Casio may not be the most prolific digital camera manufacturer, with a current range of 21 models, but it is one of the oldest, launching its first camera, the 0.3-megapixel QV-300 in 1996. Despite its long pedigree Casio today has only a tiny share of the camera market, around three percent in 2006, surpassed by relative latecomers such as Panasonic and Samsung. The only reason I can think of for this is that the Casio brand name is associated in the public consciousness with cheap calculators and digital watches, and therefore potential buyers tend to overlook its cameras in favour of more expensive models from Canon, Nikon or Sony. This too is strange, because Casio watches and calculators are generally very good, to say nothing of its professional music keyboards, cash registers and other electronic products. Furthermore, the Casio Exilim range contains some outstanding cameras, such as this EX-Z1080.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z1080 is a 10.1-megapixel compact camera with a 1/1.75-inch sensor, a 3x zoom f/2.8-f/5.1 lens equivalent to 38-114mm and a 2.6-inch widescreen monitor. It has a range of advanced features, including friends and family face recognition, Anti-shake DSP and a maximum sensitivity of 3200 ISO. Comparable models from other manufacturers include the new Nikon S550 (£199), the Panasonic FS5 (£179) which Jamie reviewed yesterday, the Pentax Optio S10 (£149) and the Samsung NV15 (£149). The Z1080 is currently available for around £129, which makes is pretty competitive on price at least.
The Z1080 makes a good first impression. Although not one of Casio's slimmest cameras it is by no means bulky, measuring 91.1 x 57.2 x 24.2mm, and weighing 125g minus the battery. The body is all aluminium, and like most of Casio's range it is available in a choice of colours, including silver, black, blue, pink and the gunmetal grey of my review sample. Build quality is excellent, and the camera feels solid and robust. The shape is smooth with rounded corners, and the flush-folding lens means that it will slip easily into a jacket pocket or small handbag for a night out.
The wide-format 2.6-inch monitor doesn't leave a lot of room on the back of the camera, but the controls, consisting of only four external control buttons and a small D-pad, are sensibly designed, and they are not at all fiddly. The zoom control is a rotary collar around the shutter button, which leaves enough room on the back for a small textured thumb grip. Despite its size the Z1080 is quite comfortable to hold securely and handles surprisingly well.