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Casio has just launched two new models in its ultra-compact Exilim EX-Z series. We'll be taking a look at the range-topping Z200 later this week, but for today we've got the EX-Z100. The Z-series is not exactly noted for its diversity, being populated by 14 models most of which are variations on the metal-bodied 3x zoom ultra-compact format, with the only differences being size, shape and resolution. The Z100 is different though. It is the first Casio ultra-compact to feature a 28mm wide-angle lens with 4x optical zoom.
Longer zoom ranges and wide angle lenses are the latest bandwagon in the digital camera market, with most of the major manufacturers now fielding ultra-compact models with 28mm-equivalent lenses and zoom factors greater than the traditional 3x. While it does mean that there's just as little difference between the various brands as there ever was, personally I'm in favour of it. I'd far rather manufacturers concentrate on useful features like better lenses instead of constantly stuffing more and more megapixels into already massively overcrowded sensors.
The main rivals for the EX-Z100 are the Fujifilm FinePix F480 (£80), the Olympus FE-350 Wide (£155), the Nikon CoolPix S600 (£165), the Sony Cyber-shot W170 (£170) and the Panasonic Lumix FX35 (£180). That makes the EX-Z100's £142 price tag look quite reasonable, until you remember that the Nikon, the Sony and the Panasonic all have optical image stabilisation; the EX-Z100 does not.