Casio Exilim EX-Z500
- Stylishly designed, large LCD screen
- Image quality is below par
One of the smallest, most well designed cameras we've laid our hands on, the Z500 is unfortunately let down by poor image quality.
Price$ 699.00 (AUD)
When we pulled the Casio Z500 out of its box, we were instantly impressed. It looked the part, it felt the part and Casio has produced a few winners in the past, so we were expecting big things. Instead what we got was basic consumer camera that simply takes horrible pictures.
The trouble started when we opened our very first warm-up shots to discover quite a bit of blurring, noticeable graining and image noise on certain parts of the pictures. After taking some extensive indoor and outdoor shots, they only confirmed what we'd spotted earlier. Almost all the pictures we took suffered from obvious blurring, be it towards the edges or across the whole picture. Granulation was also evident across many uniform surfaces such as our favourite purple office wall. Colour representation was the best part of the shots. We found colours were fairly well presented, with skin tones coming out clear and bright colours were strong without being oversaturated.
Apart from the pictures themselves, the camera operates very smoothly. Shutter lag is unnoticeable and image write lag is a ridiculously quick one second or less. Start-up time was the only let down, at a slightly heftier two and a half seconds.
We were particularly taken with the Z500's beautiful 2.7" screen. 2.5" has always been the standard for a large screen on a camera, but this model takes that to new heights. The LCD is nothing short of breathtaking, especially considering the diminutive size of the camera itself. It displays the subject in a massive 153,600 pixels - so not only is it huge but images comes up clear and free of ghosting. The first-rate screen really makes for a sublime photo taking experience, even if the shots are not all they could be.
Measuring just 88 x 57 x 20 mm, the Z500 is one of the smallest cameras we've seen, with a sleek, slightly arrow shaped design that feels extremely durable. While it's a little heavier than we would expect, that just adds to the feeling of solidity rather than being detrimental to the operation of the camera itself. The Z500 comes coloured in silver metal and fits in the smallest pocket or bag.
Despite the huge LCD, the camera's controls don't suffer either. The buttons are of a minimalist design, with just the basic menu, mode and best shot buttons, along with a directional pad, but they are spaciously laid out and easy to use. We did miss the video record mode initially, as it is tucked away inside the Best Shot function.
Casio gets away with so few buttons because the Z500 really is a simple camera. It gives the user the ability to manipulate white balance and ISO levels to some degree (including a manual white balance mode) and has image editing options in the form of sharpness, saturation and contrast. The Z500 also offer a continuous shot mode, which takes roughly 1.2 photos a second, and a very nice video mode that shoots at high quality 640x480 at a speed of 30 fps. The Best Shot mode rounds out the feature-set of this camera, and is definitely a strength across the Casio range, with over 30 options present here. With a range spanning everything from Pet to Sunset and Splashing Water, there is something there for every situation.
The Z500 battery is rated at 500 shots, which is high for an ultra compact model. To our surprise, our unit managed a little over this, scraping in at 550 shots before the battery ran flat. Definitely great performance from a camera with such a large screen.
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