Despite the calls that declare the megapixel war over, Casio decides to thumb their nose at the rest of the industry by rolling out the Casio Exilim EX-Z1000. The Z1000 captures images at 10.1 megapixels with a 3x optical zoom, and a 2.8 inch, wide LCD. The stylish, pocketable camera is easy to use and provides good image quality, especially outdoors.
Whether or not you need that many megapixels is up to you, but if you've been following the digital camera industry, you probably know that a higher megapixel count does not equate to higher quality. The larger image resolution does provide the ability to make larger prints than with lower resolution cameras.
NUTS & BOLTS
The Z1000 has a CCD image sensor that captures 10 megapixels (3648x2736). You can also capture pictures at 3:2 (3648x2432), 16:9 (3648x2048), 5M (2560x1920), 3M (2048x1536), 2M (1600x1200), and VGA (640x480) resolutions. Three compression settings (Fine, Normal, Economy) also impact image quality.
The only method of framing (and reviewing) images is the 2.8 inch "Wide & Bright" LCD. A resolution of 960x240 (230,400 pixels) provides a widescreen format. It does automatically gain up or down, depending on the brightness of your subject. A brightness adjustment lets you adjust the LCD brightness to your taste. There are also several mode "types" that adjust how the image is displayed on the LCD:
It doesn't refresh often enough to be completely fluid and colors were a bit off on the display. It did, however, work very well outdoors in the sunshine.
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The 3x optical zoom lens on the Z1000 has a focal length of 7.9 -- 23.7mm (35mm equivalent of 38 -- 114 mm). The aperture ranges from f2.8 -- /5.4.
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Focus Modes and Focus Ranges
The Z1000, by default, uses a multi-zone auto focus, but you can also choose to use center auto focus. You can focus on subjects as close as 40 cm in Normal mode and between 6 and 50 cm in Macro Mode (at wide angle). With manual focus, you can also focus as close a 6 cm.
While shooting, you can choose normal, macro, infinity, and manual focus modes. A focus assist light helps out during low light conditions to illuminate your subject.
The camera also has a Quick Shutter mode that is enabled by default. With Quick Shutter turned on and you perform a full press of the button, the camera performs a quick focus (that is faster than the normal AF process). The downside is that you may not get as accurate a focus as you want. So, either disable the Quick Shutter, or always do a partial depress of the shutter to achieve focus lock first.
Besides capturing just a single frame, the Z1000 provides a few additional modes for different continuous shooting conditions. Normal Speed continuous takes shots continuously until memory is filled up. High Speed takes a burst of three images at high speed. Flash Continuous lets you capture a three image burst with the flash firing for each one. Finally, the Zoom Continuous mode lets you select an area within the frame and once you press the shutter, the full image is recorded as well as the twice enlarged selected area.
If you need a timer, the camera lets you set a 10 second timer, a 2 second timer, and an "x3" timer. With the "x3" timer, one image is captured after 10 seconds and then two more shots are taken one second after the first and after the second shot.
The built-in flash has a claimed range of 0.1m to 3.6m at wide angle and 0.4m to 1.9m at full telephoto. If you shoot in continuous mode with the flash, you lose some intensity and get a range of 0.6m to 2.1m at wide angle and 0.4m to 1.1m at full telephoto. For flash modes, you get Auto, Forced On, Forced Off, Soft Flash, and red eye reduction.
The range actually seems to be a little optimistic. The flash is not quite enough to illuminate a room indoors.
The flash intensity can be adjusted between -2 and +2 in whole stop increments.
You can store images on approximately 8MB or use the SD/MMC slot in the battery compartment for more storage.
Image and Media File Format(s)
Images are stored as JPEG and movies are recorded as AVI format. Voice can also be recorded as WAV files.
The only connection option is to use the included cradle. The AC adapter, USB cable (to transfer pictures), and AV connection can be plugged directly into the cradle. You have to use the cradle to do any charging.
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The Z1000 is powered by a 3.7v, 1300mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery (NP-40). Charge time is around three hours.
Casio uses the CIPA standard to provide an estimate of battery life. According to their measurements, you can get 360 shots on a single charge. I easily achieved over 200 shots and still had plenty of battery life left. Since it is a proprietary battery, you may want to get a spare, depending on your shooting style and length of time away from the charging cradle.
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The Z1000 is a simple Point and Shoot camera, aimed at users who don't need any manual modes. The Auto mode will suffice in most situations, but if you want to play around with some scene modes, you can use Casio's Best Shot system. For Best Shot choices, Casio provides over 30 different modes. Just click the BS button and make your choice using the directional pad.
Best Shot Menu
The Z1000 allows a couple different quality settings for movie capture. The highest quality (HQ) is 640 x 480 at 25 frames per second. The Normal captures the same resolution and frame rate, but the compression rate differs so that file sizes in normal mode are just over half the size of movies captured in HQ mode. If you are really short on storage space, you can also record at 320x240 at 12.5 frames per second.
You cannot operate the optical zoom during movie capture and you can record monaural audio with your clips. If you have the camera set to allow digital zoom, you can do a digital zoom during movies.
Multi-pattern, center-weighted, and center spot metering.
Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, Tungsten, and Manual
Auto, ISO 50, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400
In-Camera Image Adjustment
During image capture you can apply one of the color filters: black & white, sepia, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, or purple. You can also adjust the sharpness, saturation, and contrast.
During image playback, you can apply a keystone correction, color correction, rotate, resize, or trim images.
CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS
The Casio Z1000 is very compact, just a bit wider than a deck of cards and still pocketable. A clear cover over the LCD protects it from minor bumps with whatever else you may have in your pocket. A built-in lens cover protects the lens when it is retracted into the body of the camera.
For the most part, the controls are good. The shutter button is sized nicely. The zoom ring around the shutter button is easy to operate and a little texture on the upper right of the back of the camera gives you a good place to rest your thumb. The power button is recessed enough to prevent accidental presses. My only complaint with the controls is that directional pad. While the ring (to go up, down, left, and right) is good, the confirmation button in the middle doesn't stick up enough to prevent accidental presses in one of the four directions.
The only "shortcuts" available on the camera (other than using the menu system) is an "up" press cycles through the display modes, and a "down" press cycles through flash modes. If you want to use the left and right directions on the directional pad, you can assign it to adjust focus, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, or the self-timer modes.
Build quality is good. The body still feels solid and sturdy. Since you have to charge and transfer pictures using the cradle, there aren't too many little access doors with flimsy lids. The only door is the one to the battery/memory card compartment and it's nicely done. The Z1000 also has a nice touch that you don't see on every camera - a little tab that prevents the battery from sliding out when you open the door.
In Casio's nice, compact box, you'll find the camera, battery, cradle, wrist strap, CD-ROM with software and advanced manual, USB cable, A/V cable, quick start guide, and AC power cord. (The power cord will vary depending on where the camera is purchased.)
As far as image quality, the Z1000 has some good and some not so good. I was not impressed with image results on indoor shots. The biggest culprit was noise. Even at low sensitivities, the flash is not intense enough to handle even a smallish room.
Outside, things are much better. Images show good detail and good color, and maybe a bit too saturated. Finding any chromatic aberration was difficult.
Noise performance was good at ISO 50 and starts to become noticeable at ISO 100. ISO 200 and 400 are very noticeable in images when viewed on the computer.
The Z1000 performed relatively quickly. While not the fastest camera (as far as shutter lag) out there, it was still acceptable, and I was able to catch running kids without a problem (after already achieving a focus lock with a partial depress of the shutter button). A full press of the button had a click to capture time of just under a second (indoors when it was bright enough for no flash).
Cycle time was also pretty good. When using the flash (and a healthy battery), the shot to shot time was under five seconds. If you need to shoot faster with the flash, consider using the Flash Continuous mode.
A Few Concerns
My main concern is the difficulty in getting a quality indoor shot. Most of my shots were too noisy and looked a little over-processed -- enough so that detail was lost. Another minor gripe (at least with my fingers) was the too small directional pad.
As one of the very few 10 megapixel, compact Point and Shoot cameras on the market, the Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 doesn't have too much competition (yet). It's an attractive camera that has a nice LCD and takes good images in good light. When you move indoors, good image quality is harder to come by, but is not impossible. If you're looking for a compact camera and to make very large prints that a 10 megapixel image can provide, then the Z1000 is your best option.
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