The EX-Z captures images of remarkable quality for its very compact size, and its new wide-format Super Bright LCD display gives users the power to enjoy instant, high-impact images of their shots. Small enough to be held in the palm of the hand, this This new model is the first in the series to incorporate a large 2. CASIO makes the most of this extra screen space to offer great new functions like simultaneous viewing of a wide angle and a telephoto shot, and a convenient right side set of icon controls.

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Add an SD card at the same time. Even though the camera includes about 8MB of internal memory, using a card means you can store a lot more shots and transfer them faster to your computer by avoiding the USB dock transfer.

To charge the battery which can take three hours , you insert the Casio EX-Z into the included cradle. Unlike many other cradles, this one has a couple of buttons on the front to activate Photo or USB mode. When the battery is charged, the LED turns green. With a charged battery and the wrist strap attached , basic operation is simple. With the camera on, set the language, time zone, city and daylight savings time option. That way the Casio EX-Z lays the table for all the goodies it plans to set out.

You can cycle through the display options using the small Display button to the left of the two mode buttons. A live histogram and a framing grid are just two of the handier options in Record mode. A press of the Shutter button takes the picture. A beep and the small green LED behind the Shutter button confirms the image is in focus. A Best Shot button below the navigator brings up the Scene mode options. But the fun of this camera is all the tricks it has up its sleeve. The EX-Z has an elegant user interface that relies less on awkwardly placed buttons than well-designed and attractive menus.

There are two overlapping systems in the Casio EX-Z One is the screenful paging of the typical menu system. The other is the onscreen dock that displays nine options on the right side of the screen.

Combined with the live histogram, the docked menu is really all you need. The icons for most options actually indicate the setting or else they are displayed over the image, as in the case of ISO. A Left or Right arrow adjusts EV without going there. That frees more permanent configuration options like turning off the Autofocus assist lamp, or enabling Digital Zoom to the Menu system.

You scroll through them with the Left or Right arrow keys. Another nice touch lost on most digicam manufacturers. The usual suspect Portrait, Scenery, Night Scene, etc. The High Sensitivity option sacrifices some image detail to get bright natural light shots at ISO You can not only shoot high contrast business cards, but the Casio EX-Z also does "keystone correction," straightening out and cropping the image.

Restore an Old Photograph color corrects faded color prints. Test Drive Comparing other digicams to a Casio is like comparing a lost hub cap on the side of the highway to chrome "spinner" wheels at a stop light. Casio digicams do "different" in a style all their own. Take megapixels, for example. Common wisdom says six megapixels is the "sweet spot" between getting great detail and avoiding noise.

More megapixels means more noise, fewer gets you less detail. But Casio? Hardly any buttons with its optional always-on menu that also shows you the status of each setting.

And take that flash on a digicam. Put a powerful flash on there but give people a flash burst mode that fires it at half power so it recharges quickly. Ever start nodding uncontrollably trying to compose a zoom shot? Put the zoom in the wide field shot. I popped the little Casio EX-Z in its dock to charge the battery and flipped through the manual to find out how to use all these cool features.

Too bad Casio ships such a basic guide with a camera this capable. You buy it to take pictures. The weather was overcast for much of the event and we sat way back on the hill overlooking the large crowd. So I settled on a aspect ratio for crowd shots, framing the crowd with my neighbors. That worked well. The color was credible, not oversaturated, and the wide screen view really gave a sense of the sprawling Sharon Meadow.

After the concert, I wandered over to the Dahlia garden, which was in full bloom. By the time I got there, the sun had broken through the fog, too. I switched from a 3MB image size to the full 10MB size 4. Two or three images could have profited from a Well enough that the optimizations done online by Tabblo turned out very pretty pictures. Taking very close-up shots is one of the surprising joys of digital photography and I always shoot a healthy selection of macro shots when I have a camera to test.

I had a little trouble focusing on my tomatoes but was surprised at the excellent results I got shooting through a 10x loupe for the Tabblo review. That was a crazy idea for a shot but the Casio EX-Z pulled it off.

But we did see noise. With a 5 megapixel image size, you can enjoy some digital zoom without fear of image deterioration. In fact, the zoom bar shows the point at which image deterioration will occur at the selected image size. Usually I think of them as gimmicks intended to reassure inexperienced photographers at the store counter; yet they go unused in the field.

But Casio has some very cool tricks up its sleeve. Business Card One anyone can appreciate is the Business Shot. All this does is correct the shape of rectangular objects like business cards or whiteboards. But the Casio EX-Z does it very nicely, outlining the object in red and in black if there are two options and asking for confirmation before straightening it out as a 2 megapixel, x image.

Another simple but helpful example is the ID Photo Scene. The monitor displays a top headline and a chin line about a third of the way down the shot with an oval boundary between them for the face. Press Set to save it as a 5 megapixel, x image. Very clever. Copying old photos is another bane of the digital photographer, who usually relegates the task to their scanner.

That also means you can shoot at an angle. That mode also grabs a 2 megapixel, x image. Auto mode with its aspect ratio made composing shots fun. The quick startup and shutdown made it convenient to use, never worrying about missing a shot because it would take too long to turn on the camera. But the digital zoom does compensate for that, relying on the 10 megapixel sensor to deliver enough resolution without degrading image quality.

Even with the larger sensor real estate to populate with 10 megapixel of sensor sites, the Casio EX-Z did capture noisy images. But the noise resembled film grain rather than the colorless confusion of some high ISO sensors. Turn off Anti Shake if it bothers you. In all the categories that matter, the Casio EX-Z scored well. Those are the kind of tradeoffs we like to see in a digicam.


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