Casio EX-Z77 Review
Continuing with the success of the earlier Exilim cameras (EX-Z70 , etc.), Casio's EX-Z77 falls right in line with it's predecessors. Boasting the same 7.2 megapixel image sensor, 3x optical zoom, Anti-Shake DSP technology, movie mode, and a 2.5-inch LCD screen, the only differences are a few additional options to the "Best Shot" menu such as; underwater, old photo, YouTube video, and Face Recognition (including the family priority function). With an "Easy Mode" that is as simple as you will find on any camera, this is definitely a point-and-shoot camera that anyone can use. It also has a slew of pre-set "Best Shot" settings that are automatic, which will assist you in shooting in various shooting situations. There are also a variety of manual settings in Program AE mode, like ISO, White Balance, Metering, etc.
One feature that didn't change on this model is the dimensions. It remains a very small camera measuring only 3.8 in. (W) x 2.4 in. (H) x 0.78 in. (D) (95.2 x 60.6 x 19.8mm). It is comfortable to hold and operate using the "pinch" technique and even fits nicely into the right hand by itself. The controls on the back are positioned well and easy to use. The menus are very easy to navigate and with the addition of the new onscreen menu, changing the cameras settings is as easy as can be. The 2.5-inch LCD screen works very well in most situations, but becomes slightly hard to see in direct sunlight or shooting in low light as the camera does not "gain up". Like the previous versions, this screen is also very prone to fingerprints.
The shooting performance of this camera was impressive. From the power up to the first image was between 1.6 and 1.8 seconds. It performed even better when testing the shutter lag. When the camera was pre- focused the lag was less than 1/10th of a second, and without pre-focusing it was approx. 1/10th of a second. Rapid shooting in single shot mode was able to capture an image approx. every 2.0 seconds and approx. every 2.2 seconds with the flash and the object only a few feet away, however i was not able to just hold down the shutter button, but had to press it for each shot.
There are three continuous capture modes that can be selected for shooting is sequences (Normal, High Speed, and Flash Cont.). Normal mode was a big improvement over the previous model (1 1/10 sec. per image), capturing 7m images at 6/10 of a second per image. High speed captured at a blistering 2/10 of a second, however image size is automatically changed to 2m. Finally the Flash Cont. shoots in 3 shot bursts with and image size of 7m. It was able to flash and capture the 3 images in just 6/10 of a second. In normal and High speed modes, the LCD will very briefly display each image as it is taken, however, the Flash Cont. will just show a blank screen until the sequence is done. All times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality with the Z77's 7m image size mode was good indoors and out. Outdoors the camera showed overall very good exposure and color balance. Indoors as well, the color balance and exposure were very good and the flash works very well from the 5 to 10 foot range. The 3x optical zoom has the 35mm equivalent of a 38mm - 114mm camera. There is a little edge softness which is typical among many ultra- compact consumer digicams. You can also see slight amounts of barrel distortion and pin cushioning, which are things that you will find even on more expensive cameras. Unless you are very critically examining your photos, these are things that might not even be noticed. There was also some noticeable noise when increasing the ISO to ISO200 and above. A big improvement over the Z70 however, was the fact that I did not see hardly any Chromatic Aberrations (purple fringing) in our outdoor photographs.
A new addition to this model, as with most new digicams these days, is face detection. It will recognize one or many faces in a group shot, however, Casio has taken this technology one step further, by adding face recognition priority. The camera can store and prioritize faces of family members, allowing the camera to concentrate on specific faces if mixed into a group. A great feature if you are often in a group setting. I was also pleased with the "Best Shot" portrait mode, which produced good images that showed slight under exposure (due to the tiny flash unit), but with very good skin tones. We achieved our close-up portrait on the samples page from approx. 6 feet away with the mid telephoto of the zoom.
There were a few additions the quality of the video capture added to the Z77. There are now 6 quality settings including two 16:9 wide screen modes. There is also a "Best Shot" setting added to this model called "YouTube", witch uses the presets that are required when uploading to YouTube.com. The quality of this setting even on the camera playback did not match the quality of the UHQ setting. Overall on UHQ, the video and sound were good, but the better the lighting the better the video is going to look, so be careful in low-light situations when capturing video. Also on this model Casio has switched to H.264 compression .MOV file that produces good quality images in much smaller file sizes that the old .AVI files.
Power is supplied by a small 3.7-volt 700mAh NP-20 rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, which is charged in the included BC-11L Lithium Ion battery charger. According to Casio, this pack can power the Z77 for up to 190 shots (using CIPA standards) or 75 minutes of continuous video recording on a fully charged pack. The battery charges very quickly (full charge in just a few hours), however, it seems to run down very quickly. I had to recharge the battery once to complete all of our samples and other tests. We highly recommend the purchase of a second pack, and keep it charged and ready at all times!
Bottom line - While I was not moved by Casio's new Exilim Z77, this model does offer image quality that is
comparable to other manufacture's models as well as a plethora of useful pre-programmed "Best
Shot" scene modes. Not to mention, one of the easiest to use fully automatic modes (Easy Mode).
Taking this into consideration, with an MSRP of US$230 or under, I feel the EX-Z77 offers a good value for
an "ultra-compact" 7-megapixel model.
Casio has announced a Firmware Update Software Version 1.01 for the EX-Z77
Improvements provided by this update: Stabilizes movie white balance.
Visit Casio's Support site for more details.
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