'Sleek and sturdy' is, we're told, the design concept behind the Casio Exilim EX-Z1. Sleek it certainly is, though its sturdiness is unproven. It feels well-made, but it's not guaranteed waterproof or shockproof or anything like that. That's a pity, because, with a typical street price of £150 or so, this 10-megapixel camera needs something clever to distinguish it from the rest.
It's conventional at this point to rattle off a long list of plus points and explain some of the clever features of the camera we're reviewing. This time it's not so easy.
The Z1 is slim, but the lens isn't a folding type, so it sticks out when you're shooting. It does come in a choice of attractive colours -- gold, blue, pink, black, silver and purple -- but then so do plenty of other cameras. It has, though, got a widescreen LCD and a reasonably high-resolution 848x480-pixel movie mode, not to mention Casio's neat and efficient on-screen 'sidebar' menu system. Oh, and you can customise the menu colour.
Looking at the LCD screen, you get the feeling that it isn't as crisp and smooth as it ought to be, and a quick check of the specs confirms that its total pixel count is around just 115,000. It's been a while since a camera from a leading maker has had an LCD this poor.
Widescreen LCDs are good when you shoot movies but can be confusing for stills. The Z1's native aspect ratio for stills is 4:3, which is standard with compact cameras. Other makers who use widescreen LCDs get around this by showing the whole image with black bars on either side. It's not brilliant, but it works. In playback mode, though, the Z1 crops off the top and bottom of your stills and, until you figure this out, you're going to think you didn't get everything in the frame that you meant to, when really you did -- it's just that the screen's not displaying it all.