Casio EX-Z80 Review
The smallest of the "Z" (zoom) cameras that Casio has introduced so far this year is the Exilim EX-Z80. This ultra-compact 8-megapixel camera with its "easy mode" is so simple to use the only thing you need to do is turn on the camera, point and shoot, and the camera does the rest. There is a full compliment of pre-programmed shooting modes, including an advanced face detection mode and an auto shutter mode. Casio continues to offer the YouTube and eBay modes to make adding images to these services a breeze. Also featured is an 3x optical zoom lens and an 2.6" LCD screen.
Casio's face detection software is very advanced and gives you several different settings to make sure that you get the pictures that you want. There is a Standard face detection that will locate and focus on faces like all others do. The very unique Family setting, allows you to record your family members faces' into the camera. When Family is set as the priority the camera is able to distinguish their faces and take priority over other faces. You can also set higher priorities for some of the faces that you have saved within the camera.
The very compact camera is actually very easy and comfortable to handle and has a very sturdy feel to it. It is easy to point and shoot with one hand, although, operating the zoom can be a little tricky. On the back of the camera the controls are well placed and labeled, which makes navigating through the menus a snap. Casio has added an instant record button to the top right corner of the camera that allows you to record video instantly no matter what shooting mode you are in. The 2.6" LCD screen has a wide format that allows for the shortcut menu to stay on the screen at all times. This is great because it allows you to change settings at the push of a button without going into the menuing system. Of course if you prefer you can turn off this shortcut menu option from displaying at all times.
Performance from the Z80 is excellent for a camera in this price range. When you turn on the camera, it is only 1.8 seconds until you can capture your first image. The shutter lag on this camera is almost nonexistant when pre-focused in as little as 2/10 of a second when allowing the auto focus to work. In single shot mode, the camera is able to capture 5 images in 11.9 seconds without the flash and 14.1 with the built-in flash on. The camera also features 3 continuous shooting modes. First is Normal Continuous, which allowed me to capture 5 images in just 8.5 seconds without the flash and 10.7 seconds with it. Next is High Speed Continuous which only records in 2-megapixel images, but it does so at almost 2 fps. The third mode is Flash Continuous, it records 3, 10-megapixel images with the flash in less that 1 second. All of our tests were completed using a 4GB Kingston SDHC memory card, Auto shooting mode, ISO Auto, flash off, and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Most of the exposures outdoors were good, however, as we have seen in our Sample Pics taken with both the S10 and the Z80 the sky in the sample shots of the canon the clouds seem to be slightly overexposed. This is a problem as it causes the area to lose detail otherwise the colors look vivid and lifelike. The 3x optical zoom, with a 35mm equivalent of 38-114mm, it is very good for landscapes and portrait photography. The zoom is great for framing or singling out an individual from a group but is not enough to bring a distant object much closer. At the wide end of the zoom you will see some barrel distortion and slight edge softness as well as some chromatic aberrations throughout.
Our indoor samples faired better. The exposures were controlled much better and the white balance system did an excellent job at keeping the colors looking natural with or without the flash. When shooting at ISO 64, the detail in the pictures is outstanding, but is quickly lost as the ISO goes up and the noise starts to appear. The built-in flash has a range of up to 8 1/2' and works very well within this range indoors and out. It also did very well with the reflective surface of our sample shot in macro mode.
Movies are recorded as a H.264/AVC MOV. file, which are compatible with iTunes and your Ipod. This is a high quality video compression that greatly reduces file size while keeping a high level of quality. The videos run very smoothly with no compression artifacting when shooting in UHQ quality. The camera also does an excellent job of recording audio without a lot of ambient background noise. The camera also has a wide record mode, that has a resolution of 848x480, that will fit with today's wide screen tv's.
Supplying the power to the Z80 is a 3.7v 720mAh rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack. With this battery I was able to capture over 100 images, several videos, and complete all of our tests on a single charge. This is an excellent battery life, but we still recommend having a second battery as a backup at all times. This is easy with included external charger that comes with the camera.
Bottom Line - The Casio Exilim EX-Z80 is a stylish and incredibly easy to use ultra-compact 8-megapixel digicam. With "easy mode" it is one of the easiest to use cameras on the market. It also comes full of features like auto shutter, advanced face detection, numerous "best shot" and an excellent movie mode. With an MSRP of US$180, we consider this a good buy.
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