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DCRP Review: Casio Exilim EX-Z1050  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 19, 2007
Last updated: December 23, 2007

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The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 ($269) is a compact camera featuring a 10 Megapixel CCD, 3X optical zoom, 2.6-inch "wide and bright" LCD display, and long battery life. It's the replacement to the EX-Z1000, and the little brother to the 12 Megapixel Exilim EX-Z1200. While the Z1050 lacks manual exposure controls, it's loaded (and I mean loaded) with scene modes.

To say that the compact camera space is crowded is an understatement. With so much competition, the EX-Z1050 has a lot of work to do to come out on top. How does it perform? Find out now!

What's in the Box?

The Exilim EX-Z1050 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Exilim EX-Z1050 digital camera
  • NP-40 lithium-ion battery
  • AC adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Casio Photo Loader and Photo Transport
  • 14 page basic manual (printed) plus full manual on CD-ROM

Like most cameras these days, the EX-Z1050 comes with built-in memory, instead of a bundled memory card. Casio has put 15.4MB of memory into this 10 Megapixel camera, which holds just two photos at the highest quality setting. Needless to say, you'll want to buy a large memory card right away. The camera supports SD, SDHC, MMC, and MMCplus memory cards, and I'd suggest starting with a 1GB SD card. While it's worth spending the extra bucks for a high speed card, you don't need to go overboard.

The EX-Z1050 uses the same 4.8 Wh NP-40 lithium-ion battery as its predecessors. Casio has always been very strong when it comes to battery life, and the Z1050 is no exception. Here are its battery life numbers compared to other cameras in its class:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD900 230 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 360 shots
Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 370 shots
Fuji FinePix F40fd 300 shots
GE E1030 210 shots
HP Photosmart R967 140 shots
Kodak EasyShare V1003 200 shots
Nikon Coolpix S500 180 shots
Olympus Stylus 1000 280 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 350 shots
Pentax Optio A30 150 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90 350 shots

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

The EX-Z1050 easily wins the battery life competition here, and by a very large margin. I don't know how Casio does it, but some of the other manufacturers could certainly learn from them.

Two quick notes about the proprietary lithium-ion battery used by the EX-Z1050 and cameras like it. Extras are expensive (priced from $40), and you can't use an "off-the-shelf" battery when your rechargeable croaks.

When it's time to charge the camera's battery, simply insert it into the included external charger. It takes around 150 minutes for the battery to be fully charged. Do note that this isn't one of those "plug it right into the wall" kind of chargers -- you must use a power cord.

As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the EX-Z1050, so there's no lens cap to worry about.

The EX-Z1050 is fairly light in the accessories department. Probably the most interesting item is the EWC-90 underwater case ($200), which lets you take the camera up to 40 meters beneath the sea. There's also the BC-30L travel charger (priced from $41), which plugs right into the wall (instead of requiring a power cord). Finally, Casio offers two camera cases for the Z1050, ranging from $18 to $20.

Casio's bundled software was never very good, and I'd argue that this all-new version (known as "Photo Loader with HOT ALBUM" is even worse. It's still totally basic, with only image viewing, printing, and e-mailing functions. The software appears to be Flash-based, and it's awkward and slow to use. It's also for Windows only, so my fellow Mac users will want to use iPhoto.

Features on the main screen include slideshows, variable thumbnail sizes, calendar view, and print ordering -- well, sort of -- the camera just puts the photos you want to print on a memory card or CD. There's also an album feature ("HOT ALBUM") that lets you create a CD-ROM containing a slideshow, complete with the music of your choosing. If you pony up for the "premium version" ($3 for two years), you can burn the images onto CDs and DVDs as well.

Want to edit your photos? Well, you won't be doing it with this product. You can rotate photos, and that's it. In the year 2007. Get with it, Casio!

I am not a big fan of Casio's manuals, either. Inside the box you'll find a very basic manual, with just 12 pages of actual information, If you want more details (and you will) then you'll need to open up the PDF file on your computer, which camera owners really should not have to do. The quality of the manuals themselves is just average.

Look and Feel

The basic design of the Exilim Z-series cameras hasn't changed much over the years. They've gotten a little less boxy, but if you've used an older model, you shouldn't have any trouble with the Z1050. The camera is very compact, and made almost entirely of metal. The camera fits nicely in the hand, though you need to watch your right thumb, as it sits right on the menu button and four-way controller.

Casio has been at the forefront of the multi-colored camera fad for years, so you shouldn't be surprised to see that the EX-Z1050 comes in four colors. They include blue, pink, black, and silver.

Now, let's take a look at how the EX-Z1050 compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size of weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD900 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 9.5 cu in. 165 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 139 g
Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.3 cu in. 125 g
Fujifilm FinePix F40fd 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 153 g
GE E1030 4.0 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.8 cu in. 145 g
HP Photosmart R967 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 170 g
Kodak EasyShare V1003 4.1 x 2.1 x 1.0 in. 8.6 cu in. 142 g
Nikon Coolpix S500 3.5 x 2.0 x 0.9 in. 6.3 cu in. 125 g
Olympus Stylus 1000 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 140 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12 3.7 x 2.0 x 1.0 in. 7.4 cu in. 125 g
Pentax Optio A30 3.5 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.2 cu in. 130 g
Samsung L830 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 132 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 124 g

The Z1050 is right in the middle of the group when it comes to dimensions and weight. It will comfortably fit into virtually any of your pockets with ease.

Enough chit chat, let's start our tour of the camera now, shall we?

The lens on the Exilim Z-series hasn't changed over the years. It's an F2.8-5.1, 3X zoom, with a 7.9 - 23.7 mm focal length, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. As you'd expect, you cannot attach conversion lenses to this camera.

To the upper-right of the lens you'll find the AF-assist / self-timer lamp and the microphone. The camera uses the AF-assist lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations.

Moving to the right, we find the camera's built-in flash. The flash is pretty weak, with a working range of 0.1 - 3.3 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 1.8 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO). If you're using the flash continuous shutter feature (described later), that range drops even more. You cannot attach an external flash to the EX-Z1050.

You can't miss the large, wide-screen LCD display on the back of the EX-Z1050. It's 2.6" in size, and has the same 16:9 aspect ratio as a high definition television. The resolution is pretty lousy though, with just 114,960 pixels -- and you can tell when you use the camera. The screen adjusts the backlight automatically, and it sometimes did so at inopportune times. Outdoor visibility was pretty good, and in low light the screen brightens automatically, so you can still see your subject.

In case you didn't notice, the Exilim EX-Z1050 lacks an optical viewfinder, which is the case with most (but not all) cameras in its class. This will bother some people (like me), while others won't even notice.

Above the screen you'll find buttons for switching between playback and record mode. To the right of the LCD are the Menu and Best Shot buttons, plus the four-way controller. I found all of these to be too small for my big fingers. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation and also:

  • Up - Display (toggles what's shown on LCD)
  • Down - Flash setting (Auto, flash off, flash on, soft flash, auto w/redeye reduction) + Delete photo
  • Center - Set + Operation Panel (see below)
Panel View Changing settings in the quick menu

If you have the camera set to "Panel" view, then you can quickly edit settings by pressing the Center button on the four-way controller. I'll discuss what those options are later in the review. This view does take some getting used-to, though.

Casio was really the pioneer of scene modes, and they're still coming up with more of them today. The EX-Z1050 has thirty-five of these "Best Shot" modes, covering virtually possible situation that one might encounter -- there's even an "eBay mode". If you don't find a Best Shot scene that meets your needs, you can create your own. Here's the full list of Best Shot modes:

Auto
Movie
Portrait
Scenery
Portrait w/scenery
Children
Sports
Candlelight portrait
Party
Pet
Flower
Natural green
Autumn leaves
Flowing water

Splashing water
Sundown
Night scene
Night scene portrait
Fireworks
Food
Text
Collection
For eBay
Backlight
Anti-shake
High sensitivity
Underwater
Monochrome

Retro (sepia)
Twilight
Layout (x2)
Auto framing
ID photo
Old photo
Business cards/documents
White board/etc
Voice recording
Register User Scene

Let's talk about a few of those Best Shot modes in more detail. First, there's the Anti-shake mode, which uses Casio's much-touted Anti-shake DSP system. This isn't the optical image stabilization that we all know and love. Rather, it's just a fancy name for ISO-boost digital stabilization. The camera will raise the ISO as high as needed (up to 800) in order to get a fast shutter speed, which hopefully results in a sharp photo. Casio says that the camera not only looks at light levels when choosing an ISO, but subject motion as well (I'll have to take their word for it on that last one). A related feature is the High Sensitivity Best Shot mode, which raises the ISO even higher (to 1600). I would avoid using these settings and just raise the ISO manually (as needed) instead, otherwise you may end up with some pretty noisy photos.


The camera has detected a business card in this Best Shot mode

Three related Best Shot modes are Old Photo, Business Card/Documents, and Whiteboard/etc. Point the camera at your subject and the camera will detect the subject and correct the distortion automatically. The Old Photo mode goes a step further by attempting to restore the colors of the original image. Do note that the resolution is locked at 2 Megapixel for all three of these modes.

There's also a voice recording feature, which lets you record audio until you run out of memory.

On the top of the camera you'll find the microphone, power and shutter release buttons, and the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 0.7 seconds. I counted just seven steps in the Z1050's 3X zoom range.

Nothing to see here...

On the opposite side of the camera you'll find the Z1050's sole I/O port, and it's for USB and A/V out. This is good news, as the "old" EX-Z1000 required you to use a camera dock to access these ports. Unfortunately, the camera does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard (come on, Casio), so file transfers to a computer will be slower than they should be.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera, you'll find a plastic tripod mount and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over this compartment is of decent quality, though it could really use a lock. As you might imagine, you cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The included NP-40 lithium-ion battery is shown at right.

Using the Casio Exilim EX-Z1050

Record Mode

The Exilim EX-Z1050 starts up in just 1.2 seconds -- pretty snappy.

There are two "views" in record mode. Panel mode (left), which is a bit awkward, offers a quick way to adjust settings. Standard mode on the right is more conventional. Both modes show a live histogram.

The Z1050 is one of the faster cameras in its class when it comes to focusing. Typically you'll wait between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds for the camera to lock focus, with slightly longer delays at the telephoto end of the lens. Low light focusing was fairly quick, but the camera frequently couldn't lock focus at all -- surprising, considering that the camera has an AF-assist lamp.

I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it often occurs.

Shot-to-shot speeds were excellent, with a delay of about one second between shots.

There's no way to delete a photo while it's being saved to the memory card. You must enter playback mode and delete it from there. One thing that annoys me about the camera is how quickly the lens retracts when you switch to playback mode. Thankfully, when you do return to record mode, the lens goes back to its previous position.

There are quite a few image quality options available on the EX-Z1050. They include:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # Images on 15.4MB onboard memory # images on 1GB card (optional)
10M
3648 x 2736
Fine 6.4 MB 2 152
Normal 3.4 MB 4 288
Economy 2.3 MB 6 428
3:2 ratio
3648 x 2432
Fine 5.6 MB 2 172
Normal 3.0 MB 5 328
Economy 2.0 MB 7 484
16:9 ratio
3648 x 2048
Fine 4.6 MB 3 212
Normal 2.5 MB 6 396
Economy 1.7 MB 9 580
5M
2560 x 1920
Fine 3.0 MB 5 324
Normal 1.6 MB 9 600
Economy 1.1 MB 13 868
3M
2048 x 1536
Fine 2.0 MB 7 484
Normal 1.2 MB 13 844
Economy 720 KB 21 1352
2M
1600 x 1200
Fine 1.3 MB 12 772
Normal 290 KB 19 1232
Economy 470 KB 33 2072
VGA
640 x 480
Fine 330 KB 47 2952
Normal 190 KB 82 5128
Economy 140 KB 111 6960

See why buying a large memory card right away is a smart move?

The EX-Z1050 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats, which is not surprising.

Images are named CIMG####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

I already showed you the quick menu earlier in the review. The options there are all found in the more traditional menu, so I'll describe them in detail here. The record menu is split up into three tabs: record, quality, and setup. Here are the details:

Rec Tab
  • Focus (Auto, macro, pan focus, infinity, manual) - see below
  • Continuous (Off, normal speed, high speed, flash continuous, zoom continuous) - see below
  • Self-timer (Off, X3, 2 sec, 10 sec) - X3 takes three shots in a row
  • Anti-shake (Auto, off) - I discussed this feature earlier
  • AF Area (Spot, multi, tracking) - this last item is for following a moving subject
  • AF-assist light (on/off)
  • L/R key (Off, self-timer, ISO, white balance, EV shift, metering) - customize what the left/right directions on the four-way controller do
  • Quick shutter (on/off) - uses a special high speed focus mode that lets you press the shutter release button without stopping halfway
  • Audio snap (on/off) - add 30 second voice clips to your photos
  • Grid (on/off) - helps you compose your photos
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best to keep this off
  • Review (on/off) - post-shot review feature
  • Icon help (on/off) - shows "guidance text" on the LCD when you change certain settings
  • Memory (Best Shot, flash, focus, white balance, ISO, AF area, metering, self-timer, flash intensity, digital zoom, MF position, zoom position) - what settings are remembered when you turn off the camera
Quality tab
  • Image size (see chart above)
  • Image quality (see chart)
  • Movie quality (HQ, normal, LP) - more on this later
  • EV shift [exposure compensation] (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, overcast, shade, day white fluorescent, daylight fluorescent, tungsten, manual) - see below
  • ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800)
  • Metering (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • Dynamic range (Off, expand +1, expand +2) - see below
  • Portrait refiner (Off, noise filter +1, noise filter +2) - see below
  • Filter (Off, black & white, sepia, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, purple) - digital effects
  • Sharpness (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Saturation (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Contrast (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Flash intensity (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Flash assist (Auto, off) - automatically brightens underexposed flash photos
Setup tab
  • Panel view (on/off) - described earlier
  • Display (Wide, 4:3)
  • Screen brightness (Auto 2, auto 1, +2, +1, 0) - let the camera adjust the screen brightness automatically, or do it yourself; I preferred the latter
  • Sounds (Startup, half-shutter, shutter, operation, operation volume, playback volume) - adjust all the blips and bleeps plus the volume
  • Startup (on/off) - you can use your own startup image if you'd like
  • File numbering (Continue, reset)
  • World time
    • Home/world - choose the current time zone
    • Home time setup
    • World time setup
  • Timestamp (Off, date & time, date) - print the date on your photos
  • Adjust (time setting)
  • Date style (YY/MM/DD, DD/MM/YY, MM/DD/YY)
  • Language
  • Sleep (Off, 30 sec, 1, 2 mins)
  • Auto power off (1, 2, 5 mins)
  • Rec / Play (Power on, Power on/off, Disable) - what these two buttons do
  • USB (Mass Storage, PTP/PictBridge)
  • Video out (NTSC 4:3, NTSC 16:9, PAL 4:3, PAL 16:9)
  • Format
  • Reset


Manual focus

There are several focus modes on the camera, and the two I want to mention are pan focus and manual focus. Pan focus is only available during movie mode, and it covers a wide range -- perfect for moving subjects. In manual focus mode, you'll use the four-way controller to set the focus distance. A guide showing this distance is shown on the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged, so you can make sure that your subject is in focus.

The EX-Z1050 offers several continuous shooting modes, some of which are quite unique. In normal speed mode, the camera keeps shooting at a sluggish 0.7 frames/second until the memory card is full. I believe this is because the camera is re-focusing before each shot. High speed continuous mode is a lot faster, since the camera lowers the resolution down to 1600 x 1200. The frame rate is over 5 frames/second, which is pretty impressive. The flash continuous modes takes three flash photos in a row at 3 frames/second. The last mode isn't really a continuous mode, but that's where Casio put the zoom continuous option. This feature produces two photos from one exposure -- the first is normal, the second is a digitally zoomed-in crop of the center of the frame.

I already mentioned one of the Z1050's manual controls above. The other one is for white balance, and it allows you to use a white or gray card to get accurate color, even in mixed or unusual lighting.

The camera has a "dynamic range" enhancement feature, which can be set before a photo is taken, or applied later in playback mode (I'd suggest sticking to the latter). I'll show you what it can do in the playback section of the review. There's also a "portrait refiner" feature available (though only in record mode), which lets you increase noise reduction, which is supposed to improve skin texture. To be honest, I didn't see much of a difference when I fooled around with this setting.

Enough about menus -- let's talk photo quality now, shall we?

The EX-Z1050 did a very nice job with our macro test subject. Colors look good -- accurate and saturated -- and the camera's custom white balance had no trouble with my studio lamps. The image has a smooth look to it, reminiscent of Canon cameras.

The minimum distance to your subject is 10 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at telephoto while in macro mode. I like how the camera shows you the available focus range on the LCD when you zoom in or out.

With no manual exposure controls available, you'll be using Best Shot modes to take long exposures like the one you see above. The resulting photo is just okay -- it's on the dark side (increasing the ISO a bit can help with that) and is a little soft as well. If you're looking for noise or purple fringing... well, there isn't any.

Since I can't control the shutter speed, I cannot do the long exposure ISO test. Look for the studio ISO test below.

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the Z1050's lens. Barrel distortion is best seen in photos like this, where the buildings appear to be curved. The test chart doesn't show much in the line of vignetting or blurry corners, and my real world photos confirmed that these were not an issue.

Compact cameras almost always have problems with redeye, and the Z1050 is no exception. It's pretty bad, as you can tell. Amazingly enough, with all the bells and whistles on the camera, Casio managed to leave out a redeye reduction tool.

Above is our studio ISO test, which you can compare between cameras that have been reviewed on this site. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise and detail levels at each ISO setting, viewing the full size images is always a good idea. Since you cannot manually select ISO 1600, I do not have a photo taken at that setting. And with that, here we go:


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

The first three crops are very clean, with the ISO 200 image being just a bit softer than the other two. At ISO 400 we start to see the effects of noise reduction, which brushes away fine details, and mottles areas of solid colors. You should be able to make large-sized prints at any of the sensitivities that I just mentioned. At ISO 800 we get a drop in color saturation, and a decent amount of noise, but it's really not that bad, considering the resolution of the camera. You could still get a small print out of a photo taken at this setting.

The Exilim EX-Z1050's image quality is impressive, especially when you consider the fact that it's using a tiny 10 Megapixel sensor. Photos were well-exposed, save for a few blown highlights in our torture test. Colors were saturated, which is just what the point and shoot crowd is looking for these days. Purple fringing wasn't much of a problem, nor was noise. My main beef with the Z1050's images is that they're on the soft side, with some visible noise reduction artifacts. It's not terrible by any means, but if you look closely you can see that some details have been smudged, and that the sky is a bit mottled. The good news is that unless you're printing billboards, you probably won't notice any of this.

As usual, I invite you to take a look at our photo gallery, printing the pictures if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the Z1050's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The EX-Z1050 has a pretty good movie mode. You can record VGA-sized movie clips with sound until you run out of memory, or hit the 4GB file size limit. For some bizarre reason, the frame rate is 25 fps (instead of the usual 30 fps), so video clips seem a bit choppy. The built-in memory holds just 12 seconds of high quality video, so you'll want a larger memory card for longer movies. If you pick up a 2GB SD card (high speed, please) then you can store over 25 minutes of video.

If you want your movie clips to take up less space on your memory card then you'll have to lower the resolution. The "normal" setting records at 512 x 384 (25 fps), while the LP mode drops down to 320 x 240 (and a very choppy 12.5 fps).

As is usually the case, you cannot use the zoom lens while you're recording, though the digital zoom is available. A digital image stabilization feature is available to smooth out any "shakes" in your recording.

The Z1050 stores movies as AVI files, using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's a sample movie for you. Yeah, I think it's kind of soft too.


Click to play movie (16.4 MB, 640 x 480, 25 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The Exilim EX-Z1050 has a full-featured playback mode. The basic features like slideshows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail and calendar views, voice annotations (30 secs), image protection, and zoom and scroll are all here. This last feature lets you enlarge a photo by as much as eight times, after which you can scroll around in the zoomed-in area.

3
The camera's white balance adjustment feature works well, even though these are JPEG images (and not RAW)

Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped quickly. If that's still not enough you can adjust the white balance of a photo you've taken (and it works fairly well), change image brightness, and perform keystone correction (for fixing photos of things like business cards and white boards). A rather strange color correction feature can "correct the old color of a photograph taken with a digital camera".


Straight out of the camera


After expanding the dynamic range by "one step"

But wait, there's more. You can adjust the dynamic range here too (as you could in record mode), which brightens up the dark areas of your photos (just like Nikon's D-Lighting). As you'd expect, there's a catch: noise levels are increased. But for small prints, this feature can save you trip to Photoshop.


A nine-frame collage created using Motion Print

A movie editing feature lets you cut unwanted footage from what you've recorded. You can also create a still image from a movie frame using something that Casio calls Motion Print. In fact, you have two choices: you can just grab a single frame (which will be saved at 640 x 480) or you can create a nine-image collage of sorts which has one big image in front with eight other frame grabs behind it (see above). The collage is saved at the 1600 x 1200 resolution.

By default, the camera doesn't show much information about your photos. But press the up on the four-way controller, and the Z1050 displays exposure information and a histogram too (see above).

The camera moves through photos instantly -- very nice.

How Does it Compare?

I must confess that I didn't go into this review with very high expectations for the Casio Exilim EX-Z1050. When all was said and done, though, I was pleasantly surprised by the camera. It offers very good photo quality, snappy performance, tons of point-and-shoot features, and great battery life. Sure, it needs work in a few areas, but what camera doesn't? The EX-Z1050 offers a lot for a little over $200, making it a great value, and a camera I can recommend.

The EX-Z1050 is a very compact and stylish camera, made mostly of metal. Casio, being Casio, sells the camera in four different colors, including blue, pink, silver, and black. The camera fits well in your hand and there aren't many buttons to confuse you, though some of them are pretty small. The camera has a rather generic 3X zoom lens, with a 38 - 114 mm focal range. On the back of the camera you'll find a large, widescreen 2.6" LCD display. It's not very sharp, however, so it may be worth trying the camera out in person to see what you think. The screen is visible in both bright outdoor light and dimly lit rooms. I quickly turned off the auto LCD brightness adjustment feature, as it often darkened the screen when I didn't want it to. The EX-Z1050 lacks an optical viewfinder, and its flash is quite weak.

The Z1050 is a camera for people who love scene modes -- it has 35 of them! Some of them are useful (sports, night scene), a few are just plain weird ("collection" mode), and the eBay mode was probably created by the marketing department. There are both anti-shake and high sensitivity modes, and they work in the same way: by boosting the ISO sensitivity in order to obtain a fast shutter speed. My advice, as always, is to forget about these modes and just increase the ISO manually instead. The playback mode has all kinds of bells and whistles as well, including white balance correction (that actually works), dynamic range boost, and much more. Sadly, there's no redeye reduction tool, and this is a camera which really needs it. If you're looking for manual controls, you'll find just two, for focus and white balance. The Z1050's movie mode isn't as nice as those on other Casio cameras. It uses the M-JPEG codec instead of MPEG-4, and the frame rate is 25 fps instead of 30 fps.

Camera performance can best be described in one word: snappy. The Z1050 is ready to shoot in 1.2 seconds. It focuses quickly, shutter lag isn't noticeable, and shot-to-shot delays are minimal. The camera did have some trouble focusing in low light, despite the fact that the camera has an AF-assist lamp. The Z1050 offers quite a few continuous shooting modes, though the full resolution one is pretty sluggish. Battery life was well above the average in the compact camera class. The one area in which the Z1050 is truly slow is when you're connected to a computer, since the camera does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.

While not perfect, photo quality was still very good for a compact, 10 Megapixel camera. The Z1050 generally took well-exposed photos, with very saturated colors. Purple fringing levels were fairly low, and the camera didn't have much of the corner blurriness than plagues so many of these compact cameras. Noise wasn't really a problem until ISO 800, and even then, it wasn't so bad. The reason for the lack of noise is (of course) noise reduction, which makes the Z1050's photos lean toward the soft side. Redeye is a big problem on this camera, and there's no way to remove it without your computer.

I want to mention a few other negatives before I wrap things up. First is the software, which has gone from bad to worse on the Z1050. You'd think that a total rewrite of Photo Loader would finally bring editing features to Casio camera owners, but no such luck. Photo Loader with HOT ALBUM is clunky, slow, and way behind the competition. But you can make nice slideshows on Video CD! Casio does not provide a full, printed manual in the box with the camera -- instead you have to open up a PDF file on your computer. The last two things are frequent complaints of mine: you can't swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod, and the amount of built-in memory is incredibly low for a 10MP camera.

The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 isn't one of those cameras that I'm jumping up and down about, but it's still good enough to earn my recommendation. It offers a ton of features, very good photo quality, and snappy performance for a street price of around $230. While you should certainly check out the competition, the Z1050 is one you should definitely have on your short list.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality (though see issues below)
  • Compact, stylish metal body
  • Large, widescreen 2.6" LCD display; good low light/outdoor visibility (though see issues below)
  • Snappy performance
  • Tons of Best Shot modes (and I mean it)
  • Lots of unique features: continuous flash mode, dynamic range adjustment, white balance correction
  • VGA movie mode (though frame rate is lower than average)
  • Class-leading battery life
  • Support for underwater case

What I didn't care for:

  • Photos and movies are on the soft side; redeye a big problem
  • Low LCD resolution
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Weak flash
  • Tiny amount of built-in memory
  • Plastic tripod mount; can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
  • No USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Lousy, Windows-only software
  • Full manual only on CD-ROM

Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD900 Digital ELPH, Fuji FinePix F40fd, GE E1030, HP Photosmart R967, Kodak EasyShare V1003, Nikon Coolpix S500, Olympus Stylus 1000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX12, Pentax Optio A30, Samsung L830, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W90.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Exilim EX-Z1050 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

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You can read more reviews at CNET and PopPhoto.