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Casio Exilim EX-Z80

Smaller, lighter, more powerful
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

In January of 2008, Casio introduced the Exilim EX-Z80. It's a small 8-megapixel ultra compact with a list price of US$199. As one of three new members of Casio's "Zoom" family, the EX-Z80 replaces the 7.2 megapixel Exilim EX-Z77 which we reviewed last summer (see review of the Casio Exilim EX-Z77). In its press release, Casio says that the new models, "while naturally offering significant enhancements in function and performance, focus on style with a new body shape that keeps height to a minimum and exudes a sense of premium design quality.

Subtle changes

On the surface, the new EX-Z80 model doesn't look much different from its predecessors. For several years now, Casio digital cameras have been stylish and slender with just some minor tweaking and variations in design. Buttons and controls move around a bit from year to year, but not much. There's not that much you can do when you have an inherently attractive and functional design that works and a LCD display that takes up much of the backside of the camera. So attention has been on details and new features.

However, in this case, something has changed. The EX-Z80 is even smaller than the already very small Z77 was. Casio mentioned the "new body shape that keeps height to a minimum," and with a footprint of just 3.53 x 2.0 inches, you could hide the new Z80 behind its predecessor, or even a credit card. With a thickness of three quarters of an inch it's also a bit thinner (though nowhere near as thin as Casio's "Card" cameras) and its overall volume is down by 22% compared to the 7.2 megapixel EX-Z77. It weighs less, too -- 3.5 ounces bare, and a bit over four ounces with battery and card. That's very small and light.

The metallic body is quite attractive and stylish. It's a slender box with rounded corners and edges. The back and front are color -- six are available: pale pink, vivid pink, green, blue, silver and the black shown above -- separated by a silver band that goes all the way around the camera.

The controls have changed a bit. There is now 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. The zoom rocker has been replaced by a slender zoom ring around the fairly large shutter on top of the camera. The round 4-way navigation ring with a large "set" button in the center is unchanged, the red and green record and playback buttons, and the "Menu" and "Best Shot" buttons on the bottom are larger.

One thing that, unfortunately, hasn't changed compared to the EX-Z77 is screen resolution. Measuring 2.6 inches diagnonally, the wide-format LCD is large enough, but it has only 115k pixel resolution. That's not terrible, but the display isn't nearly as sharp as that of, say, the new EX-S10 which has twice as many pixels.

Even better movie features than before

The predecessor EX-Z77 first introduced the "YouTube-mode" to Casio Zoom cameras and with that a switch to the H.264 video compression standard that reduces MPEG-4 file size more without any perceptible image degradation to the eye. This means you can record longer videos while you still essentially get MPEG-4 video quality. For the audio accompanying the video, Casio is now using the AAC audio codec used in iPods. This means you can easily watch movies made on the EX-Z80 on a video iPhod, iPhone or in Apple's sleek iTunes and iLife'08 software. It is also a format especially suited for video-sharing websites like YouTube.com. YouTube initially ran all videos in Flash, but is switching to H.264 video, thus being inherently more compatible with the file format this Casio camera produces. The maximum video resolution has been increased to a wide-format 848 x 480 pixels, perfect for playback on 16:9 aspect ratio wide-format TVs.

As far as the "YouTube" mode goes, it's nothing magic. It is simply settings that follow YouTube recommendations for file size, running time, screen resolution, video compression and file format. You can then connect the camera to the PC and use the Casio Uploader software to easily upload the movies to YouTube. It makes things easier.

Like earlier Casios, the EX-Z80 has a "prerecord" movie feature. In this mode, the camera is recording video before you press the movie button. When you press the shutter, the camera adds the five seconds before you pressded it to your video. This means you never miss one of those special moments.

The Auto Shutter

Like the rest of the newly introduced Exilims, the EX-Z80 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 all the rage these days as a must-have feature, and the EX-Z80 has it. The camera uses advanced recognition algorithms to identify and properly expose up to ten faces in a picture.

Bottomline

The US$199.95 Casio Exilim EX-Z80 is a nice update to the older EX-Z77. It now offers 8.1 megapixel resolution in a very attractive and very small package. A number of new features have been added. Auto Shutter greatly reduces blur in certain shooting conditions, there is face and even smile recognition, you can shoot wide-format 848 x 480 pixel movies, and recording in MPEG-4/H.264 format makes the files YouTube and iPod friendly. We miss a higher resolution display and the always useful auto focus illuminator, but other than that, the EX-Z80, available in six colors, is a very attractive product.

We like:

  • Elegant design in six colors
  • Very small and light
  • Auto Shutter functions reduce blur
  • 30 different scene modes
  • Fun movies modes and H.264/AAC recording
  • 848 x 480 movies at 30 frames per second
Not so much:
  • Low screen resolution
  • No auto focus illuminator lamp
Specifications CASIO EX-Z80
Status Added 01/2008
Camera Type Ultra-compact
Size 3.5 x 2.0 x 0.75
Weight (oz.) 3.5 w/o battery and SD Card
Effective Pixels 8.1 mp
CCD Type 1/2.5
Max pixel size 3264 x 2448
File formats Stills: JPEG (Exif 2.2); movies: MOV format, H.264/AVC, AAC (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 6 lenses, 5 groups
Focal length 6.3-18.9mm (38-114mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 3X/4X
Aperture f/3.1 - f/5.9
Focus modes Auto, manual, macro, pan, infinity
Focus minimum/macro 4 inches, 1.3 feet
Shutter speed 1/2000 to 4 sec
Sensitivity (ISO) auto/64/100/200/400/800/1600
Autofocus system contrast detection type: spot/multi/tracking
Metering multi-pattern, center-weight and spot by imaging element
White-balance modes auto, daylight, overcast, shade, day white FL, daylight FL, tungsten, manual
Shooting modes auto, 30 scenes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type none
LCD size 2.6" LCD (115k) (480x240)
LCD type "super clear LCD"
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in
Flash range up to 9 feet
Flash modes 5 (auto, on, off, soft, red-eye reduction)
Camera internal memory 12.4MB
Storage Medium SD/MMC
I/O USB via cable
Battery type NP60 Li-Ion (3.7V, 1200mAH)
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 210 images
"Estimated Price" US$199.99
Contact www.casio.com

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