The Casio EX-ZS150 looks very similar to the flagship EX-ZR200, save for the lack of the extra mode dial and the use of a non-rubberized protrusion as grip. Instead the body merely bows outward at a sharp angle, resulting in a small ridge on the front of the camera that the shooter's hand can hold onto. The rest of the camera is fairly typical with a power/zoom/shutter layout on the top plate, battery/memory compartment on the bottom, and control layout and LCD on the back of the camera.
The ZS150 uses a four-way control dial, with a dedicated video button along with buttons for switching between playback and shooting modes. The rear control keys are similar to higher-end Exilim cameras, with a display key, flash button, and unassigned left and right keys.
The menu on the ZS150 has seen minor upgrades over older Casio cameras, though most of these changes are cosmetic. The biggest change is the preview window for some shooting settings, outlined above. The menu layout, however, remains unchanged. The ZS150 still utilizes a tabbed menu system, with three categories (REC/Playback, Quality, Setup) in a horizontal line at the top. Each category has a long list of options beneath it, with some hidden off-screen.
The EX-ZS150 is quite easy to use, with a few extra touches to aid shooting compared to other Casio cameras. The ZS-series cameras are a new series of cameras, compared to the ZR200 and ZR15 which were already released overseas. That gap in release dates has let Casio retool their menu slightly, with it now including a preview window when adjusting some controls like exposure compensation. This lets users alter such settings in the full menu with at least a better understanding of their effect on the final image.
The EX-ZS150 rings in at a compact 102.0x58.9x28.7mm (WxHxD), making it the largest of Casio's four entry-level compact cameras. It's very similar in size to the flagship EX-ZR200, and will slot rather easily into a jacket pocket despite its 12.5x zoom lens. The camera handles confidently, but there are few creature comforts like rubberized plush inserts. The body has rounded corners primarily, and is light enough to hold in one hand and shoot comfortably.
The Casio EX-ZS150 offers the company's line of best shot scenes in addition to its normal automatic mode and premium auto. Premium auto detects the scene and automatically applies certain effects, such as "makeup mode" to a person. The basic automatic function is simpler in design, and does not apply any special effects. There are 23 other scene modes in total, all of which are located in the "best shot" menu.
Every mode on the EX-ZS150 involves some sort of automatic determination of exposure. Most of these result in extreme effects or deal with very particular scene types. The two general auto modes are premium auto (automatically implements scene modes when certain subjects like faces and backlit subjects are detected) and normal automatic program. The camera also includes an exposure compensation scale of +/-2, with 1/3-stop increments.
There are two video options on the EX-ZS150, HD and standard. The HD mode is a typical 720/30p video mode, though no specs were available regarding quality or compression type.
The big reason why the EX-ZS150 rings in at $100 less than the EX-ZR15 is the lack of high speed shooting modes. While this is true in video it is equally true in still shooting. Instead of 30fps full-resolution stills, the CCD on the EX-ZS150 does not seem to have much of a burst at all.
Playback on the EX-ZS150 seemed fairly typical in our time with the camera, with options for quickly reviewing multiple images or zooming in one a particular one. When in playback the REC menu category changes to "playback" and brings up options for resizing, trimming, and deleting images. The camera also features a dedicated delete key for ridding yourself of embarrassing pictures of the night before.
The ZS150 lets users choose to shoot in the full 16.1-megapixel resolution, or reduce resolution down to a number of sizes. When you bring up the quick menu (aligned on the right side of the screen), the first option lets you trim down image size to 14, 12, 10, 5, 3, or 0.3 megapixels. JPEG quality can also be set, with "fine" and "normal" options.
The EX-ZS150 lets users select focus type, focus frame, and focus area through the main menu. As far as we can tell the focus frame merely changes the graphic users when focus is achieved to one of several basic shapes instead of a box. The focus types are limited mostly to macro and normal modes, with area the typical spot and segmented modes.
The camera functions primarily through metering automatically, with options for center-weighted, segmented, and spot metering. The camera does not appear to have a great range of exposure values to choose from, but we won't know until we get the final specs. Regardless, users can adjust exposure compensation on a +/- 2 scale, in 1/3-stop increments.
The ZS150's CCD sensor has a slightly different ISO range than the CMOS-toting compacts Casio showed us at CES. Users can select an equivalent ISO sensitivity ranging from 64 to 1600, with an option to let the camera automatically designate a sensitivity for the given scene.
The ZS150 lets users set a custom white balance, but they can also let the camera automatically decide or rely on a number of built-in preset values. These modes are the usual suspects for Casio and include automatic, sunlight, cloudy, flash, two types of fluorescent, and tungsten lighting.
The EX-ZS150, unlike the rest of Casio's entry-level compact cameras for 2012, features optical stabilization. While this camera uses a CCD image sensor instead of a CMOS, the stabilization tactic is the same, as the ZS150 can also shift the sensor on a plan to counteract camera shake. The rest of the entry-level Casio line for 2012 uses just anti shake, which is a form of digital stabilization.
In addition to the many scene modes on the EX-ZS150, users can alter images by applying one of several color filters. These are found in the main menu, and appear to function in every scene mode. They're not particularly subtle, however, applying a strong color cast to images and included black&white, sepia, red, green, blue, and others.
Casio has elected to stick with a 16.1-megapixel CCD image sensor on the EX-ZS150, as opposed to the higher-end CMOS image sensors on Casio's flagship compact cameras. The sensor does retain the ability to shift on a plane in order to counteract subject blur due to camera shake, which helps with a 12.5x optical zoom lens.
The ZS150 has a standard 2.7-inch LCD, though resolution numbers were not available as of CES 2012. The screen didn't appear to be as high a resolution as the 461k-dot screens on the ZR-series Casios, so the camera may end up with a more entry-level 230k-dot display.
The ZS150's flash is built directly into the body and appeared to be of similar power to the ZR-series Casio cameras. Again, we have yet to receive final specifications on the power, but we used it for a few shots and it appeared to be a typical point-and-shoot flash: very harsh, very bright, and with a slow recycle time.
The ZS150 features a proprietary AV/USB port for charging and transferring photos and video off of the camera. The port is located behind a small plastic flap on the right side of the camera beside the wrist strap eyelet. The media and battery slots are located in the usual place, behind a plastic door on the bottom of the camera.
The EX-ZS150 has a rechargeable, removable lithium-ion battery. We do not yet have specs on the battery's capacity or CIPA rating with the ZS150. The camera does feature USB charging, letting users recharge their battery via just a USB port, rather than needing a dedicated charging block.
Pictures can be stored on SD/SDHC (and presumable SDXC memory cards), all of which fit into a dedicated media slot on the bottom of the camera. There is also the option for enabling functionality with Eye-Fi memory cards, which are SDHC cards with built-in wireless functionality.
The Casio EX-ZS150 is unlike many point-and-shoots in the Casio lineup for 2012. Unlike the higher-end ZR-series cameras, the ZS150 does not feature many bells and whistles. There is no high speed video to be found here, no Multi SR Super Zoom 5000 on the ZS150. Instead it is a fairly typical point-and-shoot design, trying to get the simple things right.
The result is a compact camera that is pretty easy to handle and hold, with a menu system that has featured a few intelligent upgrades—even if it still could use some tweaking in our opinion. Best of all, users get a 16.1-megapixel CCD image sensor, optical stabilization, and a pretty expansive 12.5x optical zoom in a compact body.
The price point will give the ZS150 some competition—$229 is a pretty hotly contested spot in the market for many manufacturers—and the camera doesn't try to wow you over with banner-headline features. In some ways that's a refreshing change for Casio (and point and shoots in general), as there's no gimmicky to overcome.
What you get instead is a simple to use camera with a flexible, useful zoom range and a high-resolution image sensor. We can't make any judgement about the value of the images it puts out until we get the camera into our labs, but at the very least we can call it the most intriguing of the four entry-level compacts Casio has launched at CES 2012.
Meet the tester
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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