There are generally two types of sub-$150 point-and-shoots: you either get good photo quality, but a bulky design and/or few features or you get mediocre photos, but a slim design and a better-than-basic feature set. The Casio Exilim EX-Z35 falls into the latter category. It produces decent photos as long as you have a lot of light, so if you take a lot of shots indoors you'll want to think twice. It's also rare that entry-level compacts have very good shooting performance, and while the Z35 isn't horribly slow it's still not fast for shooting anything in motion.
|Key specs||Casio Exilim EX-Z35|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||4.6 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.5-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||3x, f3.1-5.6, 35.5-106.5mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/ 848x480 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li ion rechargeable, 200 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No, external charger included|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC, Eye-Fi wireless SD card support|
|Bundled software||Photo Transport, YouTube Uploader (Windows only)|
The Z35 doesn't feel like a cheap camera. Available in a choice of silver, blue, black, purple, and pink, the mostly metal body is attractive and so light and small it'll fit in even tiny pockets. Part of the reason for that is the wee LCD; it's plenty big to frame and view your shots, though. Your thumb naturally rests between the right edge of the LCD and a dedicated Movie mode button; one press starts recording and a second stops it and sends you back to shooting stills. You can take a still in the middle of recording video, too, but it stops recording the movie when you do and starts up again after the capture. Below that are Playback and Camera Mode buttons (both will turn the camera on to their respective modes); a circular directional pad and a Set button; and Menu and Best Shot (BS) buttons.
All of the camera's settings are accessed through the Menu button. However, for faster access to shooting options, a panel of settings can be opened on the screen's right side with a press of the Set button (or leave them visible all the time). You can also program the left and right directional buttons to change things like ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation. Oddly, though, neither has the option to change focus modes, so changing to manual focus or macro requires you to go into the full menu system or switch to appropriate Best Shot scene mode. Luckily it's easy to navigate through the various settings, which include a handful of unique adjustments like being able to pick what your focus frames look like (heart, star, flower) and what settings you'd like the camera to remember each time you turn it off and on. There are adjustments for sharpness, saturation, and contrast as well as adding color filters. You also get built-in support for Eye-Fi SD cards for transferring photos off the camera via a wireless network connection.
The battery and SD card slot are behind a somewhat flimsy locking door on the bottom of the camera. The battery life is CIPA-rated for 200 shots, which is on target with my testing. However, using things such as the zoom lens or recording movies will shorten battery life. The only output on the camera is a Micro-USB/AV port next to the battery compartment door's hinge.
|General shooting options||Casio Exilim EX-Z35|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, Tungsten, Manual|
|Recording modes||Auto, Easy, Scene, Movie|
|Focus modes||Multi AF, Spot AF, Macro, Pan, Infinity, Manual|
|Macro||3.9 inches to 1.6 feet (Wide)|
|Metering modes||Multipattern, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Color effects||Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, Purple, Sepia, Black & White|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Unlimited continuous|
If there's one thing you can rely on Casio's cameras for, it's abundant scene modes. Accessed with a press of the BS button, the Z35 has 22 scene types to pick from including standard options like Portrait, Landscape, and Night Scene to the more unusual options of Soft Flowing Water, For eBay, and For YouTube. There's also an Easy mode located in the regular menu options that locks down all but a couple basic settings, the camera handling everything automatically. The actual Auto mode is more of a Program AE mode that lets you adjust all of the Z33's settings--just not shutter speed or aperture. The Movie mode is VGA-quality video, but it looked good in my tests, suitable for online sharing.
The Z35's shooting performance is average for its class, though that average isn't particularly great. It takes 2.7 seconds to power on and capture the first shot. Then you're waiting 3 seconds to take another shot; 4.3 seconds if you're using the flash. Shutter lag is on par with a budget ultracompact: 0.5 second in bright conditions and 0.9 in dim lighting. Continuous shooting is pretty slow, too, at 0.7 frames per second. In the end, those expecting zippy performance because of the camera's size will likely be disappointed.
While there's no reason to expect a camera at this price and size to produce great photos, it does pretty good as long as it has a lot of light. Basically if you can keep the sensitivity at and below ISO 200, you'll get decent snapshots. Unfortunately, that won't suffice for most people who want to take pictures indoors or in low lighting. There's visible noise at all but the lowest ISO if you closely examine your photos, but it becomes an issue at ISO 400, where you pick up some yellow blotching and off colors. The mix of noise and reduction is good enough to keep most fine detail, though. It isn't until ISO 800 and above that subjects get really soft and smeary and the yellowing becomes more noticeable. Your best bet is to stay at ISO 200 and below, so you'll either need a lot of light or to use the flash.
Though it's not a wide-angle lens, there's visible barrel distortion at the camera's widest position. At just 3x, the long end of the zoom doesn't display any pincushion distortion. There is noticeable purple fringing in high-contrast areas on some of my test shots, but it is within a normal range for this class of camera.
Colors are nice and natural-looking and pretty accurate--below ISO 200 that is. Photos were occasionally underexposed, but it's easily remedied by either adjusting prior to shooting in camera, using one of the Best Shot modes, or with basic photo editing software after.
Video quality is OK; good enough for Web use but not much else. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras. The zoom lens does not function while recording, but you do have a digital zoom; I suggest not using it as the results are not pleasant.
To Casio's credit, the Exilim EX-Z35 doesn't look or feel like an entry-level point-and-shoot. It also has a decent feature set for the money and it's easy to use. On the other hand, the photo quality is really bad at its highest ISOs, so low-light/indoor shooting isn't going to turn out great results. If you just need a simple, inexpensive pocket camera for outdoor photos or in very bright lighting indoors, the Z35 is an option.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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