DigitalCameraReview.com
Casio Exilim EX-Z77 review
by Ben Stafford -  8/27/2007

Casio tends to make pretty minor changes to their camera models throughout the year and the Casio Exilim EX-Z77 is no exception.  Its hardware is more or less identical to the previous Z75 - 7.1 megapixel resolution, 3x optical zoom, and 2.6 inch LCD.  It does get some new features, like the YouTube movie mode, H.264 movie encoding, auto tracking AF and a face detection system.  Like the Z75, the Z77 comes in pink, blue, black, and silver.

casio exilim ex-Z77
(view large image)

 

NUTS & BOLTS

Image Sensor

The slim Z77 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), 3072x1728 (16:9), 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, you can fit approximately 224 shots on a 1GB memory card.

LCD

The 2.6 inch, wide (14:9) LCD on the back of the Casio has 114,960 pixels of resolution, is color accurate and refreshes quickly enough for a fluid image.  It gains up or down automatically, depending on the light conditions.  Outdoors in the sunlight, the LCD visibility is average.  Also, when reviewing images, it seemed like everything was blurry and out of focus, but when transferred to my PC, the images were fine.  The low pixel count of the screen seems to be the primary cause of this blurriness.  It just makes it hard to tell if you got the shot that you wanted.

casio exilim ex-Z77
(view large image)

Lens/Zoom

The lens provides a 3x optical zoom range (a 35mm equivalent focal length of 38-114mm).  There are 7 increments of zoom control through the optical zoom range.

Focus Modes and Focus Ranges

The auto focus system on the Z77 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.

If you're using AF, you can also use Face Recognition and there are several settings available, including the ability to make your family's faces higher priority than other faces in the shot.  Obviously, you can turn it on or off, but there are a few other options.  The normal mode does what you expect - detects faces in the image and then prioritizes on the largest face in the center of the frame.  There is also a Family First mode.  This mode will prioritize on faces that have been "registered" in the camera as family members.  To do this, you use the "Record Family" mode and let the camera walk you through the face registration.  Once your family is set up, you can use the "Edit Family" option to set priorities on the registered faces.  You can also set the face recognition system to either be able to recognize more faces (5-10), or for it to minimize the time it takes to recognize up to five faces.

Flash

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 11.5 feet at wide angle or 6.2 feet at telephoto.

Memory Media

For storage media, the Z77 accepts SD, SDHC, and MMC memory cards.  It also has 11.4MB of internal memory.

Image File Format(s) 

Images are stored as JPEG files.

Connectivity 

Multi-connector for AV/USB 2.0 Full Speed.

Power

The camera is powered 700 mAh lithium-ion battery pack.  Battery life was good.  Under heavy use, I got around 200 shots on a single charge.  The charger can recharge the battery in about 90 minutes.

casio exilim ex-Z77
(view large image)

EXPOSURE

Auto Mode

The “auto” capture mode on the Z77 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 camera’s 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.

Movie Mode

Movies can be captured in several modes: 640x480 and 848 x 480 at 30 fps; 320x240 at 15 fps.

Metering 

The Z77 has the ability to do multi-pattern metering, center-weighted metering and spot metering.

White Balance 

In addition to the automatic white balance setting, there are 6 presets (daylight, overcast, shade, daywhite fluorescent, daylight fluorescent, tungsten) and a manual mode.  The manual mode lets you set the white balance by pressing the shutter and pointing at a white target.

Sensitivity 

The ISO setting of the camera can be set to Auto, or ISO 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800.

In-camera Image Adjustment 

In addition to the options already listed (ISO, white balance, exposure compensation), you can also adjust the sharpness, saturation, contrast, flash intensity, or apply one of the color filters (B&W, sepia, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, or purple).  Two newer options for adjusting images are in the menu as well.  There's a Dynamic Range option that can expand the dynamic range of the shots to minimize areas of over and under exposure.  Then there is a Portrait Refiner  mode that enhances skin tones by reducing digital noise in those areas of the image.

During image playback, you can apply a keystone correction, a color correction, or you can rotate, resize, or trim your images.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING & ERGONOMICS

The Z77 is an attractive, slim camera available in a wide variety of colors (blue, black, pink, and silver).  The aluminum body of the blue camera that I tested had a nice brushed finish.  It’s a very slim camera at only 0.77 inches thick.  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.

The Z77 gets the wide screen display that has been seen on the earlier Z75.  The reason that I mention it is that it provides a nice way to see and change many of the shooting settings.  An “up” or “down” action on the control pad, as well as a click of the center Set button accesses this menu to make it easy to change things like ISO, white balance, face detection modes, resolution settings, flash modes, timer modes, etc.  Having these settings over on the side means they’re not overlaid on your images.  If you don’t like it though, you can disable it in the Setup menu.

I didn’t expect a super comfortable camera to hold and I wasn’t surprised.  It’s one of those trade-offs when looking for a slim, compact camera.  However, the buttons that you use most frequently (shutter release, directional pad) are placed well, they’re a bit more prominent than the others, and easy to use.  The finish on the body makes the camera a little slick, so two hands (as you should use anyway) will be required for the best shooting platform.

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.

casio exilim ex-Z77
(view large image)

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.

casio exilim ex-Z77
(view large image)

On the back of the camera, the 2.6 inch wide 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.

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

Included

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.

PERFORMANCE 

Image quality is pretty average.  You can get some good results, but I just wasn't blown away by the quality.  Colors are reproduced well, with the exception of some reds.  They tend to look more orange than they really are.  Details were a bit soft in some shots and chromatic aberration was noticeable at 100% magnification in high contrast boundary areas of the shot.  Barrel distortion (straight lines bow away from center) at wide angle was acceptable, but pincushion distortion (straight lines bow toward center) at telephoto was very noticeable.

Lens distortion: wide angle on left, telephoto on right (note pincushion distortion)

(view large image)

(view large image)


(view large image) View full size image to see chromatic aberration at top left edge of building

The flash on the Z77 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.  There is a flash assist mode that will increase ISO to help you get a properly illuminated shot, but it will increase the noise in the images.  This flash assist mode can be disabled.

Noise performance was average for a compact point and shoot.  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.


ISO 50

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800
 

Timing/Shutter Lag

Camera operation was very snappy.  I was very impressed with the minimal shutter lag, even when a partial shutter press was not used.  I was seeing a full press of the shutter take about 0.1 seconds.  Auto focus times were also very good, even in lower light conditions.  Cycle time between shots (without flash) was less than 2 seconds.  Flash cycle time took right around 4-5 seconds with good battery conditions.  When the battery gets a bit lower, the flash charge time can vary though.

Sample Images

casio exilim ex-Z77 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
casio exilim ex-Z77 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
casio exilim ex-Z77 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
casio exilim ex-Z77 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

CONCLUSION 

The Casio Exilim EX-Z77 continues the tradition of its predecessors - providing a slim, stylish camera at a budget friendly price. It doesn't win any image quality awards, but does a fair job of it. Excellent battery life and quick performance are also key factors for the photographers at which this camera is targeted.

Pros

Cons