Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z850 Regina SK

Casio's Z850 makes a convincing attempt at being the perfect compact digital camera. Its sleek aluminium body houses an 8-megapixel sensor, a 2.5" screen and a mind-boggling array of options and features.

Focus 91 Photography
(306) 789-6166
1734 Dewdney Avenue
Regina, SK
Oktober Revolution Photography
(306) 535-8766
1855 Scarth Street
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Don'S Photo Shop Ltd
(306) 347-7887
2408 Dewdney Avenue
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(306) 359-0309
2517 Victoria Avenue
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Austring Photography Ltd
(306) 565-8861
201-2206 Dewdney Avenue
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1170 Broad Street
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Greschner Mark Photographer
(306) 522-1336
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(306) 757-4686
202-1815 Rae Street
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Digney Photographics Ltd
(306) 359-7988
1375 Lorne Street
Regina, SK
Shannon Brunner Photographer
(306) 652-7197
602 Queen Street
Saskatoon, SK

Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z850

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Casio's Z850 makes a convincing attempt at being the perfect compact digital camera. Its sleek aluminium body houses an 8-megapixel sensor, a 2.5" screen and a mind-boggling array of options and features. The only feature that could be described as average is the 3x optical zoom, although a larger zoom would have inevitably increased the size of the camera.

A cradle is supplied for USB transfers and charging the battery, although this does mean that you can't charge one battery while using another. Still, 551 shots from a single charge is the best battery life we've seen from a compact camera, so you're unlikely to run out of power mid-way through an important photo session.

The camera is quick to use, with a two-second startup, fast autofocus and about 11/2 seconds between shots. Continuous mode captures at just under one frame per second, and reviewing images is staggeringly quick, flicking through 100 pictures in about 10 seconds. The controls are well laid out for quick operation, too, with a straightforward menu system and a short-cut button for quick access to resolution, white balance, ISO and autofocus area. The Multi autofocus mode makes it clear what part of the subject the camera has locked on to, which helps avoid focusing mistakes that become apparent only when you get the pictures on to a PC. In tests, it occasionally failed to focus on anything, although this was pretty clear on the camera's screen so we just took another shot.

The features on offer cater for both enthusiasts and gadget lovers. Aperture and shutter priority modes plus full manual exposure are available. However, the visual feedback is rather basic, with speech bubbles appearing to advise of potential under- or overexposure rather than an exposure value (EV) reading, or the preview image brightness changing to reflect settings. Only two aperture settings are available (f/2.8 or f/4.0), but the shutter speed ranges from 60 to 1/6,000 seconds. Manual focus is also available, although even with the help of a temporary digital zoom we found it hard to make accurate adjustments. The screen's relatively low 115,000-pixel resolution is partly to blame.

The 33 scene modes go way beyond the usual suspects to include stylised effects such as Soft Focus, Retro and Text. A Revive Shot function allows you to capture old photos, restore their colours and even straighten the edges, effectively turning the camera into a serviceable scanner. There's also a range of scene presets for the video mode, which captures MPEG4 video at VGA resolution. Detail is below average in video mode, though, and the digital zoom function squanders the high-resolution sensor to produce extremely blocky results at high magnification.

Still image quality gave us much less cause for concern. Colour accuracy ranged from good to excellent. Although there was a slight tendency to overexposure, it produced natural-looking colours in a variety of environments. The 8-megapixel sensor produced sharp images in bright conditions, although a fair bit of digital processing is used to enhance this. A sharpness control is available for those who find it too aggressive. However, detail suffered in indoor shots, with noise reduction processing giving an uneven appearance to well-defined edges and a mottled effect to areas of smooth colour.

We're yet to see an ultra-compact digital camera that can fully satisfy demanding enthusiasts, but the Z850 comes pretty close. It excels in almost every area, so it's disappointing that the one exception is image quality. If you like to take your time over your photographs, the slow but otherwise excellent Olympus SP-350 (What's New, Shopper March 2006) is a better choice. Alternatively, if your budget can stretch to £250, go for Sony's DSC-N1 (What's New, Shopper May 2006), which isn't without its faults but produces exceptionally attractive photos. However, for the best of everything in a compact package, the wait isn't quite over.

System Specifications

DIGITAL CAMERA 8 megapixels (3,264x2,448 pixels), 3x optical zoom, 8MB internal memory, SD slot, li-ion battery

Author: Ben Pitt

Computer Shopper Online