Casio Exilim EX-Z60
With its slim, brushed-black or brushed-silver metal body and rounded edges, the 6-megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z60 looks more like a slightly oversize high-tech business-card case than a camera. It boasts enough style to impress a fashionista, adequate zip to please a soccer mom, and sufficient features to keep a tweaker happy; unfortunately, it lacks the photo quality required to satisfy all but the most casual snapshot photographer.
When equipped with its tiny 700mAh battery and an SD card, the 2.4-by-3.8-by-0.8-inch, 4.8-ounce Exilim EX-Z60 hardly even makes a lump in your jeans pocket, and its 3X, 38mm-to-114mm lens (35mm equivalent) retracts completely into the camera body. As you'd expect, the controls on the EX-Z60 are quite small, but for the most part, they provide enough tactile feedback to distinguish among them.
Though it lacks manual and semimanual exposure modes, the Exilim EX-Z60 has a ton of snapshot-friendly features. These include 33 Best Shot modes, Casio's version of scene modes. The Best Shot options range from the basic Portrait, Landscape, and Sports to more specialized choices such as Party, Soft Flowing Water, Business Cards and Documents, White Board, Collection, and of course, eBay. What's nice about Casio's implementation is that the camera tells you what settings it uses for a given mode; for example, in Collection mode, the EX-Z60 uses macro focus, and a circle plus grid appears on the display for help composing the shot.
This full disclosure allows you to fake some semimanual operation, such as switching into Soft Flowing Water (slow shutter speed) when you want to produce other slow-shutter effects. You can also save custom Best Shot modes. Unfortunately, since the camera doesn't provide the same setting info for the custom modes, they're not as easy to use, and all photo settings require a trip into the menu system for adjustment. You can program the four-way rocker switch for use with a single setting, and that's about it. This camera design really needs an Olympus-style top-level quick-access menu. There are also some entries, such as Keystone correction, within the menus that could use explanation.
In general, it seems like there's a way to manually access almost all the options used by the Best Shot settings--except, of course, aperture and shutter speed. For instance, Movie mode (grouped with Best Shot options) automatically selects pan (fixed) focus, but you can choose it when you're not in a Best Shot mode--from the Focus menu, to be exact--as well.
Unlike many snapshot cameras, the Casio Exilim EX-Z60 allows you to select a metering mode from pattern, center-weighted, and spot options. After a shot, the ever-useful Audio Snap selection prompts you to press the shutter again and record a brief audio annotation. There are also a variety of focus and continuous-shooting choices, including nine-segment multi- or single-point autofocus; infinite fixed focus; manual focus; and three-shot flash- and high-speed continuous shooting.
Sad to say, many of these modes merit caveats from Casio in the documentation about possibly degrading image quality. That's because most of them work by either increasing ISO sensitivity--unless you set it manually, the camera never seems to drop below ISO 200--or simply not focusing. The aforementioned Keystone correction is in there because the Business Card and White Board modes need it--the the lens is so bad. Pincushioning squeezes pictures inward at the not terribly long telephoto end, and barrel distortion bloats them outward at the not terribly wide-angle end. Thankfully, these effects aren't so noticeable in typical snapshots, as long as you avoid shooting buildings and bridges.