Casio Exilim EX-Z3

SAN FRANCISCO (10/06/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: When turned off, this sleek, silvery, metal-clad camera fits easily into a shirt pocket, making it the perfect size for a carry-along camera. On such a small camera, the EX-Z3's 2-inch LCD display is monstrously large; it makes composing photos, reading menus, or reviewing your results a pleasure, even in bright sunlight.

You'll never forget memory for the camera, either. The EX-Z3 comes with 10MB of internal RAM, plus a Secure Digital media card slot. Other high points include a Calendar view for sorting though your shots. Select a date on the calendar (displayed in a monthly view), and the camera pops up a selection of photos taken on that day. The EX-Z3 also has manual white-balance calibration--uncommon in cameras of this size.

WHAT'S NOT: A four-way selector lets you quickly set the modes--flash, manual focus, movie, and others--but it's poorly labeled. If you use the camera enough, you'll eventually remember what does what. Occasional users may find it frustrating.

Though you'd expect to pay a premium for an ultrasmall camera, the EX-Z3's US$399 price tag is unusually high for a camera with a 3X optical zoom and 3.2-megapixel resolution. The larger LCD may account for much of the added cost. (The competing Minolta Dimage Xt, with a smaller LCD, cost $50 less when we were pricing them.)

WHAT ELSE: We were fairly happy with the quality of the Casio's photos. Our 8-by-10 prints were as sharp and detailed as we'd expect from a 3-megapixel camera. They will certainly be pleasing as long as you don't crop and enlarge your images much. Colors were well saturated, and the exposures were accurate. The camera did especially well photographing our outdoor cityscape with lots of blue sky, capturing good detail in the shadows, but showing more noise in the sky than we'd like to see. The only substantially subpar shot it produced was on our test flash shot: Our mannequin model looked deathly gray, and the photo was underexposed. That deficiency may be due in part to the camera's fairly weak flash, which is rated at less than 8 feet.

This Exilim includes a phenomenal 21 menu-based scene modes. Accompanying each mode is a sample photo and a short explanation of what the mode does. Bundled with the EX-Z3, a small docking station charges the camera and provides the USB connection to a PC. It does not have video out for slide shows on a TV.

We rated the battery life only fair compared to all the cameras we've tested, but considering the EX-Z3's small size and its waferlike lithium ion battery, we were pleased to get 269 shots in our lab tests. The camera's menus are easy to navigate and have large, easy-to-read type. A printed reference guide gives enough information to get started. But for detailed instructions, you have to refer to the PDF document included on the camera's CD.

UPSHOT: The EX-Z3's oversize LCD, small size, and impressive selection of features for both experienced and novice photographers make it a fun, attractive pocket camera for people who like to travel light.

Casio Exilim EX-Z3

3.2 megapixels, 2048 by 1536 maximum resolution, 35mm to 105mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f2.6 to f4.8 aperture range, shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/6400 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, docking cradle with USB connection, 10MB internal memory and Secure Digital media card slot, rechargeable lithium ion battery, 5.1 ounces with battery, Casio Photo Loader 1.1 software. One-year parts and labor warranty; 11-hour daily toll-free support.



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