The EX-Z77 maintains the same slim profile and control layout as the Z75. You can access most functions through the camera's large, circular joypad and the four narrow buttons clustered around it. Besides simple menu navigation, these buttons also access the camera's collection of Best Shot scene presets, open its system menu, and toggle between record and playback modes. While the control buttons feel a bit too small and flat, the joypad and zoom buttons fit comfortably under even large thumbs.
Besides some small upgrades, the EX-Z77 doesn't offer many changes from its predecessor. It keeps the same 7-megapixel resolution, the same relatively slow 38mm-to-114mm-equivalent f/3.1-to-f/5.9 lens, and the same slightly grainy 2.6-inch, 114,960-pixel TFT LCD screen as the Z75. Despite the hardware similarities, the Z77 incorporates Casio's new Exilim Engine 2.0 image processor, which slightly perked up the camera's performance over its older brother.
Despite the EX-Z77's low LCD pixel count, its 14:9 wide-screen aspect ratio offers plenty of room for a handy sidebar menu with which to control most of the camera's settings. You can quickly access commonly used controls such as ISO sensitivity and white balance by tapping up or down on the joypad and cycling through the sidebar's various slots.
Like the Exilim EX-S880, the EX-Z77 features Casio's new YouTube Capture mode among its myriad Best Shot scene presets. As its name suggests, YouTube Capture records video clips made specifically for uploading to YouTube. Fundamentally, it's just a 30fps VGA MPEG-4 movie mode, but it works well with the included YouTube Uploader software, which lets you post your videos online quickly without using YouTube's uploading page.
In our lab tests, the EX-Z77 neither impressed nor disappointed with its performance, beating or tying its predecessor in every category. After a 1.6-second wait from power-on to first shot, the Z77 could take a new picture every 1.6 seconds with the onboard flash disabled. With the flash turned on, that increased to 2 seconds. Shutter lag fared best in our tests, measuring 0.5 second with our high-contrast target and 1.1 seconds with our low-contrast target, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In our continuous-shooting test, the camera captured 10 full-resolution shots in 9.2 seconds for an average rate of 1.1 frames per second. Though that's nothing to write home about, that rate still beat the Z75's burst speed of 0.7fps, so it's still an improvement.
While noise stays pleasantly low in the EX-Z77's pictures, a general softness obscures details that should otherwise look sharp. Pictures taken under incandescent light tend to come out slightly warm even under the tungsten white balance, though the camera's manual white balance can help you overcome this problem. The camera's shots work well enough for e-mails and small prints, but any bigger print will likely disappoint.
At first glance, the Casio Exilim EX-Z77 seems like a very nice camera. It's small, fast, and full of handy options. Unfortunately, sharp-eyed users will be disappointed by its image quality and scant improvements over the Z75. If you already have a Z75, you don't really need to shell out the cash for such a minor upgrade. If you're simply looking for an affordable, simple slimcam, you might want to check out Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W55 or Olympus' FE-190.
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|