So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Casio Exilim EX-Z850
- Lightning quick, Nice features for such a small model
- Some image quality issues
Overall the Z850 is a solid advanced camera. It doesn't take the best photographs in the world, but it performed above average in most of our tests and crams a robust feature-set into a relatively small design.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
Casio's Exilim Z850 is a fairly solid advanced camera. It falls into the lower end of advanced models, offering just rudimentary manual features, but these will be more than enough to suit the budding photographer. It takes above average shots, sports a decent but not particularly innovative design and is an all around strong performer.
In our image quality tests, Casio has done quite well of late, and while the Z850 performed well in several of our tests, it also suffered in others. The most noticeable of these was its 23.l% oversharpening score. Obvious from the second we opened our test shots, this camera's sharpening algorithm is not nearly as accurate as it should be. A typical score is somewhere around 5%, any higher and your pictures begin to take on an almost cell shaded, unrealistic look, which really detracts from the final product.
This is unfortunate, as the rest of our sharpness tests yielded solid results. The Z850's 8.1 megapixel sensor achieved a sharpness score of 1393 in Imatest, which is about what we'd expect for a sensor of this quality, and indicates high quality shots that are suitable for printing at a variety of sizes. Our shots exhibited clean, crisp edges but sadly they were marred by the high levels of oversharpening.
Its chromatic aberration score of .123% was slightly less impressive. This is a little above average and while it wasn't a big problem on its own, when combined with the oversharpening issues it did lower the quality of our images to some degree.
In our colour tests, the Z850 did quite well, achieving a score of 7.58. Most cameras in this class score between 7 and 9, so this is a good result. Surprisingly the least accurate colours were yellows and blues, as opposed to the common problems we see with reds. Its performance in our final test for image noise was similar, with the Z850 scoring .49%. This compares very favourably with the average, which is about .55%. At low ISO settings our shots showed no signs of noise, and furthermore they revealed this model scales very well with higher sensitivities. At its highest setting of ISO 400 it achieved a result of 1.03% which is a solid performance, and indicates even at this level noise will not be too much of a problem.
In our speed tests the Z850 performed even better, clocking lightning quick times in all areas. With a minute shutter lag of just .03 of a second and a shot-to-shot time of one second, you're not going to miss any of the action. The 1.6 second power-up time is equally impressive, and combined with the other scores, makes this one of the fastest cameras available on the market.
The feature set is very impressive considering this unit has the look and feel of a compact camera. It offers shutter speeds from 60 seconds to 1/1600th of a second, and four aperture settings that range from f/2.8 to f/7.4. There are a variety of burst modes, one of which operates at a very speedy three frames per second for three shots, as well as preset and manual white balance modes. We would have liked to see ISO sensitivity options go higher than 400; although such an option can be accessed via the 'High Sensitivity' scene mode it would be more useful as a standalone option.
Casio has also gone all out with the focus and metering options; a single press of the upwards directional arrow shifts between focus modes, which include automatic, manual, pan and infinity. There are also multiple configurations for the autofocus mode; you can either select a single point of focus or use the LCD to target multiple areas.
These features are complemented by the usual Casio package of options, which includes a massive 34 pre-set shooting modes, their image stabilisation technology (which works quite well, but is not as effective as Panasonic's implementation) and a variety of image manipulation options such as sharpness, contrast and colour. Overall this is an extremely robust camera that offers enough features to keep the average user or budding amateur happy.
Its design is fairly typical of Casio's recent models. Finished in metallic silver the boxy design is quite plain by modern camera standards, but certainly isn't ugly. The whole chassis is constructed of metal and feels extremely sturdy. The controls are laid out in a standard fashion, with a vertical scroll wheel and directional pad providing the bulk of control over the camera. Most functions are accessed through the menu, although there is a button tucked away on the far left hand side that brings up a sub menu, containing the basic photography options such as white balance, ISO level, picture resolution and focus mode.
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