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The Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z1080 is a 10.1-megapixel compact, following on the heels of the excellent EX-Z1200. The Z1080 shares many of the Z1200's features, but clocks in at a more affordable £160.
The EX-Z1080 is available in grey, black, blue or pink. Ours was black, and shares the rubberised brick feel of the EX-Z1200, with a matte gunmetal strip around the edge. It's extremely sturdy, although it looks a bit bland at the front.
It looks great at the back, with a wide 66mm (2.6-inch) LCD screen dominating and a silver clickpad to the right. There are only two other buttons: a menu and a scene mode selector -- labelled 'best shot' -- which are both too small. This minimalist approach to buttons makes Casio's continued policy of using two buttons to choose between shooting and playback a bit odd, as one would do.
The Z1080 is bursting with features. Face detection can be customised to prioritise saved faces of friends and families. Focus can be manually controlled or set to specific focus distances. There is a soft flash option, and flash intensity can be adjusted. Colour, sharpness and dynamic range can also be tweaked.
The self timer has a handy onscreen countdown, and includes the option to take three pictures at the end of a 10-second interval. There's even a selection of five different noises for each of the camera's operations.
You get a choice of 41 scene modes, although some, like 'white board', probably won't see much action. There is a bit of overlap in several of the modes, such as the short movie and past movie modes, which both record a few seconds of footage from before you press the shutter. Meanwhile, YouTube mode is just a fancy name for a 30 frames per second-VGA movie shooting, which doesn't really merit a sticker on the front, but you do get some nifty and hassle-free uploader software.
The exposure compensation option is slightly odd, giving you a small window to gauge the changes you make rather than previewing changes live on the screen. You can however assign this function to the customisable left and right buttons of the clickpad, which puts shooting options like white balance and ISO settings at your fingertips.
We take issue with the word 'zoom' in the titles of some of the Exilim range. The Z1080 boasts a very ordinary 3x optical zoom, equivalent to a rather poor 38-114mm on a 35mm film camera.
The EX-Z1080 is an extremely capable point-and-shoot. We had no complaints about shooting in everyday circumstances. Start-up is exceptionally fast, shot-to-shot time is good at respectable at two seconds, and even with the flash enabled the camera is still reasonably quick.
Continuous shooting mode is blisteringly quick out of the blocks, capturing a whopping 7fps. Over a minute this slows to a still impressive 4fps. Unfortunately, this is only at 2-megapixel resolution. Normal burst mode captures images at a resolution of your choice, with a trade-off between speed and quality. We found the best compromise between speed and quality was to select 5-megapixel resolution, which managed a solid 2fps and slowed only slightly after about 20 seconds.
Image quality is also good. Colours are well-saturated. Portraits are warm and flesh tones are realistic. There is a certain amount of purple fringing in higher-contrast images, but the advantage of the various flexible shooting functions is that issues like this can be quickly and easily cleared up. Backlight mode often clears up purple fringing and deals well with subjects in bright sunlight.
The usual compact bugbear that is low light shooting wasn't bad either. The soft flash option is soft enough to preserve the atmosphere of darker situations, and if not the Z1080 deals well with noise. As always, the higher ISO settings lead to speckly image noise from around ISO 800 upwards. The maximum ISO speed of 3,200 is higher than most compacts and is basically unusable as the noise is so bad, but noise is well controlled at slower speeds. Prints can be made from ISO 800 and even ISO 1,600.
The Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z1080 is another excellent camera from Casio. Optical image stabilisation is a glaring omission, and the zoom is undistinguished. The Canon Digital IXUS 75 may pack image stabilisation but lacks the features, while another feature-rich camera, the Ricoh Caplio R7 has similar image quality and a better zoom. Nonetheless image quality on the EX-Z1080 is excellent. The attention to detail shows in the wealth of customisable options, giving you the flexibility to take great photos in most circumstances.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday