Cameras

Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 Digital Camera Review

Read a digital camera review of the 10 megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 point and shoot.

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Testing / Performance

Color*(5.56)*

We tested the color accuracy of the Casio EX-Z1050 by photographing an industry standard color chart, the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker. This chart is made up of 24 color tiles that represent a variety of colors, including several commonly photographed colors such as sky blues, grass greens, and flesh tones. We ran the images through Imatest to determine how accurately the Z1050 reproduces the colors. In the chart below, the outside square shows the actual color captured by the camera, the middle square shows the ideal color of the chart, and the little inner rectangle shows the luminance corrected ideal color.

Z1050-Colors.jpg

Several colors appear to stray from the ideal chart colors, and this is confirmed by the graph below. This graph represents the entire color spectrum, with the 24 colors from the ColorChecker chart represented as squares. The actual colors reproduced by the Z1050 are shown as circles, and the lines connecting the circles and squares show the amount of error. Colors that drift away from the center of the chart are oversaturated, and colors that drift closer to the center are undersaturated.

Z1050-ColorsER.jpg

As you can see, many colors shift from their ideal values. This is especially true with blues, greens, and yellows; the yellows are turning green and the blues are turning purple. The 10.8 mean color error is a poor score, and the 4 percent undersaturation isn’t very good either.

White Balance*(10.57)*

Auto (11.89)

To determine the Z1050’s white balance accuracy, we photographed the GretagMacbeth ColorChecker under four different kinds of light: Flash, Fluorescent, Outdoor Cloudy, and Tungsten. Using the Auto White Balance setting, the camera performed very well. There is no flash preset on the Z1050, but that shouldn’t be an issue, because the Auto White Balance setting is superb. Under fluorescent light, the Auto setting was also very accurate, even more so than the fluorescent presets. However, stay away from using the Auto setting when shooting indoors under tungsten lights, unless you like everything to look extremely yellow.

Preset (9.25)

The Preset White Balance settings were also strong, especially the Cloudy preset. However, even though the Tungsten preset was better than Auto, it was still not particularly accurate. Using Custom White Balance is your best bet when shooting indoors under tungsten lights.

**Still Life Sequences

***Click to see the high-resolution image.

*

Resolution*(7.87)

*With a whopping 10-megapixel sensor, the Casio EX-Z1050 is one of the highest resolution point-and-shoots available. To test the resolution of the Z1050, we photographed an industry standard resolution chart at different apertures, focal lengths, and exposure settings to determine which settings produced the sharpest images.

Related content

Running the images through Imatest showed that the Z1050 was at its best with an ISO of 80, a focal length of 17 mm, and an aperture of f/4.4. Imatest quantifies resolution in units of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which tells how many theoretical alternating black and white lines can fit across the image frame before they become blurred.

Z1050-Res-sm.jpg


Click to view high-resolution image

The 10-megapixel Z1050 did indeed reproduce the test chart at high resolution. It captured 1934 lw/ph vertically and 2099 horizontally, while being significantly undersharpened at -11.1 percent and -3.75 percent, respectively. This undersharpening is probably an attempt to avoid imaging artifacts that can come along with oversharpening high resolution images. This is a very good performance, and means, at least in terms of resolution, that images from the Z1050 could be reproduced as large prints.

Noise – Auto ISO*(6.41)*

We set the Z1050 to Auto ISO and shot our test chart to see which setting it would choose. The camera shot at ISO 200, and while it is a bit higher than usual, the noise levels were still quite low.

Noise – Manual ISO*(9.26)*

Under the same bright studio lights, we photographed the test chart at every manual ISO setting to see how it handled noise through the whole range. The graph below plots the amount of noise as a percentage of the image that was drowned out by the noise.

Z1050-Noise-GR.gif

The graph shows that the Z1050 has significantly less noise than similar 10-megapixel point-and-shoots. Noise levels are especially good at ISO 80 and 100, and then rise steadily through ISO 800. Even at high ISO, the noise levels are less than those of its competitors. 

Z1050-NoiseCompare-GR.gif

Low Light*(5.15)*

We dimmed the studio lights down to 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux to test how well the Z1050’s color accuracy and noise levels were maintained in low light. 60 lux corresponds approximately to a room lit with two soft lamps, 30 lux is on par with light from a single 40 watt bulb, and 15 and 5 lux are very dark and used to test the limitations of the camera’s sensor.

Noise levels stayed admirably low at low light levels, though color accuracy did not fair well, hitting a mean color error of 14.7 at 15 lux. The camera could not expose properly at 5 lux, meaning the camera clearly has its limits in low light.

To test long exposures, we set all of our cameras to ISO 400 and to shutter speeds longer than one second. The Casio EX-Z1050 can shoot exposures as long as four seconds, but only in certain scene modes with fixed ISO. It won’t shoot exposures longer than 0.5 seconds at ISO 400. In other words, in low light you either must use high ISO sensitivity or trust the scene modes for long exposures.

Dynamic Range*(6.67)

*We test dynamic range by photographing a backlit Stouffer film test chart. This chart is made up of a row of rectangles, each a slightly different shade of gray, arranged from pure white to pure black. The more rectangles the camera can distinguish, the better the dynamic range. We shot this chart at every ISO level to see how the camera performed over its sensitivity range. These values are shown in the graph below, with dynamic range plotted in units of Exposure Value.

Z1050-DynRange-GR.gif

The Z1050 has a Dynamic Range adjustment setting (+2, +1, and Off), which claims to boost dynamic range. Our tests showed that it not only doesn’t boost dynamic range, it actually decreases it. With the adjustment off, however, the camera scored pretty well. The dynamic range was quite high at ISO 80 and 100, and then dropped steadily at higher ISO sensitivities. Keep the ISO under 200 to get the most dynamic range out of this camera.

**Speed/Timing

***Startup to First Shot (8.1)*

The Casio EX-Z1050 took 1.9 seconds to startup and take its first shot. This isn’t terrific, but it’s certainly manageable.

Shot-to-Shot (8.4)

On "Normal" burst mode, the Z1050 takes shots every 1.6 seconds until the card is filled. This is a very slow burst speed, and it’s a shame the camera doesn’t have a faster full resolution mode. On "Zoom Continuous" mode, the camera takes a photo, and then takes a 3-megapixel crop of it, yielding two final images. In "High" mode, the Z1050 takes 2-megapixel shots every 0.15 seconds. Limiting a 10-megapixel camera to 2 megapixels in order to take a fast burst is a lousy trade-off.

Shutter-to-shot (9.0)

With the shutter held halfway down and pre-focused, the Z1050 takes a photo instantly. Even without pre-focusing, the camera will take the photo in 0.25 seconds.

Processing (7.6)

Each 10MP shot takes 1.2 seconds to process.

Video Performance*(4.10)*

Bright Indoor Light – 3000 lux

We tested color accuracy and noise levels in very bright light by shooting videos of our color charts. The auto white balance was very poor under our tungsten studio lights, yielding a high mean color error of 15.7, and oversaturation of 119.3 percentpercent. Percent noise levels did stay at a low value of 0.41, however.

Low Light – 30 lux

Shooting video of the same color charts with the lights turned down produced slightly better color results than in bright light. Mean color error was 12, a similar value as the results in our low light still image test. However, the color was significantly undersaturated at 83.16percent, and percent noise levels jumped to 1.65.

Video Resolution

The Z1050 can shoot video at a top resolution of 640 x 480 pixels at 25 frames per second, which is slightly slower than the 30 frames per second most digital cameras offer. We shot footage of our resolution test chart and ran the extracted stills through Imatest to determine the resolution in the same way we test still images. The Z1050 resolved 201 LW/PH horizontally with -32.1 percent undersharpening, and 323 LW/PH vertically with -14.5 percent undersharpening. These low values are pretty standard for point and shoot video resolution.

(100% crops)

*Outdoor Motion

*To see how the camera handled motion in video mode we shot moving cars, people, and whatever else darted by our offices. Overall, the Z1050 had good contrast, but lacked fine detail, resulting in a soft image. More significantly, video motion was quite jerky, due to its low 25 fps frame rate. Another distracting problem was that the exposure would jump when objects moved across the frame, resulting in annoying "flashes" of light. This camera can capture video if you need it to, but not well.

Components

Viewfinder*(0.0)*

There isn’t an optical viewfinder on this digital camera, so users have to resort to the 2.6-inch LCD screen with its wide view. The wide screen is 14:9 formatted, which is quite an odd size. Most of the image sizes are 4:3, so the image can either fit to the left of a "panel" menu display or black bars frame the right and left sides when the "panel" display is turned off. The panel display is a vertical strip of nine settings on the right that act as a sort of "function menu." These are the most frequently used settings and make them easier to access than placing them in Casio’s lengthy menu.

To access the function menu users must push in the Set button and then navigation is enabled. Otherwise, pushing around the multi-selector activates features like the self-timer and the flash mode. Users can change the information displayed on the viewfinder by pushing the top of the multi-selector, labeled "DISP." Information can be hidden or viewed and a histogram can be added. The resolution on the LCD screen isn’t the greatest and the refresh rate is typical, so fast-moving subjects look a little jerky. But the LCD viewfinder is fairly typical of point-and-shoots.

LCD Screen*(5.5)*

Z1050-lcdON.jpg
Casio included a strangely shaped 14:9-formatted LCD monitor on the back of the Z1050. None of the image sizes fit into this screen, so there are always black bars on the edges. The only time when the space is truly utilized is when the "panel display" menu appears to the right of 4:3 images.

The LCD measures 2.6 inches diagonally and has only 115,000 pixels. The individual dots on the screen can be seen so viewing pictures isn’t completely smooth; it’s sometimes hard to tell if images are in focus.

Casio calls this LCD "Super Bright" because it has technology that automatically brightens the screen when outdoors. Unfortunately this isn’t enough and viewing outdoors under the bright sun is nearly impossible. To complicate matters, the viewing angle is extremely limited so users can’t see the image while holding the camera above, below, or to the sides of eye-level.

Overall, the LCD screen is a cheap component with its low resolution, limited viewing angle, and odd format.

**

Z1050-flash.jpg
Flash ***(6.0)*

The flash is oddly located to the upper left of the lens. Many cameras cram the flash into the upper right corner of the front, but then the left fingers sometimes wander in the way and block the flash altogether. Some cameras place the flash directly above the lens; this is preferable because it garners the most even coverage of the frame, but if too close to the lens it can cause red eye. It looks like there wasn’t any room above or to the right of the lens, so the camera’s designers positioned it to the left.

The positioning actually wasn’t a huge issue in the images, but the flash still produced a bright spot in the center. All of the edges were slightly underexposed too. The flash reaches up to 10.83 feet when the lens is zoomed out and then drops off to 5.91 feet when the lens is zoomed in. This short range is a bit disappointing. It won’t work well in the macro mode either: the Z1050’s flash is only effective from 1.31 feet. The flash intensity can be adjusted on a 5-step scale within the recording menu, although the option is buried in a long list so it isn’t easy to find.

When snapping self-portraits and such, subjects tended to be nice and bright but all else in the background vanished into black. This can be remedied by activating the flash assist in the quality portion of the recording menu. This supplements the flash by increasing the ISO automatically. Obviously this feature does not work if the ISO is manually adjusted. It also won’t work if the flash intensity, exposure value, or contrast setting is changed. The flash assist really makes a difference and looks a bit better at first glance on the LCD screen, but upping the ISO increases noise and decreases dynamic range (for more on this, see the Testing/Performance section of this review).

The flash modes can be accessed from the bottom of the multi-selector; options include auto, on, off, soft flash, and red-eye reduction. Grouped with the drive modes is a Flash Continuous mode that snaps three pictures in one second using the flash. The flash isn’t nearly as powerful though. When zoomed out, the flash reaches 1.31-6.56 feet and only 1.64-3.61 feet when zoomed in. Overall, the Casio Z1050’s flash unit took a lot of coaxing to produce nicely lit subjects. There are lots of options available like the flash assist and flash intensity, but most point-and-shooters won’t want to play the trial-and-error game to adjust these and get decent pictures.

Zoom Lens*(5.0)*

Z1050-lens.jpg
The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 has a 3x optical zoom lens that extends from the front of the camera when it is turned on. It measures 7.9-23.7mm, equivalent to a 38-114mm lens in the more traditional 35mm format. Casio’s lens is constructed from seven lenses in five groups with an aspherical lens, but its quality doesn’t transfer into the images.

One of the pictures I took was of my son standing next to a window with the sun’s rays shining down on him. It looked good on him, although contrast was strong, but when photographed, the sunshine looked like a bright white spot on the floor. That’s common, although the purple lining around the light shows a flaw of the lens.

The lens’ aperture opens as wide as f/2.8 when zoomed out and f/5.1 when zoomed in. Don’t expect great low light shots when zoomed in: the tiny aperture won’t let in enough light to properly expose the image.

The zoom lens can be controlled with a ring that surrounds the shutter release button. When it is pushed, a horizontal bar appears on the bottom of the LCD screen. It shows where users are in the 3x range with a line. The control isn’t very sensitive. It stops at only six focal lengths when zooming in and five zooming out; it tends to regurgitate a bit when zooming out too. For instance, it zooms out and then when your finger releases it zooms in and out again real quick.

The camera has 4x digital zoom that can be turned on and off in the menu. When it is on, it shows up on the zoom scale as a sort of addendum. The optical zoom is shown on the left of the horizontal bar that appears on the LCD and the digital zoom on the right. Separating the optical from the digital is a line that acts as a sort of reality check. When users zoom in, the zoom stops at the line – as if to say "Do you really want to do this?" The zoom control will only move when pushed again.

Grouped with the drive modes is a Zoom Continuous mode, but it really isn’t a drive mode at all. When this is activated, the camera snaps only one picture. It also saves a file of the cropped center of the original image; all of this is done in post-processing. The second image saved is only three megapixels. So really, this has nothing to do with the optical zoom lens.

Unfortunately, the Casio Z1050’s optical zoom lens is just another cheap component.

Design / Layout

**Model Design / Appearance ***(7.25)*

The Casio Exilim Z1050 is the flagship of a long line of compact digital cameras designed to be slim and stylish. The Z1050 comes in black, silver, pink, and blue – we reviewed the blue model, though I think it looks more like periwinkle. The digital camera’s aluminum body is small and lightweight, but goes a bit overboard with logos and brand names. The Casio Z1050 isn’t hot-to-trot; it looks like every other Exilim point-and-shoot digital camera, but it comes in four colors.

**Size / Portability ***(7.75)*

The Casio Z1050 doesn’t aim to be ultra-slim but still wants to be compact and stylish. The camera measures 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.95 inches and is 0.81 inches at its thinnest point. It is still small enough to stash in pockets and purses and just about anywhere else. Weighing only 4.4 ounces without the card and battery, the Z1050 almost feels cheap. The camera doesn’t feel incredibly sturdy, so if you’re storing it in a backpack often you may want to purchase a carrying case to protect it.   

Handling Ability*(5.0)*

This is another one of those point-and-shoot digital cameras that handle like a, um, box. There isn’t a hand grip or even a finger grip on the front. The only handling feature on the camera is a thumb grip composed of eight plastic bumps in the upper right corner of the back. These bumps are sharp; they feel fine when your thumb is simply resting upon it, but sliding the thumb across will exfoliate your skin. All in all, the Casio Z1050 isn’t very comfortable to handle but is made for only occasional out-of-pocket handling anyway.

**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size ***(5.25)*

Z1050-buttons.jpg
The control buttons on the Casio Exilim Z1050 are tiny. The shutter release button is the biggest and most comfortable, but nothing else comes close. The zoom ring surrounding the shutter release has a tiny knob that has to be pushed right and left and causes some finger cramps. The power button is smaller than some ants. The buttons on the back of the camera are also incredibly tiny. Most of them are properly labeled, especially if users are familiar with Casio digital cameras. Exilims have a button labeled "BS" that may not make sense to unfamiliar consumers. It stands for "Best Shot," Casio’s label for scene modes. It would be more intuitive if labeled "SCN" or "Mode." Besides that little glitch, the labeling is intuitive but the buttons are incredibly tiny. If you have big fingers or arthritis, you will hate this camera.

**Menu ***(7.75)*

The Casio Exilim Z1050 has a regular menu system that is supplemented by a sort of "function menu." Many manufacturers have a separate menu that accesses the more frequently used settings. Canon accesses it with a "Func." button, Fujifilm marks it with an "F" button. Casio’s can be found as the "panel display," which can be turned on and off in the setup menu. It is helpful to have this menu activated as the view is otherwise blocked with black bars because of the oddly formatted 14:9 LCD screen. The menu shows up as icons on the right edge of the screen and can be accessed by pushing the Set button. Once the button is pushed, the menu lights up and options appear to the left of the selected item. Users can then navigate normally using the multi-selector. The panel display includes these features.

All of these features are repeated in the standard menu system in case users deactivate the panel display. The standard menus are found with the tiny but well-labeled Menu button and are navigated through with the typical multi-selector setup. The menu shown below is organized into three tabs, which show up at the top of the LCD screen.

The lists are long and there’s no simple way to tell where you are in the menu: no page numbers or scrolling bar or anything. Just long lists. The menus are in an archaic font similar to other Casio digital cameras. At least the menus are mostly text rather than icons though. Overall, the menu system is intuitive with the text and organization but the lengthy menus make finding a specific setting a time-consuming process.

**Ease of Use ***(7.25)*

The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 aims to be one of the easiest-to-use digital cameras on the market. It has a simple interface, albeit small, that is clearly labeled. Beginners may get confused by the "BS" button that represents the "Best Shot" modes. This is the access point to all the shooting modes on the camera – and there are plenty. Casio tries to make things easy for its users by tailoring scene modes to every situation possible: Soft Flowing Water and Natural Green are two examples of the ultra-specific scenes. This might be nice for beginners who are new to digital photography and aren’t sure what settings make what situations look best, but having 38 modes crammed onto a menu makes finding a specific mode unpleasant. The experience is similar in the recording menu too: it’s lengthy, so finding a setting is tough. Is the Casio Z1050 easy to use? As long as you don’t have to change the mode or enter the menu, yes.

Modes

Auto Mode*(5.25)*

When the camera initially turns on, a generic shooting mode called "Snapshot" is activated. This is the closest to an auto mode but it’s also similar to a program mode in that it allows access to most exposure controls. The auto focus mode, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, metering, drive, and picture effects are all adjustable in the recording menu. The Snapshot mode is found along with all the other recording modes in the "BS" mode menu.

Movie Mode*(5.5)*

The movie mode is positioned with all the other recording modes in the "BS" menu. It can record standard 640 x 480-pixel video, but at a slightly truncated 25 fps. This same frame rate is available with a 512 x 384-pixel size. The smallest video resolution is 320 x 240 pixels and it records a very choppy 12.5 fps. None of these modes capture moving subjects very well. I recorded a video at the best resolution of my toddler digging and dumping sand at the beach. When he dropped the sand, it looked very strange because one second it was in the shovel and the next it was on the ground – not much in between. Motion appears jerky at best. There are more details about this in the Testing/Performance section of this review.

The optical zoom is locked when recording a movie, but 4x digital zoom is available. When this is used, though, subjects become very blurred.

Up to 4 GB can be recorded at a time. The camera uses Motion JPEG files, which allows users to easily edit video in the playback mode and even create prints from movie frames. The movie editing in the playback mode consists of three options that let users cut from the beginning, middle, or end.

The movie mode still allows access to many of its exposure settings including the exposure compensation, auto focus, and white balance. There is also an anti-shake mode that activates digital image stabilization. This actually works quite well, although it isn’t as good as the optical or mechanical versions.

The audio works decently as long as subjects are close to the camera. And there’s no wind filter on this digital camera’s microphone, so expect poor audio in windy conditions.

Overall, the movie mode offers decent exposure control but it’s missing the standard 30 fps frame rate found on almost every other model. Without optical zoom or much else to make the movie mode stellar, the Casio Z1050 bows out of the hybrid competition.

**Drive / Burst Mode ***(4.5)*

The drive modes aren’t necessarily easily accessible. They are in the menu system, but they work only when they want to. If the Tracking auto focus mode is activated, nothing works: self-timers, high-speed burst, etc. You could scroll through the options in the menu and make selections, but they are never registered. It’s not like the option was grayed out and disabled or anything. This was all done by trial and error though: there’s nothing in the user manual that says which options the burst mode won’t work with. It took me nearly a week to figure all of that out, and I play with cameras quite regularly.

The burst mode options include Normal Speed, High Speed, Flash Cont., Zoom Cont., and Off. Normal Speed is like normally slow. It takes the camera nearly 3 seconds between shots. That’s hardly a burst mode! The High Speed burst was advertised to snap 7 fps in the camera’s introductory press release, but that must not have panned out. It took 4 shots in the first second, then took about 2 pictures a second for awhile. Get this though: the image size is reduced to 2 megapixels and there’s no way to change it!

The Flash Continuous mode snaps three images in one second, each with the flash fired. This is impressive for a flash, although the flash’s range is shortened to within 6.56 feet. After the Z1050 took its string of flashed images, it took five seconds to write them to memory before it was ready to take the next burst.

The Zoom Continuous mode is hardly a burst mode. It simply takes one picture, then digitally crops a 3-megapixel rectangle out of the middle and saves it as a separate file.

The self-timer options include 2 and 10 seconds, and a triple self-timer. The latter option waits 10 seconds to take its first shot, then 3 seconds to take its second and third pictures. The orange auto focus assist lamp on the front of the camera doubles as the self-timer indicator.

Overall, the burst mode is not impressive. Users have to choose between decent resolution and speed, and neither option is good. And activating the burst mode in general means giving up other options such as the tracking auto focus mode, something that would have been useful in the burst mode.

Playback Mode*(7.5)*

The playback mode has a designated button on the back of the camera: thank goodness it isn’t grouped in the already overstuffed "BS" menu. The playback mode shows pictures without file info, with basic info, and with so much info that the picture can hardly be seen. The info can be hidden and shown with the top of the multi-selector labeled "DISP."

Users navigate through images with the right and left sides of the multi-selector. Pushing down continuously on one side will flip through images at about 10 fps. Pushing the bottom of the multi-selector will delete a picture, but only after asking if it’s okay. Images can be magnified up to 8x with the telephoto end of the zoom ring or viewed in screens of 12 images or as a calendar by pushing the wide end of the zoom ring.

The calendar can also be viewed from the menu, where a host of viewing and editing options reside.

CasioZ1050-playback1.gif

Slide shows don’t hint at any existence of music, but apparently the "effect" comes with music. There are four soundtracks ranging from hip-hop to jazz to completely corny. One of the soundtracks comes with two transition effects, thus totaling five "patterns."

In the playback menu, there are lots of features and effects for both still and video files. There is plenty of in-camera editing which makes direct printing much easier.

Custom Image Presets*(9.25)*

This Exilim digital camera seems to not only be winning the megapixel race, but also the scene mode prize. It has a whopping 36 Best Shot scene modes. The modes are placed in a grid of sample pictures with 15 per page. The zoom control magnifies the sample image and provides an explanation for each one. Here’s an example: "Candlelight Portrait: Soft sharpness and tungsten white balance. Keep the camera still!"

CasioZ1050-bs.gif

Here’s the rundown: 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 1, Layout 2, Auto Framing, ID Photo, Old Photo, Business Cards and Documents, and White Board.

There are so many scene modes that it is sometimes hard to find one of them! Some users may appreciate the abundance of preset options, but others may find them unnecessarily overwhelming.

Control Options

**Manual Control Options

**There are a few manual controls scattered in the menus but there isn’t any manual control over shutter speed or aperture. All of the exposure modes on the camera are completely automated and many are tailored to shoot in very specific situations so users don’t have to worry about manual control at all.

Focus

Auto Focus*(3.5)*

The Casio Z1050 has a contrast detection auto focus system that isn’t very effective. This is one of those compact digital cameras that you end up deleting 80 percent of the pictures from because they’re blurry beyond recognition. Normally it focuses as close as 15.75 inches. There are several auto focus modes found in the panel and recording menus: normal, macro, and infinity. The manual focus feature is grouped in the same menu, but will be discussed in the next section. The macro mode shortens the focal point to within 3.94-19.69 inches.

There are also auto focus area modes in the recording menu: Multi, Spot, and Auto Tracking. The Multi uses nine auto focus points, but they’re all crammed into a tiny portion of the center – so if your subject is off-center, this won’t work well. The Spot mode is locked to the very center of the image, so there’s not much flexibility. The Auto Tracking mode is by far the most interesting. Users must place the superimposed box on the image over the subject they want to track and then push the shutter release button down halfway; the box turns green and follows the subject around the frame. It follows edge to edge and holds onto subjects very well. Theoretically, this would be useful in the burst mode when trying to track a runner across the frame, for instance. However, the burst mode is deactivated when the tracking auto focus mode is selected.

In the recording menu, there is a Quick Shutter option that reduces shutter lag by a few milliseconds and does so by shortening the auto focus time. This only makes images look worse. The normal auto focus time really isn’t that lengthy; there’s not a lot of shutter lag. The auto focus simply doesn’t focus well on its subjects. In low light, the camera has an auto focus assist lamp that shines orange light from the front to make focusing possible.

All in all, the auto focus works quickly but not effectively.

Manual Focus*(2.0)*

The Casio Exilim Z1050 can focus from 3.94 inches to infinity. The manual focus mode is grouped in the same menu with the auto focus modes. When the manual focus is selected, a box appears on the screen. There are no other on-screen directions, but when users push the right and left sides of the multi-selector the box digitally magnifies the center of the image and the focus adjusts. It’s hard to tell what’s in focus on the 115,000-pixel LCD screen.

**ISO ***(7.0)*

The Z1050 improves upon its sibling model, the Z75, in this area. The Casio Exilim Z75 has a short 50-400 ISO range, while the Z1050 extends from 80-800. It also has a High Sensitivity scene mode that ups the ISO to 1600. This is helpful for keeping subjects illuminated in low light without the flash, but increases the amount of noise and lessens the dynamic range in the images (see Testing/Performance section of this review for more details). Overall, the Casio Z1050 has a decent ISO range but most comparable models have manual settings reaching 1600 now, so it’s a little behind the competition.

**White Balance ***(7.25)*

White balance can be changed on the Z1050's panel display or in the recording menu, although the panel display is preferable because it provides a nice large live view. There is an automatic setting along with a healthy selection of presets: Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, and Tungsten. There isn’t a flash white balance preset, but Casio covered all the other bases. There is even a manual white balance mode, which some manufacturers don’t put on their point-and-shoots. To see how accurately the automatic white balance is compared to the presets, check out the Testing/Performance section of this review. Surprisingly there is a white balance setting in the playback mode that allows users to pick any of the presets for a photo already taken. There is a preview with this too.

**Exposure ***(7.25)*

Users can monitor the exposure in real time by pushing the top of the multi-selector, labeled "DISP," and watching the live histogram. It is tiny but it shows the overall exposure along with the separate red, green, and blue channels. This is helpful since the LCD screen automatically adjusts its brightness when the lighting changes, making it hard to tell if it’s the exposure changing or the screen’s brightness. The Casio Z1050 doesn’t allow shutter speeds or apertures to be manually adjusted, but there is a standard +/- 2 range available for exposure compensation. The typical 1/3-step range is available with a live preview in the panel and recording menus.

**Metering ***(7.0)*

The metering mode is only found in the recording menu under the quality sub-heading. Multi-pattern, center-weighted, and spot metering modes can be selected but there is no live view in the menu.

**Shutter Speed ***(0.0)*

The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 has a CCD electronic and mechanical shutter that has a range of ½-1/1000th of a second in the Snapshot mode. The range varies according to the selected scene. For instance, it is fixed at 2 seconds in the Fireworks mode and the Night Scene mode has a wide 4-1/1000th range available. The total 4-1/1000th range is okay, although some point-and-shoots offer better 15-1/2000th shutter speed ranges. The long exposures aren’t that long and may make night photography nearly impossible.

**Aperture ***(0.0)*

The Z1050 has a 3x optical zoom lens with an aperture that opens as wide as f/2.8. That is when the lens is zoomed out. When the full 3x is utilized, the aperture diminishes to f/5.1. The smallest aperture available is f/8. This type of range typical of compact digital cameras’ lenses; however, users of the Z1050 will not be able to set these manually. 

 

Image Parameters

**Picture Quality / Size Options ***(7.0)*

The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 has a 1/1.75-inch square primary color CCD with 10.3 total megapixels on it. 10.1 of those are effective and available for use. In the panel and quality menus, users can change the image size from the following selection: 3648 x 2736, 3648 x 2432 (3:2), 3646 x 2048 (16:9), 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 640 x 480. There are also compression options: Fine, Normal, and Economy. The massive 10-megapixel images can be resized in the playback mode to 5 megapixels, 3 megapixels, and VGA size. Resized files are saved separately, so the original isn’t lost. Users can also trim pictures in the playback mode by zooming in up to 8x and moving around with the multi-selector.

Picture Effects Mode*(8.0)*

The Z1050 has an abundance of picture effects, found in the quality subheading of the recording menu. Color filters include Off, Black & White, Sepia, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, and Purple. There is a live preview when choosing the color mode, which is helpful. The options like Yellow and Purple aren’t as strongly colored as the Black & White and Sepia, for example. The individual colors appear like an error in color balance rather than a truly colored photo. The sharpness, saturation, and contrast can be adjusted on 5-step scales too.

There are some more picture effects in the playback mode. The brightness can be adjusted on a 5-step scale with a preview. There is a keystone effect that supposedly levels out uneven shots; it wouldn’t work on portraits, but makes attempts at straightening text shot on slanted paper. The final product usually ends up as a very oddly formatted crop of the original image surrounded by white blocks. It cut off the text in my images and really didn’t work that well. There is also a color correction feature in the playback mode, but it isn’t very practical. It insists on performing the keystone feature first, so it crops to an odd size. Then users are allowed to zoom and resize to a more common format, but that just shrinks the image size! Only after all this does the camera perform the color correction and save the image. This is annoying: your nicely colored image is hardly big enough to make a decent 4 x 6-inch print. Avoidance is the best solution here.

Connectivity / Extras

Connectivity

Software*(3.0)*

Previous Casio digital cameras came with archaic editing software that included cartoons of koala bears and lizards. It wasn’t very intuitive, so there are already some improvements seen on Casio’s new third-party software. The CD-ROM included with the Z1050 comes with the following: Photo Loader with Hot Album Ver 3.1, Photo Transport Ver 1.0, USB Driver B, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Direct X, and the User Manual on PDF. These programs only run on Windows operating systems; there isn’t any software for Macintosh computers.

Installation was an interesting process starting with a colorful "Let’s Install Photo Loader with Hot Album" window. The bright colors and graphics remind me of supermarket ads touting sales on bananas and chicken.

scarystart.jpg

Photo Loader is incredibly slow. It took about 10 minutes to upload 400 images from a folder on my desktop. Once uploaded, things went a little smoother. The program has text labels rather than the older cartoon-style stuff, so it is much more intuitive. Users can sort images by the date the picture was taken or the date it was imported to the software using a sorting tool on the left side of the window. Users can also view different sizes of thumbnails and a calendar with buttons along the top of the window. From the bottom of the window, users can delete and rotate images. That’s as far as the editing goes though. This program is simply a fancy viewing browser. Users can print and email from this window, play slide shows, and create discs with photo slide shows (that’s the Hot Album part).

photoloader.jpg

If users can’t view the movies properly, they should install the Direct X program. Even still, videos can only be played and stopped and the volume adjusted. Fast-forwarding, rewinding, and editing are not possible. There are more options in the playback mode of the camera than in this software.

The Photo Transport program is really a 1x2-inch window and a handful of buttons for transferring photos. It allows users to upload photos from a computer to the camera.

phototransport22.jpg

Overall, the included software is weak; there are hardly any editing features and it is laboriously slow.

*Jacks, ports, plugs (5.0)

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Z1050-ports.jpg
The top of the Z1050’s right side has a small plastic door that covers a single port. The door doesn’t exactly fit into the body perfectly so users should avoid putting the camera in vulnerable situations (i.e. by a misty waterfall, at a windy beach, etc.). The port itself fits the USB and AV cables. The USB function can be set to Mass Storage (USB Direct Print) or PTP (PictBridge) in the setup menu. The AV function can be set to NTSC or PAL in 4:3 or 16:9 format. The output audio is monaural. There is no optional power adaptor: Casio doesn’t sell one and there’s no place to put one. Thus, users have to keep batteries fresh. This is different than the camera’s predecessor, the Z1000, which had a port for a cradle and adapter. 

*Direct Print Options (6.0)

*The Casio Z1050 can print from the playback menu. Users can create "layout prints" from the menu: these consist of two templates that group images together on 7-megapixel scrapbook-like pages. The first template places two pictures on a page and the second template fits three. Users can choose the background color from six neutral choices. This features does make scrapbooking simpler. The actual printing is done through the DPOF Printing option in the playback menu. It allows users to easily select images, select all images, or cancel the order. Users can turn the date stamp on and off with the "BS" menu and adjust the number of prints to be made from 0-99. Prints can be made from movies with the Motion Print option: it allows users to select a frame from the video and create a small print from it individually. It can also group nine frames from the movie on one print: eight of the frames are automatically selected and the central frame is selected by the user. With 10.1 megapixels, the Casio Z1050 can potentially make very large prints – poster size according to the user manual.

*Battery (7.0)

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Z1050-battery.jpg
The Casio Z1050 has an NP-40 lithium-ion battery that gets decent mileage. It can snap 370 shots before needing a recharge. A battery indicator appears in the lower left corner of the LCD screen with three levels on it, so users should have plenty of notice before it runs out. Previous Exilim cameras came with cradles that charged the batteries, but the Z1050 has an external charger. The BC-31L battery charger consists of a base and a separate cable that connects it to the wall. This isn’t as nice and portable as a wall-mount charger, nor as sleek as a camera cradle charger. The 1.2-ounce battery takes about 150 minutes to fully charge. The camera is not compatible with any power adapters, so users should pay special attention to keeping the battery fresh, especially when performing functions like downloading pictures to a computer or updating the camera’s firmware.

Memory*(3.75)*

Z1050-memory.jpg
The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 has 15.4 MB of internal memory, which is enough to snap an entire 2 images at the finest resolution. Users will have to purchase extra memory for this camera: it is compatible with SD, SDHC, and MMC media. Users can copy images from the card to the internal memory and vice versa in the playback menu.

**Other features ***(7.0)*

Voice Memo – Users can add voice memos in the playback menu using the Dubbing option, which allows users to add 30 seconds of audio to an image file. The monaural audio is saved as WAV and can be played back on the camera.

Voice Recorder – Near the end of the Best Shot mode menu is a voice recording mode that has nothing to do with images. This could be useful for lectures if the professor or speaker is within about 20 feet of the camera and speaking loudly, but it won’t record much if in a large lecture hall. Just on the internal memory, audio can record for up to 48 minutes in WAV format. It can be reviewed in the playback mode.

Basic Reference Guide – This disappointing inclusion is the only printed guide included with the camera. There are an entire 14 pages in English, and 14 pages each of 6 other languages. Most of the pages are cluttered with useless information like how to push the shutter release button and where to put the battery (c’mon guys, it’s not that hard). The guide is a PDF document on the included CD-ROM, but I’m not a fan of booting up my computer and finding a page in a PDF every time I can’t figure something out on the camera.

Dynamic Range – This is designed for use when shooting backlit subjects or in other situations where underexposure could easily occur. The dynamic range expands to the following options from the recording and playback menus: Expand +2, Expand +1, and Off. There isn’t a live view, but the resulting pictures certainly show a difference. It does keep the entire image well-exposed in tough lighting, but the images I took were still a bit furry on the edges.

Portrait Refiner – This setting is supposed to enhance skin tones by reducing the blemishes made by noise. The options are found in the quality portion of the recording menu: Noise Filter +2, Noise Filter +1, and Off. I snapped a few images of my palm with each setting and magnified them to look for differences, but I really didn’t see any. They all looked relatively noiseless but detail-less too.

Overall Impressions

**Value ***(4.0)*

The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 originally retailed for $299 in March 2007, but the price has been dropped by the manufacturer to $269. The camera is less expensive than almost all other 10-megapixel point-and-shoot models. Unfortunately, there are reasons for that. The LCD screen has poor resolution and a limited viewing angle. The 3x lens isn’t very high-quality and at times causes chromatic aberrations. The auto focus system doesn’t seem to work well as most pictures are blurry or simply lacked detail. The processing time is atrocious and caused plenty of missed opportunities. Sure, the camera has 10.1 megapixels but it doesn’t have much else. While it’ll save buyers a little money, it’s probably not worth the $269.

Comparisons

Casio Exilim EX-Z75 – This is a budget model released alongside the Z1050. It costs $229 and has a similar design. It is a little thinner but a little taller at 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.77 inches and weighs about the same at 4.3 ounces. The Z75 has the same 3x optical zoom with the same 38-114mm equivalent specs, but a smaller max aperture of f/3.1. The Z75 doesn’t have the massive resolution of the Z1050; it has 7.2 megapixels on a smaller 1/2.5-inch CCD instead. It has 34 Best Shot scene modes and fewer editing features in the playback mode. Its shutter speeds and focus modes are the same, but its ISO sensitivity tops off at a meager 400. The two cameras have the same wide 2.6-inch, 115,000-pixel LCD screen. The Casio Z75 has a more powerful flash unit that fires to 11.48 feet and a less powerful battery that gets only 230 shots per charge. The Z75 has less internal memory at 8 MB but can still accept SD media. For most users, this digital camera is just as good because 10 megapixels honestly isn’t necessary.

Canon PowerShot A640 – The A640 has a thicker body that is easier to handle but doesn’t fit as well in a pocket. The 10-megapixel digital camera has a longer 4x optical zoom lens that has max apertures of f/2.8 and f/4.1. It has a 2.5-inch LCD monitor that folds out of the camera body and rotates to almost any angle, but it has the same disappointing 115,000-pixel resolution. With 21 shooting modes ranging from manual to automatic, there is more substance here for users to advance their photographic skills. There are 13 scene modes and a host of picture effects that rival the Casio Z1050’s. The Canon PowerShot A640 has a better 15-1/2500 shutter speed range and a flash that reaches 14 feet. It has the same 80-800 ISO range and the same standard 640 x 480-pixel video resolution, but at a slightly better 30 fps rate. The Canon A640 has a 1.5 fps burst mode and runs on four AA batteries that add some serious heft to the camera. The A640 originally retailed for $399 but now sells for less than $300 online. It is one of few compact digital cameras that offers 10 megapixels and still provides decent manual controls.

Olympus Stylus 1000 – This digital camera originally retailed for $399 but now sells for less than $250. The Olympus Stylus 1000 has 10 megapixels in an all-weather body that is certainly sturdier and better-sealed than the Casio Z1050’s. The Stylus has a 3x optical zoom lens and a 2.5-inch LCD screen with much smoother 230,000-pixel resolution. The wedge-shaped camera body comes in four colors, including orange and blue, and measures only 0.89 inches across. There are 20 scene modes including a panorama mode, although it only works when an Olympus-branded xD-Picture card is inserted. There is a guide mode that has pages and pages of tutorials on how to fix the exposure and such. Its 10-megapixel resolution was often compromised by features like the burst mode and the ISO sensitivity. The camera could shoot 3.6 fps, but only at 3 megapixels. It had an extensive 64-6400 ISO range, but anything at or above 1600 was at significantly reduced resolution. The Olympus Stylus 1000 is another 10-megapixel option, but not a very good one.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 – This digital camera has 10.2 megapixels on a larger image sensor that is 16:9 formatted. It has a wide 2.8-inch LCD screen and it shoots widescreen movies and pictures. The LCD has a bit more resolution at 210,000 pixels, but that’s still not crystal clear. The widescreen movies shoot at 1280 x 720 pixels, but only at a choppy 15 fps. The standard 640 x 480 resolution is available too. The Panasonic LX2 has a 4x optical zoom lens coupled with a great optical image stabilization mode. It has 18 scene modes including 2 "baby" modes that save the exact age of the child in the file information. It performed respectably in testing with its 60-1/2000 shutter speed range and 3 fps burst mode. At 4.2 x 2.3 x 1 inches, the LX2 is slightly bigger than the Z1050 but can still fit in pockets and is very portable. The Panasonic LX2’s ISO reaches to 3200 and its flash to 13.5 feet. It has 13 MB of internal memory and can accept SD, SDHC, and MMC media. It originally retailed for $499 but can be found for at least fifty dollars less now.

Samsung S1050 – The name almost makes these two cameras twins. The Samsung S1050 has 10.1 megapixels but that’s about where the similarities end. The S1050 has a 5x optical zoom lens and a larger 3-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels. It has a matte black metal body that looks like a retro film body and it measures 3.9 x 2.5 x 1 inches. The buttons on the camera aren’t intuitively labeled. There is a nice set of manual, priority, automatic, and scene modes. There is even a movie mode that shoots 800 x 592 pixels but at 20 fps. The smoother 30 fps is available with the more common 640 x 480-pixel video. The Samsung S1050 has face recognition technology, an 80-1600 ISO range, and a 2 fps burst mode. It originally retailed for $349 but sells for less than $200 .

**

Who It’s For

***Point-and-Shooters* – 38 scene modes. 0.95-inch thick body. 3x zoom. 2.6-inch LCD. And only one finger needed to take a picture. The Z1050 is a point-and-shooter’s dream.

Budget Consumers – This digital camera costs $269, which probably isn’t within reach for many budget consumers.

Gadget Freaks – It has 10.1 megapixels, but that’s its most alluring feature. Now that every manufacturer has a 10-megapixel camera, this is almost boring.

Manual Control Freaks – The Z1050 will only frustrate these consumers. This camera tries to automate everything in every situation possible. It’s almost scary.

Pros/ Serious Hobbyists – It may have more advertised megapixels than most digital SLRs, but the Casio Z1050 won’t replace them in pros’ camera bags.

Conclusion

Conclusion

The Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 follows up the older Z1000 with the same 10.1 megapixels and lackluster 3x optical zoom lens. The monstrous resolution is the headlining feature on the camera, but its features are otherwise quite tame. The Z1050 is still just another compact point-and-shoot that takes substandard pictures – it just takes them at an enormous size. Hooray, you can now print enormous posters of your blurry action shots and unnaturally lit portraits. The camera has a few highlights though, such as the vast amount of in-camera effects and the useful auto focus tracking mode, but that doesn’t make up for the cheap components, tiny buttons, slow burst mode, or sub-par movies. Not to mention the zillions of pictures taken and deleted because they looked blurry, discolored, fuzzy, and distorted. Simply put: $269 is way too much to pay for this camera even if it is the cheapest 10-megapixel camera on the market.

Sample Photos

Sample Photos

*Click to view the high-resolution images.

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Specs / Ratings

**Specs Table **

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