The Casio Exilim EX-Z200 sits suavely at the top end of the Exilim range. Casio's compacts have been quietly making a name for themselves in recent years, so there's a lot of expectation on the Z200's metal shoulders. It's available in the shops and online now for around £195.
The Z200 has an extremely solid metal frame. It comes in black and silver, with slick silver accents, but our favourite colour is the red our sample was clothed in.
At the back, it sports an enormous 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen. Part of this is taken up by the excellent Exilim sidebar, which minimises menu-sifting and button- pushing for quick access to oft-used options. The sidebar can be turned off, but even with it on, the screen has bags of room for composing images. As if this wasn't convenient enough, the circular clickpad can be assigned to functions of your choice.
Casio continues to include to include two buttons for switching between playback and shooting, which we find annoying. A best shot or scene mode button gives access to 39 scene modes, including the usual portrait modes, as well as more obscure options for shooting whiteboards or ID card photos. Also included is a dedicated movie button, removing the need to sift through menus to shoot video. When video is recording, a handy onscreen dual countdown shows both how long you have been recording, and how much memory you have left.
The Z200 has a head-spinning array of features and options. We start with a pleasingly wide-angle 35mm film camera-equivalent focal length of 28mm, and a 4x optical zoom, making it a versatile lens for different types of snaps.
There are three image stabilisation settings that minutely move the 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor to compensate for the tiny vibrations of handheld shooting. Auto and subject IS attempt to boost the camera's sensitivity to afford faster shutter speeds, so camera IS is probably the best way to go. Be aware that increased sensitivity often increases image noise, causing unsightly speckles in images.
There are various options to improve portraits. Casio was one of the first companies to offer a face recognition system that allows you to record and prioritise family and friends' faces to pick them out in the frame. As well as the usual 2- and 10-second timer, there is a triple self-timer that counts down onscreen from 10 seconds and captures three images a second apart, to save on to-ing and fro-ing.
An auto shutter can be set to fire -- or not -- when image blur, panning or smiling are detected. A blink detector would be good too, but you can't have everything. The sensitivity of the shutter can be altered so it's more or less likely to fire automatically, although we found that this didn't seem to have much bearing on whether the camera actually shot.