Casio Exilim EX-Z1080 Compact Camera
At a Glance
The first thing you notice on the $280, 10.1-megapixel EX-Z1080 we tested is its metallic-pink shell and a big sticker touting its YouTube-capture mode--suggesting the camera's target buyer is young and female. If you don't fit that demographic, the camera also comes in blue, black, and silver. Also notable is its 2.6-inch LCD, which fits within a 3.5-inch-wide body. But looks are deceiving. A narrow column on the wide-format screen's left side holds the camera's settings menu, so the viewing area during shooting is more like 2.25 inches. That said, I found the viewfinder exceptionally clear and sharp, even in bright sunlight, making it a pleasure to use. That's important, because the pocket-sized Z1080 does not include an optical viewfinder.
With the LCD taking up nearly all of the camera's back side, there's little real estate for hard controls--you get only tiny menu and Best Shot (scene mode) buttons, plus a four-way thumb-control button, all to the right of the LCD. Fortunately, a large shutter-release button is on top, surrounded by a comfortable-to-operate zoom lever.
Changing basic camera settings is much like the efficient Function control you find in Canon point-and-shoots: Press the Set button; use the up/down cursor buttons to roll through settings categories (ISO, focus, exposure value, and so on); then scroll though your choices with the right/left cursor buttons. A list of the current settings remains visible on screen at all times. It's quick and effective.
I also like the ability to assign preferred functions (such as white balance) to the right/left cursor buttons. The only oddity is the duplication of the Set button's functions in the camera's more traditional Menu screens-an unneeded complication.
Scene modes on the EX-Z1080 are called Best Shots. Using the tiny button on the back, you can select modes for photographing portraits or pets, plus more esoteric options like old-photo color correction (take a picture of an old photo, and the Exilim tries to restore its colors) and YouTube-optimized video recording. Dock the camera in its cradle and press the USB button, and the included photo software de--tects video files and lets you upload them to the YouTube site in a couple of clicks. In all, the camera has a daunting 41 special settings, but it presents them nicely with colorful samples and short descriptions.
Photo quality is middle-of-the-pack, compared with other point-and-shoots tested recently. Both in-the-lab and in-the-wild images looked sharp and accurately exposed, with minimal noise (color speckling) and pleasing, though not especially saturated, colors. The only knock on our lab shots (under artificial light) was a slight green tinge to our neutral-gray background.
I found the photo software bundled with the EX-Z1080 fairly useless: It creates an on-screen album for viewing and organizing photos, but it lacks real photo-editing tools.
Overall, I like the EX-Z1080, for its small size and relatively quick control menus. But, unless you're a YouTube junkie, this camera has little to set it apart from the dozens of other compact models.