Casio EX-Z50 & EX-Z55
is often foolhardy to apply a fixed specification grid over a range
of products and pick a clear winner. Many products are built to
satisfy ćchecklist shoppers,ä packing in all the buzzwords of the
day without a thought to making them all easily discoverable by
the user and, thus, actually usable. Trusting buyers will figure
they are doing their homework, but what they expect and what they
take home are often two very different things.
is much more to a camera than a spreadsheet of specs. You can elect
to consider only cameras that are fairly bristling with features,
then discover over time that you only use 20% of them. You can choose
to consider buying only cameras that do exceedingly well in laboratory
testing environments on perfectly illuminated, static targets. Take
this same camera outside and you (a) canāt see the display in sunlight
and (b) find it isnāt fast enough to capture a six-year old blowing
out the candles on her birthday cake. A viewfinder you canāt view
is oxymoronic, and a perfect shot of the wrong thing is pointless.
are easily a dozen brand-name 4ö5 megapixel thin-zoom cameras vying
for your dollars today, in a price range from about $200 to $400
street. Choosing the right model without taking them all out for
a spin is risky, yet we reviewers see most if not all of them and
often canāt pick a clear winner. Sometimes it just comes down to
trusting a brand that has done well in the past and that you feel
confident will still be in existence two years hence. Sometimes
itās just a gut feeling. Sometimes it hinges on a purely subjective
evaluation of image quality/convenient size ratio ÷ thin-zooms are
a textbook study in tradeoffs.
this class of camera, weāve gotten to the point where what a camera
maker leaves out is as important as what they build in. So small
have these devices become that there simply isnāt room for a lot
of bells and whistles. Simplicity is the order of the day. Thin-zooms
are 21st century snapshot cameras for social occasions, nothing
more. To berate Camera X because it lacks full manual control over
shutter speeds, external flash terminals, or a metal-threaded tripod
socket is a bit silly. Save those considerations for the big guns.
year, Sony shook the consumer digicam industry up with their groundbreaking
T1 thin-zoom. They designed a terrific little feature set into a
stunning design and brought the full weight of their awesome marketing
machine to bear on our collective consciousness. It worked. Theyāre
selling T-series cameras by the truckload all over the world. But
it wasnāt Sony that pioneered the Sexy Little Digicam, it was Canon
and Casio ÷ both of which have revamped their models to more resemble
Sonyās hit camera. Canon still doesnāt get the little camera/big
display thing, but Casio does. Last yearās hot Z40 has morphed into
this yearās hot Z55, a reasonably priced five-megapixel looker with
a big 2.5-inch display and the most sensible docking cradle in the
business. Best of all, Casio has figured out how to beat even mighty
Sony in the battery life war: on a single charge, the Z55 can shoot
400 to 1000 photographs, half with flash. The T1 typically poops
out at less that 200 shots. When I think back on the digicams we
had just two years ago that would give up the ghost after a couple
dozen shots, I shake my head in wonder.
the Casio Z line has been criticized for using proprietary, $45
rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs, but with stupendous longevity
like this, who really cares? You can charge this thing for an hour
or two, then shoot for days without even thinking about running
out of electrons. What is the consumable part of digital photography?
Battery power and hard disk storage space. Hard disks are massive
these days and cheap, but batteries on most cameras are still short-lived
and costly. The importance of having a casual camera that shoots
for days on a charge cannot be overstated.
has successfully addressed the other bugaboos of digital cameras:
startup delay and shutter lag. These two cameras, like the Z40 before
them, use Casioās proprietary EXILIM engine, an ASIC that supercharges
all the functions of the camera that matter. Like Canonās excellent
DIGIC chip, EXILIM-equipped cameras spoil you forever ÷ you just
canāt go back to a slow digicam after you used one. The Z55 and
Z50 each startup in well under two seconds and have almost imperceptible
shutter lag. For those times when you absolutely, positively need
the shutter to fire right now, these cameras perceive that you have
quickly mashed down the button and take their best shot with no
lag. It may not be perfectly sharp, but itāll be there.
welcome feature is the auto-macro function, which detects that your
subject is within the rage of 6.69 and 19.69 inches and sets the
camera to macro (close-up) mode for you. Focus on something father
away and it switches back to normal range autofocus mode. Why did
it take so long for this feature to come to be? Itās delightful.
area where these Z-cams excel is in their extensive array of programmed
scene modes, which Casio calls Best Shot modes. This camera offers
almost no control over traditional shooting parameters ÷ you can
set white balance, ISO sensitivity, and flash output and thatās
about it. But there will be a Best Shot mode that does what you
want it to in any imaginable casual photography situation: 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, Twilight, and the unique Business Shot mode which
corrects off-axis whiteboards and documents so that they are square
in the frame. You can even create your own custom mode and store
it in the cameraās nonvolatile memory.
basic difference between the Z55 and Z50 is a half-inch more display
and fifty bucks. Oh, and the Z55 gets a few more shots per charge
using the same battery, but not enough to matter in the real world.
A bigger display is always better, so get the Z55. Speaking of displays,
the parts Casio uses in their Z line are bright and crisp but not
the highest resolution displays in the world. The Z55ās 2.5-inch
display offers 115,200 pixels while the Sony T1ās 2.5-inch display
has 211,000 pixels ÷ almost twice the resolution in the same space,
but the T1 costs a bit more, too.
|Model-Casio Exilim EX-Z50/Z55
Sensor res-5.0 megapixels
Image dimensions-2560x1920 down
Lens focal length-5.8-17.4 mm (35-105mm
Shutter-1/2000 to 4 seconds
Exposure compensation-+/-2EV in
0.3 EV steps
Storage-SD Card (+9.3MB internal)
LCD screen-2.0/2.5 inch TFT (85/115k
Flash modes-4 modes, up to 8.3 feet
Battery-NP40 lithium-ion rechargeable
Weight-4.3/4.6 ounces w/o battery
Dimensions-3.46 x 2.24 x 0.88 inches
Included-Software, cables, strap,
features worth mentioning are the optical viewfinder and Casioās
superb sync-and-charge desktop cradle. Somehow these guys managed
to squeeze in what has to be the tiniest optical viewfinder ever.
It crops dramatically, but in extremely bright situations such as
water reflections or snowscapes, youāll be glad to have it. The
Casio cradle is simply brilliant. The camera drops in backwards
and there is a PHOTO button that switches the camera into a mini-desktop
photo frame, automatically cycling through all images in the cameraās
memory. Of course, it charges the internal battery pack and provides
USB 1.1 connectivity via included cable to your Mac or Windows PC.
It looks great and works flawlessly. The only things that would
make it better is USB 2.0 speed and a slot in back to charge a spare
Z-series cameras stand out more for their careful balance of useful,
friendly features than for their raw specsmanship. This is what
makes them so satisfying to use and easy for me to recommend. Other
thin-zooms may create infinitesimally better images (Canon S-300),
have sharper displays (Sony T1), offer gee-whiz features (Panasonic),
or have slimmer bodies (Minolta), but none offer such a likable
balance for the money and none offer such incredible battery life.
Think about what matters most to you, then buy.