Although it has manual focus, the EX-Z50 has no manual exposure modes, but what it does have is Casio’s excellent Bestshot mode, which offers 23 special shooting modes, including some very clever ones. The most innovative is the Business Shot function. Using this you can take photos of documents, business cards and other such objects at almost any angle, and the camera automatically straightens them so that the edges are parallel. It’s ideal for a bit of quick industrial espionage, although I’m sure that’s not what it’s really intended for…
Other Bestshot modes include a coupling mode for combining two shots into one, a pre-shot mode for capturing yourself in scenes, special modes for flowers, fireworks, foliage, food, text, twilight, night portraits, sepia, monochrome and more, plus the option to add more user-defined or downloaded functions. Another useful function is Flash Assist, which ups the exposure compensation to brighten areas of the shot outside the flash range.
The EX-Z50 comes with a handy docking cradle that combines a USB 1.1 download interface with an AC charger. The camera sits in the cradle backwards, so you can review pictures on the LCD while it’s charging.
So far this review has been overwhelmingly positive, but unfortunately image quality is the EX-Z50’s Achilles heel. Although the pictures are sharp and accurately focused, our test model had a tendency to slightly over expose most shots, leading to some burned-out highlights and a lack of detail in brighter yellow tones, although other colours were rich and vibrant with plenty of detail. I also found an above average level of image noise at all ISO settings beyond 100, most notably on the red channel. Another problem was lens distortion in wide angle shots. If you take a look at the sample shots accompanying this review, you’ll notice that on some shots the edges appear to be slightly blurred, most notably on the macro shots. This is a problem that has been noted before with the Pentax lens used on this camera, so the blame cannot be laid entirely at Casio’s door. On the plus side, there is almost no evidence of purple fringing on any of our test shots.
The supplied software can automatically load shots from the camera, sort them by date and display them in your web browser, but it has limited editing functions and is no match for even a cheap photo-editing software package.
The Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z50 is a good snapshot camera with some nice features. The Bestshot mode is especially useful, since it helps even novice photographers to achieve professional-looking results under difficult shooting conditions. The camera is well-designed, feels solid in the hand, and at £190 represents good value for money. Overall performance is reasonable, and although image quality is slightly disappointing, it is far from disastrous.