Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for casio_ex-z550_red_550.jpg
  • 14-megapixels of resolution
  • Wide (26mm) 4x optical zoom lens
  • 2.7-inch Super Clear LCD
  • Premium Auto Mode
  • Movies at HD or SD resolutions with audio
  • Dynamic Photo
  • SD/SDHC memory card slot
  • Li-ion battery pack
  • USB/AV output

Pros
  • Nice wide 4x optical zoom
  • Captures decent outdoor photos
  • Good shooting performance with fast SD/SDHC card
  • Loads of cool Best Shot modes
  • Slim body is easy to slip into a pocket
  • Appealing price tag
Cons
  • Slow shooting performance when not using a fast memory card
  • No AF-Assist lamp
  • Poor low light AF performance
  • Average HD video option
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.5 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 2/10 - 3/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 2.3 seconds (Review off)
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.7 - 3 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay in Premium Auto wo/flash = 4 - 4.5 seconds
  • Normal CS Mode =  0.4fps @ 14m
  • High-speed CS Mode = 4.7fps @ 2m (max 8 frames)
  • All tests taken using Auto mode, flash off, review off, and all other settings at default unless noted
Bottom Line
The Casio EX-Z550 should make a nice camera for those who are on a tight budget, or are picking up a camera for their teenager.
Pick This Up If...
You want a simple to use camera that can fit into your pocket, and you don't plan on taking many photos in low light situations.
For those looking for an pocketable, yet affordable digicam, Casio has several offerings, like the Exilim EX-Z550. This is one of many 14-megapixel consumer cameras on the market today, that also boasts a 26mm wide 4x optical zoom lens, a 2.7-inch LCD, HD (1280x720) and SD (640x480 or 320x480) video recording, Premium Auto, and loads of other BS (Best Shot) scene modes.

Like the EX-Z2000, the EX-Z550 is pretty much a fully automatic camera. For those who like to "play" with settings from time to time, there is the normal Auto mode, which is more like your typical Program AE with options for ISO, White Balance, AF modes, Exposure compensation, etc. This model also offers 42 (that's right, 42!) Best Shot options, which cover a wide variety of shooting situations. One new exposure mode found on Casio's 2010 models is "Premium Auto". This is Casio's take on an intelligent exposure setting, which handles just about every single function of the camera, along with studying the subject and figuring out which scene mode presets to use. One issue we noticed with Pauto is that the camera spends much more time processing photos (adding increased saturation, etc.), therefore shooting performance drops significantly.

The EX-Z550 is very slim, in fact it's smaller that a deck of playing cards, with a similar rectangular shape. This allows you to easily slip it into a small pants pocket without much fuss. The controls are laid out in a comfortable manner, with the zoom controls mounted around the shutter release; which allows for easy one handed shooting and zooming. The 2.7-inch LCD is a decent display, with 230K dots. The surface is a bit reflective, which can make it difficult to see in bright sunny conditions. Indoors, the screen gains up well, with an average amount of graininess. 

When shooting with the EX-Z550 outdoors, you'll find it captures pleasing photos with good sharpness and contrast as well as nice exposure. Like I saw with the EX-Z2000, the EX-Z550's Premium Auto setting seemed to produce the best looking photos, mainly due to the increase in color saturation. This creates photos that really stand out, however they are not representing what the scene actually looked like when I captured them. The Auto mode did a much better job at that, however I still prefer the look of the Pauto photos, and I'm sure you will too.


Casio equipped the EX-Z550 with a wide view, 4x optical zoom lens. It covers an equivalent zoom range of approx 26 - 104mm. This is a nice range for those who enjoy taking outdoor landscape type photos, group shots, etc. The 26mm end of the zoom provides a nice field of view for nice wide scenic type photos, and also works well for indoor shots of your friends and family. The telephoto capabilities of this camera won't bring distant subjects close, but work well for tightly framing a friends face for a close-up portrait, etc. While reviewing our sample photos, I noticed a good amount of edge softness preset as well as moderate barrel distortion at wide angle; which is typical for a consumer model in this price range.

Indoors, you will have to work with the tiny flash unit on this camera. While Casio claims it can reach up to 19 feet at wide angle, I find that to be a bit overrated. Remember that when using the zoom or a lower ISO setting, this range drops significantly. Overall, I was impressed that the EX-Z550's flash unit was able to illuminate our indoor shots well, and even thought the camera choose ISO 400 most of the time, photos still look nice. I did however notice that it was a bit strong during our macro shots, with the white of the flower in our sample on the verge of overexposure. One feature the EX-Z550 lacks is an AF-assist lamp. This is a pretty standard option on digicams nowadays, and without it the EX-Z550 has some problems focusing in lower lighting. 

Our movie mode results were similar to the EX-Z2000's, decent at best. Our HD video samples are good enough to share with friends and family, however don't expect to win any awards. There's a good amount of noise present, and  the mic picks up just about everything. So, you'll hear all kinds of background noise you didn't notice while shooting. It also picked up the slightest breeze. If you plan on zooming in our you subject (which has to be done before recording starts), be sure you have a good form of support. Our clip is hand-held using the mid to telephoto end of the zoom, and it's a bit shaky.

The EX-Z550 is powered by a small Li-ion battery pack, which Casio claims can power the camera for up to 250 photos. This might be a little under rated, as we captured 120+ photos, several movies, and completed our other tests with power to spare. If you're planning a vacation, picking up a second pack and a large (and fast) SDHC memory card are highly recommended. You can use one pack while using another, thanks to the external AC charger, so you'll always be ready to capture the action.

Bottom line - Casio's Exilim EX-Z550 is an affordable point-n-shoot with some appealing features for the price ($169US). The EX-Z550 captures nice 14-megapixel photos, and as along as you are using a faster SD/SDHC memory care, snaps them rather quickly. The EX-Z550 should make a nice camera for those wanting a simple to use camera that can be tucked in a small pocket or bag. Our only real complaint is the lack of an AF-assist lamp, which would make focusing in marginal lighting much easier.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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