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Casio Exilim EX-Z80 - Casio Exilim EX-Z80
Although the Z80 isn't quite as intelligent as HAL (thank goodness) it does have some very clever features. Like several previous Casio camera it has the Family First face recognition system, a development of the face detection found on most modern compact cameras, in which the faces of up to six specific individuals can be recorded and stored, the idea being that if any of these people appear in a group shot, the camera will focus on their faces as a priority and adjust exposure accordingly. In practice it works about as reliably as face detection systems generally do, which is to say it's only really effective in good light when the subject is looking directly at the camera, but it does definitely recognise faces.
More impressive still is the Auto Shutter option. This offers three special movement detection modes in which, when the shutter button is pressed, the camera will wait to take the shot until certain conditions are met. The Detect Smile mode is linked to the face detection/recognition system, and will wait until the subject smiles, but more useful is the Detect Blur mode, in which the camera will wait until both the camera and the subject are stationary before taking the shot. What this amounts to in practice is an effective image stabilisation system, and can produce relatively blur-free shots at shutter speeds as low as a quarter of a second. The third mode is similar to this, but is used for panning shots tracking moving subjects. It detects blurring of the main subject only, ignoring the background movement. While I'm ambivalent about smile detection, I consider both of the other modes to be very useful and technically impressive features, but bizarrely the list of the Z80's main features on Casio's own website makes no mention of them, and even the camera's manual glances over them in a page and a half. Maybe that explains why Casio doesn't sell as many cameras as it should.
The Z80 has a number of other features, including 30 Best Shot scene modes. There are the usual ones such as portrait, landscape, pets, flowers and so on, but there are some that are a little more unusual, such as an electronic starburst filter and a pastel shades setting. It also has a special movie recording mode that saves files in the H.264 compression format for uploading to the video sharing site YouTube. Some people have claimed this is a bit redundant, since you can upload other standard video formats to YouTube, but using H.264 optimises the video quality for online viewing.
As well as the Best Shot menu, other options on the main menu include multiple focus modes, three exposure metering modes, dynamic range expansion, customisable D-pad controls, adjustable contrast, saturation and sharpness, and a strange selection of alternate focus frame icons, including a heart shape, a star, a flower and what appears to be a gingerbread man. I can only describe this with another 2001 quote: "Its origin and purpose still a total mystery."
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