Casio Exilim EX-ZR100 Review
The ZR100's ace in the hole is its speed, which is unmatched by just about every other compact camera on the market.
This Casio EX-ZR100 is a real speed demon, but we threw several tests its way to check the quality of its work. Turns out, its color accuracy is average at best and images tend to be over-processed, suffering from aggressive noise reduction and over-sharpening. Picture resolution was decent though, and video performance was impressive.
Color & Sharpness
We found that the ZR100 produced average color accuracy that was severely undermined by an inaccurate white balance system. Severe over-sharpening occurred frequently as well.
In our testing we found the Casio EX-ZR100 produced an average color error of around 3.5, which is nothing spectacular, but about what we expect from a point-and-shoot camera. The main culprit came in the camera's manual white balance settings, which tended to almost always produce a much cooler image than necessary. In our original testing this pushed the color error to over 4.5, but subsequent attempts reined that down to a more manageable score. We found the automatic white balance often did a better job diagnosing light, as well as the white balance presets that are available.
The Casio ZR100 managed decent resolution results, largely on the back of extensive sharpening applied by the camera. This is a common tactic and does result in some more discernible detail in images, largely because the lens is of a lower overall quality. We found the sharpening wasn't universally applied, with the camera often sharpening the edges substantially more than the center of the image, where the lens is naturally sharpest.
A degree of other distortions polluted images from time to time too, including visible fringing.
The ZR100 produced very little distortion in the final image, though it was clear that when shooting in wide angle that there was a great degree of complex distortion throughout the image. The camera seemed to bow vertical parallel lines inward slightly, while having a similar effect on horizontal vertical lines. In our testing, we found the camera corrected this almost completely, however, leaving just 0.1% pincushion distortion at the wide end, 0.07% barrel distortion at the midpoint, and 0.46% pincushion distortion at the telephoto end.
The ZR100 suffered from heavy blue-green fringing as well as lateral violet fringing visible in our resolution testing at the wide angle. When zooming in, there is no visible chromatic aberration at the midpoint (around 27mm, or 130mm in 35mm equivalent), with heavy blue fringing at the telephoto end. It's difficult to see most of this fringing, even at 100% magnification, however, so it's not a huge concern.
Noise was artificially very limited on the EX-ZR100, as Casio has elected to eliminating noise indelicately throughout the ISO range.
Despite benefiting from a back-illuminated sensor, the EX-ZR100 relies heavily on noise reduction to keep channel and luminance noise under 1% throughout the ISO range, all the way up to ISO 3200. Noise levels do not shift dramatically, though, suggesting the camera ramps up the feature's aggressiveness as it approaches higher sensitivities. As a result, noise remains fairly constant from ISO 100 up to 3200, though detail is sacrificed to a greater degree at each rung up the ISO ladder.
Despite shooting in disparate low light (60 lux) and bright light (3000 lux) settings, we found the Casio EX-ZR100 produced almost exactly the same amount of noise on average. At 60 lux, the camera averaged 0.81% noise, while in a bright setting of 3000 lux, that noise level only dropped to 0.78%. This difference is largely inconsequential, and it's definitely a result of heavy noise reduction processing by the camera regardless of the amount of light detected.
For a compact camera especially, video performance was incredible.
Shooting video on the ZR100 is a simple matter of pressing the dedicated record button on the back of the camera. The camera will then begin to take a video in whatever setting has been set beforehand in the main menu. The menu gives the option for the user to record in 1080/30p (FHD), standard definition, 240fps, 480fps, 1000fps, or 30-240fps modes. The 240 fps mode is the only high-speed mode that retains any sort of detail and quality, though obviously there is some loss from the full HD mode. The 30-240 mode is fun for the more creative set, as it will shoot normal 30 fps mode but allow you to switch to 240fps when something happens that you want a slow motion capture of.
The ZR100 had a color error of 4.83 when recording video, though a solid saturation level of 93.51%. We found the main issue with the color accuracy came with the camera's interpretation of blues, which were heavily under-saturated. The camera handled magenta and purple colors very well, however, and was able to keep yellows properly saturated where many cameras fail to.
The Casio ZR100 had surprisingly sharp video results, able to pull in sharpness of 700 LW/PH vertically and horizontally. This is well above what most other point-and-shoot cameras have been able to do in our tests and we were pleasantly surprised. Most cameras are in good company if they can achieve 600 LW/PH of sharpness in either direction. Unfortunately, this sharpness does not matter much with the high-speed modes, due to the need to pull in so many frames so quickly that most fine detail is lost in artifacting and compression. Still, for basic 1080/30p video, it's quite a solid result.
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