The overall layout of the controls is generally similar to the Z1050 and other high-end models in Casio’s range, with a rotary bezel zoom control and separate buttons on the top panel for shooting and playback mode. Primary control over the camera’s many features is via a row of icons down the right-hand edge of the screen, which are selected by simply scrolling up or down using the D-pad, then left and right to make menu selections. I really like this control system, and consider it to be a good selling point for Casio cameras. The main shooting mode menu, at the top of the on-screen list, has wider range than most pocket compacts. It features the usual Auto snapshot mode, Casio’s signature Best Shot mode and video mode, as well as aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure. The manual aperture selection is more limited than Sony’s W200, with only minimum and maximum apertures available, but the shutter speed range is more useful, with settings of 30 seconds to 1/2000th of a second in 1/3EV intervals. While it’s obviously no substitute for a real semi-pro camera or SLR this does at least offer some creative versatility for the more experienced photographer.
The Z1200 does have one unique feature. Opinions are divided on face detection technology; all the camera manufacturers (or at least their marketing departments) seem to think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, while I and many other reviewers think it’s a largely pointless gimmick that doesn’t work particularly well anyway. However Casio has taken face detection one step further with a feature that even I have to admit is pretty cool. The Z1200 doesn’t just detect and focus on faces in the frame, as conventional face detection systems do; it can actually be programmed to recognise the individual faces of up to 36 friends and family members and give priority to those, so that in a crowd of faces it will focus on the right ones. I tested this feature on a few helpful friends, and I found that like most face detection systems it worked well under ideal circumstances, when the faces in question were well lit, at close range and looking straight into the lens, but was less reliable when the faces were in shadow, partially obscured or turned slightly away from the camera. Again it’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a technologically astonishing one. It’s just a pity it’s not really all that useful.
Like the Z1050, the Z1200 features a moving-sensor image stabilisation system, which detects shakes and vibration and attempts to cancel them out, to help produce blur-free images at lower shutter speeds. It works fairly well, producing sharp snaps at 1/30th of a second at full zoom, but shutter speeds longer than this were still prone to camera shake. It’s not a bad system by any means, but it’s not as good as those from Panasonic, Canon or Sony.
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