There's always a market for lightweight compacts that can fit into any pocket and yet are capable of delivering results in a variety of conditions. The ZS5 and ZS10 aim to fit that niche, both cameras offering a compact beginner orientated approach, with the ZS10 offering the more compact body, and improved 720p video.
The ZS10 features almost identical specifications, but features a more stylish, thin body, a slight increase in price, and 720p video, with a thinner battery, although thankfully not at the expense of battery life.
Casio Exilim ZS10 Front - click to enlarge
Casio Exilim ZS10 Top - click to enlarge
Casio Exilim ZS10 Back - click to enlarge
Casio Exilim ZS10 Battery - click to enlarge
Casio Exilim EX-ZS5 ZS10: Features
The aim of a camera like the ZS5 is to do a little bit of everything so that most circumstances can be catered for. The question is whether it can do enough of everything to deliver a satisfying user experience. The headline features are a whopping 14Mp resolution, a 26mm wide angle view and a 5x optical zoom giving a reach of 130mm in 35mm terms. The pyrotechnics of the high speed new Exilim engine have passed this model by so there are few surprises in store. There are no program modes as such, just an Auto mode and a variety of scene modes. Even the clever Premium Auto of other Casios is absent.
What is very welcome is the provision of an ISO64 mode and also the Slow Water scene mode which makes use of it and the maximum aperture setting. It won’t do you much good in bright daylight, but get out of the sun and here’s a compact that can capture creamy waterfall and water type shots. There are other nice extras like dynamic lighting adjustments to brighten shadows, being able to assign a function to the left-right joypad control and even a widescreen version for the movie mode, although it isn’t HD on the ZS5.
5x optical zoom
26mm wide angle lens
14 megapixel resolution
Best shot scene modes
ISO64 - 1600
Widescreen movie - 864x480 ZS5, 720p ZS10
700mAh battery ZS5, slimmer 600mAh ZS10
Casio Exilim EX-ZS5 ZS10: Handling
With black matte plastic (other colours are available) and plastic chrome touches the ZS5 isn’t top quality, and suffers in direct comparison to the ZS10, but it doesn’t feel cheap, just lightweight. The zoom rocker is easy to use and has firm feedback while the buttons on the back may be almost flush but are easy to operate. The controls consist of an on/off button and fire/zoom on the top. The recording modes are accessed by going into the menu system on the back. This overlays onto the live image unless you go into the setup menu where it takes over the entire screen. The choice is either a general Auto mode or a choice of 22 scene modes. The ZS5 and ZS10 can also capture audio as well, and if this is directly to the built in 14Mb built in memory, then there’s over 40 minutes of it available. The scene modes are all very standard, from portraits to landscapes, backlit subjects and low light subjects. The Slow Water mode stands out and is a very attractive feature to have on the camera. Movie capture has it’s own dedicated button, and this can be a standard 640 x 480 resolution or a widescreen version which is extended out to 848 pixels wide on the ZS5, and 1280x720p on the ZS10. The menus and controls are all easy to use.
Casio Exilim EX-ZS5 ZS10: Performance
Turning on and ready to shoot time is a typical 4 seconds while focussing it’s either hit or miss in under two seconds. If the contrast detection focus can’t get a lock then it doesn’t bother hunting around. Shutter lag is also minimal so there are no real delays to getting the camera out and grabbing a shot. Also in terms of speed, there’s a continuous shooting mode that delivers 5 shots in 10 seconds, but does so evenly so you can expect 0.5fps. There’s a built-in flash but it isn’t very powerful, rated to reach only 2.86m, though that should be enough for group shots. There are red eye, auto and forced on modes and the entire thing takes up to five seconds to recycle the charge. It is effective in bright, backlit conditions though.
Metering is generally quite good, though as with all compacts, it’s designed to expose the landscape rather than the sky. For dark objects it can mean that they get slightly overexposed though lighter ones will have no real problems. Shooting with the sun shows no dynamic range problems, while shooting into the bright area of the sky almost always loses the highlight areas. Shooting into the sun will produce dark foregrounds and lose the sky anyway so really it’s not worth doing. The camera uses a zonal metering system most of the time but switches to a centre-weighted system with certain scene modes. There’s no user control over it but you can lock the exposure compensation to the left-right joypad control if you like and this makes adjusting the exposure very easy. Personally, I found assigning the ISO range to these buttons to be more useful.
Shooting in the sun, ISO100, 1/250, f/9.6, 8mm (35mm equiv: 47mm)
In terms of image quality it’s reasonable with no great drop off towards the edges. There’s not much distortion at the wide angle and only a little bending at the end of the telephoto. However, once there, there’s not a lot of fine detail. Chromatic aberration is well controlled, you’ll really have to shoot through trees into a white sky to get it. On normal blue skies with buildings, there’s no fringing at all. Colour rendition is vivid as a default so landscapes look well saturated, people look healthy and skin tones are soft and flush. Red flowers can be a bit overdone and in harsh conditions you’ll see greenery get a bit over-saturated but for a compact, it’s generally good news throughout.
Red flower, ISO100, 1/500, f/2.8, 5mm (35mm equiv: 26mm)
A quick word about the macro mode now – at 5cm closest distance, it’s not exactly ground breaking and in practice is wasn’t that easy to get the camera to focus on something that close, but for flower shots it’s reasonably effective and some good results are possible with the ZS5. With the ZS10, the macro focusing distance is 10cm which is not as good as the ZS5.
The big surprise was the inclusion of an ISO64 mode and at this there’s no noise present at all with images being very smooth. There’s not really any at ISO100, just the odd artefact in the shadows. However it starts to appear at ISO200 in the shadows though won’t be noticeable unless the image is blown up. At ISO400, there’s noise in the shadows and now in mid-tones areas as well but it isn’t too problematic, it just makes some of the edges rougher. At ISO800 the suppression system kicks in with noticeable effect so that there is no more noise than at ISO400, except in the shadows, because it’s being smoothed out. It makes the image decidedly softer. At ISO1600 it’s all over the background and shadow areas, losing the fine detail but in bright areas it’s still under control and it’s perhaps surprising that there wasn’t a further ISO3200 mode. Either way, this is still a decent result. The results from the ZS10 appear slightly softer overall, but with similar noise levels.
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting, ISO100, 1/13, f/3.4, 8mm (35mm equiv: 47mm)
Shown above, the ZS5 results, below ZS10 white balance performance:
ZS10 AWB - Tungsten
ZS10 Tungsten Preset
ZS10 AWB - Fluorescent
ZS10 Fluorescent Preset
The ZS5 and ZS10 both performed similarly under tungsten lighting, however under fluorescent lighting, the ZS5 produced images with a slight magenta cast. The ZS10 produced images with a yellow cast on auto white balance under fluorescent lighting, and using the preset improved results.
The other specialist area is video which has a widescreen mode on the ZS5, and 720p HD on the ZS10. The quality here though isn’t great and it really suffers if you use the zoom, picking up all the handling noises as well. One for party scenes only.
Value For Money
With street prices around £80 - £99 with just £20 between the two models, it could make sense to go for the more compact model with improved video recorded. Competitors include the pocket-sized alternatives the Nikon CoolPix S3100, the Canon Powershot A3200 IS, Samsung ST95, Panasonic Lumix S3, and FS16. Certainly, the ZS5 does do a bit of everything and is a very easy camera to get on with, but with modest build quality and performance you’ll want to pick it up for nearer £80, or go for the more attractively styled ZS10.
Casio Exilim EX-ZS5 ZS10: Verdict
If you are in the market for an entry level camera that offers a big resolution, a wide angle lens, a respectable zoom and macro function and a set of easy to use controls then the ZS5 or ZS10 is the camera for you. Providing you can get it at the right price. The ZS10 with more compact body, improved video quality, and more attractive colours and styling appears to be the better choice, however, if you just want a compact budget camera, then the ZS5 would do the job.
Casio Exilim EX-ZS5 ZS10: Pros
Wide angle lens
Easy to use
Lightweight and portable
Compact body and 720p in ZS10
14 megapixel resolution
Casio Exilim EX-ZS5 ZS10: Cons
Nothing really outstanding
Telephoto image quality not great
10cm macro on ZS10