Once you start investigating the menu, you find that there is a lot to play with. Saturation, contrast and sharpness are fully adjustable, as is flash intensity, metering mode and AF mode. There are filters that can be added, including sepia, B&W and six different colour tints. Focusing modes include manual focus and pan-focus, as well as macro and infinity. Many previous Casio digital cameras have had amazingly good macro performance, some focusing as close as 2cm, but it seems that this feature has been dropped from the Z500. Its closest macro focusing range is 17cm, not particularly close at all. Nonetheless the EX-Z500 does offer a level of versatility that is rare in a compact camera. It’s just a pity that the control interface doesn’t make it a bit more accessible.
Apart from the menu button and D-pad, the only other controls are the playback and record buttons, which unfortunately are positioned just where the zoom buttons are found on many cameras, so the first few times I used it I accidentally switched to playback mode when I was trying to zoom in. Once I got over that though I found the camera to be very easy to use.
Especially useful is the Best Shot mode, controlled by the fourth and final control button. Best Shot is a long-standing feature on most Casio Exilim models. It’s like a Scene mode setting, but with a lot more options. Simply browse through the menu of sample shots and chose the one closest to the one you are trying to take, and the camera will automatically set itself up to take this kind of shot. There are 30 samples to choose from, plus the ability to add more, including making your own. Existing Best Shot options include the usual portrait, landscape, sports and night scene settings, but also include more unusual options such as pets, natural green, autumn leaves, soft flowing water and fireworks. The special modes for capturing business cards, documents and whiteboards also include a neat auto-correction feature that detects the edges of pages and corrects the perspective.
The EX-Z500 has a good movie mode, shooting at 640×480 resolution and 30 frames per second with audio. It can shoot until the memory card is full. Casio also claims extraordinary performance figures for the EX-Z500’s battery. It uses a big 1300mAh Li-ion cell that is almost twice the size – both physically and in terms of capacity – as the one in the previous model. Casio claims that it is good for 500 shots. I didn’t have the opportunity to fully test this claim, but given the figures it doesn’t sound unreasonable. The battery is charged via a supplied docking station, which also carries the USB 2.0 connection and the video output socket.