DCRP Review: Casio Exilim EX-Z850
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The Casio Exilim EX-Z850 ($399) is an update to their popular EX-Z750 model (see our review) that was introduced back in 2005. New features on the Z850 include an 8.1 Megapixel CCD, a "Rapid Flash" feature, more manual controls, improved battery life, and more. Some features that haven't changed include a 3X optical zoom lens, 2.5" LCD display, manual controls, AF-assist lamp, and a VGA movie mode.
There are a ton of high resolution compact cameras like the Z850 on the market today. To find out how it compares just continue reading!
What's in the Box?
The Exilim EX-Z850 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:
Last year Casio started building memory into their cameras instead of including a memory card in the box. On the EX-Z850 they include a ridiculous 8MB of memory, which holds just one shot at the highest quality setting. I probably don't have to say this, but you'll want to buy a memory card right away, which drives up the initial price of the camera a bit. The Z850 uses Secure Digital memory cards, and I'd suggest 512MB or 1GB as a good starter size. Since camera performance (especially in continuous shooting mode) improves when using a high speed memory card, I'd recommend spending a little extra to get one.
The EX-Z850 uses the same NP-40 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. Casio's engineers have a knack for getting the most battery life out of their cameras, and they've managed to squeeze 35% more life out of the NP-40 on the Z850 than on the Z750. Here are the battery life numbers for the EX-Z850 and the competition:
As you can see, the Z850 turns in the best battery life numbers in the ultra-compact class.
As with all ultra-compact cameras, the NP-40 battery is expensive ($45), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when it runs out of juice.
When it's time to charge the camera's battery, transfer photos to your Mac or PC, or view pictures on a television then you'll need to pull out the included camera dock. In fact, the dock is the only way to transfer photos off of the camera without using a card reader. To get around the dock requirement for battery charging and video out, you'll have to buy the external charger and special video cable (EMC-3A, $25), respectively.
Speaking of USB, the dock supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.
Back to batteries for a second: when the camera is in the dock it takes about three hours for the NP-40 to be fully charged.
As is the case with all ultra-compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the EX-Z850, so there's no lens cap to worry about.
There aren't too many accessories available for the Z850. I've already mentioned the two most useful: the external battery charger and special video cable. Otherwise it's just camera cases and neck straps.
Photo Loader for Windows
Casio's software bundle leaves much to be desired. Photo Loader is what you'll use to get photos off the camera, and it's not user friendly to say the least. Once photos are transferred to the computer you view them in a web interface like this:
Browsing thumbnails generated by Photo Loader
About the only thing you can do here is start a slideshow or send photos to your printer. You can view photos as you can see above, or with EXIF data.
Mac users get an ancient version of Photo Loader that's not Mac OS X native. I'd skip it entirely and just use iPhoto instead.
Photohands (WIndows only) lets you do basic editing of your photos. You can adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness, reduce noise, resize and rotate, and print your photos.
The final piece of software included with the EX-Z850 is Ulead Movie Wizard VCD SE. This software, which is Windows only, lets you put together videos, add a few effects, and then export the finished product to either a MPEG movie file or a Video CD.
I am not a big fan of what Casio does with their manuals. Inside the box you'll find a very thin manual covering the basics. If you want more details (and you will) then you'll need to stick a CD-ROM into your computer and view it there. The quality of the manuals themselves is just average.
Look and Feel
The Exilim EX-Z850 looks more or less the same as its predecessor, the EX-Z750. It's a compact camera made mostly of metal, and it feels very solid for the most part. The usual exceptions to that include the plastic door over the battery/memory card compartment and the plastic tripod mount. The camera is easy to hold and operate, though some useful buttons are hidden on the side of the camera.
Here's a look at how the Exilim EX-Z850 compares to other ultra-compacts in terms of size and weight: