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Casio Exilim EX-Z100 and EX-Z200

10-megapixel cameras with 4X zoom
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Casio introduced the Exilim EX-Z100 and Z200 to the US market in January of 2008. It's a pair of ultra-compact 10-megapixel cameras that come in a variety of colors. We're describing them both in the same review since the sole difference between the two of them is that the Z200 includes active CCD anti shake. Why does Casio introduce yet a couple of new 10 megapixel cameras when the 10 megapixel EX-Z1080 is still available? Because of a variety of new features and a new 4X optical zoom.

A new design

The EX-Z100/200 is a new design, but closely follows Casio style themes. With a footprint of 3.66 x 2.16 inches the camera is smaller than it looks in the pictures above. The metallic body is attractive and stylish. It's a fairly slender box that mixes rounded corners and creased edges. Four colors are available for the Z100: blue, maroon, pink and siler. The Z-200 is available in three: black, red and a darker silver. The controls clean and minimal. There is a round movie record button with a red dot on it on the upper right. Just push it to start recording. This goes with Casio's emphasis on advanced video features in its cameras. A slender zoom ring surrounds the fairly large shutter on top of the camera. There is a round 4-way navigation ring with a "set" button in the center. Red and green record and playback buttons are above it, "Menu" and "Best Shot" buttons below. Almost everything else is done via clean onscreen menus.

I should say upfront that it is not entirely clear why Casio chose to make this two separate models. There is only a U$20 price difference, with the EX-Z100 listing for US$279 and the EX-Z200 for US$299. True, the digital camera market has become very price sensitive, but it's hard to see how the extra cost of having two different models with a total of seven different colors (four for the EX-Z100 and three for the EX-Z200) and a very slightly different body (the EX-Z200 is a small fraction of an inch thicker to accommodate the CCD shift mechanism) would be more cost-effetive than simply ship this model with the very desirable CCD shit image stabilization standard. Casio probably has its reasons, and who are we to argue with two new cameras instead of one?

What you get with the EX-Z100/200

That would be an attractive, stylish and very compact 10-megapixel camera with an excellent, high-resolution 2.7-inch LCD display. It is a wide-area format, so if you shoot, for example, video in the camera's 848 x 480 pixel video format or the 3648 x 2048 pixel 16:9 still image format, you can see the results in the same aspect ratio, just the way they display on a wide-format TV.

And, as a first in Casio's Zoom series of cameras, you get a 4X optical zoom instead of the usual 3X. While that may not sound like much of a difference, it actually is. The common 3X zoom usually covers 36-108mm in 35 mm film parlance. This camera's zoom is 28-112, so you can go from a substantially wider viewing angle than a standard lens to the common magnification of a 3X lens. This means you can't get any closer than with a 3X lens, but a lot more fits into the bottom end of the lens, which is great for indoors pictures, family shots and so on. Outdoors, you can get full panoramas. In short, the 4X zoom of this camera adds flexibility.

The EX-Z100/200 also has a special Auto Best Shot mode that's different from what is usually called "Best Shot" (i.e. shooting the same picture with bracketing exposures and then pick ther best one). Here, the Auto Best Shot actually analyzes a scene and then picks the appropriate shooting mode from the Scenes menu. At this point, the technology can pick scene modes for people, scenery, night scenes, night scenes with people, close-ups, and moving subjects. The camera actually has 39 scene modes and future models may be able to properly select most of them.

Like the rest of the newly introduced Exilims, the EX-Z100/200 has "Auto Shutter" functions where the camera helps taking the best possible picture. The Auto Shutter can, for exmple, detect blur. The camera will then wait until there is no more camera shake or the subject has stopped moving before it takes the picture. Auto Shutter can also be used to take a sharp picture while panning. If you follow a car racing by with the camera, the camera will pick try to shoot the best possible picture without blur. Another use is "smile detection" in portraits. Here the camera can actually recognize a smile and then shoot the picture automatically.

Face detection is a must-have feature these days, and the EX-Z100/200 has it. The camera uses advanced recognition algorithms to identify and properly expose up to ten faces in a picture.

In the video department you can shoot wide-format 848 x 480 movies at a full 30 frames per second. Unlike the also new EX-S1 and EX-Z80 that use the AAC audio codec widely used in Apple products, the Z100/200 records movie audio with IMA-ADPCM encoding. The video format/compression used is MPEG-4 H.264. This reduces MPEG-4 file sizes more without any perceptible image degradation to the eye and means you can record longer videos while you still essentially get MPEG-4 video quality.

As for anti-blur/image stabilization technologies, both models come with Casio's Anti-Shake DSP (Digital Signal Processing). This is digital anti-blur, i.e. the cameras will decrease exposure time and increase sensitivity to make up for it. The EX-Z200 has, in addition, optical or "active" anti-blur technology. A CCD-Shift Stablizer compensates for camera movements and can thus reduce blur. We've in the past tested otherwise identical cameras where one had optical image stabilization and the other did not. Zoom and low-light pictures were markedly better with optical stabilization.

Bottomline

If you want a compact 10 megapixel camera from Casio you now have two more choices than before. If cost is the sole issue, Casio's still available EX-Z1080 remains a good buy with a list price of US$249 and most of the same features. However, the new models add something of value, and that is the 4X zoom that allows wide angle photography. That alone is worth the EX-Z100's US$30 price premium. Add another US$20 and you get the US$299 EX-Z200's CCD-Shift image stabilization.

We like:

  • 28-112mm 4X optical zoom allows wide angle photography
  • Very small and light
  • Auto Shutter functions reduce blur
  • 39 different scene modes
  • CCD-Shift image stabilization in the EX-Z200
  • Fun movies modes and H.264 recording
  • 848 x 480 movies at 30 frames per second
Not so much:
  • We'd prefer the AAC movie audio encoding like the other new Exilims have
Specifications CASIO EX-Z100/Z200
Status Added 01/2008
Camera Type Ultra-compact
Size 3.66 x 2.16 x 0.83/0.89
Weight (oz.) 3.9/4.2 w/o battery and SD Card
Effective Pixels 10.1 mp
CCD Type 1/2.3
Max pixel size 3648 x 2738
File formats Stills: JPEG (Exif 2.2); movies: MOV format, H.264/AVC, IMA-ADPCM (mono) audio: WAV (mono)
Compression fine, normal, economy
Movie recording (best) til full, with audio @ 30 fps
Max movie pixels 848 x 480
Voice recording Yes + 30 second audio snaps
Lens 7 lenses, 6 groups
Focal length 4.9-19.6mm (28-112mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 4X/4X
Aperture f/2.6 - f/5.8
Focus modes Auto, manual, macro, pan, infinity
Focus minimum/macro 4 inches, 1.3 feet
Shutter speed unknown
Sensitivity (ISO) unknown
Autofocus system contrast detection type: spot/multi/tracking
Metering multi-pattern, center-weight and spot by imaging element
Anti-shake Anti shake DSP (digital), CCD shift (EX-Z200 only)
White-balance modes auto, daylight, overcast, shade, day white FL, daylight FL, tungsten, manual
Shooting modes auto, 39 scenes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type none
LCD size 2.7" LCD (230k) (960x240)
LCD type "super clear LCD"
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in
Flash range unknown
Flash modes 5 (auto, on, off, soft, red-eye reduction)
Camera internal memory unknown
Storage Medium SD/MMC
I/O USB via cable
Battery type NP40 Li-Ion (3.7V, 1300mAH)
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) unknown
"Estimated Price" US$279.99/299.99
Contact www.casio.com

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