Inside, the battery and SD/MMC card slots line up side by side. Though the battery compartment is too close to the tripod mount to allow quick battery changes while shooting with the camera on a tripod, I doubt this will be much of an issue with the camera's users, given the camera's highly portable design.
The accompanying USB cradle provides quick connection to a computer, in-camera battery charging, and limited file management options. The AC adapter and USB cables plug in to the designated jacks on the back of the cradle. Across the cradle's front are the Photo and USB buttons, as well as two LEDs indicating battery charge and USB status. When the camera is in the cradle, pressing the Photo button starts an automated slide show of the images on the memory card. (You can adjust the slideshow parameters via the Playback menu, including which images to display, the interval between successive frames, and how long to leave the show running.) The USB button connects the cradle to the computer, launching Casio's software if you have it installed, so you can download images.
The EX-Z50 Zoom's user interface is straightforward, with only a few external controls and an easily navigable LCD menu system. For standard point-and-shoot operation, the most basic features such as flash, focus mode, and zoom are all accessible via external controls. Two external buttons control the main operating modes, Record and Playback. Three menus are available in Record mode, two in Playback, delineated by subject tabs at the top of the screen. The arrow keys of the Multi-Controller scroll through each selection, and the Set button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. It shouldn't take much more than half an hour to become familiar with the camera setup, even without the manual.
The EX-Z50 Zoom has three Record mode displays, shown at right. The first displays the image area and a fairly comprehensive information overlay, including resolution and quality settings, flash mode, camera mode, etc., and the aperture and shutter speed whenever the Shutter button is halfway pressed. The second mode adds a small histogram, for double-checking exposure. The third mode shows the image area only, with just the focus/exposure brackets displayed in the center of the screen. A Grid option under the Record menu enables a grid display that divides the image area into thirds, vertically and horizontally, for easier framing.
In Playback mode, you can use the EX-Z50 Zoom's zoom control to zoom in or out on an image, or show an index display of the captured images on the memory card. Pressing the up arrow on the Multi-Controller when viewing a picture takes you to a calendar view, which groups images in the camera's memory according to the date they were captured on. The Display button controls the level of information displayed over the image, and accesses a histogram display as well.
Power Button: This tiny rectangular button, located on the top panel next to the Shutter button, turns the camera on or off.
Shutter Button: To the right of the Power button on top of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Playback Button: To the right of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this button puts the camera into Playback mode. Through the camera's LCD menu, you can program this button (and the Record button) to also control the camera's power.
Record Button: Next to the Playback button, this button returns the camera to Record mode. As with the Playback button, this button can be programmed to control power as well.
Zoom Toggle Button: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, this button controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, this button lets you zoom in on captured images, or select the index display mode to quickly scan the images stored in the camera's memory, nine at a time.
Menu Button: Next to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button activates the LCD menu display in Record and Playback modes. Pressing this button also cancels the menu display.
Multi-Controller and Set Button: Centered vertically on the right side of the camera's rear panel, this four-way rocker button features arrows pointing up, down, left, and right. In the center is the Set button, which confirms menu settings. In any settings menu, the four arrow keys navigate through menu options, highlighting selections.
In Record mode, the up arrow key accesses the Macro, Pan Focus, Infinity, Manual, and Auto focus modes. The down arrow cycles through the available flash modes, including Auto, Off, On, and Red-Eye Reduction. The right and left arrow keys adjust the Exposure Compensation, unless specified otherwise through the settings menu. When the camera is in manual focus mode, the right and left arrows adjust the focus setting, and exposure compensation can only be set via the Record menu.
In Playback mode, the right and left keys scroll through captured images. When an image has been enlarged, all four keys pan around within the view. When viewing images normally, the down arrow displays the delete menu, with options for deleting the current file or all files. During normal playback display, the up arrow activates the calendar screen, which shows a one month calendar displaying the first image captured on each day.
Display Button: Below the Multi-Controller, this button cycles through the available LCD displays in each mode. In Record mode, pressing the button once displays the image with a full information display, while a second press adds the histogram to the display. A third press displays the image area only, and a fourth press disables the LCD altogether.
In Playback mode, the first press displays limited image information, while a second press increases the information displayed and includes a histogram. A third press disables the information overlay and the histogram.
Camera Modes and Menus
Record Mode: In Record mode, the camera can capture still images or movie files. Exposure remains under automatic control, but the Best Shot option of the LCD menu system offers 23 preset shooting modes for more difficult situations. Pressing the Menu button displays the following three submenus and options:
- Record Menu
- Record Mode: Sets the record mode to Snapshot, Best Shot, Movie, Audio Snapshot, or Voice. Within Best Shot mode, 23 preset scene modes are available, including Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with Scenery, Coupling Shot, Pre-Shot, Children, Candlelight Portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Sundown, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Collection, Monochrome, Retro (sepia), Twilight, Business Cards and Documents, White Board (a fantastic tool for note-taking), and Register Favorites (which lets you register favorite images and save them as presets). Audio Snapshot mode lets you record a short audio clip to accompany a captured image, while Voice mode records audio for as long as the internal memory or memory card has space.
- Self-Timer: Activates the Self-Timer shooting mode, with shutter delays of two or 10 seconds. An "X3" setting records three self-timer images in rapid succession, after a 10-second shutter delay. (Great for avoiding problems with eye-blinks, etc.)
- Size: Sets the image resolution to 2,560 x 1,920; 2,560 x 1,712 (3:2 aspect ratio); 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels. (A handy feature for novices: If you leave an image size selected in the menu for a few seconds, the menu item will blink, showing you the maximum usable print size for that resolution setting.)
- Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine, Normal, or Economy.
- EV Shift: Increases or decreases overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.
- White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Incandescent, and Manual.
- ISO: Adjusts the camera's light sensitivity, options are Auto, or 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
- AF Area: Sets the AF area to Spot or Multi. Spot mode fixes the AF point at the center of the frame, while the Multi setting automatically sets the focus to one of seven points arrayed in the center of the frame.
- Auto PF: If this option is enabled, the camera automatically employs Pan Focus when the Shutter button is fully pressed, without a half press first. Pan Focus bases the focus on the zoom setting and lighting conditions, to give a more rapid shutter response.
- Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera sharpening in five steps.
- Saturation: Controls the vibrancy of color in five steps.
- Contrast: Adjusts the level of contrast in five steps.
- Flash Intensity: Controls the brightness of the camera's flash, in arbitrary units from -2 to +2.
- Flash Assist: Sets the Flash Assist option to Auto or Off. If enabled, this function automatically brightens flash exposures that were dark because the subject was out of the flash range.
- Grid: Enables a framing grid that divides the image area into thirds, horizontally and vertically.
- Digital Zoom: Turns the 4x digital zoom on and off.
- Review: Turns the instant image review function off. If on, the image is displayed post-capture on the LCD screen for a few seconds.
- Icon Help: Turns a help function on or off. If on, the camera displays short explanations of selected exposure functions on the LCD monitor.
- L/R Key: Sets the left and right arrow keys to control either Record Mode, Exposure Compensation ("EV Shift"), White Balance, ISO, or the Self-Timer. An Off setting renders the keys without function.
- Memory Menu: This menu lets you specify a handful of camera settings to be remembered whenever the camera is powered off. Options are Record Mode, Flash, Focus, White Balance, ISO, AF Area, Self-Timer, Flash Intensity, Digital Zoom, MF Position, and Zoom Position.
- Set-Up Menu
- Sounds: Controls the camera's operating sounds, including startup, half shutter, shutter, operation, and volume.
- Startup: Sets which image appears on the LCD monitor when the camera starts up. If turned off, no image appears.
- File Numbering: Designates whether the camera continues numbering files from card to card, or resets file numbering with each new memory card.
- World Time: Allows you to set the time for another city, so that you can display the time in London, for example, on the LCD monitor. A full list of cities is in the manual.
- Date Style: Cycles through available date formats.
- Adjust: Sets the camera's internal date and time.
- Language: Changes the menu language to one of 10 options.
- Sleep: Turns the Sleep function off, or sets the camera to go to sleep after 30 seconds, or one or two minutes.
- Auto Power Off: Turns this feature off, or sets the camera to shut off after two or five minutes of inactivity.
- REC / PLAY: Controls the power functions of the Playback and Record buttons. Options are Power On (both buttons power on the camera, but doesn't turn the camera off), Power On/Off (both buttons can be used to turn the camera on and off), and Disable (neither button has a power function).
- USB: Sets the USB mode to Mass Storage (USB Direct Print) or PTP (PictBridge).
- Format: Formats the SD or MMC card, erasing all files (even protected ones). Also can format the camera's internal memory.
- Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
Playback Mode: This mode allows you to review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, play them back in a slideshow, or set up photo albums. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:
- Play Menu
- Slideshow: Activates an automatic slideshow of images on the card. You can set the image interval time (1-30 seconds), select images to appear in the slideshow, or designate how long the slideshow plays (1-60 minutes).
- Favorites: Lets you select images to be saved as favorites, as well as edit the favorite list. Images selected as favorites are not shown in the normal playback display, and are copied to the camera's internal memory.
- DPOF: Selects images for printing, or removes the print mark designation.
- Protect: Write-protects individual images or all images on the memory card, also removes protection.
- Rotation: Rotates the currently displayed image in 90-degree increments.
- Resize: Changes the size of captured images to 1,280 x 960 or 640 x 480 pixels. (Handy for emailing.) The resized image is saved as a new file on the card, the original image is unchanged.
- Trimming: Allows you to crop captured images and save the cropped version as a new copy.
- Dubbing: Lets you record a short audio clip to accompany a captured image.
- Create Album: This option lets you specify images to be included in a digital photo album. You can create a new album, delete an old one, adjust the layout, set up specifics such as background color and usage options, or cancel the album. Usage options include View, Web, or Print. (Web creates a collection of files that can be placed directly on a web server.)
- Alarm: Allows you to set up the camera as an alarm clock.
- Copy: Copies files between the built-in memory and the SD/MMC card.
- Set-Up Menu: Displays the same Set-Up menu as in Record mode.
In the Box
Packaged with the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 Zoom are the following items:
- NP-40 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
- USB cradle.
- Cradle AC adapter
- USB cable.
- Wrist strap.
- Software CD.
- Basic manual and registration information.
- Large capacity SD/MMC memory card. (These days, 128 - 256 MB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.)
- Additional NP-40 lithium-ion battery pack.
- Small camera case.
Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
See camera specifications here.
Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.
See my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the Casio Exilim EX-Z50's "pictures" page.
For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Casio EX-Z50 Photo Gallery.
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
- Color: Pleasing color, slight color casts but generally well within acceptable limits. Overall color was pretty good with the Casio Exilim EX-Z50, though I often noticed a slight warm cast with the Auto white balance setting. Saturation was typically pretty good, but my use of the low-contrast option to deal with the harsh lighting left the color slightly flat in the "Sunlit" Portrait. Skin tones were typically very good. The camera tends to shift blues slightly, trying for more of a "pure" blue when faced with cyan or purplish-blue colors. This is probably a desirable characteristic for most users though, as it tends to produce more pleasing hues than a more strictly accurate approach would. Good color overall.
- Exposure: Accurate exposure, but high default contrast. The Casio EX-Z50's exposure system handled my test lighting quite well, accurately exposing most shots. Shots that commonly require a boost in exposure needed an average or slightly less than average amount of exposure compensation. The Z50's contrast is rather high by default, but is partly tamed via the optional contrast adjustment. Shadow detail is somewhat limited, with higher than average noise somewhat obscuring what detail is there. Flash exposure can be controlled via the Record menu, but doesn't offer a very wide range of adjustment. (Good that the capability is there nonetheless, though.)
- Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,250 lines of "strong detail." The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 performed about average on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its 5.0-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,250 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,700 lines. The default in-camera sharpening setting leaves its images slightly soft, boosting it slightly makes for crisper shots.
- Image Noise: Low image noise at low ISOs, higher than average at high ISOs, some loss of subtle detail to anti-noise processing. Image noise on the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 was moderate in general, quite low with the 50 and 100 ISO settings. At ISOs 200 and 400, image noise increased and interfered with definition of subtle details. Images at ISO 400 were fairly soft overall, with noticeable noise. Prints on our Canon i9900 studio printer at 8x11 were soft but likely acceptable for some uses, prints at 5x7 looked great.
- Closeups: A very small macro area with great detail. Flash has trouble up close though. The Casio EX-Z50 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.75 x 1.31 inches (44 x 33 millimeters). Resolution was very high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill. Details were soft on the coins and brooch due to the close shooting range, though fine detail was still quite strong. Details softened toward the corners of the frame, but were fairly sharp on the dollar bill. (Most digital cameras produce images with soft corners when shooting in their Macro modes.) The EX-Z50's flash had trouble at such close range, and overexposed the top of the frame, leaving the bottom in shadow. (Definitely plan on using external lighting for close macro shots with the Casio EX-Z50.)
- Night Shots: Good low-light exposure capability, sensitive enough for average city street-lighting at night, and slightly darker situations. Autofocus system had trouble achieving good focus, however, even at levels equal to typical street-lighting. The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, with good color at the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 100, images were bright down to the 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux) light level, and at ISO 50, images were bright only down to the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level. Noise was moderate at the lower ISO settings, but increased at the higher sensitivities. The camera's autofocus system had trouble at these low light levels, as focus was soft even at the one foot-candle. Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, the EX-Z50 can capture good exposures after dark, but it probably wouldn't be a first choice for night shooting, due to its limited autofocus performance.
- Viewfinder Accuracy: A very tight optical viewfinder, but accurate LCD monitor. The Casio EX-Z50's optical viewfinder was very tight, showing only 76 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 83 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor showed almost exactly 100% of the final frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the EX-Z50's LCD monitor performed pretty well here, but its optical viewfinder fell short.
- Optical Distortion: Higher than average barrel distortion at wide angle. Soft to very soft corners. Moderate chromatic aberration at wide angle, less at medium and telephoto focal lengths. Geometric distortion on the Casio Exilim EX-Z50 was higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared quite a bit better, as I measured approximately 0.08 percent barrel distortion (about two pixels' worth). Chromatic aberration ranged from moderate at wide angle to very little at telephoto. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The biggest issue optically was the Z50's tendency toward softness in the corners of its images, most pronounced at wide angle zoom settings.
- Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Faster than average performance overall, but varies a fair bit by mode. The Casio Exilim EX-Z50 is a bit of a mixed bag in the performance department, but overall does better than average. Startup is quite quick, shutter lag in full autofocus mode ranges from a very fast 0.45 second at wide angle zoom settings to a more average 0.90 second at telephoto. Shutter delay when "prefocused" by half-pressing and holding the shutter button before the shot is a blazing 0.014 second, among the very fastest on the market, regardless of price range. With a shutter delay of 0.16 second, the Casio Z50's unique "Pan Focus" mode can largely beat the shutter lag bugaboo of digital cameras, but you need to pay careful attention to the focus range that the camera displays on the LCD screen when you half-press the shutter button in that mode. - If your subject doesn't lie between the near and far limits of that range, it won't be in focus. Cycle times from shot to shot of ~2.1 seconds are also pretty good for a compact digital camera.
- Battery Life: Absolutely exceptional battery life! The Casio Exilim Z50 uses a custom rechargeable LiIon battery for power, and connects to the AC power only through its cradle, so I couldn't conduct my normal exacting power measurements on it. I did conduct a "rundown" test on it, in its highest power-drain mode (capture mode, LCD turned on). The results amazed me, as the camera ran for almost exactly four hours (!), longer than almost any other consumer digital camera on the market, regardless of size or price point.
- Print Quality: Slightly soft but very usable prints to 13x19". Noise at ISO 400 is objectionable at 8x10 and above, but quite fine at 5x7 and below. Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See our Canon i9900 review for details on that model.) In the case of the Casio Exilim EX-Z50, prints at 13x19 inches were a little soft-looking, but entirely acceptable for display on the wall. Output at 11x14" and below was quite sharp. Image noise at ISO 400 was a real issue in prints at 8x10" and larger, but looked fine at 5x7", and was a complete non-issue at 4x6".
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