Exilim EX-Z55 ($449) is an ultra-compact 5 Megapixel
camera with a large 2.5" LCD display and class-leading
battery life. A slightly cheaper model, the EX-Z50 ($399),
has a 2-inch screen and slightly lower battery life.
Both cameras make up Casio's entry into the crowded
ultra-compact field. I'll be looking at the Z55 here
-- read on to find out how it stacks up against the
What's in the Box?
The Exilim EX-Z55 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 5.0 effective Megapixel Casio
Exilim EX-Z55 digital camera
- NP-40 rechargeable lithium-ion
- USB Cradle
- AC adapter
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring PhotoLoader, PhotoHands,
- Printed basic manual plus full
manual on CD-ROM
Casio is one of those camera manufacturers
who doesn't include a memory card with their camera.
Instead, they build some memory right into the camera.
Unfortunately that's just 9.3MB, which borders on absurd,
as that holds just four photos at the highest quality
setting. So consider buying a memory card to be a required
purchase (I'd recommend at least 256MB). The Z55 uses
SD or MMC cards, though I recommend the former. A high
speed SD card is not a necessary purchase with this
I don't know how they did it, but
Casio has managed to extract incredible battery life
from the NP-40 battery used by the EX-Z55. You can
take a whopping 400 shots per charge from a battery
with just 4.5 Wh of energy! Just so you know how great
that is, the Canon PowerShot SD300 gets 140 shots per
charge, the Nikon Coolpix 5200 takes 150, while the
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7 gets just 120. Casio should
be commended for their efforts in this area!
My usual complaints about proprietary
batteries like the one used by the EX-Z55 apply here.
They're expensive ($45 a pop), and you can't put in
a set of alkalines to get you through the rest of the
day like you could with an AA-based camera. I'm willing
to forgive Casio for this, though, as the battery life
When it's time to charge the Z55,
just place it in the included USB cradle. Unlike some
cameras that use docks, the only way to charge the
battery is by using the dock. It takes about 190 minutes
to fully charge the battery. The cradle can also be
used for transferring photos to your Mac or PC. The
camera doesn't support video output,
The EX-Z55 has a built-in lens cover
so there are no messy lens caps to worry about. As
you can see, the camera is quite small.
The only accessories I could find
for the Z55 include an external battery charger ($50)
and a carrying case ($15).
The Z55 includes Casio's PhotoLoader
and Photohands software. PhotoLoader is used to download
and view stills and movies from your camera. The Mac
version is not OS X native, but works in Classic mode.
Photohands is for Windows only, and is used for retouching
and printing images.
Casio has been imitating Olympus in
the manual area lately. They include a skimpy "'basic
manual" in the box, leaving the full manual on
CD-ROM. My question is: if you're going to print a
basic manual, why not print the whole thing and do
the right thing for your customers? The quality of
the manuals themselves is about average for a digital
camera (not great).
Look and Feel
Like Casio's other Exilim cameras,
the EX-Z55 is very compact and stylish. The camera
is small enough to fit in any pocket, so it can be
always ready for that quick snapshot. It's made almost
completely of metal, and it feels very solid. The important
controls are well-placed, though I found the buttons
to be too small.
Now, here's a look at how the EX-Z55
compares with some of the competition:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 2.1 x 0.8 in.
x 2.2 x 1.1 in.
x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
x 2.5 x 0.8 in.
Minolta DiMAGE G600
x 2.2 x 1.2 in.
x 2.5 x 0.6 in.
x 2.3 x 1.4 in.
x 2.5 x 0.8 in.
x 2.2 x 1.1 in.
x 2.0 x 1.0 in.
x 2.0 x 0.8 in.
x 2.4 x 0.8 in.
So it's not quite the smallest of
lightest in the bunch, but it's close enough. The EX-Z50
is a little lighter thanks to its smaller LCD screen.
That's enough of that, let's move
on to the tour portion of the review now!
The Exilim EX-Z55 (and Z50 as well)
use an F2.6-4.8, 3X optical zoom lens made by Pentax.
Incidentally Pentax uses this same lens in their Optio
S5i camera. The focal range of the lens is 5.8 - 17.4
mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is
not threaded, nor would I expect it to be.
To the upper-left of the lens is the
built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.4
- 2.6 m at wide-angle and 0.4 - 2.0 m at telephoto,
which is a bit below average. You cannot attach an
external flash to this camera.
The only other items on the front
of the camera are the optical viewfinder, self-timer
lamp, and microphone. There's no AF-assist lamp on
the Z55, unfortunately.
One of the big selling points for
the EX-Z55 is its larger-than-average 2.5" LCD
display. While the screen is big, the resolution isn't
-- there are just 115k pixels, and you can tell when
you look at the screen. I do recommend trying out the
Z55 in person to see if the resolution is adequate
for you. Low light performance depends on the shooting
mode you're using. In normal Snapshot mode, the screen
will be too dark to be usable in dim light. However,
if you use one of the Best Shot (scene) modes, the
screen will gain up nicely. You definitely want to
experiment a bit to see which setting works best for
To the upper-left of the screen is
the optical viewfinder, which is quite small.
Speaking of small, I found the two
zoom buttons at the top-right of the photo to be tiny.
I didn't have any trouble using them, but I wish they
were larger. The zoom controller moves the lens from
wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.3 seconds. I counted
seven steps throughout the zoom range.
Below the controller are buttons for
switching between record and playback mode. Further
down is the four-way controller, which is used for
menu navigation as well as:
- Up - Focus (Auto, macro, pan focus,
infinity, manual) / Calendar view (more later)
- Down - Flash setting (Auto, flash
off, flash on, auto w/redeye reduction) / Delete
Manual focus; sorry
these are so bad, they're photos and not captures
I want to mention two of those focus
modes now. Pan focus chooses a focus distance that's
best for snapshot photos of people and places. If you
fully press down the shutter release without stopping
halfway, the camera will automatically use this. In
manual focus, you will use the left/right directions
of the four-way controller to set the focus yourself.
The focus distance is shown on the LCD, and the center
of the frame is enlarged so you can make sure your
subject is in focus.
But the four-way controller are the
Display and Menu buttons. The former toggles the LCD
on and off, as well as the information shown on it.
The only things to see up here are
the power and shutter release buttons.
The only thing to see here is the
On the bottom of the Z55 is the tripod
mount (hidden in photo) , dock connector, and the battery
/ memory card compartment. This compartment is covered
by a plastic door of average quality. As I mentioned,
the EZ-Z55 uses Secure Digital or MultiMedia (MMC)
The tripod mount is plastic -- a shame
considering the metal body on the rest of the camera
-- and you cannot swap memory cards while the camera
is on a tripod, either.
The included NP-40 battery is shown
Using the Casio Exilim EX-Z55
It takes about 1.8 seconds for the
Z55 to extend its lens and "warm up" before
it's ready to shoot. That's pretty snappy.
The Z55 features
a live histogram in record mode
Autofocus speeds were very good, with
typical focus times of 0.4 seconds or so. On the other
hand, low light focusing was poor, due in part to the
lack of an AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was not a problem, even
at slower shutter speeds.
Shot-to-shot speed was good, with
a delay of about a 1.7 seconds before you can take
another picture, assuming you've turned the post-shot
review feature off.
There's no way to delete a photo immediately
after taking it -- you must enter playback mode.
Now, here's a look at the image size
and quality choices available on the EX-Z55:
||Approx. file size
||# images on 9.3MB built-in
See why I recommend buying a larger
memory card? The Z55 does not support the RAW or
Images are named CIMG####.JPG, where
# = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even
if you replace and/or format memory cards.
Now, onto the menus!
The menus on the Exilim EX-Z55 aren't
terribly attractive, but they are fast and easy-to-navigate.
Here's what you'll find in the menu:
- REC mode (Snapshot, bestshot, movie,
voice) - see below
- Self-timer (Off, X3, 2 sec, 10
sec) - X3 takes three shots in a row
- Size (see chart)
- Quality (see chart)
- EV shift (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- this is also known as exposure compensation
- White balance (Auto, daylight,
cloudy, shade, fluorescent 1/2, tungsten, manual)
- that last item lets you use a white or gray card
to get perfect color in any lighting
- ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
- AF Area (Spot, multi)
- Auto PF (on/off) - turns on the
auto pan focus feature I described earlier
- Sharpness (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Saturation (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Contrast (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Flash intensity (-2 to +2, 1-step
- Flash assist (Auto, off) - compensates
for an underexposed flash shot
- Grid (on/off) - helps you compose
- Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best
to keep this off
- Review (on/off) - post-shot review
- Icon help (on/off) - shows "guidance
text" on the LCD when you change certain settings
- L/R key (REC mode, EV shift, white
balance, ISO, self-timer, off) - customize what these
keys on the four-way controller does
The only thing up there I want to
cover is the REC mode menu. Snapshot is your everyday
shooting mode. I'll cover movie mode later. Voice mode
can record WAV audio until your memory card fills up.
Bestshot mode is Casio's name for scene mode. There
are plenty of scenes to choose from, too:
- Portrait with scenery
- Coupling shot - combines two pictures
- Pre-shot - put someone over an
- Candlelight portrait
- Natural green
- Night scene
- Night scene portrait
- Business cards and documents -
these next two will automatically correct photos
taken at an angle; it didn't work terribly well
- White board, etc
- Register user scene - create your
The EX-Z55 also has a "memory
menu". This lets you choose what settings are
remembered when you turn off the camera.
And finally, there's a setup menu.
Here's what you'll find in this menu:
- Sounds (Startup, half-shutter,
shutter, operation, volume) - adjust all the blips
- Startup (on/off) - turns the startup
screen on and lets you choose an image for it
- File numbering (Continue, reset)
- World time
- Home/world - choose the current
- Home time setup
- World time setup
- Date style (YY/MM/DD, DD/MM/YY,
- Adjust (time setting)
- Language (Japanese, English, French,
German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean)
- Sleep (30 sec, 1, 2 mins, off)
- Auto power off (2, 5 mins)
- Rec / Play (Power on, power on/off,
disable) - what those two rec/play buttons on the
back of the camera do
- USB (Mass Storage, PTP)
- Format card
- Reset camera
Well enough about menus, let's do
photo tests now.
The EX-Z55 did a fine job with our
usual macro test subject. Colors look pretty good,
and the subject is nice and "smooth". Manually
aperture control would've helped with the "blurry
nose" problem, but the only manual controls on
the camera are for focus and white balance.
The focus range in macro mode is 6
- 50 cm, which isn't too bad.
The night shot looks quite nice. As
you can see Embarcadero Center buildings are all lit
up for the holidays. Everything is nice and sharp,
though the image is a little noisy. There's a bit of
purple fringing as well, but its nothing to be concerned
about. The only way to take long exposures like this
is to use one of the Best Shot modes -- shooting in
Snapshot mode won't use a slow enough shutter speed.
I used the Night Scene mode here.
The distortion test shows moderate
barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens. There's
also some vignetting (dark corners) and blurry corners
to be seen. I didn't have any trouble with vignetting
in my real world photos,
but I did encounter blurry edges in several photos.
These are the tradeoffs that come with buying an ultra-compact
camera like the EX-Z55.
Compact cameras mean big redeye, and
the Z55 is no exception. While your mileage may vary,
I would plan on dealing with it most of the time. This
can be cleaned up fairly well on your computer.
Aside from those issues, the Z55's
photo quality was very good. Exposure was nice, as
was color. Purple fringing popped up occasionally but
it was not too horrible. Subjects were sharp for the
most part, save for blurriness at the edges/corners
of the frame in some photos. While not a camera for
perfectionists, the Z55 does a good job for prints
smaller than 8 x 10 and web photos.
Don't just take my word for all this,
though. Have a look at our photo
gallery and print the photos as if they were your
own. Then decide if the Z55's picture quality meets
The EX-Z55 isn't going to win any
awards for its movie mode. You can record 320 x 240
video at 15 frames/second until the memory card is
full. Sound is recorded as well. The 9.3MB of built-in
memory can hold a grand total of 30 seconds -- so you'll
want to use a decent-sized memory card instead.
You cannot use the zoom lens during
Movies are saved in AVI format, using
the M-JPEG codec.
Here's a brief sample movie for you:
to play movie (2.7 MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Exilim EX-Z55 has a full-featured
playback mode. The basic features like slide shows,
DPOF print marking, zoom and scroll, voice annotations
(30 secs), and image protection are all here. The camera
is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to compatible
The zoom and scroll feature lets you
zoom up to 4X into your photo and then move around
in it. This feature was nice and snappy.
You can also rotate, crop, or resize
your images right on the camera.
But wait, there's more -- the EX-Z55
has three very unique playback features.
The first is favorites, which lets
you "tag" your best photos for easy retrieval
later (kind of like bookmarks in your web browser).
Cool feature number two is the "create
album" item, which will make an HTML photo gallery
automatically! You can then copy over the album folder
to your website, and that's it! You can choose from
10 different album layouts, or make your own. This
is a useful feature that is (surprisingly) still exclusive
to Casio cameras.
The final cool playback feature is
the calendar view. This shows a calendar of the current
month, with a tiny thumbnail picture shown on the day
it was taken. This is a nice (and different) way to
jump through your photos by date. My example above
doesn't really show its usefulness, though.
By default, the camera doesn't show
much information about your photos. But press the display
button and the Z55 displays exposure information and
a histogram too. The camera moves through photos instantly
-- very nice.
How Does it Compare?
Overall, the Casio Exilim EX-Z55 is
a good "go-anywhere" point-and-shoot camera
that holds up well against the likes of the Canon PowerShot
SD300, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7, and the Sony DSC-T1.
While I haven't tested it yet, the Pentax Optio S5i
shares the lens and many of the internals of the Z55.
The camera does its best work outdoors, where it takes
very nice photos, save for some blurriness around the
edges of the frame. Indoors you'll be frustrated with
an LCD that only "gains up" in a few of the
scene modes (most of which aren't appropriate for indoor
flash shots), poor low light focusing, redeye, and
a fairly weak flash. But for a compact camera for vacation
photos the Z55 fits the bill.
The Z55 has a compact, all-metal body
that fits in your pockets with ease. It's well put-together,
though I would've liked to see a metal tripod mount
and larger buttons. The camera has a larger-than-average-sized
2.5" LCD display which is marred by so-so resolution
and poor low light viewing in most situations. Camera
performance is excellent with fast startup time and
very little lag while taking pictures. One area in
which the Z55 blows away the competition is in terms
of battery life: for whatever reason, the Z55 can last
for 3 times as long as the other cameras in this class.
With the exception of white balance
and focus, the Z55 has no manual controls, which may
be frustrating to some. But for those taking simple
snapshots, this isn't a huge deal. The camera's movie
mode is pretty outdated, as well. The Z55 doesn't offer
video output, which is a feature that I always find
handy. Finally, I must take issue with the Z55's bundle:
you get no memory card, instead relying on a puny 9.3MB
of on-board memory, and the full manual is only on
Each of the cameras have their own
advantages and disadvantages. For the EX-Z55, it's
battery life, scene modes, and a large LCD. For the
Sony DSC-T1, it's style, movie mode, and LCD size.
The Panasonic FX7 offers and image stabilizer and a
large LCD. As for the Canon, I'd say it's continuous
shooting, an AF-assist lamp, and the movie mode. All
are recommended cameras, so you need to decide what
features are most important to you, put the cameras
in your hands, and then choose which you like best!
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality (though
see issues below)
- Ultra-thin, stylish metal body
- Big LCD for a small camera (see
- Robust performance
- Tons of scene modes
- Amazing battery life
- Cool playback mode features
What I didn't care for:
- Softness around edges and corners
of photos; moderate barrel distortion
- LCD only "gains up" in
certain Best Shot modes, most of which require a
tripod; LCD resolution isn't great either
- Poor low light focusing / no AF-assist
- Can't swap memory cards while camera
is on a tripod
- No memory card included; just 9.3MB
of on-board memory
- No video out port
- Outdated movie mode
- Full camera manual only on CD-ROM
Some other ultra compact cameras worth
considering include the Canon PowerShot SD300 and S500 Digital
ELPH , Fuji
FinePix F450, Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 and G600, Nikon
Coolpix 5200, Olympus AZ-2
Zoom and Stylus
Lumix DMC-FX7, Pentax
Optio S5i, and the Sony
To save some money you can also buy
EX-Z50, which has a 2" LCD and slightly less
battery life (but it's still great).
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the EX-Z55 and its
competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in
Want another opinion?
Read another review at Steve's
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