The Casio Exilim EX-Z100 is a happy snappers camera with some scope for creativity. It features a 4x optical zoom, family first face recognition and one of the loudest zooms I've ever heard.
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Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Specification
- Zoom: 4x optical (28-114mm)
- Resolution: 10.1Mp
- Sensor type: CCD
- Sensor size: 1/2.3in
- Image size: 3648 x 2736
- Format: JPEG
- Focusing: Multi, spot, tracking
- Macro: 15cm
- Metering: Multi-pattern, centre-weighted, spot
- Aperture: f/2.6-5.8
- Sensitivity: ISO50-1600
- Screen size: 2.7in
- Storage: SD/SDHC, 12Mb internal
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Weight: 111g
- Size: 93x55x21.2mm
The Olympus Mju 1010 offers the same resolution, a larger 7x optical zoom and the same size screen for £169.
Alternatively, the Panasonic FS5 at £161 has the same resolution and zoom but is just pipped at the post with a wide angle being 2mm less than Casio.
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Modes and features
The last small compact that I reviewed from Casio was the EX-S10 and I was so impressed with it that it remains as one of my favourite point and shooters available today.
The main problem with releasing cameras such as the S10 and the flagship F1 is that a marker has been set that people instinctively expect to be matched.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z100 sits lower down on the price bracket to the S10 meaning I have to take that into consideration.
The sides of the camera flow smoothly round to join the back in an arc while the top and bottom have sharp corners to give definition showing a pleasant mismatch of design. The small lens sits in larger silver rings giving the impression that it's bigger than it actually is.
A discreet flash and AF emitter sit at opposing top corners of the lens barrel to keep it company from an otherwise barren front.
The top is equally as bare with only the power button, shutter release and zoom switch occupying the far right area. This leaves plenty of space to hold the camera with on the left side as that's a normal place to lay the index finger when shooting.
The back is overpowered by the large 2.7in LCD screen but the rest of the camera has kept to Casio's compact layout formula. The top right has a small button with a red dot in the centre and this is for accessing the video function. In fact because Casio are so keen for you to film your favourite moments and upload them to YouTube using the specialised feature that the button will start recording video from pressing the button.
The Green triangle is for playing back images and the red camera for taking them. Interestingly when you're in playback, to come out of the mode and go back to shooting, you can't simply hit the shutter release as Casio have removed that possibility. The red camera button must be pressed which can be confusing at first.
Even Nikon have changed their menu system so that pressing the shutter button takes you out of it and because of that I'm surprised that Casio are continuing the trend.
Powering the camera up and I've not heard a motor this loud since the Ricoh R7 came out. It sounds like an old film compact from about 15 years ago and I'm really surprised and saddened that Casio have built this motor into the camera.
The menu system is the same as all Casio cameras that are out on the shelves today with the readily accessible quick menu down the right side of the screen. This menu can be opened up by either pressing the set button in the centre of the navigation pad or by pressing down which will take you to the flash functions.
Features found in the EX-S10 are present such as face detection with family first, smile, pan and anti-blur auto triggers. The smile detection works by locating smiles within a photograph and focusing on them while the pan will help when photographing moving objects such as cars. It works by waiting until the subject is sharp in the shot before it takes a photograph. To enable it, you press the shutter down and the camera will wait for the right moment. The blur works in the same way and is useful for macro shots at full magnification where camera shake is more evident.
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Build and handling
Apart from the dismal decision to use a primitive motor that should come with a complimentary pair of earplugs, the camera is well made with buttons in the right places. The screen is bright and can be viewed from acute angles. It also suffers minimal motion blur and those purple stripes which can appear when a light or window come into the frame are at a minimum.
One design flaw I came across was when I tried to download some images from the internal memory. I plugged the lead into the camera and sat it onto my desk where it promptly fell over. I jiggled the wire to straighten it out and that solved the problem but the initial fall could scratch the front of your camera. It's only when the wire is bent that it happens otherwise you'll have no trouble however, it wouldn't happen at all if the USB port was higher.
The camera has a flash range of 0.2 to 3.3m at wide-angle and 0.5 to 1.5m at telephoto which is pretty good at the bottom but not so hot on the top end.
The Z100 is as easy to use as all the Casio compacts which means that a monkey could do it. The quick access menu is easy to see with small explanations of all features under them. The main menu is less easy but does have access to more core features of the camera. I'm pleasantly surprised to see some of the features that are on the Z100 such as exposure compensation, manual focusing and dynamic range adjustment.
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Performance
Consistent results for the shutter lag test came in at around 0.08sec which is the standard rate for compacts these days so it's not under performing.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z100 has two types of continuous shooting that go by the names of standard and hi-speed. The standard mode took a total of seven images in the ten second test which is a speed of 0.7fps (frames per second). The hi-speed mode managed 34 images in the ten second time limit which is a speed of 3.4fps. This corresponds well with what Casio have reported in the specification of the camera on their website which is a maximum of four fps.
A really nicely balanced image has been produced in the portrait mode with good detail coming out in the shadow areas and a nice skin tone reproduction.
The portrait image.
The portrait with flash.
The flash has illuminated softly with no harsh overpowering burn outs and the catch lights add life to the eyes.
Nice reproduction of colours with boosted primaries, balanced mono tones and a rich skin tone.
The colour test chart image shows boosted primaries and balanced mono tones. I like the skin tone square as it looks a healthy colour and although the earthy colours are rich, they're not overpowering.
Testing the macro feature isn't easy as the closest focusing distance the EX-Z100 will get into is a pathetic 15cm. The image simply isn't big enough in the frame to be classed as a macro shot. Because of the focusing performance, I had to recompose to make the shot look interesting as I think this is something you'd have to do if you were using the feature.
A problem then arises of the subject moving in and out of focus as you recompose or, as in my shot, the subject moves due to the wind. I had to select the tracking focus feature in the main menu and the camera would move with the subject it was locked on and even tell you if it was out of focus from your original lock.
The macro image had to use the tracking focus mode to cope with this subject swinging in the wind.
A nice enough result despite a bizarre aperture setting. Minimal fringing and decent detail.
I'm happy with the landscape mode. The bars are sharp although this is a surprise as I focused on the balance beam behind it. There's hardly any fringing on the edges of the bars which is a great result. EXIF data tells me that the aperture was set to f/2.6 which is completely the opposite side of the spectrum to what a typical landscape would be shot at.
If you prefer richer colours in your landscapes, the Casio Exilim EX-Z100 has what it calls a Natural Green mode which boosts the greens in an image to give them a richer tone. It works nicely but I could see it being quite overpowering in the wrong image so don't replace it as your landscape mode.
Normal green gives a reasonably balanced grass and bushes amking you think everything is as it should be.
The natural green changes the white balance from auto to daylight but some extra colour has also been added.
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Focusing and metering
For a compact, the Casio Exilim EX-Z100 has a surprising amount of focusing methods. In the quick menu on the screen, you can choose from not only face detection, but also smile, pan and blur detection.
Face detection can triangulate the position of a face even when off centre.
The face detection will choose up to nine faces in a shot and focus on them to get the best shot. However, you can override this by using the Family First feature. This advanced face detection mode allows you to take a shot of your family which the camera will then save to memory. When in Family First mode the camera will search out the faces in its memory. You can even name the images and give them a star rating of priority in the shot. That way the camera will focus on your kids before your friends, for example.
On top of these focusing functions, the EX-Z100 also has macro for close ups, pan focus to track a moving subject such as a car, infinity for landscapes and manual focus mode to take control yourself. These modes are found in the Rec area of the main menu where you can also select the area AF mode. This is simialr to the metering modes and you can choose where how the camera will focus. Multi focusing uses nine points in the frame to work out what the correct subject is and will lock onto it. Spot focusing will only focus on the dead centre of the frame regardless of what's there and tracking focus will lock onto the subject and follow it if it moves.
As part of Casio's attempt to endear younger people to the products, you can change the shape of the focus square to a more silly star, heart or even a gingerbread man.
In comparison to the many focusing modes, the Casio Exilim EX-Z100 has only three metering modes. Centre-weighted mode takes a general reading from the whole area of the frame and makes an exposure from that. This is the most commonly used method for general picture taking but it can be fooled by bright lights, open doors or windows. The multi mode will analyse the image in sections and work out a balanced exposure from that information. In contrast, spot metering takes a reading from the very centre of the frame ignoring everything else around it.
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Noise test
It's unfortunate to say that noise is starting to seep through at ISO100 which is pretty poor. However, this is at full size enlargement and looking on a normal sized print, it shouldn't become a problem until you start using ISO400. This is still pretty dire and if you like taking pictures in the dark without a flash, you'd better set it to ISO50 and buy a tripod.
The noise simply gets worse and ISO800 hasn't got any detail in the petals while ISO1600 is just a snowy rendition of the flower and grey card.
The ISO50 test.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Verdict
So what has this camera got going for it? It has some great focusing modes and loads of "do it for you" modes. It also has the quick video button for capturing those candid moments of your friends falling over. You can then torment them using the quick upload to YouTube feature.
Against it has to be the loudest lens motor in recent history and terrible noise which starts at a low ISO setting.
I think this camera could make someone very happy as long as they aren't interested in night time shots and don't mind the noise of the motor. It could be good as a first compact or for a younger family member getting to grips with a camera.
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Plus points
Good focusing features
Defined buttons for video, camera and playback
Lots of features to keep you busy
Casio Exilim EX-Z100: Minus points
Noise at low ISO
Closes the lens after ten seconds of playback
The Casio Exilim EX-Z100 costs around £163 and is available form the ePHOTOzine shop here.