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Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 Digital Camera Review

Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 Digital Camera Review - 

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
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Just as everyone thought the megapixel race was over, Casio releases the Exilim EX-Z1000 sporting a 10 megapixel sensor. In this review, Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at whether having all those extra pixels really does lead to better quality pictures.

Casio Exilim EX-Z1000Specifications
  • 10.1 megapixels
  • 1/1.8 inch square pixel primary colour CCD
  • Card slot for SD / MMC
  • Maximum aperture f/2.8(wide) to f/5.4 (telephoto)
  • 3x optical zoom, equivalent to approx. 38 to 114mm in 35mm format
  • 6cm Macro
  • Maximum sensitivity ISO400 or ISO3200 with High Sensitivity Best Shot mode
  • 230,400 pixel widescreen 2.8inch digital TFT colour LCD
  • Rechargable lithium-ion battery
  • RRP £379.99
Build and handling
Made almost entirely of metal, the EX-Z1000 feels like a quality camera. The metal casing is finished with a pearl-like lustre, which unfortunately scratches easily. Size-wise, the EX-Z1000 is about average for a camera of this specification, leaving just enough space on the back to rest your thumb. I would have liked a small fingergrip to have been included on the front, as this would help provide a secure grip.

Casio Exilim EX-Z1000Display screen
The 2.8inch widescreen display that dominates the rear of the camera is bright and clear, although it is not the sharpest screen I've seen. The extra width is filled with either black space or menu functions when shooting with the standard 4:3 aspect ratio, which seems wasteful to me. The area used is the same as what you would get on a 2.5inch LCD screen.

Autofocus
Four basic focusing options can be accessed through the menu. These are, autofocus, manual focus, infinity and macro. In the autofocus mode, a point in the centre of the frame is highlighted by square brackets. If you wish to compose something off-centre, then you must focus and recompose, which is not ideal for moving subjects.

Battery
A lithium-ion rechargeable battery provides power for the EX-Z1000, giving over 300 shots off a full charge. There is no optical viewfinder on this camera, so the screen cannot be disabled whilst shooting to save the battery.

Memory card
The EX-Z1000 takes SD cards which fit into a slot beside the battery. The following are write speeds for different Jpeg quality settings when using a Sandisk Extreme III card.

Quality setting Time taken to write to card
10 megapixel Jpeg Fine 2.6secs
10 megapixel Jpeg Normal 2.6secs
10 megapixel Jpeg Economy 2.2secs

I also timed the delay between shots with this camera in the single shot mode.

Quality setting Shot-to-shot delay
10 megapixel Jpeg Fine 2.80secs
10 megapixel Jpeg Normal 2.66secs
10 megapixel Jpeg Economy 2.24secs

Shot-to-shot times are kept to a minimum, thanks a decent-sized buffer in the EX-Z1000. After the shot is written to the card, the camera takes a small amount of time to gather itself before allowing you to take another shot. The extra delay is so short that it's almost unnoticable.

Casio Exilim EX-Z1000Menu and controls
The control layout follows the tried & tested design of many previous Exilim cameras. The zoom control is located on a bezel around the shutter and buttons to switch between playback and shooting modes are located on the top above the screen. It is possible to operate most of the functions with one hand, with major controls ideally placed for easy operation.
Two buttons on the back provide access to either the standard shooting menu, or the selection of BestShot preset scene modes, which have been a feature of Casio cameras for some time now. To use the BestShot modes, simply select the preset that best describes the shooting conditions from the list of 33 possible choices. For example, if you were taking a holiday snap of some scenery and wanted someone in the frame, you may choose the 'Portrait with scenery' mode and this would set the exposure accordingly.

Zoom lens

The 3x zoom lens ranges from a not very wide equivalent of 38mm to a moderate telephoto 114mm. I find the lack of width frustrating, especially when photogrpahing buildings, or shooting in confined spaces.

Macro mode
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
The macro mode allows you to focus 6cm from your subject, which isnt the closest macro mode around, but is adequate for most people's needs.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
A 100% crop of the the shot to the left which shows the level of detail captured.

Image quality
There are three different image quality levels on this camera - Fine, Normal and Economy. All images in this review were taken on Fine and at maximum resolution so that I could see what the camera is capable of producing using the typical settings.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
Images display a realistic level of colour saturation.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
Flash exposure is accurate, providing even illumination from about one metre from your subject.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
The meter has coped well with this difficult scene keeping plenty of shadow detail.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
A slight warm tone is left by the auto white-balance, even under these drab overcast conditions, which can be quite pleasing for portraits.

Detail
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
This busy scene was taken using a tripod to determine the level of detail this camera can produce.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
A 100% crop of the image to the left shows that the camera reproduces reasonable amount of detail.

Compared to...
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
Samsung GX-1S set at ISO200 using Schneider D-Xenon lens set at 18mm, f/16 and six megapixels
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
Nikon Cooolpix L2, taken using the automatic mode at six megapixels

I have chosen two cameras to compare to the EX-Z1000, both have a maximum resolution of six megapixels. The Samsung GX-1S is an entry-level digital SLR (reviewed here) and the Nikon Coolpix L2 is a budget compact digital camera.
Although the image produced by the Casio is larger than those of the other two cameras due to the extra pixels, it is not as sharp or any more detailed than the others. Some of the fine detail appears to have been smudged out, either by in-camera noise reduction, or by a lack of lens resolution, which gives the image a slightly plasticcy look at 100%. There are also quite prominent sharpening artifacts (which can be seen where the building meets the sky), which detract further from the overall quality of the image.

Noise
The following images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting.
The image to the right is the full image. The crops below are taken from where the green square is.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
ISO50
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
ISO100
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
ISO200
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000
ISO400

Squeezing so many pixels into such a small sensor means that each pixel has less surface area to react to light than a camera with fewer pixels does, this can lead to increased noise levels. Images taken at ISO50 are virtually noiseless as you would expect, as you increase the sensitivity the levels increase quite rapidly. At ISO100 noise is still fairly well controlled with only a few speckles visible at 100%, by ISO200 brightly coloured noise is clearly visible and at ISO400 this noise is even visible in small prints. When the camera is set to Auto ISO, it tends to choose a higher ISO than you may actually need, which introduces noise that isn't neccesary.

Verdict
Ergonomically, the EX-Z1000 is a great camera. The controls are well laid-out plus the camera is quick and responsive.

Unfortunately I am less impressed with the images produced by this camera, especially as the 10 megapixel resolution is one of the major selling points of this camera. Noise at high sensitivities and sharpening artefacts detract from what should be a fantastic camera on paper.

In summary the positive points of the Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 are:
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000Controls are very well-placed and easy to use.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000Responsive

The negative points:
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000Noise at high ISOs
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000Sharpening artefacts

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Photographs taken using the Casio Exilim EX-Z1000

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