For only $249, the Casio EX-Z1080 takes good photos, has a solid feel, a whopping 41 Best Shot modes, and takes video clips optimized for YouTube. It also offers an impressive number of controls, such as manual focus, white balance, and face recognition that actually works. And unlike other Exilims, this 2.6-inch LCD offers a decent preview. Too bad its maximum ISO of 6400 is little more than a gimmick.
About the size of a deck of cards (3.6 x 2.3 x 1 inches), the EX-Z1080 weighs a mere 4.4 ounces but has the durability and solid feel usually reserved for cameras twice its size. We liked the camera's uncluttered backside, which houses the 2.6-inch LCD and four buttons (Menu, Best Shot, Set, and a cursor ring). Like other cameras from this line, such as the EX-Z77, these buttons are small, particularly the thin cursor ring around the Set button. Casio placed the zoom controls in an intuitive arrangement, on a wheel around the shutter on the camera's top bezel. As with all Exilims, the menu structure is so simple, we'd feel comfortable giving the camera to our grandma with no more than a five-minute tutorial.
The EX-Z1080 needs only 1.5 seconds after pressing the unobtrusive power button before it's ready to start shooting. Although there was a shutter lag of 2 to 3 seconds, it was easy to work around. The EX-Z1080's generous 2.6-inch LCD offers accurate previews of your photos. Considering that the same-generation EX-Z77 had an almost unviewable LCD, images on the EX-Z1080 were only slightly muted. Digital stabilization did a decent job steadying night shots, and we recommend keeping Anti Shake on all the time since, even the slightest vibration shows in most shots. We also like the Auto-Tracking focus mode, which locks in on a moving subject and helped us get a clear photo of a cyclist on the street.
YouTube fanatics will enjoy the convenience of filming video that's ready for the Web with no editing at all. In fact, it might even lure some first-timers to the video-sharing site. New to this line of Exilims and exclusive to Casio cameras is the YouTube Best Shot mode, which shoots VGA quality (480 x 640 pixels) at 30 frames per second, compresses it using the H.264 codec, and tags it for YouTube right in the camera. When you connect to your PC (using a proprietary USB cable), the included YouTube Uploader software walks you through the steps to get your videos online in no more than three clicks. Its crude design, however, makes the software look like it should be running on Windows 95. And Mac users are stuck posting flicks the old-fashioned way; the software works only on Windows. Even we decided to forgo the YouTube Uploader.
The 41 Best Shot modes, which include settings like Autumn Leaves and Twilight, do a good job. Advanced users will like the ability to change white balance, shoot with a manual focus, and manually set an ISO up to 3200. The EX-Z1080 boasts ISO 6400, but the only way to use it is to shoot in High Sensitivity mode, which makes all photos look like they were taken with a bargain security camera. Nevertheless, on our ISO tests, we didn't start getting grainy results consistently until ISO 1600, which is pretty impressive for a point-and-shoot.
Those looking for a compact camera that shoots quality stills and video will be happy with the EX-Z1080. It's available in gray, black, blue, and pink and will be priced at $249. The combination of a short learning curve and more advanced features makes the EX-Z1080 a good gift for any age.