In this era of cool, neat-looking, ergonomic gadgets, Casio's Exilim EX-Z150 ranks right up there with the iPod and iPhone. The EX-Z150 is a stylish, ultra-slim, all-metal digital camera that will turn heads whenever it's whipped out. Although this fun, easy-to-use device is capable of capturing good-quality stills and videos, as well as showing and sharing them on a bright 3-inch LCD screen, the EX-Z150's slow shooting speed and inconsistent exposure can be frustrating.
Design and Controls
Besides the obligatory silver and black bodies, the EX-Z150 is available in teen-pleasing red, pink, and green colors. It even has five user-selectable funky sounds to accompany various functions. At 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches and 5.2 ounces, the EX-Z150 has a sleek tactility that makes it easy to hold and use, and its 3-inch LCD dominates the back of the camera.
The EX-Z150 has a minimum of controls, including separate video and mode buttons, that are all easily accessible. For the most part, your right hand very naturally gravitates to the precise position that gives instant access to the camera's controls. Pressing the Camera or Review button turns on the camera, as does the Record or Power button on top. Although the Menu, Best Shot (Mode) and Display (Jog) buttons are well marked, the other controls are labeled with tiny, hard-to-see icons. The Video button is on the back, right where we normally put our right thumb to hold the camera. Its tiny microphone is situated on the top, rather than the front of the camera, thereby reducing audio quality. And the speaker is on the button, exactly where we put our left thumb to hold the camera.
While flash control is accessed via the Jog button, macro and self-timer must be activated through the Menu button. However, other important controls may be easily set by displaying the side panel on the screen. The EX-Z150's Icon Help menu option is useful to novices in explaining what each function or setting does.
Casio's Best Shot button gives users 22 different mode settings, including Backlight, Text, YouTube video, and eBay product shots. They're easy to identify and navigate around. While Night Portrait and Fireworks automatically set a long exposure time (tripod recommended), the EX-Z150's slowest shutter is only 4 seconds. Users can bypass settings altogether by selecting Easy mode, for simple point-and-shoot.
The camera offers two autofocus modes (Spot and Multi), as well as manual, macro, continuous, infinity, and pan focus. Users also can select sepia, black-and-white, or red, green, blue, yellow, pink, or purple filter effects. A lithium ion battery powers the camera, lasts approximately 280 shots, and recharges completely in only 2 hours.
Under the hood, the EX-Z150's 8.1-megapixel CCD is large enough to produce 14 x 17-inch enlargements, although its 17.9MB of built-in memory is barely enough for 3 full-resolution stills or 11 seconds of VGA-size video. The camera can record video, though in monaural only. Unlike most competitors, the EX-Z150 4X zoom lens has true wide-angle coverage (an equivalent range of 28-112mm). It also features CCD shift and ISO-boosting antishake technology (allowing users to choose either or both, to reduce picture jitters), as well as face detection capability, ISO equivalencies up to 1600, and plus-or-minus contrast, sharpness, color saturation and flash intensity controls.
Shooting with the EX-Z150 in generally fun and easy, but its slowness can frustrate even patient photographers. The camera takes 3 seconds to power up, and approximately 3 seconds between shots without flash. With flash, shutter delay is from 1.5 to 3 seconds, depending on whether or not the shutter is first depressed halfway. With the flash on, the camera was too slow to successfully capture candids of people, pets, and children. Alas, the EX-Z150 lacks a burst mode.
Overall, the EX-Z150 produces good-quality photos. We took a wide variety of test shots: stills in our studio, musicians at a folklore society weekend, action photos of our golden retriever, faces of friends, and pictures of our end-of-summer village fair. Some were shot with available light, others with Auto Flash, and still others with either Backlight mode or fill flash on. All were sharp and detailed, with good tonality. Colors were accurate but slightly muted. Flash shots were often overexposed, and we occasionally experienced inconsistent exposure with backlit situations, regardless of whether we were using Multi or Center-Weighted metering. While high ISO did produce image noise, it was less obvious and distracting than some comparable ultra-mini cameras.
In movie mode, videos of the same subjects (shot at 640 x 480 at 30 frames per second) were smooth and detailed, with excellent quick response exposure. A few videos were filmed at 320 x 240 at 15 fps, and were also surprisingly good. However, the camera cannot zoom or focus while shooting. Because the microphone is not directional, it also records an annoying amount of background noise. Regardless of the shooting circumstances, inside and outside, there is an omnipresent, underlying hiss.
Casio's Exilim EX-Z150 will primarily appeal to teens and others who value its size, style, wide-angle coverage, and fun factor. If wide-angle photography isn't as important, we suggest theCanon PowerShot SD1100 IS(street-priced at about $20 cheaper) or the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS3, which is not as thin but is $20 less expensive. For about $80 more, the Nikon Coolpix S52c offers higher resolution and a Wi-Fi connection; however, none of these ultra-thins is very fast or gives great image quality. For that, you'll have to bump up to a $300 to $400 Nikon, Canon, or Sony device. Still, if you want to spend less than $200 on a camera you can slip in your pocket, the EX-Z150 is a decent choice.