Casio EX-Z700 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The EX-Z700 is yet another Exilim Zoom model for 2006, that offers an almost identical feature set to the EX-Z600 that we reviewed earlier in the year. The Z700 is improved with a 7.2- megapixel imager (over the 6-megapixel one on the Z600) as well as 4 new BestShot scene modes. Shared features include a 3x optical zoom lens, Anti-Shake DSP technology, durable all metal construction, VGA (640x480) movie mode, large 2.7-inch LCD screen as well as an AF-assist lamp to assist in accurate focusing while in low lighting. This model is designed to be used by every member of your family or office. You can choose from a wide variety of scene specific exposure modes that ensure you'll capture great photos in various shooting environments. The Auto (Program AE) mode can be fully automatic, but also allows you to change more advanced settings like ISO, White balance, Metering, Focus, etc.
The EX-Z700's ergonomics are identical to the Z600. This is a very compact model that measures 3.48"(W) x 2.2"(H) x .81"(D), comparable to a deck of playing cards. Despite the size, it fits well in your hands, even those of us with large hands, and I especially like the zoom control mounted around the shutter release. The various other controls are also well placed and functional. There's a small amount of space between the Menu/BS buttons and the Record/Playback controls to place your thumb without interfering with any buttons. The onscreen menu system was very easy to navigate, and I had no troubles making quick changes to camera settings. The large 2.7-inch LCD is the only viewfinder on the camera, and is used for composing your shots, reviewing captured images and navigating the menu system. This is a high-quality display that occupies almost 3/4 of the back of the camera. I found it works well outdoors with a reflective coating that helps to deter the sun's rays from several different angles. The coating is very prone to finger prints; so plan on cleaning it off with your T-shirt quite often. When shooting in marginal lighting conditions, the LCD display "gains up," which is very helpful for framing your shots in these conditions.
The Z700's shooting performance was a bit slower than the Z600. Power up to first image captured measured about 1.5 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing the image, was instantaneous when pre-focused, and less than 1/10 of a second including autofocus. Rapid shooting in single drive mode captured images at intervals of 1.8 seconds without flash, and between 2.7 and 3.5 seconds with flash, depending on your subject's distance.
There are three continuous capture or burst modes to choose from (Normal, High Speed, Flash Cont.) Normal mode allowed me to capture 5 images in about 5.9 seconds. While High Speed mode captured 3 frames in 7/10 of a second. Flash Continuous mode captured 3 frames in 1.1 seconds, with the flash (note you may also use the flash in Normal mode, but not High Speed.) The LCD viewfinder briefly displayed the live image between exposures in Normal mode, but in Both High Speed and Flash Cont., it blacked out completely; this is where an optical viewfinder would be nice. All tests were done using a Lexar 1GB SD card, Auto recording mode, 7m Fine size/quality, Anti-Shake on, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality was very similar to that of the EX-Z70. Using the highest quality settings (7m Fine), I was able to capture pleasing outdoor images that were sharp and showed pleasing color saturation. Exposure was accurate most of the time, however I noticed that on very sunny days, it did tend to overexpose the sky. The 3x optical zoom lens covers a typical range of 38 - 114mm (in 35mm equivalence), which is sufficient for most indoor and outdoor shooting. The 38mm wide angle extreme will afford your landscape and group shots, while the telephoto end of the zoom range is great for close-up portraits. The lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion as well as slight pincushioning. I also noticed average amounts of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) around brightly lit objects.
The Anti-Shake system on both the Z600 and Z700 are designed to allow users to capture useable photos in marginal lighting conditions by boosting the ISO speed, which in turn, lets you use a slower shutter speed than normal. One issue we had with the Z600 was that the Anti-Shake mode produced so much noise, that our samples looked like they had been transformed into a water color painting. While the Z70 has improved, the noise level is still very high when using ISO 800. You can see what I mean by taking a look at the samples page. Like we said with the Z600, while this can be corrected by simply turning off Anti-Shake via the menu system, it kind of defeats the purpose of this technology as it was meant to be used in these low light conditions. I was however, pleased with our people photos. Using the Portrait BestShot mode, I was able to capture nice close-up portraits from about 5 or 6 feet away. While Casio claims a flash range of 11.2 ft. at wide angle (ISO auto), don't expect it to illuminate open rooms.
Movie mode records video at three resolution settings, HG 640x480 (30fps), Normal 512x384 (30fps), and LP 320x240 (15fps.) Our movie samples were good, showing very little compression noise and the AF system does well at keeping up with moving subjects.
The EX-Z700 is powered by a small 3.7-volt 1300mAh NP-40 rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, which is charged in-camera when placed in the included camera dock. Using CIPA Standards, Casio claims a battery life of approx. 460 shots or 470 minutes of continuous playback on a fully charged pack. I had no problems capturing all of our samples (over 75 shots) and concluded all of our other tests on a single charge.
Bottom line - I was a bit surprised after testing the Z700. While image quality is a bit better than its predecessor, performance was a great deal slower, which is the opposite of what you'd expect from a newer model. The noise issue with the high ISO (800) mode that the Anti-Shake system uses is still present, however it has improved slightly. That said, I feel with an MSRP of about US$280, the Z700 offers an Ok value for a 7-megapixel model.
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