The Casio Exilim EX-Z150 is a camera designed to be carried, not left behind.
Casio's latest size- and budget-conscious ultracompact comes in a variety of bright colors with anti-shake, an acceptable zoom range, a wide selection of pre-programmed "Best Shot" settings, and a built-in and easily accessible YouTube capture mode for shooting videos ready for web use.
The EX-Z150 is an 8.1 megapixel camera with a 4x, 28-112mm zoom and a built-in flash. It utilizes SD/SDHC/MMC/MMCPlus cards plus 17.9MB of internal memory. It has a 3.0 inch LCD and no viewfinder.
Built for basic point-and-shoot operation, the Z150 features the following basic shooting modes:
There are an impressive 22 different Best Shot scene presets from which to select! While this may seem to be a formidable number, they are readily accessible via the "BS" button on the back panel. Scrolling through them with the ubiquitous d-pad/joystick is quite easy. There is even a built-in help function to aid in determining which Best Shot mode might be most appropriate to your particular situation.
For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
Styling and Build Quality
The EX-Z150 exhibits the clean lines common among today's point-and-shoot digital cameras with its smooth surfaces and thin body.
The case is plastic, judging by the tap test method; however, it appears to be mounted onto a fairly substantial sub-frame if the eleven small screws are any indication.
It feels rigid and without flex during handling.
Ergonomics and Interface
The control layout of the Casio Exilim EX-Z150 is simple and straightforward. The menus are intuitive as well. The camera is designed to be used after all; no need to refer to the manual for most functions. Speaking of which, the manual is only available on the CD in PDF format. I miss the days of hardcopy manuals.
I found one major annoyance with this camera in general usage: The Movie Mode button is located on the back in the upper right corner. I found that it was unintentionally being pressed. Often. Not well placed at all.
The top deck features a very small on/off button, the shutter release, and the zoom control.
The back is dominated by the LCD. To the right of that, top to bottom, are a Movie Mode button, Play and Record buttons, the D-Pad (with the Set button in the center), the Menu button, and the BS button.
The D-Pad can be activated to adjust exposure compensation (+/- 2.0EV) and the effect of this is shown in the LCD. There are other possible settings, via the menus, which make these easy to change without having to re-access the menus. The other possible targets for this custom function are:
The D-Pad is a bit stiff and imprecise. A person with larger hands would find it difficult to operate. It also has four nubs on it, which were probably intended to provide tactile feedback, but in practice are obstacles.
The 3.0 inch LCD is becoming quite standard these days. This one is viewable in most lighting situations.
The current settings can be displayed on the LCD; including a histogram, if you are so inclined. I usually set the display to show the focus points, highlight the active one(s), and also to overlay a grid screen. The EX-Z150 permitted all of that easily. It also allows for toggling the display so that it is not necessary to traverse the menus to quickly view certain settings.
Timing and shutter lag
The time requirements for pre-focus and between focus and shutter release for this camera are not stellar. Even in Sports mode with anti-shake activated there were some blurry shots.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||0.02|
|Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
|Nikon Coolpix S560||0.04|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.05|
|Casio Exilim EX-Z150||0.22|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||0.23|
|Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.42|
|Nikon Coolpix S560||0.61|
|Casio Exilim EX-Z150||1.15|
The shutter lag, as measured in standardized testing, was 0.22 seconds – very slow, and far beyond standards for this class. The Z150 didn't fare much better in its AF performance: AF lag time was measured at 1.15 seconds – practically glacial.
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||3||2.5 fps|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||10||1.6 fps|
|Canon PowerShot SD880 IS||∞||1.4 fps|
|Casio Exilim EX-Z150
|Nikon Coolpix S560||5||0.7 fps|
Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.), as tested in our studio. "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Continuous shooting was measured in the studio at 1.3 frames per second for 13 frames, serving up the only truly acceptable performance of the day among the Z150's measured metrics.
The autofocus seemed a bit difficult to predict in Multi-AF mode; however, in Spot mode it is a bit better. As noted in our timings, there is a noticeable delay between the half-press and the confirmation on both modes.
Also, in usage, there were an inordinate number of out of focus shots. This was probably partially due to the extensive combined lag time of the AF and shutter release, but also appears to be the AF itself not acquiring consistently. I began to question whether this was a problem with this specimen or with the model overall as I used the camera.
Lens and Zoom
The zoom controls function quickly but without finesse. It was virtually impossible to frame an image precisely. However, cropping in the computer during post-processing is always an option.
At the wide angle end of the zoom range there is significant barrel distortion, which is not uncommon in this class of camera.
Using flash with this camera, one will want to become familiar with the range and intensity of the flash. The distance is somewhat limited and, if too close, can be overpowering. I found the Auto setting to be reasonably accurate in most situations. There is also a flash intensity setting available in the menus. It might have been useful to make that function available under the Left-Right D-Pad options.
Full-power flash recycle time was measured at 8.5 seconds, which means you will not be taking continuous flash pictures with this camera.
Using flash does yield images with vibrant and accurate colors when the distance is correct.
The EX-Z150 has a menu entry with several "Anti-Shake" settings. In practice I found no significant differences between the resultant images using most of them. These settings are:
As with most cameras these days, the battery is a lithium-ion type that is specific to the camera. While I always prefer to have at least one spare battery on hand, the battery life seemed quite good in my time with the camera. I do turn off many of the displays, which helps. Keep in mind that the recharge time is over two hours for these batteries, so you will not be taking pictures for some time while your battery is recharging.
As can be seen in the series of studio shots, the image quality is better at the lower ISO settings, just as one would expect. What is less expected is the difference between each ISO setting. Often I find less difference until the higher ISO is used. With this camera there is a readily apparent difference between each setting. This does not negate the use of the higher ISO settings when required, but it probably does indicate that one should try to stay in the lower ISO ranges whenever possible.
Evaluating the 100 percent crops of the studio images, the image quality above ISO 400 is disappointing. There is observable noise and color shift.
Exposure, Processing, and Color
This camera has the extensive Best Shots choices previously mentioned. Perhaps the most obvious omissions in that set are ones for difficult snow and beach situations. Still, 22 is a fair number of presets.
You have three metering choices: multi, center-weighted, and spot. The spot meter is limited to the center area of the image and cannot be tied to other focus points.
There are a number of color filters built-in, including black-and-white and sepia modes. For more involved image adjustments, sharpness, saturation, and contrast are all adjustable from -2 to +2.
The image size is user-selectable as is the image quality. Unless I have a specific purpose in mind for an image that merits making this choice in-camera (or a very full or very small SD card), I always leave these on the highest settings to permit that decision to be made later in a computer.
In addition to the customary white balance settings (e.g. auto, sun, shade, tungsten, fluorescent), a custom white balance can also be set by using a baseline source, such as a sheet of paper. This is particularly useful in situations where there is more than one type of light source.
Practically all lenses exhibit some distortions; the EX-Z150 is no exception in this regard. Most prominent is barrel distortion at the wide-angle setting. This effect is not significantly better, nor worse, than that of most other cameras in this class. The effects can be minimized (or exaggerated for effect) by keeping the camera level.
Sensitivity and Noise
The images from the studio, taken at various ISO settings clearly show the expected changes in noise and color shift as speed increases. There are always trade-offs.
With this camera, being as slow to acquire AF and release the shutter as it is, I would very much have liked to have been able to use ISO 800 most of the time. However, the resultant images above ISO 400 were disappointing.
ISO 64, 100% crop
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Taken as a progression, evaluating each image against the images above and below it in ISO, one can readily observe the changes; perhaps more so with this camera than with other cameras. Still, the ISO 100 and ISO 200 images, taken as stand-alone images, would probably be quite acceptable for most people's taste and usage. Even the ISO 400 setting is usable as long as there is not a great need for fine detail.
Additional Sample Images
I was able to obtain some acceptable images outside in daylight with detail and contrast as can be seen in these images of a leaf-bare maple tree in the long light of sunset and the mossy rock in bright daylight.
Still, even at ISO 400 the camera slowed down to 1/80 of a second, resulting in soft images.
Yet at ISO 200 and 1/80 of a second significant detail can be seen in this image. The inability to predict results was quite aggravating.
Once the effective range of the built-in flash was determined, the abilities of this slow little camera were allowed to shine through. If you take a fair number of still photographs in low-light situations where you need a small "pocketable" camera, the EX-Z150 could possibly work.
The detail, saturation, and limited depth of field in this image of a bird of paradise flower are indicative of this capability.
Likewise, these flower shots. The focus, white balance, and color saturation of the EX-Z150 all seem to be optimized for close-range flash photography.
These images were taken through a thick window at a slow speed by holding very still. This is one of those situations where auto white balance is used and one hopes for the best.
There are a number of digital cameras in the $150 price range of the Casio Exilim EX-Z150. This one seems fussier than most, requiring special considerations to obtain simple snapshots.
Not recommended for action photography, but quite capable of still photography, the Exilim EX-Z150 has some redeeming stylistic and features touches. But with lots of other good options, it's hard to feel too strongly about this one.
|Sensor||8.1 megapixel, 1/2.5" CCD|
|Lens/Zoom||4x (28-112mm) zoom lens, f/2.6-5.9|
|LCD/Viewfinder||3.0", 230K-dot TFT LCD
|Shutter Speed||4-1/2000 seconds|
|Shooting Modes||Auto, Best Shot (Scene), Movie
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Scenery, Children, Sports, Candlelight Portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Soft Flowing Water, Sundown, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, eBay, Backlight, Anti Shake, High Sensitivity, YouTube, Voice Recording
|White Balance Settings||Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Tungsten, Manual
|Metering Modes||Multi, Center, Spot|
|Focus Modes||Auto Focus, Pan Focus, Infinity Focus, Manual Focus, Macro|
|Drive Modes||Normal, Continuous, High-Speed Continuous, Flash Continuous|
|Flash Modes||Auto, Forced On, Forced Off, Soft Flash, Red-Eye Reduction
|Self Timer Settings
||10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
|Memory Formats||SD, SDHC
|File Formats||JPEG, AVI
|Max. Image Size||3264 x 2448|
|Max. Video Size
||640x480, 30 fps
|Zoom During Video||No
|Connections||USB 2.0, AV output|
|Additional Features||Auto Shutter, YouTube Capture Mode, Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization|