The Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z77 is the very model of an average modern digital compact camera. It's a slim 7.2-megapixel model with a 66mm LCD display and 3x zoom.
The feature grabbing our attention is a video capture mode designed specifically for creating and uploading YouTube films. We tested this £149 snapper to find out if there was anything else up the EX-Z77's sleeve.
The EX-Z77 is extremely sleek and slim. Build quality seems good. There's no flex in the frame and the battery cover seems sturdy. The EX-Z77 comes in black, silver, blue and pink. Our review model was a tasteful brushed silver, complete with football sticker-style mirrored YouTube label on the front.
Although the interface is easy to master, there are some inconsistencies. The display button toggles between onscreen status indicators, brightness histogram and no indicators. This button doesn't, however, control the largest element of the screen: the menu sidebar.
Also, as on other Exilim cameras, there are two separate buttons for playback and shooting modes. Most manufacturers combine these into one button that toggles between modes. These buttons can be used to switch the camera on independently of the main power button but not to switch it off.
While it's good to be able to turn the camera on in playback mode without extending the lens, we like 'on' buttons to be 'off' buttons, too. The rest of the buttons stand too proud of the frame and feel loose in their openings.
The sticker-worthy headline feature is YouTube capture mode. If it's worth a sticker, you'd think it would be worth a menu position a little higher than 42 of 45. YouTube videos, shot in MPEG-4 H.264 format and optimised to Web-friendly size and frame rate, are predictably poor quality.
You can zoom while filming video but it is only a digital zoom. Clips cannot be paused, so if you want to include cuts you need to stop and restart, ending up with several clips and requiring post-production. You have the option to trim unwanted parts off your video but only by deleting the start, middle or end sections.
Of course, quibbling with the rudimentary nature of the video function is probably overthinking the YouTube experience. Basic, one-take clips are easy to shoot and incredibly simple to upload. The YouTube uploader software is clear and user-friendly. Once you have entered your account details, future uploads are one click away.
Casio credits the EX-Z77 with an anti-shake feature. This
method of minimising camera shake raises the light sensitivity to a
higher ISO, while increasing the shutter speed. We're not fans of this
fudged method of reducing blur from jittery hands, as a camera needs to
pull out all the stops at higher ISO levels to make it worthwhile.
Apart from the headline-grabbing whistles and bells, actual shooting control is thin on the ground. Disappointingly, you can only get as close as 100mm in macro mode. Crucially, there's no aperture or shutter priority modes, and an unwieldy manual focus. The only real control you get is in selecting from the preset scene modes.
Autofocus is reasonably quick, even in lower light, although the face detection is predictably patchy in darker situations. Even in decent light there is also some evidence of focus softening around the edge of images.
In low light, an ISO setting of 400 delivers surprisingly low noise, with an unexpected crispness of image. Sadly, ISO 800 is predictably noisy with plenty of purple fringing.
Colour is reproduced reasonably well on standard settings, although reds are a little pale. It is possible to alter the saturation up or down but increasing saturation fails to increase the richness of reds, instead leaving them with an orange cast. Contrast and sharpness are similarly adjustable but the effect is negligible. Increasing sharpness and contrast together highlights some halo effects on higher contrast areas and is best avoided.
The 38-114mm focal range isn't bad, although without optical image stabilisation the extreme end of the zoom will always tend to blur unless you remember your tripod. This isn't helped by some fairly heavy compression smoothing out detail for smaller file sizes. With the Web sharing function of this camera in mind, the loss of detail is forgivable but it doesn't make for great prints.
The Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z77 is easy to find fault with but that doesn't mean it's a bad camera. On the contrary, it's capable, reliable and user-friendly. It's just so resolutely average that we can't help focusing on the tiniest gripe.
As good as it is at everything
it does, the EX-Z77 is ultimately damned by faint praise. If you spend
all your time on YouTube and desperately want one-touch upload, the
EX-Z77 is as good as it gets. If you're after a decent camera for a
decent price, consider the Canon IXUS 70 or Fujifilm F40fd.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday