Like past models, the EX-Z800 is a fully automatic camera, with only a few exposure controls available to you when using the Auto/Program exposure option (ISO, AF mode, etc.). This is a good thing for most users; you can focus on the subject at hand rather than the settings needed. There are also 35 scene mode options, which Casio labels as "Best Shot" modes. which cover a wide multitude of different shooting situations. This includes Casio's version of "Smart" or "Intelligent" Auto, which they have coined Premium Auto. This exposure settings handles just about every single function of the camera, along with analyzing the subject at hand in order to decide which scene mode preset will help you produce the best quality photos. The only real downfall to this user-friendly exposure option is that the camera slows down considerably due to an increase in photo processing.
If you want a small camera, look no further. The EX-Z800 is tiny, measuring just 3.9"(W) x 2.1"(H) x .83"(D), and weighting in at a scant 4.8oz (including memory card and battery). The EX-Z800 is also fashion savvy, with six different color choices available; silver, pink, hot pink, black, yellow, and blue. Although small, the camera can fit comfortably in your hands if you know how to hold it; we find the "pinch" technique works best, where you pinch the camera with you left thumb and index finger. I was glad to see that the camera still uses a zoom control that is wrapped around the shutter release, which in my opinion is the best setup for effortless framing. All of the controls are placed in a familiar position for a digital camera. One button that I felt was a nice touch was the Auto/Premium Auto mode button along the top edge of the camera. This is just withing reach of your left index finger, and allows you to quickly change between Premium Auto or the standard Auto exposure mode.
All framing, menu navigation, and image/video playback is handled on the EX-Z800's 2.7-inch LCD screen. This is an average display with 230K pixels of resolution. When shooting in lower lighting the live image can get a bit grainy. Outdoors it performed fine, however a brightness adjustment option would be nice. The menu system has changed slightly over past Exilim models. Instead of having a dedicated MENU button located on the back of the camera, you now simply use the SET button to enter the shortcut menu, then scroll down to the Menu option to enter the typical graphical user interface (aka GUI). From there, the menus are arranged in familiar fashion. Most of your "needed" settings can be access from the shortcut option, which saves you time when on the fly.
Looking at our sample photos, you can see the EX-Z800 can produce some nice looking pictures, pretty average for a 14-megapixel digicam. The Auto exposure system handled our outdoor subjects well, and colors look very natural when using the Auto mode. Images also show decent sharpness and contrast, however you can see some edge softness on both sides of the frame, along with some noticeable noise even at the lowest ISO 50 setting. This of course is only really seen when pixel peeping at 100%, and it's not likely you'll see this in your small to mid sized prints or in photos posted on your FaceBook or Twitter pages. When using Premium Auto, you'll notice that saturation is increased which gives you colors that really stand out. Our best example of the difference between Auto and Premium Auto is the two shots of our local WWII Cannon. You can see there's a dramatic change in color saturation, which I'm sure some will find pleasing. However, many will realize that the photos are not natural looking. The 4x optical zoom covers a nice wide range of 27-108mm, which is ideal for indoor shots of your friends and family. The telephoto end helps with framing faces and close-up subjects, however it lacks the magnification to bring distant subjects up close. Casio also markets a 6x "Single SR Zoom" capability on this camera as well as 63.8x maximum digital zoom. Don't let these numbers fool you, digital zoom will do nothing but degrade the quality of your images so we recommend only using it if absolutely necessary.
Indoors you'll find that you need to be close to your subject when using the flash, which is typical for cameras of this size. A tiny flash unit equals a short effective range; Casio claims up to 13.8 feet at wide angle using ISO Auto. I recommend you stay within about 6-8 feet at the maximum when using the flash indoors or in any other low-light situation. This will help ensure you get good flash exposure, along with more subject detail. One problem you may run into when shooting indoors is with AF. The EX-Z800 does not feature a focus assist lamp, therefore it has trouble focusing in dim lighting conditions. This could cause a good amount of frustration when shooting photos in a dimly lit restaurant, your living room, etc.
The EX-Z800's 720p HD video mode produced average looking 1280x720 resolution videos. Remember, this is a tiny pocket camera, and being so you can't expect it to record cinema quality video. However, the HD videos the camera does record are good for instances where a picture is not enough, uploading to YouTube with the built-in mode on the camera (PC required for upload), or sharing some hilarious events with friends and family on your home television. That said, you'll see some noticeable compression noise in lower lighting conditions, along with a good amount of background noise you may not have noticed when recording the video. This is a very common issue on digicams today, due to the fact that they use tiny microphones that are very sensitive. The optical zoom can not be used while you are recording video, however if need be you can zoom in before you start recording. I highly recommend you not use the digital zoom in movie mode either, as quality drops fast. You can see an example on the samples page where we used the digital zoom.
Battery life was also average for a camera of this size. Casio claims you can get about 280 photos on a single charge, or you can record up to 2 hours of video. We were able to capture about 115 still images, record various short video clips, and complete our other tests on a single charge. This leads me to believe that the camera will have no problem keeping up with the claims from Casio. Since you can charge the battery externally, we highly recommend you pick up a spare battery pack to keep with you on extended days of shooting or vacations.
Bottom line - The Casio Exilim EX-Z800 is a nice little pocket camera that has a very appealing price tag of just $149 US. It can capture nice looking 14-megapixel snapshots that are sure to please those who post directly to FaceBook and other social sites as well as make nice 4x6-inch or larger prints. As long as you don't expect dSLR like quality from this camera, and are not pixel peeping on a regular basis, you should be quite pleased with the image quality from this camera. That said, we did see some White Balance issues, along with poor low-light AF performance due to the lack of an AF-assist lamp, but other than that there's not much to complain about with the EX-Z800. That said, we well this camera will make a great choice for your teenager or girlfriend, especially if they love the color pink and want a tiny camera for snapping pictures of their friends.
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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