Like most point-n-shoot models, the EX-Z2000 is loaded with automatic exposure modes. There's Auto, which offers the most "control" with fully automatic operation, but access to more advanced settings like ISO, white balance, AF mode, etc. You also have access to 40 BS (Best Shot) options, which cover just about every shooting situation imaginable. Like I mentioned earlier, there is also a Premium Auto mode. This is Casio's version of intelligent Auto, which has become an industry standard. Here the camera does more than just select exposure settings, it also analyzes the subject(s) being framed and then applies the appropriate Scene settings to ensure you get optimal results. It also appears that Pauto utilizes a bit more in-camera processing, as photos have increased saturation, and we also noted that the camera was "slower" when using this mode.
The body design is a bit different than your typical Exilim model, with a more wedge looking shape to it, rather than being squared off. The new shape doesn't make it any easier, or harder to hold. Like most cameras of this size, you have to learn to hold it comfortably. We find that the "pinch" technique seems to work best for digicams of this size. There are very few controls on the body, which is nice for those who don't want to fuss with complicated cameras. I found all of the buttons on the EX-Z2000 are laid out in comfortable positions, and I especially like the zoom control mounted around the shutter release. This allows for effortless zooming, and feels more natural to me, when compared to the rocker type switch you'll find on the back of some models.
The Large 3.0-inch LCD offers a nice clear picture with 460K dots (960x480) of resolution. Framing and viewing images on this display was pleasing, however the screen is quite reflective in bright lighting (like outdoors). Some angles make it difficult to see your subject due to reflections. Indoor, the live image can get a bit grainy (which is typical). Overall, this is a fine display, much nicer than some of the screens we've seen on past models.
Image quality from the EX-Z2000 is decent for a 14-megapixel compact camera, depending on which exposure mode you are using. Premium Auto produced the best looking photos outdoors, with good exposure and rich colors. While they are not what I would consider to be natural, they really do look much more appealing than the standard Auto mode. Images are relatively sharp, however they lack that fine detail you see with some models when viewing photos at 100%. I also noticed a good amount of edge softness in our photos, along with a fair amount of CA (Chromatic Aberrations, aka purple fringing along highlights).
The 5x optical zoom lens offers a nice wide range, covering approx 26- 130mm (in 35mm equivalence). The 26mm end of the zoom provides a nice field of view for vast sunsets and other landscape type photos as well as gives a nice view for indoor shots. The telephoto end will not bring your distant subjects up close, however works very well for tightly framing subjects (like portraits for example). The only real distortion you'll notice easily is a moderate amount of barrel distortion at the wide angle end.
When shooting indoors, the flash performed well with subjects up to no more than 8-10 feet away (at wide angle). When you use the zoom, the flash range drops significantly. We achieved the best results when shooting from about 5-6 feet away, using the mid to telephoto end of the zoom. Thanks the AF-assist lamp, the camera has very few issues focusing in marginal lighting, and we also saw it controls the flash well for close-up macros. Image noise is typical for a point-n-shoot. As you raise the sensitivity, noise becomes much more noticeable. ISO 400 and below will produce the best photos, while 800 is quite usable. The maximum 1600 and 3200 settings look pretty bad (which is common on cameras in this category).
The EX-Z2000's video capture option allowed me to shoot decent HD videos. They are nothing to get excited about, but the camera is able to record usable movies to share with friends and family. Noise levels are average, and the microphone is very sensitive (which is typical), picking up all kinds of background noise that you probably didn't notice while recording. One tip, keep the lens at wide angle when shooting, unless you have a monopod or tripod handy. As you can see from our indoor bowling alley example, even with relatively stead hands, my video is quite shaky.
One of the impressive features of this camera is the claimed battery life, which Casio states will allow you to capture up to 580 photos on a single charge. This almost doubles the typical battery life average of most consumer point-n-shoots, which see anywhere from 200 to 300 frames per charge. We've capture 100+ photos, several short video clips, and complete All of our other tests, and the battery still shows it's full. I think it's safe to say that the EX-Z2000 offers almost unmatched battery life in the sub $200 category.
line - Casio's EX-Z2000 is a nice little point-n-shoot. It's Premium Auto mode produces photos that really "pop", and they are sure to make pleasing 4x6-inch or larger prints. The only downfall is very slow shot-to-shot times when using it. Other than that, the camera offers speedy shooting and some nice features to boot (wide 5x zoom, awesome battery life, decent HD video), all for only $199US. This is a very competitive category, so be sure to check out some of the competition before making your final decision. However, the Casio Exilim EX-Z2000 should please those looking for an affordable point-n-shoot with the latest features and good performance (just be sure to pick up a fast SD/SDHC memory card).
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