Our round of testing begins with photographs of the GretagMacbeth color chart, which is widely known as the standard for color in the imaging industry. The chart is made up of 24 square tiles each with a different color. We photographed the chart with the Casio Exilim EX-Z700, and uploaded the images to Imatest software. The program compared the original colors of the chart to those produced by the Z700. The following is a chart modified by the program to show the ideal colors (vertical rectangles), Z700’s colors (outer squares), and ideal colors corrected for exposure (inner squares) all on one chart.
Because it is sometimes difficult to see the difference between all these colors, the software quantified the information and put it into a graph below. The circles represent the Casio Z700’s colors, and the squares represent what they should be.
These results actually look quite similar to the Casio Z850’s color testing results. Many of the colors are slightly off, and most are undersaturated. In fact, the entire image was saturated 93.6 percent. This is a bit surprising, as most digital cameras tend to oversaturate images by about 10 percent to fake more flattering skin tones. Indeed, even the Z850 oversaturated by 14 percent.
The good news is that the camera metered the scene and white balance almost exactly right. For its performance, the Casio Exilim EX-Z700 received a 7.97 overall color score and 7.65 mean color error.
**Still Life Scene
**We photograph the same awesome still life scene of the colorful markers, doll, ring, and other such items with every digital camera we test. This photo is taken by the Casio Z700. A full-resolution file can be viewed by clicking on the image below.
Casio’s Z700 comes with a 1/2.5-inch CCD loaded with 7.41 total megapixels, 7.2 of which are effective in imaging. The advertised pixel counts don’t always add up though, especially when paired with less than amazing lenses and processors and such. To test this, we photographed an industry standard resolution chart using various focal lengths and apertures to get the absolute sharpest shot. Our best picture came from using a focal length of 15.3mm and an aperture of f/4.6. Below is the resolution chart; clicking on it will show a full-resolution shot.
Fringing is evident in the picture, and it gets worse closer to the edges of the frame. The image isn’t blurry everywhere but it isn’t crystal clear either. We uploaded the image to Imatest, which quantified how sharp the picture is in units of line widths per picture height (lw/ph). This measurement describes how many black-and-white alternating lines of equal width could theoretically fit across the frame horizontally and vertically without blurring.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 resolved 1367 lw/ph horizontally, but did so with 1.07 percent undersharpening. Vertically, the camera resolved 1356 lw/ph with 9.54 percent undersharpening. These results are very similar to the Casio Z850’s resolution results, despite the Z850 advertising another megapixel on its sensor. Overall, the 7.2-megapixel Casio Z700 doesn’t perform as well as it should.
Noise – Auto ISO*(0.49)*
When we tested the noise output of the camera using the automatic ISO setting, a new record was set. Most compact models meter the scene, choose the lowest ISO available, and produce just a tiny amount of noise in our brightly lit studio. The Casio Z700 metered the scene and selected an ISO around 200, and produced a ton of noise. The ISO 200 setting on this Exilim produces about the same amount of noise as competing models’ ISO 800 or even 1600 settings. The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 set a new low for this test with a 0.49 overall score. It doesn’t get much lower than that.
Noise – Manual ISO*(2.07)*
Despite other compact digital cameras offering higher sensitivity these days, this Exilim still only has four basic manual ISO settings: 50, 100, 200, and 400. We tested the noise output of each of these while shooting in a brightly lit studio. The chart below shows the ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the resultant noise on the vertical axis.
There is a lot of noise at the lowest ISO 50 setting, and it only gets worse from there. To determine the overall score, we used the noise output results from each setting and generated a regression analysis. The Casio Z700 turned out a disappointing overall manual ISO noise score of 2.07. This is unfortunate, as these pictures were taken in bright light but will hardly be usable.
*While all other testing is done in a brightly lit studio, this is done at light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. The two brightest tests are fairly common lighting situations found in dimly lit restaurants and bars. The darkest two tests are uncommon for photography, but help us determine any limitations the image sensor may have. For this test, we photograph the color chart in the diminishing light so readers can compare it with the brightly lit version. Imatest has altered the pictures below to show the ideal colors (vertical rectangles), camera’s produced colors (outer squares), and camera’s colors corrected for luminance (inner squares) just like the color test.
This test was not easy to perform. First of all, it was difficult to straighten the camera because of its physical imbalance; it had a hard time sitting straight on a tripod even when screwed onto the plate. The second problem was the inaccurate metering in low light. The metering system seemed to perform just fine in optimal lighting, but it has trouble finding much when the lights are low. The other problems include increasing color inaccuracy and an exorbitant amount of noise. There was already a ton of noise in bright light, but it only gets worse as the lights dim. Check out the chart below to see just how much worse it gets. The horizontal axis shows the exposure time and the vertical axis shows the amount of noise produced at that shutter speed.
Surprisingly, the Z700 produces less long-exposure noise than the Casio Z850 – perhaps due to the camera’s noise reduction system. However, this is still a substantial amount of noise and makes shooting in low light virtually impossible when combined with the terrible metering and aversion to the tripod.
Speed / Timing
Startup to First Shot (8.28)
It took the Casio EX-Z700 1.72 seconds to start up and take a first image. That’s quick for a compact camera. Still, users ought to be sure to turn the camera on before they get into a situation where a spontaneous shot might come up. Two seconds is a long time when it comes to a candid moment.
The Casio EX-Z700 offers three burst modes. In its Unlimited mode, it will shoot a little faster than 1 shot every two seconds – our math says 0.57 frames per second – but it will keep going at that rate until the memory card fills up. Its High mode shoots 3 frames in slightly less than a second. The Z700 will also shoot 3 flash shots in less than a second, which is an unusual and useful option. It’s possible to find compact cameras that shoot more than 3 frames in a burst. For portraits and some candids, it’s sometimes more useful to have more shots.
Shutter to Shot (8.65)
The perfect camera would take the picture the instant its shutter was pressed. The Z700 isn’t perfect, but with a delay of only 0.18 of a second, it’s very quick, and outstanding among compact cameras. It’s speed will be helpful to users who want to catch action and candid shots.
**The front of the camera is branded with the Casio logo in the top left corner and the Exilim logo in the center of the left side. Below the Exilim logo, the camera boasts of its 7.2 megapixels of strength. As with many compact models, the camera’s lens overtakes almost the entire right side of the front. The lens extends in three segments from a silver-lined barrel. Around the inner rim, it is labeled, "Exilim Optical 3x, 6.2-18.6 mm. The actual window portion of the lens is slightly rectangular and enclosed by a plastic frame in the barrel. Two diagonal doors snap open and closed when the Z700 is turned on and off. To the top left of the lens is a bubble-like LED that serves as an auto focus assist lamp and an indicator. To its left is the built-in flash, which has a skinny oval shape. Just above the Casio logo, the zoom ring peeks out from the top of the camera. The metal housing itself peaks slightly so that the center, where the Exilim logo resides, is the thickest part of the camera.
**Back **(7.5)The back side of the Casio Exilim EX-Z700 is typical of other Casio digital cameras. The left side has a large LCD screen framed in black and garnered with the Exilim logo at the top left. To the right of the screen is an inch-wide strip of space filled with buttons and controls. At the top are two rectangular buttons; the left one has a green playback symbol on it and the right one has a red camera icon. In the center of this real estate are two more buttons: the left one has "Menu" engraved into it and the right one has "BS" (meaning Best Shot, of course) engraved there. Below it is a square-shaped multi-selector with four lines pointing in the four directions and a central Set button. Above the square is a label, "Disp" for the upper portion of the selector and at the bottom are two icons: flash and trash.
**Left Side **(7.5)The left side of the Z700 is boring. From this view, users can see two screws at the top and two at the bottom holding the camera’s two metal panels together. The shallow right curve of the lens barrel can be seen too.
**Right Side **(7.5)The right side looks similar to the left in that it has two screws at the top and bottom holding the panels together. However, the shape of this side is a bit different; it is peaked like a rooftop in the center. Also in the center, but toward the rear side of the Z700, is the silver-colored strap eyelet.
**Top **(7.5)A "Digital Camera EX-Z700" label is printed on the left side of the top. On the right side of this skinny camera is an even shinier metal platform with several features on it. The platform starts almost in the center of the camera with four holes in it that serve as the microphone. To its right are an "On/Off" label and a very skinny and recessed power button. On the right side of the platform is the domed shutter release button surrounded by a zoom ring and labeled with wide and telephoto icons on both sides. Directly behind the zoom ring is a tiny LED indicator that is on the diagonal step between the top and the back of the camera.
**Bottom **(7.0)The bottom has a battery door on the left, below the handgrip, that slides to the left edge and opens with a hinge near the center of the camera. The hinge is exposed and makes a weak point in the design where dust and dirt could climb into the housing. Just below the hinge is the port to the docking station. From the docking station, users can access USB, AV, and DC-in functions. To the right of the hinge is a hard plastic tripod socket. Indeed, most of the camera’s housing is metal but the docking station port and the tripod socket are surrounded by plastic. On the right side of the bottom are six holes that make up the speaker.
The Casio Z700 does not have an optical viewfinder; there is no space on this tiny body and the LCD monitor is probably a better option anyway. The large LCD screen has 100 percent field of view and limited black-out time when pictures are taken – thus, a nice and steady live feed. The top of the multi-selector changes the display on the LCD viewfinder. The screen can be totally free of distractions, show shooting info, or show info with a live histogram. LCD Screen (7.25)
****The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has a 2.7-inch Super Bright TFT LCD screen with 153,000 pixels of resolution. The size of the screen is ideal, but the resolution isn’t great. Most Kodak EasyShare V-series cameras in this price range have similarly sized screens but come with 230,000 pixels. Still, there are some inexpensive Canons that still have 115,000 pixels on their big screens. The camera automatically adjusts itself in bright and dark situations, but the brightness can be manually adjusted as well in the setup menu. The Screen option reveals Auto 1, Auto 2, +2, +1, and 0 choices. These titles are a bit ambiguous. The +1 and +2 options brighten the screen and are recommended for outdoor use. The two automatic settings go from the normal brightness setting to the +1 or +2, with the Auto 2 option adjusting faster than the Auto 1. The LCD screen can be viewed from side to side at a decently wide angle, but holding the camera above or below eye level will solarize the on-screen image. Overall, the LCD screen isn’t bad but still has lots of room to improve. Flash (7.0)**The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has a thin oval-shaped window on its front with a rectangular flash inside. The flash is located to the top left of the lens, but there are no glaringly bright spots within the frame. The coverage is fairly even except for a tiny bit of vignetting in the corners, which is typical. There are lots of flash options: On, Off, Auto, Red Eye (it’s called Red Eye, but it should be called Auto with Red Eye because sometimes the flash doesn’t fire at all), and Soft Flash. The Soft Flash option is a foolproof way to keep the "shiny foreheads" out of photos. This is a faster and more automated way of adjusting the flash intensity. If you want to do it yourself, there is a Flash Intensity option in the Quality portion of the recording menu with +2, +1, 0, -1, and -2 options. The intensity of the flash varies in the Continuous Flash mode, which is located with other burst modes in the recording menu. This mode snaps three shots per second in a burst, with the first picture the brightest and the last as the darkest. The Z700’s flash is effective from 0.98-6.56 ft in wide and 1.3-3.28 ft in telephoto in the Continuous Flash mode. It reaches farther when it has a little more time though. Its normal flash range is 0.49 ft to 11.15 ft in wide and 1.31-5.91 ft in telephoto – although it takes about 2 seconds for the flash to recycle between shots. These numbers are average in wide but disappointing in telephoto. There is a Flash Assist option in the Quality menu with Auto and Off choices; this setting automatically corrects the brightness of the recorded subject. The camera’s flash still scores well overall. It provides plenty of modes and controls to adjust the intensity automatically and manually.** ****Zoom Lens (6.25)
****The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has a 3x optical zoom lens that telescopes outward from the front of the camera body. The camera remains balanced whether the lens is tucked away in the camera or extended outward. The lens extends in three barrels on the outside, but is comprised of 6 lenses in 5 groups including an aspheric lens on the inside. The lens measures 6.2-18.6 mm, which is equivalent to 38-114 mm in the 35 mm format. This isn’t very wide at all, so snapping portraits of large families will be difficult; you’ll have to squish everyone into rows and stand far away from them. The zoom of the lens is controlled by a zoom ring that surrounds the shutter release button and protrudes from the front of the body. The zoom ring isn’t very sensitive; it provides about six stops of focal lengths within the zoom range. When the ring is moved, a horizontal bar appears across the bottom of the LCD screen. The bar shows where users are at currently in the range. It also shows when users enter the realm of digital zoom, the Z700 has 4x but users should avoid it. When users move within the zoom range, there is some noise but nothing like a herd of elephants tromping through the room. It’s more of a mouse tip-toeing. Overall, the lens performs decently. It has some downsides: the insensitive zoom ring, the narrow 38 mm focal length, and no true optical image stabilization (don’t let that Anti-Shake mode fool you!). However, it does have decent features too: a maximum aperture of f/2.7 and only a tiny bit of barrel distortion.
** **Model Design / Appearance (7.5)The Z700 isn’t exceptionally beautiful, but it does have sleek lines and a skinny profile, which seem to be popular. The camera’s design is consistent with other Exilim models: slim, heavily branded, and designed with point-and-shooters in mind. The Z700 is compact so that users can cart it all over the world in their pockets. The center of the camera is peaked slightly, perhaps to aid in handling and perhaps to add variety and flare to an otherwise featureless body. The metal Casio Z700 comes in blue, silver, and gray colors. Its body seems durable, but the fragile LCD screen and delicate lens are definitely weak points. Size / Portability (8.0)As mentioned above, the Casio Z700 is designed with the idea that its users will carry it backpacking in the Alps and in their pockets to grandma’s house. It is even fitted with a world map and a list of 162 cities in 32 time zones for users to easily choose the correct time – wherever their planes may land. There is even a Daylight Savings Time option to turn on and off. The camera body is slim and portable in a pocket with its 3.48 x 2.24 x 0.81-inch measurements. Those measurements are at the thickest, peaked point of the camera too. At its thinnest, the Z700 measures 0.73 inches. Its weight is slight too at 3.95 oz unloaded. The lithium-ion battery adds 1.2 oz. The slim camera also has a wrist strap eyelet on its right side to keep it from dropping while en route. The Casio Z700 has only one problem with its portability: if you’re going on vacation and will need to download pictures, you either need to have a SD card reader that fits your computer or you need to pack the camera cradle – and USB cable, and the two cables that make up the power adaptor. In fact, you’ll probably have to pack the cradle anyway because it is used to charge the battery too. Handling Ability **(6.0)The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 isn’t adorned with great handling features. It does have a slight bulge in the center of the camera that adds a miniscule amount of comfort when compared to handling a flat rectangle. The metal camera body has a very polished finish that is almost silky to the touch. While you’ll be tempted to stroke the camera body, its surface doesn’t add much resistance and can even be slippery. If this was a perfect world, the Casio Z700 would have a few more subtle features to aid in handling; a thumb divot or a rubber strip could have gone a long way.
**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size (5.5)
****This point-and-shoot keeps the number of controls to a minimum so that the camera looks simple to use. The top has a power button that is tiny and unlikely to be accidentally turned on because it is so recessed. Next to it is the domed shutter release button, which is much more comfortable, and is surrounded by a zoom ring. The ring doesn’t allow users much control over the zoom lens because it is so insensitive, and its tight rotation means that a lot of right hands are going to cramp up. On the back of the Casio Z700 are four rectangular buttons: Recording and Playback buttons near the top and Menu and BS (Best Shot) buttons near the center. These buttons are placed in tight groups of two; trying to push one button can often result in pushing both buttons simultaneously. The Recording and Playback buttons on the rear also turn the camera on when held down; this default can be changed in the setup menu so that the buttons won’t accidentally turn on the camera when bumped in a book bag, for example. The multi-selector is near the bottom and has an interesting square shape. It is designed with a single flat panel and a separate Set button in the middle. The top of the multi-selector changes the display on the LCD screen, the bottom deletes images in playback and changes the flash mode while recording, and the left and right sides of the multi-selector can be customized to access many shooting options in the setup menu. Overall, the control buttons are not impressive. They wobble when pushed and are not spaced properly. Menu (7.5)
The Casio Z700 has lengthy menus that are unavoidable. There is no mode dial and few buttons to access key features with, so users will spend much of their time wading through the three-tabbed interface. Recording, Quality, and Set Up tabs help to organize the vast list. The first tab’s menu overlays the live view. The selected option is highlighted in yellow with black text. As users scroll through the options, the bottom of the LCD screen displays how many pages (eg. 1/3) are left of that particular tab’s options. The following is the Recording menu. Many of the options are described as icons in the menu system, and the Icon Help option isn’t very helpful at all. It doesn’t provide a help guide to decipher the icons within the menu; it only translates the icons on the display screen when exited from the menu system. Some of the options in the Recording menu seem like prime candidates for the setup menu: Icon Help, Grid, Memory, Review, and Digital Zoom are options I would expect to find elsewhere. The central tab in the menu system is for Quality. There are a few live views in this menu too: EV Shift, White Balance, and Color Filter. Finally, the Set Up menu is the third tab while in the recording modes and accessible as the second tab from the playback mode. This menu is easy to accidentally exit. Some of the options let users cancel out and return to the main menu and others cancel and exit the system completely. And there’s no telling which option will do which. The following menu, the playback menu, has the same problem. The menus are accessed with a designated button next to the BS, or Best Shot, button on the back of the Z700. Navigation through the menus is achieved with the square-shaped multi-selector, which is a little wobbly and cheap feeling. Overall, the menu system isn’t entirely impressive. The accidental exiting, wobbly navigation control, and lengthy lists aren’t conducive to the point-and-shooter’s simple style. The dysfunctional Keystone feature is the icing on the cake; this never worked on any of the test pictures I took. However, the Color Correction option below it would perform the keystone feature. This mix-up is included on several Casio Exilim digital cameras that came out this year.; I’m amazed that the problem still has not been addressed. It seems like a quick firmware update should fix this, but this should have been fixed months ago, long before the Z700 was introduced. Ease of Use (6.25)
Auto Mode (7.0)
This digital camera powers up in the auto mode, also known as the Snapshot mode. The Z700 assumes automatic settings, but users have the option of changing settings and having the camera "remember" them in the setup menu for the next time the camera is turned on. Ironically, the auto mode is also the most manual mode on the camera. In some of the preset modes, the white balance or ISO is unavailable. In the auto mode, though, there is full access to everything on the camera. The auto mode performed well in optimal lighting conditions, but tended to blur subjects in low light. Movie Mode (6.5)The Casio Exilim Z700 has a movie mode that is listed with the other modes in the Best Shot menu. The Quality menu lists the mode’s resolution settings: 640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps, 512 x 384 at 30 fps, and 320 x 240 at 15 fps. Casio recommends using SD cards that have a read/write transfer speed of at least 10 MB per second. Otherwise, a few frames can be "dropped" when using the top two resolution settings, according to the user manual. This could potentially happen if recording to the internal memory (which wouldn’t make much sense anyway because you can only really fit a few seconds of video on it), but didn’t happen in my testing. The top resolution is television-quality, but the next step down doesn’t look quite so good. It’s not horrible, but there is definitely a difference. The lowest quality setting is great for email but still has an incredibly choppy frame rate that will spawn any viewer’s motion sickness. The Z700’s movie mode doesn’t have optical zoom, but does offer digital zoom. Warning: it makes the movie look awful, no matter what video size you’re using. Another downside: the audio. The monaural audio doesn’t pick up much at all unless the subject is within about 6 ft of the camera. Even still, the audio comes out muffled in playback. Playback on the camera is possible with options to play, stop, fast forward, rewind, and scroll through frame by frame. Users can select frames for printing and can edit the movie so that only the beginning, end, or beginning and end are saved. Overall, the movie mode wasn’t very impressive but the editing features were a nice touch. Drive / Burst Mode (6.0)
The Casio Z700 normally takes a shot every 1.5 seconds or so, but it speeds up significantly when the burst mode is activated. In the recording menu, there are normal speed and high speed continuous burst modes. The normal speed shoots 1 fps, while the high-speed takes 3 fps. Both max out at 3 frames, unfortunately. It takes another 5-6 seconds to write to the memory card before the Z700 is ready to take its next burst of photos. Also grouped in the Continuous section of the menu is the "rapid flash" mode, which shoots three pictures with the flash in one second. This is very fast for including the flash, although the flash tuckers out and dims in the succession of photos. Of note is the camera’s self-timer, which has three options: 2 second delay, 10 second delay, and a triple self-timer. Playback Mode (6.25)
to show up. Using the square-shaped multi-selector, users can push right and left to scroll through the individual pictures and movies. Pushing up shows shooting info and histograms. Pushing down deletes pictures. Deletion is done individually or all at once, but it is not possible to delete batches of photos at once. One nice feature about the multi-selector is that if the right or left side is continuously held down, users can scroll very quickly through lots of photos. There are other viewing options too such as thumbnails or on a calendar. Pictures can be magnified up to 8x, which is plenty close to check the focus. There are lots of editing features included on the Casio Z700. Users can rotate, resize, and trim photos. There is also a keystone correction feature, but its access is very non-intuitive. In the playback menu, it is accessed with the Color Correction option. The actual Keystone option doesn’t work at all. As for the color correction, there is none. It seems like this glitch could be easily fixed with a firmware update, although this problem exists on several other Exilim cameras released this year and nothing has been done for months. Playing back movies comes with some editing options too. Users can cut the beginning, middle, or end. They can also print individual frames or "nine frames" with four small frames on the top and bottom and one larger frame printed in the center of the sheet. The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has a decent slide show mode that can display all images, selected folders of images, all stills, all videos, or Favorites – which can be tagged to individual pictures through the playback menu. The slide shows can play for 1-60 minutes, with each picture showing up for 1-30 seconds or at an alarmingly fast rate that will give you a headache (also called "MAX"). There are 4 transition effects and options to display them randomly or to turn off the effects altogether. Overall, the playback mode is one of the best aspects of the Casio EX-Z700 with its display modes, editing options, and slide show. Custom Image Presets (7.5)
Scene modes are the bread and butter of a Casio Exilim digital camera. Most compact digital cameras have about 12 scene modes, but Exilim models have two or three times that much. The Z700 weighs in with 34 scene modes and a total of 37 Best Shot modes (the other three being snapshot, movie, and voice recording). The Z700 has two new scene modes that its predecessors did not have. The Auto Framing mode automatically tracks moving subjects and outlines them for closer shots. The Z700 also adds a layout mode that lets users put several pictures into a single image as a sort of photo collage. Here’s the grand list. Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with Scenery, Children, Sports, Candlelight Portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Autumn Leaves, Soft Flowing Water, Splashing Water, Sundown, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Collection, For eBay, Backlight, Anti Shake, High Sensitivity, Underwater, Monochrome, Retro, Twilight, Layout-2, Layout-3, Auto Framing, Old Photo, Businesscards and Documents, and Whiteboard. Scrolling through the laundry list is a workout for the thumb on the multi-selector. Not to mention the eyes. The mode menu displays thumbnails of sample pictures; the text title appears when highlighted. If users move the zoom ring while highlighting a mode, the text explanation appears. For example, the "For eBay" mode states that it "Takes photos optimized for selling items on eBay." Some of the modes are basic, such as Portrait and Scenery. Then there are the more interesting ones. eBay is a fairly new mode included on this year’s Exilim digital cameras. It saves images at 800 KB for optimal web posting on the popular online auction site. The mode does not, however, automatically rotate pictures – which would be a nice feature. That can be done in the playback mode though. The Old Photo mode uses the keystone feature to straighten photos, the saturation to liven colors, and the trimming function to save them at the 2-megapixel size. Unfortunately, this isn’t much resolution so those old photos won’t look good in anything larger than a 4 x 6, and even that image size is really pushing the limit. If users take the time to make a few flash or ISO adjustments, they can save their work using the Register User Scene mode. This selects images in the playback mode and saves them in the Best Shot menu; the camera then uses the same exposure settings when accessed. If the internal memory is formatted though, these modes will disappear. Overall, the scene mode selection is good. The more, the merrier, right? It depends on what you prefer. If you will only use about three of those modes, scrolling with the multi-selector through vast numbers of thumbnails will drive you mad. If you enjoy trying all the new flavors of image presets, though, the Casio Exilim Z700 is your camera.
Manual Control Options The Z700 is a point-and-shoot digital camera, but it comes with a surprising number of manual options. Most of the options are buried in the recording menu: metering, AF mode, AF area, focus, ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation. Users can make it a little easier to access these features by assigning them to the left and right sides of the multi-selector; this is done in the setup menu. This camera does not have manual control over shutter speed and aperture, so diehards will be disappointed. Focus***Auto Focus (6.0)
The contrast detection auto focus system isn’t incredibly sophisticated. It shows many of the same problems that exist with other compact models: blurred images, audible noise, and not a very good range. The Z700 can focus from 15.75 inches to infinity normally and 5.91-19.69 inches in the macro mode. Most cameras’ macro modes can focus as close as an inch or two, so the Casio Z700 is very limited in just how close it can get. The focusing system makes a tiny noise within the lens. As for the blurred images, they happen most often in low light – even with the Anti Shake or High Sensitivity modes selected and even with the auto focus assist lamp illuminated. The following auto focus modes are available: Auto Focus, Macro Focus, Pan Focus, and Infinity. Most cameras have auto, macro, and infinity, but the Pan option is still a rarity. It fixes its focus to a certain distance and locks it. When the camera is focused, green boxes appear. There are nine boxes that appear a translucent gray until used as a point of focus. There are Spot and Multi auto focus area modes; the latter mode allows more than one box to light up green and focus at once. There is a Quick Shutter option on the Z700 that lets users bypass the auto focus system altogether. This doesn’t seem like a great idea anyway, and the auto focus system really doesn’t take that long. It sure doesn’t have the amount of shutter lag that is present on most compact models. It’s certainly better than previous Casio digital cameras. The auto focus system has its drawbacks: trouble in low light and low contrast, a bit of noise, and limited macro. But it works fairly quickly and does well in good lighting.* ***Manual Focus (2.0)
The Casio Exilim Z700 has a manual focus mode, but it isn’t very intuitive. It is selected in the menu, but when users exit the menu there are no on-screen instructions to tell how to focus. After some guesswork, users will find that you have to push the Set button to change the focus. The center of the image is magnified, so it is easier to see whether the subject is in focus. The manual focus ranges from 5.91 inches to infinity and works well – better than most compact digital cameras’ manual focus modes for sure. *ISO **(6.0)The Z700 has an automatic ISO mode and 50-400 manual settings. This range used to be standard – about two years ago! Casio is behind the times on this one. Manufacturers are offering more and more sensitivity as consumers shun the flashes in low light. There are two modes on the camera that use an ISO 800 setting: Anti Shake and High Sensitivity. The ISO 800 setting is not available for manual setting, though, which is too bad. Looking at images taken with those modes, the High Sensitivity in particular, explains why it is not offered as a manual setting. The pictures are horribly discolored, over-saturated, noisy, and rarely focused.
**White Balance (7.0)
The white balance menu provides live views that help beginners choose between the following: Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, Tungsten, Auto, and Manual. The auto mode seemed to work fairly well, although the manual mode is almost guaranteed to work better at all times. It is fairly simple to set. It is set while in the menu, with on-screen instructions prompting users to push the shutter release button while framing a plain white surface. With such a limited ISO selection, the absence of a dedicated flash white balance setting will be missed. ** **Exposure (7.0)
The Casio Z700 has a 1/2.5-inch CCD with 7.2 megapixels for snapping pictures. Those pictures can be taken using the many automatic modes on the camera, but the exposure of those pictures cannot be manually adjusted. While no shutter speed or aperture settings can be tweaked, there is an exposure compensation range (the standard +/- 2 EV in 1/3 steps) that displays a live view. If users press the top portion of the multi-selector, full shooting info appears (including the shutter speed and aperture settings) as well as a histogram. The histogram helps users check the exposure. Red, green, and blue lines also grace the chart. Unfortunately, the histogram is incredibly tiny and difficult to see. ****Metering (7.0)
The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has the typical metering options available: Multi pattern, center weighted, and spot. The first option is the default and seems to work fairly well. There is a Backlight scene mode that uses the spot metering mode to keep subjects properly exposed and full of details. Shutter Speed (0.0)Although the shutter speed cannot be manually adjusted, the numbers are displayed in the shooting information when the top of the multi-selector is pushed. The mechanical shutter automatically flips as fast as 1/2000th of a second and as slow as a ½ second. There are exceptions to the slow end of the range though. In the Fireworks mode, the camera always uses a 2-second time. In the Night scene mode, the range is widened 1/2000-4 seconds. Aperture (0.0)The aperture can’t be picked by users, but it can be viewed. The lens offers maximum apertures of f/2.7-4.3 and a minimum aperture of f/7. This is certainly a small range, but the max f/2.7 aperture at the widest focal length is good news.
Picture Quality****/ Size Options (7.0)
The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 shoots JPEG images with 7.2 effective megapixels. Its top resolution is 3072 x 2304 pixels and the other image sizes available include the following: 3072 x 2048 (3:2), 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 640 x 480. When users scroll through the resolution options, the maximum print size appears and flashes. There are three compression settings available for each image size: Fine, Normal, and Economy. Picture Effects Mode (7.25)
There are lots of picture effects available before taking the picture, but not many can be added in the playback mode. The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has Black & White, Sepia, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, and Purple filter options in the recording menu. Also there are contrast, sharpness, and saturation controls with whole steps in a +/- 2 range. There is no live view with these, so it’s hard to see the difference between all the settings. In the playback mode, there is a Color Correction option but it accesses the Keystone function instead. The Keystone function has its own spot on the playback menu, but it doesn’t do anything to pictures. Thus, users can straighten images but cannot correct color. Overall, the Casio Z700 has decent options while recording but the choices dry up in playback.
** **Connectivity***Software (2.0)
*The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 is packaged with a CD-ROM that has multiple programs on it. Included are a USB driver, Photo Loader 3.0, Photohands 1.0, Photo Transport 1.0, Microsoft Direct X 9.0c for viewing videos, and files of user manuals for the many software programs. After downloading all of the software, users with an internet connection will be prompted to join the Kodak EasyShare Gallery and get a few free prints in the process.
, and just transfer pictures automatically when a camera is connected and turned on. The Photo Loader program isn’t very intuitive, but helps users organize their pictures into libraries.
The Photohands 1.0 software is the program for users to edit their photographs. It isn’t very easy to use at all. The only text on the opening screen says "Photohands" and there are no instructions on how to load photos or how to do anything really. There is a question mark in the top right corner that users can access for help in deciphering all the strange nuances of this software. There is also an open folder icon up that way where users can browse and load photos. The program shows a large preview on the right side of the screen and three thumbnails on the left side. There are two arrows that users can press to scroll up and down through the thumbnails, but there is an annoying lag time between when the button is pressed and when the thumbnails actually move. On the far left side are four blocks with pictures of animals in them. This makes the Photohands program look more like a children’s video game. However, these animals actually mean something. Sort of.
Somehow, users are supposed to intuitively know that an iguana is a symbol for "retouch." The kangaroo resizes, the koala rotates, and the dog prints. The following retouching features are available: contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness, noise removal, and filter. Overall, the Photohands software isn’t very user friendly despite the elementary look of the characters and layout.* **Jacks, ports, plugs (5.0)*The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has only one port on its body; this USB port connects to the included camera dock. The dock charges the battery and provides AV and USB hookups. The USB function must be specified to Mass Storage for transfer to computers or PictBridge for direct printing within the setup menu. The AV function can be specified to NTSC or PAL standards too. Some users prefer the docking station setup because it makes image transfer simple if the dock is always connected to the computer – and the camera can charge its battery simultaneously. However, some users prefer a more compact setup so they can travel abroad and not have to carry eight different cables and pieces. *Direct Print Options (6.0)
The Casio Z700 has a DPOF option in the playback menu that allows users to create print orders. Pictures can be added to the order one at a time or all at once, with copies of each picture selectable from 0-99. A date stamp can be turned on or off too. For movies, users can print single frames or nine frames on one sheet, with four thumbnails on the top and bottom and a larger frame in the center. There is no designated print button on the camera body, so transfer isn’t entirely intuitive. Users must rest the camera in the dock, which connects to the printer with the included USB cable. Users must choose the PTP PictBridge option in the setup menu in order for pictures to properly transfer. Then users can print from the playback mode. The Casio Z700 seems to be geared toward users who won’t do much post-processing because of its many in-camera editing features and awful included software program. With that in mind, the direct printing function should be easier to use than it really is. *Battery (7.25)*The Z700 uses a Casio NP-40 lithium-ion battery that is skinny and small. Despite its diminutive size, it can get 460 shots per charge. This is pretty incredible considering the bright 2.5-inch LCD screen and on-screen mode and exposure changes. The battery did seem to go and go and go. It also helps that the camera comes with a docking station that allows users to charge the battery within the camera body while also transferring photos or printing. If users wish to purchase a backup battery, they retail for about $50 on the Casio web site. *Memory (3.75)
*The Z700 has a speck of internal memory – 8.3 MB to be exact. This shouldn’t be used for normal picture taking though. It is used to store Favorites and custom user scene modes. And at the top resolution, this amount of memory can only hold one picture. Thus, it is recommended to purchase a separate memory card. The Z700 accepts SD, SDHC, and MMC media to hold its 7.2-megapixel images. Casio recommends using a card that has at least a 10 MB per second transfer speed or movie frames could be lost. In the playback menu, users can copy pictures from the internal memory to the card and vice versa. Cards and internal memory can be formatted in the setup menu, but formatting the internal memory will lose the protected images, favorites, and best shot custom modes. *Other features (4.0)Voice Recording – The audio is terrible in the movie mode, but does much better when users are speaking within six inches of the camera. There are several ways to record audio. Up to 30 seconds of audio can be added in the playback mode as a WAV file. In the Best Shot mode menu, there is also a Voice Recording mode that can record lectures, notes to self, and other such non-photographic stuff. Voice recording takes up very little space on the memory, so users can record up to 25 minutes of audio with the tiny amount of built-in memory.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 is fairly priced at $299. This is about the going price of a point-and-shoot digital camera these days. Its pricier features include the 7.2-megapixel imaging chip, the extensive Best Shot modes, long lasting battery and the bright LCD screen. Casio cut some corners on the 3x lens and the included software though. Comparisons***Casio Exilim EX-Z750* – The Z750 was released about a year and a half ago, but still has many of the same features that are included on the new model. Both cameras have a 7.2-megapixel imaging sensor and a 3x optical zoom lens. The Z750 has a similarly sized body that is 0.9 inches wide but the control interface is completely different on this model. Instead of a square-shaped multi-selector, there is a circle with a joystick in the center to navigate. The boxy aluminum body also has an optical viewfinder and a large mode dial on the back where the right thumb rests. This makes mode changes much simpler than the menu setup. The Casio Z750 has 29 Best Shot modes; the list has ID Photo, Cross, and Pastel Illustration modes, but does not have the For eBay, Auto Framing, and two Layout modes that are included on the Z700. The old Casio Z750 has manual control over the shutter speed and aperture and adds more movie mode options, including a Past Movie mode that records five seconds before the shutter release button is pushed. The camera’s burst mode shoots a little slower at 2 fps, but it lasts longer with 6 frames. The Casio Z750 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen that has less resolution with 115,000 pixels. It also comes packaged with a camera dock. When it first hit the market, the Z750 retailed for $449 but now sells for about the same price as the Z700. *Canon PowerShot SD700 IS* – This digital camera has a sleeker design but is still about the same width as the Casio camera. It has 6 megapixels, a 4x optical zoom lens, an optical viewfinder, and a 2.5-inch LCD screen with 173,000 pixels and a brightness control. The SD700 has about the same level of manual control: shutter speed and aperture cannot be manually adjusted but exposure compensation, ISO, and white balance can all be tweaked. The ISO range is considerably better on the PowerShot with 80-800 manual settings, so decent low light images are possible. The SD700 has only 11 scene modes, which are satisfactory until you want to sell something on eBay or automatically frame a moving subject. The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS’s movie mode is much better than the Casio’s too. It records television-quality video and keeps it steady with its optical image stabilization system. The optical zoom is not available in the movie mode, but users can change the white balance and use one of the many My Colors modes. My Colors, a palette of in-camera editing features and color filters, can be applied before or after recording. The Canon PowerShot SD700 only gets 240 shots per charge from its battery and doesn’t have the extensive list of scene modes, but is easy to use and has a great movie mode. It went on sale in spring 2006 for $499 but can be found now for about $350. Fujifilm FinePix F20 – Fujifilm’s F-series cameras have built a reputation of taking really great pictures with hardly any shutter lag in a compact package. The F20 is the most recent model with its larger 1/1.7-inch image sensor that has a few less megapixels at 6.3. This digital camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and an i-Flash system that reaches up to 21.3 ft and automatically determines the intensity of the flash based on the lighting from the subject and the background. The FinePix F20 has 15 scene modes and an aperture priority mode, so it has a little more manual control than the Casio Z700. Its ISO range is impressive at 100-1600, and the F-series is known for keeping the noise under wraps despite the generous offerings of sensitivity. The camera body is boxy and a little thicker than the Z700; 1.1-inch width still isn’t too bad. The Fujifilm F20 has a very similar 2.5-inch LCD screen on its back with the same 153,000 pixels. We haven’t seen the F20 yet, but we’ve tested the F30 and F10 and they’ve both taken fabulous pictures. It is expected that this camera would do the same. The best part? It retails for $299. Kodak EasyShare V603 – The Kodak digital cameras are well known for their ease of use and clean layouts. The V603 is typical. Its body is 0.9 inches thick with a telescoping 3x optical zoom lens. The 6.1-megapixel camera comes in red and black colors and retails for $279. It has a designated Share button to help speed along printing. Users can also save "favorites" here, much like the Z700. The camera’s manual controls are very similar to the Casio’s too. The Kodak EasyShare V603 has 22 scene modes including a panorama mode. Its burst mode snaps along at the same 3 fps rate, but it lasts one frame longer as it maxes out at 4 shots. The Kodak V603 has Perfect Touch technology built-in to the playback mode so users can automatically fix lighting and red-eye issues. Users can also view their pictures on the 2.5-inch LCD screen that has 230,000 pixels. The V603 tops off its features with 32 MB of internal memory and an extensive software package. **Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters* – The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has all the right features for this audience. With vast amounts of scene modes, point-and-shooters will never really need to enter the recording menu – although the option is certainly there. *Budget Consumers* – At $299, the Z700 is reasonably priced for what it is. Its ultra-slim nature and vast amount of shooting modes make this Exilim a decent candidate for the money-minded consumer. *Gadget Freaks* – There aren’t any great innovative gadgets or features on the Casio Z700. There are interesting features like a 3x self-timer and supposedly a keystone fix (strangely accessed by the color correction option), but there’s not much beyond that. *Manual Control Freaks* – After searching vainly for a mode dial, these consumers will discover that there are only a handful of manual controls but a vast number of automatic modes. This will be enough to scare them away from the Z700. *Pros/ Serious Hobbyists* – For the same reasons this camera works for point-and-shooters, it will not work for professionals and serious hobbyists. It is considered a mid-tier camera.
**Conclusion**The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 has a lot going for it. The digital camera has 7.2 megapixels and still keeps shutter lag to a minimum. It has a lengthy list of interesting scene modes, which some users will find fabulous and others will curse. It takes decent pictures in optimal lighting and its built-in flash has plenty of controls to keep it from whitening foreheads and such. The pocket-sized camera is easy to transport and its battery lasts an incredible 460 shots per charge. The Casio Z700 isn’t all butterflies and fairies though. It produces terrible amounts of noise in pictures, low light photography is nearly impossilbe, its audio recording capabilities are limited to subjects within a few feet of the camera, its mode dial is nonexistent so users have to enter the lengthy menu system for everything, and a glitch in the playback menu makes the camera look a bit unfinished. Still, the price is decent at $299. The Casio Z700 is far from being exceptionally impressive, but it is an average camera that takes average pictures (in optimal lighting, that is) – and you can get it at an average price.
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