Casio EX-Z55 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The next generation of Casio's Exilim "Z"oom series, the EX-Z55 offers users many of the features found on past Exilim cameras, but adds 5-megapixels of resolution combined with a high-quality Pentax smc 3x optical zoom lens, and a larger 2.5-inch color LCD. This credit card-size point-n-shoot camera is loaded with features that are usually found only on larger and more expensive cameras. There are 23 pre-programmed "Best Shot" scenes modes that optimize the camera's settings for specific shooting conditions and users also have the ability to create their own Best Shot scenes using the Register Favorites function.
Ergonomics were good. Controls are well placed and functional, and changing camera settings couldn't be easier thanks to its user friendly menu system. Its all-metal body has a well-built feeling to it, and the camera is large enough to make one handed shooting a breeze. This camera utilizes a large 2.5-inch color LCD monitor which covers almost ¾ of the back. When using the LCD in bright light, I found only a few angles where it reflected the sun and made it difficult to use; this is when you'll be glad that it features an optical viewfinder. Since the monitor is larger than most, the menu text is also bigger and more legible.
Shooting performance was very robust. From power up to first image captured averaged 1.5 seconds. This is pretty amazing when you consider it has to extend the lens and boot up. The all important shutter lag is almost non-existent when pre-focused and only 1/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot-to-shot delay averaged about 2 seconds without the use of the flash and 2.8 seconds with the flash. The EX-Z55 does not offer a continuous or burst mode. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Ultra II 256MB SD card, SnapShot mode, Large/Fine size/quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Another "cool" feature on this camera (and the EX-S100 ) was the Business card and White board Best Shot scene modes. These modes allow you to capture images at an angle, then correct the images in- camera to make the perspective as if you had shot the picture dead on to the subject. This may not be used much for making prints, but it is useful when you want to take a snap shot of someone's business card or the black board at school, then later correct the image so you can retrieve the information on it.
Overall the image quality when using 5-megapixel Fine mode was excellent. Outdoors it captures sharp and well saturated pictures. Its Pentax 3x optical zoom lens covers a 35mm equivalent of 35-105mm, which gives flexibility in composing you shots. We noticed moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle but almost no pin cushioning at full telephoto. The zoom mechanism is quick and smooth as it goes from wide angle to telephoto. Indoors it also performs well. Considering it does not features a focus-assist lamp, the EX-Z55 does an excellent job of focusing in low ambient lighting. Our indoor samples were sharp, well exposed, and skin tones appear natural. You can see it for yourself by looking at our samples page.
Power is supplied by a proprietary lithium battery and we recommend the purchase of a second one, you never know when it might come in handy. The battery is charged in-camera whenever it's placed in the included docking cradle. Casio claims that with the NP-40 battery pack (which is a 3.7v 1230 mAh pack) the EX-Z55 has a 10% longer battery life than that of the recently reviewed EX-Z40, allowing you to capture up to 400 shots, and a continuous playback time of over 6 hours. We had no problems capturing our sample photos and concluding our other tests before the battery was close to being exhausted. The EX-Z55 only has 9.3MB of internal memory, so you might want to consider purchasing a larger SD card. Currently a high-speed 256MB SD card (like the one we tested it with) can be had for $70 or less and will serve you well.
Bottom line - the Exilim EX-Z55 is an awesome digital package. If you're in the market for a digital camera that has great image quality, speedy performance, and can be slipped into almost any size pocket or purse, then this is the digicam for you! Not bad at all for around $449. If this camera is not compact enough for you, then check out the 3.2-megapixel Exilim EX-S100.
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