Press the match-head sized on/off button on the Exilim EX-ZR10's top plate and the zoom lens bursts out from the body in an instant, rear LCD screen taking a moment to catch up. This meant that we were able to be up and shooting with the Casio in just under two seconds, which isn't bad at all for a snapshot model.
On this camera, as well as the aforementioned BestShot modes, there are two Auto modes. The regular Auto mode is essentially an 'intelligent auto' option that recognises common scenes and subjects and adjusts camera settings automatically. Alternatively there is the same image-enhancing Premium Auto that we also found on the EX-H20G. This slows down processing times marginally, which is not an issue, although most of the time we were hard pressed to tell the difference.
Rather than bury these under menus with the other 'BestShot' modes, there is a dedicated 'Auto' button on the top of the camera which switches from one auto mode to the other so you can shoot the same subject with both options and decide for yourself which looks best. This really is a camera for those who want a decent-looking result with very little input of their own.
In terms of stills quality, the usual bugbears of any digital compact make an appearance - namely pixel fringing between areas of high contrast, but more disappointingly a distinct softness towards the corners of frame when shooting at maximum wideangle, rather than any noticeable barrel distortion. This is one of the few black marks against the EX-ZR10, but unfortunately a fairly prominent one.
On a more positive note we were impressed with the level of pin-sharp detail across the frame we were able to achieve when shooing handheld at maximum telephoto setting. This is testament not only to the lens itself, but also the camera's built in image stabilisation mechanism - here of the fairly reliable and consistent CMOS sensor shift variety.
This being a Casio camera colours are well saturated as a default, and if you do want a dynamic boost on a dull and flat day, then both standard HDR and HDR Art modes can supply it within a couple of button presses.
For low light photography we managed to get a decent return on images even when shooting up to the top whack sensitivity setting of ISO 3200. As you'd expect, noise starts to subtly intrude from ISO 400 upwards, detail softening slightly at ISO 800 and getting subtly more so at ISO 1600. Though at ISO 3200 detail is at its least sharp, we'd argue that results at this setting are certainly as good as most compacts manage at ISO 1600, so can be utilised if push comes to shove. Certainly the ZR10 largely avoids the painterly look that most images from point and shoots take on at ISO3200 (including Casio's own EX-H20G). See our test images on the following pages for a first-hand view.
For those who just want to point and shoot in the main, but would occasionally appreciate a couple of extra gizmos at their fingertips for when they start to get bored, the EX-ZR10 comes into its own. The HDR features, Slide Panorama, slow-motion video clips and general speediness of operation impress. Sadly this is let down by corner softness at the maximum wide angle - one of the most often-used focal lengths for a compact camera. In this respect the Sony Cyber-shot WX5 may be a better bet for anyone looking for similar features and portability, yet sharper overall shots at extreme wide angle setting. Watch out for our full review next week.
Otherwise images are detailed, response time (mostly) lightning quick and overall build quality is good. 'Could do far worse' seems like feint praise, but when levelled at the Exilim EX-ZR10 it is also particularly fitting.