Boasting a similar interface to other compacts in Casio's range, and limiting the controls to the bare essentials, the Z1050 offers pain-free photography with high resolution results. It also sports a high speed shutter action, but as we'll see, there are strings attached.
- Sensor: CCD - 10.1Mp
- Image size: 3648 x 2736 pixels
- Lens: 38-114mm f/2.8-5.1 (3x zoom)
- Focus: Auto and Manual
- Macro: 10cm
- ISO range: 80-800
- Shutter speed: 1/2-1/1000sec normal, 4-1/1000sec night
- Exposure: Program AE
- Metering: Multi-pattern, centre-weighted, spot
- Monitor: 2.6in. colour TFT LCD (115k pixels)
- Movie Mode: Yes, with sound
- Storage: 15.4Mb Internal / SD/MMC
- Batteries: Lithium-ion battery (1300mAh)
- Video Output: No
- Size/Weight: 90x57x24mm - 125g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
With a headline resolution of 10Mp, but just a modest 3x optical zoom in a small compact body, Casio are pitching the Z1050 into the resolution-fixed, happy snapper market. As such it's up against the 10Mp Pentax Optio A30, though that's £60 more expensive, and the Samsung DigiMax S1050, which also has a 5x zoom but costs £20 more.
Modes and features
The EX-Z1050 has a similar look and feel to the Z1200, as far as features and controls go, where the aim is to offer a simple photographic process. At the top of the camera, this means that there's the tiny on/off button, the fire button with the zoom rocker around it, and a camera and playback button just above the LCD. Down the side of the 2.6in. LCD there are just two buttons, the joypad and a central selection button. And that's it. The two buttons are for the menu and for best shot selection, which is a strange way of saying that it's the scene mode selection. These offer portrait, scenery, portrait with scenery, children, sports, candlelight portrait, party, pets, flowers, natural greenery, leaves, soft flowing water, splashing water, sundown, night scene, night scene portrait, fireworks, food, text, collections of junk, auction shots, backlighting, anti-shake, high sensitivity, underwater, monochrome, retro, twilight, old photo and then a collection of framing options. There are a few innovative ones in there like the soft flowing water, natural greenery and backlighting shots, but it's a little odd to see anti-shake (fast shutter speed combined with Auto ISO) and high sensitivity (high ISO) put into scene modes. If a scene mode isn't selected, then the camera defaults to an automatic snapshot mode.
Even then, there is still the option to use a choice of metering modes, exposure compensation, and to set the focussing to spot, multi-region or use the hit and miss tracking focus. This is a neat idea, but in practice it loses track of things too easily.
There are a couple of ways to configure the camera to work your way. Pressing up on the joypad rotates through what information is displayed on the screen. This can also be configured in the menu system to appear as disparate icons or all together in a panel strip. One of the display options is to have a live histogram which is handy, though it can take up quite a bit of room on the screen. The other configuration is to set what happens when you press left and right on the joypad. This can be set to change the ISO rating or the exposure compensation, which is very handy and avoids a trip into the depths into the menu system.
Build and handling
The Z1050 comes in silver or a kind of girly lilac, which it has to be said, is pleasingly attractive. It adds something to the camera because the basic design is okay, but a little bland. The actual quality though is first rate, with everything seeming solid and well made. The zoom rocker is solid and gives good feedback, the joypad is a sturdy silver ring and really, the only niggle is that the on/off button is both tiny and recessed into the top. Using the menu system is easy enough, the mode scenes are quick to access because of the dedicated button.
There's a basic selection of flash options like auto and red-eye, but these are complemented by a soft flash and the ability in the menu to modify the flash output, to use as fill-flash. The range is 6m which is decent for a compact, and more than the 4m of the Z1200.
As with the Z1200, one of the first things to do with this camera is to go set up what settings are remembered once it has been turned off. Otherwise, you'll end up with the cursed Auto ISO mode. Some of the anti-shake features are more wishful thinking and advertising than reality, as it just pumps the ISO up and retains a fast shutter to avoid camera shake. At least with the Z1050 you get up to ISO800, compared to just 400 on the Z1250. The tracking focus system is again, not particularly effective, but it's hardly a surprise, while the general focussing is quite fast and accurate.
Startup time is decent at around three seconds and there is a high speed capture mode, that rattles off up to 7fps, which is phenomenal in a compact. However, before you start getting excited, it does this by knocking the resolution down to a feeble 2Mp. Still, there are circumstances whereby a fast capture is more important than a high resolution, so it's good to have it. Otherwise, it's a lamentable two captures in the 10sec test.
The LCD screen is a sizeable 2.6in. which is great, but it only contains 115k pixels, which is a little underpowered for the size. Also, it tends to render bright reds as a homogeneous mass of colour, losing detail. However, in practice, it does the job most times.
One feature that is a little lacking is the macro mode, which is rated at a disappointing 10cm. Considering compacts are perfectly designed for shooting macro pictures, this is a let down.
The chart shows a bright blue range as expected, but also reds are quite saturated as well. The mixes are generally good.
The over-saturation of the reds comes into play with this shot of a red rose. It's much too lurid, and the detail tends to disappear.
This is snapshot mode and shows up every wrinkle and hair in great detail.
In portrait scene mode, the skin tone is distinctly lighter and softer.
In dismal conditions this is a very good landscape mode shot. Plenty of detail and sharpness, except for the distance, not much noise and no fringing.
This is another macro mode shot, and while the range of 10cm means that you can't get really close to things, there is a great detail of detail in this shot.
When zooming in using the modes 3x optical zoom the quality is average, but at least fringing is well controlled.
There's some noise in the grey card area of the ISO80 test, but what is really noticeable is just how sharp and detail this shot it. It's excellent. Which makes ISO100 all the more surprising because from this point on, the image is certainly softer, undoubtedly to keeo the noise under control. Here you can see patches of purple in the grey card. At ISO200 it's more noticeable, throwing green in with the purple and being a little softer too. At ISO400 the purple noise is very evident in the grey and black areas, whereas the image is softer again. This really isn't very good though it's better than the Z1250 at ISO400. At the top ISO rating of 800 the noise suddenly becomes very sharp and intrusive, the colour of the petals shifts to a darker red though it is actually sharper than ISO400.
The ISO80 test.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The Z1050 is very similar in terms of systems to the 12Mp Z1200, but the slightly lower resolution does mean that it can get away with a higher, and more useful, ISO800 mode. It doesn't have the same PASM program modes, being aimed much more at the beginner or casual user, but it has a high build quality, works well and is easy to pick up. The image quality is fine, with lots of detail thanks to that high res CCD at 10Mp. The Z1050 is certainly less of a gadget camera, or one for those who like to tinker with photographic control. Instead it offers simplicity, excellent build quality, fine images and high resolution, if not high performance.
High, 10Mp resolution
Excellent build quality
Very easy to use
Better ISO range than the Z1200
Large LCD screen
Very detailed ISO80
Noise at ISO100 upwards
LCD screen not top class
Macro mode a disappointment
Focus tracking wanders
The Casio EXILIM-Z1050 costs around £189 and can be purchased from the ePHOTOzine shop here.