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Casio Exilim EX-Z77 - Casio Exilim EX-Z77
The Z77's features are basically the same as all of Casio's previous Exilim compacts for the past year or so, and to be honest what was pretty clever stuff in 2006 is beginning to look a bit staid. Some rival ultra-compact cameras are now being fitted with effective image stabilisation systems, but all the Z77 offers in the way of special features is face recognition and a YouTube video mode. It has "Anti-shake DSP", but this just boosts the ISO setting to maximum to give a faster shutter speed, with corresponding reduction in image quality. The YouTube video mode is interesting, because it uses the advanced H.264 compression algorithm, however YouTube currently displays video clips using the lower-quality H.263 format, although it is likely to change to the H.264 at some point. At least your movies will be ready when this happens.
What it does offer is 41 "Best Shot" scene programs, including some genuinely useful ones, such as ID photos, whiteboard capture and a couple of special video modes. It also has the same menu system as most recent Exilim cameras, but that's OK because it is a very good one. In shooting mode there is a permanent row of icons down the side of the monitor screen, allowing quick and easy access to all the frequently used shooting options, such as image size, ISO setting, flash mode, white balance and exposure compensation. I've always liked this control system, and find it very easy to use.
There are a number of useful features in playback mode as well, including the option to adjust colour, white balance, brightness and even dynamic range, although this last is of strictly limited effectiveness. There is also an option to correct skewed perspective, saving the corrected image as a new file.
The EX-Z77 features the same face recognition system as the EX-Z1200 which was launched at the same time. It's a very clever system which uses face detection pattern-recognition to attempt to recognise the pre-recorded faces of your friends and family and give them focusing and exposure priority in group shots. It does work, and it is technologically enormously impressive when it does so, but it is very unreliable under all but ideal circumstances. It also seem to be unable to recognise some people as having human faces, which can cause some hilarious embarrassment.
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