Despite its unjustly small market share, Casio has been at the forefront of digital camera development for over ten years. The Exilim range of ultra-compacts contains some of the slimmest and most stylish digital cameras on the market, and has also produced many interesting technical innovations, while maintaining an enviable reputation for value for money. Today's camera is a particularly good example. The Exilim EX-Z80 is absolutely tiny, but still manages to pack in some ingenious technology at a very reasonable price.
I'm not kidding about the "tiny" bit either. The Z80 may well be the smallest digital camera I've ever seen, apart from a few novelty VGA "spy cameras" that don't really count. It measures just 89.7 x 51.7 x 19mm and weighs only 100g. The box it comes in is also about half the size of most other cameras, and less packaging means less waste. While many ultra-compact cameras can slip into a shirt pocket, the Z80 is so inconspicuous you have to check twice to make sure it's still there. Despite its miniscule dimensions the Z80 handles surprisingly well. The controls are small of course, but they are sensibly arranged and don't feel cluttered or fiddly to operate. The zoom control, a rotary bezel around the shutter button, is a bit on the over-enthusiastic side, and the six-step zoom is not terribly precise, but it is at least easy to operate. Also in spite of its size the Z80 isn't lacking in build quality or features. It has a strong all-metal body, an 8.1-megapixel CCD sensor, a 2.6-inch 115k widescreen monitor and a 3x zoom f/3.1 lens.
The Z80's lens has an unusual property. One of the inner elements has a bright red reflective tint, presumably to reduce internal reflections and lens flare. This tint is clearly visible when looking at the front of the camera, and when I first noticed it I was reminded of something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. It wasn't until later while I was looking at my DVD collection that it dawned on me; the slim rectangular black outline of the body, the metallic lens surround and that red internal glow…
I half expected the camera to start singing "Daisy Bell" whenever I removed its memory card. "My mind is going. I can feel it…"