Casio Exilim EX-Z75
Casio made its name in the digital camera world with its ultraslim Exilim Card cameras, and thin cameras--such as the Exilim EX-Z75 (part of the Exilim Zoom series)--remain one of the company's specialties. As Casio will readily admit, the Z75 is a very basic upgrade of the existing EX-Z70. Aside from the Z75's 2.6-inch (instead of 2.5-inch) wide-screen LCD, the two cameras are almost identical. We just wish that the slightly larger screen brought more pixels with it, but alas, we found it just as coarse as its predecessor's.
At 3.8 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 0.8 inch deep with the lens retracted, the Z75 will fit in almost any pocket, though you'll need to dig into the setup menu if you don't want to turn the camera on by accident. By default, the playback and record buttons on the back will power up the camera if you press them when the camera is off. In our field tests, we were vexed on more than one occasion when the lens extended while the camera was in a jacket pocket. Ultimately, we turned this feature off. All of the camera's buttons are on the right hand side of the camera, making one-handed shooting fairly comfortable, though we always recommend shooting with two hands for better stability. Most of the buttons look and feel very similar, making it difficult to differentiate between them without looking.
Like most ultracompacts, you won't find any manual exposure controls, though Casio does include exposure compensation to tweak the camera's auto exposure decisions. There are also 34 Best Shot modes (aka scene modes) to help the camera deal with specific shooting situations, such as fireworks, sunsets, portraits, or sports. The 3x optical, 38mm-to-114mm-equivalent, f/3.1 to f/5.9 zoom lens isn't anything to write home about, but is comparable to what we'd expect from a camera in this price range. Casio's Anti-Shake DSP (aka electronic image stabilization) tries to keep the shutter speed fast to help prevent blurry photos, but isn't nearly as useful as the optical or mechanical image stabilization found in some cameras.
Considering that all Casio did, essentially, to differentiate the Z75 from its predecessor was make the LCD screen 0.1-inch larger, we don't see the benefit of the change. When we reviewed the Z70, we knocked it for its low-resolution screen, but this new screen is just as coarse, with a mere 114,960 pixels, which means you're previewing and reviewing you images on an LCD with a resolution of 479X240 pixels. In our field tests, we found it difficult to tell if an image was in focus before shooting. If not for the AF/metering square turning green, and the accompanying chirp if the sound is turned on, there's no way we would've known if the camera achieved focus. With so many companies offering cameras with 230,000-pixel LCDs, or at least something near that, it's absurd to see such a low-resolution screen. It's a clear example of cutting costs at the obvious expense of quality.
In our performance tests, the Exilim EX-Z70 scored well, mostly. It took 1.6 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG, and took 1.84 seconds between subsequent JPEGs with the flash turned off, but slowed considerably to 3.36 seconds between JPEGs with the flash turned on. Shutter lag measured a fairly speedy 0.55 second in our high contrast test, which mimics bright shooting conditions, and 1.2 seconds in our low contrast test, which mimics dim shooting conditions. In continuous shooting mode, we were able to capture a none-too-impressive average of 0.73 frames per second when shooting 7.2-megapixel JPEGs. In the camera's Quick Capture mode, you can speed things up a bit, but since the camera doesn't focus between shots, you'll likely end up with a lot of useless shots.