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Before Casio's new models for this Spring go on sale, I've just got time to review a couple of last year's models. I'll be reviewing the EX-Z1080 next week, but first I've got this, the Exilim EX-Z77. At 7.2 megapixels with a 3x zoom lens it's towards the lower end of the spectrum of current compact cameras, and with a retail price of a little under £100 it is practically a budget model.
Casio used to have the low-price ultra-slim style compact market almost to itself, with only Pentax's Optio range and the now defunct Minolta Dimage X range as serious competition, but in the past couple of years more and more of the other manufacturers have been expanding their ranges into this area, and cameras like the Z77 have a lot more to live up to. Admittedly some rivals such as the dismal Olympus FE-230 (£120) won't be giving Casio execs many sleepless nights, but others such as the Nikon S200 (£105), Canon IXUS 70 (£116) and the Sony W80 (£123) are more serious competitors. The threat from traditional rival Pentax has reduced somewhat with the shrinkage of that company's compact camera range, but it does still have the 8-megapixel Optio M40 at £125.
Casio has been making cameras like this for a long time, and has got it down to a fine art. The Z77's body is all aluminium with a brushed finish, and is available in a range of colours, including silver, blue, pink, black and the red version I've got here today. Build quality is first rate, and the overall design is clean and functional with a sleek high-tech style. It is extremely slim, measuring 95 x 59 x 19.8mm at its thickest point, and light too, weighing just 118g without battery or card. The lens folds flush with the body and it will easily slip into a shirt pocket. The body of the camera appears to have been designed for a bigger monitor than the none-too-sharp 2.6-inch 114k widescreen with which it is equipped, and the viewable area of the screen has a wide border around it. As a result of this oversized frame the controls on the back panel are a bit cramped over on the right hand side, and the left side of the D-pad is awkward to press, but the buttons are large enough and have a nice positive feel. In one clever touch, the playback and record buttons above the D-pad are recessed slightly, so that they don't get pressed accidentally by your thumb while holding the camera. For an ultra-slim compact, the Z77 is quite comfortable to handle.
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