DCRP Review: Casio Exilim EX-Z750
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The Casio Exilim EX-Z750 ($440) is an ultra compact camera with a 7.2 Megapixel CCD, 3X optical zoom lens, large 2.5" LCD display, high quality movie mode, and much more. For better or for worse the market is suddenly becoming crowded with small, high resolution cameras like this: Canon, Nikon, and Sony all have similar models. That means that the Z750 has its work cut out for it. How does it perform? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Exilim EX-Z750 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
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 Casio gives you an absurdly low amount of built-in memory on this 7 Megapixel camera -- just 8.3MB. You can fit one -- yes, one -- photo (at the highest quality setting) into that amount of space, so consider a larger memory card to be a requirement. I'd recommend a 512MB or larger Secure Digital (SD) memory card to start with. A high speed card is not necessary based on my own experiences and also because Casio doesn't mention such a requirement anywhere.
I don't know how they do it, but Casio manages to get great battery life out of their cameras. Using the included NP-40 lithium ion battery (which has just 4.6 Wh of energy) the camera can take a whopping 325 shots per charge! Compare that with 160 shots on the Canon SD500, 270 shots on the Nikon Coolpix 7900, and 370 shots on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 (nice!).
My usual complaints about proprietary batteries like the one used by the EX-Z750 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.
Front of the dock
I/O ports on the back of the dock
The camera dock is used for battery charging, transferring photos to your PC, or viewing photos on a television. While there's no option for transferring photos without the dock, Casio does sell a video out cable that connects directly to the camera for a whopping $25. [Paragraph updated 5/18/05]
To charge the battery just pop the camera into the cradle and you're set -- it takes about 3 hours to fully charge the NP-40. An external battery charger is sold separately.
The Z750 has a built-in lens cover so there is no clumsy lens cap to worry about. As you can see, this is one small camera.
The only accessories that I could locate for the Z750 include an external battery charger ($50), the aforementioned video cable ($25), and a carrying case ($20). [Paragraph updated 5/18/05]
The Z750 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.
Ulead Movie Wizard SE VCD (say that three times fast) is a Windows-only product for editing the videos produced by the Z750 and then burning them to a Video CD (VCD). Mac users are left out in the cold in this department. More on this subject later.
Casio has been imitating Olympus in the manual area in recent years. 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 (read: not great).
Look and Feel
The Exilim EX-Z750 is an ultra-compact camera made almost entirely of metal. With the exception of the usual cheap-feeling door over the battery/memory card compartment, it feels very solid. It fits well in the hand, though the positioning of the mode dial right where your thumb rests could lead to accidentally putting the camera in the wrong shooting mode. Being an ultra-thin camera the Z750 can go anywhere that you do.
Now let's take a look at how the EX-Z750 compares to the competition in terms of size and weight:
The Z750 isn't the smallest or lightest camera in the group but nobody's going to call it "bulky" or "heavy".
Enough numbers, let's start our tour of the camera now!
The EX-Z750 features an F2.8-5.1, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal range of the lens is 7.9 - 23.7 mm which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded and conversion lenses are not supported.
That little hole just above the lens (and next to the optical viewfinder) is the AF-assist lamp which is also used as a visual self-timer countdown. The AF-assist lamp helps the camera focus in low light situations.
The only other thing to see on the front of the camera is the built-in flash, located to the upper-left of the lens. This is a pretty weak flash, with a working range of 0.4 - 2.9 m at wide-angle and 0.4 - 1.6 m at telephoto. The competition from Canon, Nikon, and Sony all beat the Exilim in this department. You cannot attach an external flash to the Z750.
One of the big features (no pun intended) on the EX-Z750 is its large 2.5" LCD display. While it's big in size, it's not big in terms of resolution -- it has just 115,200 pixels. I could certainly notice the lower resolution while using the camera, but I expect that most people will not be bothered by this. In low light situations the screen doesn't gain up (or at least not very much), making it quite hard to see your subject. At least you've still got an optical viewfinder.
And speaking of which, thankfully Casio didn't take away the optical viewfinder when they added that big screen. The one here may be the smallest one I've ever seen, but hey, something is better than nothing, right? Naturally it's missing a diopter correction knob, which you'd use to focus what you're looking at.
Also above the LCD are the buttons for switching between playback and record mode. To the right of that is the mode dial, which has the following options:
As you can see, the Z750 has a ton of automatic shooting modes plus three manual modes. If you can't find a Best Shot scene for your situation then you can create your own. The anti-shake Best Shot mode is an interesting one. No, it's not an image stabilization system. Instead the camera lowers the resolution down to 1600 x 1200 and boosts the ISO as needed. The manual modes let you choose any shutter speed, but you're stuck with only two aperture choices at any point in time. At the wide end of the lens your choices are F2.8 and F4.0 and at telephoto they're F5.1 and F7.4. In-between there will be other values. Why couldn't they let you access the full range? Also, I would've preferred to have the A/S/M modes as separate items on the mode dial, but I guess you can't have everything.
Back to the tour now. Below the mode dial you'll find the Menu and Display buttons plus the four-way controller. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation, exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments), selecting manual settings, and adjusting the focus manually. It can also do the following:
Manual focus (image from the EX-P505)
As I hinted at before, the manual focus mode lets you use the four-way controller to set the focus distance. A guide showing the focus distance is shown on the LCD and the center of the frame is enlarged as well.
On top of the Z750 you'll find the power and shutter release buttons as well as the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just one second. I counted six steps throughout the 3X zoom range. I do like how the camera shows the available focus range on the LCD when you operate the zoom.
On this side of the camera you'll find the speaker as well as two buttons. The buttons are for continuous shooting mode and the EX menu.
There are three continuous modes on the EX-Z750. The first one, called normal continuous shutter mode, took just two photos in a row at 1.1 frames per second at the highest image quality setting. The camera will continue taking pictures at a slower rate after that. In addition, the LCD "blacks out" between shots which can make following a moving subject a little challenging (though at least there's the optical viewfinder). The second continuous mode, called zoom continuous, is a little bizarre. First you select an area of the frame that you want to zoom in on by using the four-way controller. You then take the picture and two images are saved: one image of the whole scene, and another "zoomed in" view of the area you selected (using digital zoom apparently). I have no idea why anyone would want this feature. Anyhow, the last continuous option is called 25-shot stop action mode, and it does just what it sounds. The camera takes 25 shots in a row at a very high rate of speed and it saves them into one 1600 x 1200 image. It's sort of like a collage.
Shortcut (EX) Menu
The EX, or shortcut menu gives you quick access to the most commonly used camera settings, including image size, white balance, ISO, and autofocus area. You can also adjust these settings in the main recording menu.
Nothing to see here!
On the bottom of the Z750 you'll find a plastic tripod mount, the dock connector, and the battery/memory card compartment. The dock connector is also where you'll plug in the optional video cable. A separate USB cable is not available -- you must use the dock for that.
As you can probably guess, you cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.
The included NP-40 battery is shown at right.
Using the Casio Exilim EX-Z750
The startup speed on the EX-Z750 is amazing -- just one second!
Focusing speeds were also very good, with typical times of 0.2 - 0.4 seconds at wide-angle, and barely longer at telephoto. Low light focusing was good thanks to the Z750's AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was not a problem, even at slower shutter speeds.
Shot-to-shot speed was also great, with a wait of around 1.5 seconds before you can take another photo, assuming that you've turned off the post-shot review feature.
Unfortunately 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-Z750:
To say that a larger memory card is needed is an understatement. Why even bother with built-in memory if you're going to include just 8.3MB?
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 EX-Z750 has a slightly different menu system than other Casio cameras I've used recently. Instead of Rec, Memory, and Setup tabs there is now Rec, Quality, and Setup. I'll combine the first two into the list below and save the setup items for later. Here are the items in the record menu:
The "free" AF area option lets you use the four-way controller to manually choose select a focus point from anywhere in the frame, save for a little border around the edges.
The manual white balance option lets you use a white or gray card so you can get perfect color even under the most unusual lighting.
|Without Flash Assist||With Flash Assist|
Flash assist is similar to the Digital Flash feature on HP cameras or D-Lighting on Nikon cameras. This will brighten up any flash pictures that may be underexposed due to the limited range of the camera's built-in flash. Do note that this option will increase noise levels a bit.
[Section updated 5/21/05]
Now here are the options found in the Setup tab of the menu:
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
Our macro test subject looks great except for one thing -- the colors are too saturated! This is going to be a recurring theme in this section of the review. If you ignore that issue you'll find that the subject is very sharp -- heck, I might even turn the in-camera sharpening down a notch here.
In macro mode you can get as close to your subject as 10 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at telephoto, which isn't spectacular. As I mentioned before, the camera shows the available focus range on the LCD when you zoom in or out.
The EX-Z750 did a great job with our night test shot. The camera took in plenty of light thanks to the manual control over shutter speed, and the buildings are all very sharp. Both noise and purple fringing levels were very low.
Now let's use that same scene and see how the noise levels increase as we raise the ISO sensitivity:
You'll still get pretty good results at ISO 100. At ISO 200 details start to get destroyed but I think the image is still very usable. The ISO 400 image is pretty messy but good noise reduction software may be able to salvage it.
Our distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the Z750's lens. While the test shows some corner softness, I didn't find this to be a major issue in my real world photos. I didn't see any real evidence of vignetting (dark corners) either.
Unfortunately redeye was a nightmare on this camera, at least in my testing. While your results will certainly vary, I would expect to deal with this annoyance at least some of the time.
Overall I'd rank the "straight of the camera" image quality as good. With a little tweaking it can be "great". The biggest problem I have with the photos are the Disneyland-like oversaturated colors. The colors are so vivid that they're totally unnatural. Thankfully this is easy to fix. Using our famous macro subject here's what happens when you turn the saturation down in the menu:
|Default saturation||-1 Saturation||-2 Saturation|
As you can see, this adjustment makes a big difference. While not perfect I would personally use the -1 setting if I owned the EX-Z750.
Something else that bugged me (but may not bother you) is that images were a little too sharp. So again (my opinion only here) I'd turn the in-camera sharpening to -1. Otherwise things look pretty good. Noise levels are mostly under control, though the indoor shot seemed worse than average in that area. Purple fringing levels are reasonable.
With that out of the way, I invite you to have a look at the photo gallery for the EX-Z750. Look over the images and print them if you'd like, and then decide if the photo quality meets your expectations! Remember, what looks good to me may not look good to you -- and vice versa!
The EX-Z750 has a top-notch movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 / 30 frames/second with stereo sound until the memory card is full. That takes just 17 seconds when you're recording to the built-in memory, so you'll want a memory card for serious video recording (a 256MB card holds about 8.5 minutes worth). Believe it or not, Casio doesn't say anything about needing a high speed memory card to use this mode, so that should save you some money.
To record longer movies you'll have to lower the movie quality. The "normal quality" mode still records at 640 x 480 / 30 fps, just at a lower quality. A "long play" mode cuts the resolution to 320 x 240 and the frame rate to 15 frames/second.
There are three other movie modes as well. Best Shot movie lets you choose one of five scenes (portrait, scenery, night scene, fireworks, backlight, silent) and the camera uses the best settings for the situation. In the Past Movie mode the camera is always saving video to its buffer memory. When you press the shutter release button, the last five seconds of buffered video is saved to the memory card. The Short Movie function is similar to the "hybrid" movie mode on the Sony DSC-M1. The camera records a total of 8 seconds of video -- up to 5 seconds before the shutter release is pressed and up to 6 seconds after. I guess this gives your movies some "context".
You cannot use the zoom lens during filming.
The EX-Z750 saves movies in the AVI format using the MPEG-4 codec. The MPEG-4 codec allows for high quality movies that take up much less disk space than other (older) codecs. This means smaller file sizes, longer movies, and no high speed memory card requirement.
Mac users take note: you cannot play these movies using QuickTime, and you cannot bring them into your favorite video editor -- at least not easily. The only thing I found that could play them was VLC. Some other ideas for viewing the movies can be found on this page.
Here's a sample movie for you:
Click to play movie (7.2 MB, 640 x 480, HQ quality, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Exilim EX-Z750 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 photo printers.
The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom up to 8X into your photo and then move around in it. Just like everything else on the Z750, this feature was nice and snappy.
One very interesting thing the Z750 can do in playback mode is adjust the white balance of an image you've already taken. While this is easy with RAW images, the camera doesn't have one! Unfortunately this feature didn't live up to its billing -- if anything it made things worse based on my experiences with it. The camera offers an image brightness adjustment (-2 to +2) in playback mode, as well.
If that's not enough, you can also rotate, crop, or resize your images right on the camera.
A nine-frame collage created using Motion Print (from the EX-P505)
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 display button and the Z750 displays exposure information and a histogram too (see above). The camera moves through photos instantly -- very nice.
How Does it Compare?
The Casio Exilim EX-Z750 is a very nice 7 Megapixel ultra-compact camera with a few annoying flaws. First, the good points. The Z750 is compact, made of metal, and is well constructed. It fits easily in your pocket and can go anywhere you do. The camera has a large 2.5" LCD display and a tiny optical viewfinder. While the screen is big, the resolution is not, and low light visibility is not very good either. Camera performance is excellent. The Z750 starts up in just one second and focusing, shutter lag, and shot-to-shot speeds are all very good. The camera's AF-assist lamp helped it focus well in low light situations. Battery life is superb compared to most other ultra-compacts.
Image quality is very good if you tweak a few settings. The biggest problem in this area is the very oversaturated colors in nearly all of my photos. Thankfully there's a workaround -- change the saturation setting in the record menu to -1. And while I'm at it, I'd also suggest reducing the sharpness to the same number, as photos were a little too sharp for my eyes. Redeye was also a big problem, as is usually the case with ultra-compact cameras. Aside from that, the news is all good: exposure was accurate, purple fringing levels were low, and noise levels were comparable to other cameras in this class.
The EX-Z750 has plenty of features to talk about as well. It has tons (and I mean tons) of scene modes that even extend to movie mode. If you want manual controls, they're all here, though I don't like the limited aperture choices. Speaking of movie mode, the Z750's is excellent. You can record high quality VGA (30 fps) video until the memory card is full. Thanks to Casio's use of the MPEG-4 codec file sizes are small and a high speed memory card is not required. The downside is that Mac compatibility isn't the best. The camera offers several movie modes and you can edit your "films" when they're done or grab frames from them.
I have a few more complaints that don't really fit anywhere else. I don't like how the camera requires you to use the (included) camera dock for transferring photos to your computer. The Z750's flash is on the weak side when compared to other cameras in its class. The continuous shooting modes leave much to be desired -- you can take just 2 shots in a row at 1.1 fps at the highest quality setting. The Z750 has an appallingly low amount of built-in memory, which is really inexcusable on a 7.2 Megapixel camera like this. And finally, I'd like my full camera manual in print, thank you!
Overall, the EX-Z750 gets my recommendation. A lot of people are trying to choose between the Z750 and the Canon SD500, and here are some things to consider. For an easy point-and-shoot camera that takes great pictures right out of the box, the SD500 is probably the best choice. If you want manual controls and the ability to tweak camera settings, choose the Z750. For low light shooting I preferred the SD500 due to its LCD that "gains up" in those conditions. The SD500 had a more powerful flash as well, though the Z750's Flash Assist feature makes up for its weaker flash. If battery life is paramount then the Z750 wins by a large margin. In terms of continuous shooting performance the SD500 wins easily, though it has no "fast shutter speed" or shutter priority mode like the Z750 does. Regardless of which of the two cameras you end up with, both are good choices. Take what you've learned in this review and the SD500 review and decide which is best for your needs.
[Conclusion updated 5/21/05]
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD500, Fuji FinePix F10, Konica Minolta DiMAGE G600, Nikon Coolpix 7600 and 7900, Olympus D-630Z, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200. There are plenty of lower resolution models worth looking at too -- visit our Reviews & Info page to find them!
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the EX-Z750 and its competitors before you buy!
Photo GallerySee how the photos turned out in our gallery!
Want another opinion?
Read another opinion over at Steve's Digicams.
Feedback & Discussion
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.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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