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Casio Exilim EX-Z70 Digital Camera Review
by  -  10/5/2006

The Casio Exilim EX-Z70 is the successor to the Z60. The slim and tiny Z70 features 7.2 megapixels of resolution, a 2.5 inch LCD and 3x optical zoom. Targeted at beginners, the camera features a simple mode and Casio's Best Shot scene modes, including a new "old photo" Best Shot mode.

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If you're new to digital photography or want something easy to use, the Casio Z70 is a nice and stylish option. The camera is available in black and silver and has a solid, lightweight aluminum body.

In the Box

In the box, you'll find the camera, battery pack, battery charger with AC cord, wrist strap, USB cable, A/V cable, basic reference manual, and CD-ROM of software.

Camera Design

The Z70 is an attractive, slim camera. The aluminum body of the black camera that I tested had a nice brushed finish. Even though the Z70 is not one of Casio's "card" cameras, it's still very thin, at 0.78 inches. It's a very pocketable camera with a nice plastic guard over the LCD and built-in lens cover. When powered off, the lens fully retracts into the body of the camera.

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On the front of the camera, in addition to the lens, you can see the flash, timer light, and a little hole for the microphone.

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The top edge of the camera has the power button and shutter release. The power button is tiny and recessed to prevent accidental power on.

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On the back of the camera, the 2.5 inch LCD takes up most of the space with just a few additional buttons. A zoom rocker switch on the top right of the camera handles zooming during image capture or image playback. Below the zoom switch are two buttons used to switch between capture and playback modes. A 5 way directional pad provides the main mechanism for navigating through the menus that are activated with the menu button. A BS button provides access to the Casio Best Shot scene modes.

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The bottom of the camera has a tripod mount, battery/memory media compartment, and USB/AV multi-connector.

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Camera Features

The tiny Z70 features a maximum capture resolution of 7.2 megapixels. Images can be captured at resolutions of: 3072 x 2304, 3072 2048 (3:2 aspect ratio for 4x6 prints), 2560 1920, 2048 1536, 1600 1200, and 640 x 480. Three levels of JPEG compression are also available: Fine, Normal, and Economy. At full 7.2 megapixel resolution and Fine compression, the file size is approximately 4.32 MB. At this size, you can fit approximately 55 shots on a 256MB memory card.

The lens provides a 3x optical zoom range (a 35mm equivalent focal length of 38-114mm). There are 6 increments of zoom control through the optical zoom range.

The 2.5 inch LCD on the back of the Casio has 115,200 pixels of resolution, is color accurate and refreshes quickly enough to afford a smooth image. It gains up or down automatically, depending on the light conditions. Outdoors in the sunlight, the LCD visibility is average.

Movies can be captured in several modes: 640x480 and 512 x 384 at 30 fps; 320x240 at 15 fps.

For storage media, the Z70 accepts SD and MMC memory cards. It also has 8.3MB of internal memory.

The camera is powered 700 mAh lithium-ion battery pack. Battery life was good. Under heavy use, I got just under 150 shots. The charger can recharge the battery in about 90 minutes.

The "auto" capture mode on the Z70 is essentially a program auto mode, where you can modify the ISO, exposure compensation, white balance and so on. There are no manual modes on the camera, as is typical of this cameras target market. If you want to get creative, you can use one of the many (over 30) Best Shot scene modes. A dedicated button provides quick access to the Best Shot menu.

If you want to keep things simple, you can enable the simple mode via the menu system. Simple mode modifies the menu system to provide access to only the flash modes, timer modes, and image size. (And a way to get back to the default menu). This mode essentially becomes the fully automatic mode. It also disables access to the Best Shot modes.

The auto focus system on the Z70 can focus as close as 1.3 feet while in normal AF. When you switch over to macro, you can get as close as 3.9 inches. You can use a multi-zone focus area or a center zone focus area. An infinity mode lets you set the focus all the way out, so the camera does nothing with focus when you take a shot. A pan focus mode comes in handy when shooting a subject that the camera has a hard time getting a focus lock on. There is also a manual focus mode.

To get to the timer modes, you need to get into the menu system. If you need a timer, you can choose from a 2 second timer, 10 second timer, and 3-shot timer. There are two continuous modes on the camera. Normal speed continuous mode lets you capture images continuously until you run out of memory. The high speed mode lets you capture up to three images at an even faster rate. The continuous flash mode lets you take three rapid-fire shots with flash. In this mode, the camera splits flash power over the three shots, increases the sensor sensitivity, and decreases capture resolution.

The flash button (down direction on directional pad) cycles through the available flash modes. You can set the flash mode to auto, fill (always on), off, soft flash, and red eye reduction. The flash range of the camera is 12.1 feet at wide angle or 6.2 feet at telephoto. When using the continuous flash mode, the wide angle range is cut to 6.2 feet and the telephoto flash range is cut to 3.3 feet.

Camera Performance and Image Quality

Camera operation was snappy. I was pretty impressed with the minimal shutter lag, even when a partial shutter press was not used. Flash cycle time can take a while, depending on battery condition, but other areas of camera speed were very good.

The menu system of the Z70 will get well used, especially if you like to adjust ISO or white balance. A nice feature is the ability to set the left and right directions of the directional pad to control commonly used settings, like focus type, ISO, white balance, etc.

Being a small camera, it doesn't exactly paint the picture of being comfortable to hold. However, the buttons that you use most frequently (shutter release, directional pad) are a bit larger than the others and easy to use. The finish on the body makes the camera a little slick, so two hands (as always) will be required for the best shooting platform.

The flash on the Z70 performed well. In an almost completely dark room, it did a good job of illumination to about 12 feet or so. The camera automatically sets the sensitivity at ISO 200 for flash shots for the best exposure. However, at ISO 200, things can be a bit grainy. You can "fix" the ISO at 50 or so for better noise performance, but the image may be underexposed.

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While we're talking about flash, I find the continuous flash mode to be pretty fun. In this mode, you can take up to three shots, with flash, in rapid succession. The camera boosts the ISO and decreases the resolution while splitting the flash power over three shots. It does this well, but the resulting images were very noisy/grainy.

Typically, the camera achieved auto focus quickly. The camera doesn't have a focus assist lamp, which would have been a welcome addition as the camera did have some problems in low light.

Overall, I liked the images that the Z70 produced, with outdoor shots being better, as usual, than indoor shots. The colors were accurate and strong, and not over-saturated at all. Skin tones were pleasing and accurate. There was some very minor softness around the edges of the frame, but you really have to look for it. The metering system handled tricky lighting conditions (full sun and shadow) very well and I never strayed from the automatic white balance which worked well.

Noise performance was good. ISO 50 and 100 look good. At ISO 200, some graininess is noticeable, but standard size prints will look just fine. ISO 400 is pretty noisy.

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Sample Images

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Specifications

Conclusion

The Casio Exilim EX-Z70 does make a good beginners camera, especially a beginner who likes a little style and the camera's compact size. If you're overwhelmed, just try the simple mode. Do you want to get creative? Try out the Best Shot scene modes, of which there are more than enough to keep you happy. The pocketability of the camera makes it very easy to carry around, and the good battery life will keep you shooting as long as you need. Image quality is good, especially outdoors. Indoor shots can be plagued with digital noise or graininess, so play around with the settings to get the best results. Most point and shoot digital cameras are capable of taking very good pictures when you take the time to learn the camera and its limitations.

Pros

Cons