Overall performance is a traditional strong point for Casio cameras, and the Z1080 is no exception. It starts up in just under two seconds, and shuts down again just as quickly. In single-shot mode its shot-to-shot cycle time is also just under two seconds, which isn’t blindingly quick, but is far from shabby. Normal speed continuous mode is somewhat quicker, shooting at just over a second per frame. High-speed continuous mode is limited to two megapixels, but can shoot at about five frames a second, which is pretty impressive. Casio’s autofocus system is exceptionally fast, quicker than any except perhaps Canon’s. The Z1080 focuses quickly and accurately in a wide range of lighting conditions, and works extremely well in low light. It can shoot in the dark at a range of several meters thanks to a good AF assist lamp.
Another strong point is battery duration. The Z1080 is powered by a big 1300mAh Li-ion battery, the highest capacity I’ve seen in a compact camera. Casio claims a duration of 370 shots or 2hrs 40mins of video recording, and my experience using the camera seems to bear this out.
I’ve criticised some previous Casio cameras for overall picture quality, but here too the Z1080 scores high marks. The lens performs much better than some previous models, with excellent edge-to-edge sharpness with virtually no chromatic aberration. There is some barrel distortion at wide angle, but no distortion at the telephoto end. In the highest quality setting the Z1080 records JPEG files that average around 4.8MB, larger than average for a 10MP compact and consequently much less compressed, prodicing more fine detail with fewer artefacts. Exposure and colour reproduction is excellent, and dynamic range is also better than average for a 10MP compact, thanks to the larger size 1/1.75-inch sensor. Noise control is also better than expected, with no real noise problems at up to 400 ISO, and usable images at 800. Noise does become a problem at 1600 and 3200 ISO, but even at these settings overall colour balance remains reasonably good, although you wouldn’t want to print them out at more than snapshot size.
The Casio Exilim Z1080 is an underrated bargain, and stands out in the small but competitive field of high-resolution ultra-compacts. It offers excellent build quality, stylish but sensible design, a useful range of features, good performance including class-leading battery duration and excellent low-light focusing, and most importantly very good picture quality, and does it all at a price that comfortably beats its major competitors. If you’re considering a Canon IXUS or Nikon S-series, take a look at the Casio Z1080 as well, and possibly save yourself some money.