EX-Z750 Test Review and User Guide
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News: February 2006: The EX-Z750 has been replaced by the newer EX-Z850. The 850 has a few more pixels and a much brighter LCD. Otherwise it's almost identical. You can get the EX-Z750 at a lower price today than I paid, or get the newest EX-Z850. The brighter screen is a Godsend for use in daylight, so I'd opt for the Z850. I've used the 850 and intend to get one for myself to replace my 750.
News: February 2006: Free version 1.02 firmware upgrade here. I've used the old v1.00 for everything below. Just download and expand the files, copy them to the root directory of the camera, and then hold MENU while you turn it on. In July 1.01 added rotational enhancements and February added a new "restore faded photo" mode. Cool and free!
The Casio EX-Z750 is my favorite compact camera as of July 2005. I bought one and carry it everywhere in my pocket. It has instant operation, easy navigation through simple menus and has all sorts of clever features and excellent ease- and speed-of-use lacking in Nikon and Canon compacts. It has 7 megapixels, a 3 x zoom and full manual controls if you need them. It's super easy to use, and even gives usable images at ISO 400 unlike most other compacts. Image quality for static subjects at low ISO is the same as my Nikon D70 DSLR and quite unlike what you'd expect from a girlie-sized camera, as I'll show later in this review here. Everyone else who buys one loves it, too, like this review here.
These Casio credit-card style cameras are the best thought out, fastest and easiest to use compact digital cameras with more salient features critical to serious photography than any other compact digital camera I've ever used.
As a photographer I love my EX-Z750. Reviews in computer magazines and websites that just churn through "reviews" of hundreds of cameras without ever really getting them out in the field for more than the same repeated shots seem to have missed the ergonomic and design issues that make this a gem for real photographers, or anyone who actually makes pictures of more than test charts.
This review gets pretty detailed since I own this camera. If you're considering buying one just get it here or here and read the rest of this review for all my tricks after you get your camera with which to play along at home. Of course feel free to read it all now, too, just my apologies if I get too detailed; that's why I call this a review and users' guide.
The EX-Z750 is is the very slightly bigger, higher resolution and fuller featured brother to the excellent EX-S100 and EX-S500. The EX-Z750 was introduced at PMA in February 2005. It offers a full 7 MP, the same as a DSLR, and some meaningful new features like a new "EX" button for instant access to shooting settings.
It has the important SHADE WB setting lacking on most digicams, has a new "EX" button for instant access to the critical shot-to-shot settings like WB, ISO, image size, etc., and can be set to have a pair of direct entry buttons for ISO or WB without needing menus or even a wheel, making it better and faster to operate in some critical ways than digital SLRs costing over ten times as much!!! Everything is fast; even the lens pops out about twice as fast as other cameras. Casio has a whole line of similar cameras, in fact, the 5MP model EX-Z57 has a 2.7" LCD, the biggest I know of in any digicam.
I was astounded that this line of flat little microcameras seems to have the very best user interface of any digital camera and responds instantly to user input. There's no waiting for the menus to respond to button pushes like most point-and-shoots. You all know what a stickler I am for having a camera respond fast. Everything on the Casio's Exilim series is super fast and easy to operate. By comparison even a Nikon technical rep couldn't figure out how to set the image size on the $900 Nikon 8400!! Better still, the Exilim series has sharp, clear and HUGE LCDs, typically 2.5," as big as a $5,000 Nikon D2X. The bold menus of the Casios are super visible, far better than the Canon DSLRs which have small gray menus difficult to read in daylight. The LCDs of the Casios are protected behind thick plastic so they seem safe to drop in a pocket unprotected.
I'm glad I looked in the Casio booth at PMA; that's why I go to those shows: to discover gems I would overlook simply based on printed specs. The specs are also great, the EX-Z750 has a larger sized 1/1.8" CCD image sensor, 7MP 3,072 x 2,304 image size (bigger than a D70 or even D2Hs DSLR), exposures as long as one minute, full manual exposure and aperture and shutter priority settings.
When I said it was tiny I meant it: it's 3.5" x 2.2" and just under an inch thin. I keep it in my pocket without a case.
Unlike the big brands more familiar to us photographers, it seems Casio actually had someone who knew about photography design the camera. It amazes me with its fast and fluid operation so critical for serious photography. Contrast this with Nikon point-and-shoots on which I can't sometimes find even the most basic controls. This Casio is so well thought out and works so well it now makes me much less tolerant of the sloppy menus and operation of other brands of cameras. Too bad Casio makes no DSLRs.
I'm astounded that no one has taken these Casios seriously before. You must go try one for yourself. Maybe all the magazines and commercial websites only review cameras from companies that buy ad space.
Also unlike many of my Canon and Nikon cameras this gem really is made in Japan and is cased in metal that seems like aluminum. It's not made in China of painted plastic like almost everything else today. Keep a solid grip on it so it doesn't slip out of your hand. (This is why metal cameras used to be covered in leather.) Honest, even the newest Contax digital cameras I've seen in February 2005 are made in China! The battery, AC adapter, cradle and everything else is made in China. I bought mine in May 2005. My mother-in-law bought one in June since I liked mine so much and hers was marked China. Same camera, you just never know where final assembly is going to be. Don't sweat it. They are exactly the same from all I've seen. Seems like in three weeks the only thing on earth not made in China will be this website.
Here are just a few reasons why this Casio is so superior for use by serious photographers:
1.) SHADE white balance setting critical as a professional secret to getting great color outdoors. Most compact cameras lack this, so unless you dedicate a manual setting on other compact cameras you simply can't get the warm, delicious colors I and most people prefer for many kinds of outdoor photography.
2.) 999 user presets to recall camera settings! Each preset stores your settings of ISO, AF mode, White Balance, exposure compensation, flash mode, flash exposure compensation, flash underexposure correction, contrast, saturation, sharpening and the presence or absence of various viewfinder grids. You usually have to spend at least $5,000 to get this on a DSLR which then only stores four sets, each less complete. This Casio also stores a reference image with each preset for easy recall, while an $8,000 DSLR only knows them as presets A, B and C. I'll get to the user presets later here.
3.) To recall these presets just press the SET button and click left or right; no menus needed!
4 .) Ability to assign the left/right navigation keys for immediate alteration of any of your choice of white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, recording mode or the self timer. That's right, ONE PRESS ability to change these critical shot-to-shot adjustments. DSLRs at best require two hands: one on a button and one on a dial.
5.) Your choice of two different compositional grids, or none.
6.) Best Manual White Balance ability I've ever used for gray cards. It balances fast, easily and accurately under almost any weird light. It's easy enough to set it with the "EX" button to use for each shot.
7.) Instant response to menu inputs; no waiting for response as on most Canon compacts.
8.) You never need to read the manual. All the menus are obvious and easy to find.
9.) Easy to configure the camera any way you want it. No need for confusing "custom functions." Huge flexibility to adjust what you need, and then easy to save as a preset as explained above in #2.
10 .) Ample and easy to adjust contrast, color and sharpness settings. DSLRs hide this deep in menus.
11.) 8.3 MB of permanent built-in memory instead of including a throwaway card. This allows all sorts of tricks like the 999 user presets and making photos even when forces of evil have confiscated all your memory cards.
12.) Autofocus is pretty good and generally the same as other fixed-lens cameras, however it's also smart enough NOT to lock the camera if you press the shutter all the way before the camera is done focusing. Maybe the focus will be a little off in this case, but you'll get the shot you'd miss with other cameras. You can defeat this feature to make the camera lock up until perfect focus happens. So long as you wait for the AF lights to turn green you'll get perfect focus regardless of this setting.
13.) Live four-channel YRGB histograms. This is much better than the useless single color histograms of most digital cameras. You see it in real time before making an exposure, as well as on recorded images. I'll get to this later here.
14.) Fast playback speed. You can scroll through your images at ten per second, and they all come up sharp, not blurry at first as on Canon.
How did Casio come up with this and not one of the camera companies we all think of first? Beats me, but for all I know it's just like 25 years ago when typewriters were slowly replaced by computers. Typewriter companies thought people still wanted typewriters, so typewriter companies like Brother and Smith-Corona invented typewriters with floppy drives to record keystrokes. They called these contraptions "word processors." Needless to say those companies and contraptions have long since been forgotten in favor of today's computers, email and printers. Back in the days of the typewriter we had never heard of brands like Apple and Dell which today have long replaced typewriter companies like Royal and Underwood. Thus I wonder if companies like Casio will eclipse the film camera companies we think of today. Let's face it, we want photos, not cameras or typewriters.
To give Casio their due I'll admit in the face of all the expensive Swiss watches I own that my Casios have always been the most accurate, durable and functional of all. I have a 25 year old Casio watch that's running perfectly today and I've only replaced the battery once. My $12 analog Casio went all over Russia and Guatemala with me for a decade, while a fancy watch I bought at a Mercedes dealer had to have its movement replaced several times. My dad had a watch collection and we chose to bury him with his Casio, since we knew it would be the one most durable to take with him to his greater reward.
Not only is it the best compact camera I've used along with the S100, true to Casio it offers a world time clock with 162 cities, perpetual monthly calendars and many, many hours of audio-only recording! Sorry, no alarm clock like the S100, and none of these cameras has a calculator or astronomical calculations, yet.
You can use the camera's internal memory to copy and store secret files from your computer as well as make audio, video and still photos, even if you have no memory card in it! I explain these all later. These little cameras are great for industrial espionage as well as candid photography. You probably can paint the metal case black if you remove the front and back covers. I haven't tried it and it looks easy.
Casio posts their information here.
PHYSICAL: Tiny! I measure 3.6" (90 mm) wide by 2.4" (60 mm) tall by 0.97" (24.6 mm) thick. This is the same as the other EXILM cameras like the S100, although the thickness of the S100 is only 0.7" (18mm) It's as wide as a business card and just a tad taller. With the lens retracted it's a flat package.
My measurements include the protrusions most camera makers and Casio exclude so my numbers are larger than published elsewhere. Don't compare my numbers to numbers for other cameras on other sites which likewise are just copied from press releases and exclude most of the camera.
Mine weighs 5.65 oz (160 g) complete with battery, strap and SD card. Casio and most camera makers exclude batteries and cards from the published weight which is why you read 4.5 oz (127 g) elsewhere from places that just regurgitate Casio's numbers.
Body made of metal with metal buttons and screws. This feels like a precise instrument. I'm unsure if it's stainless or aluminum or whatever but its certainly not painted plastic like the cameras from bigger names made in China. The battery door is of painted plastic.
RESOLUTION: 7 MP (3,072 x 2,304 pixels), also settings for DSLR format (3,072 x 2,048), 5 MP (2,560 x 1,920), 3 MP (2,048 x 1,536 pixels), 2 MP (1,600 x 1,200) and 640 x 480 pixels.
Movies: Three quality settings, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 and 30 and 15 FPS. Look out for the ahead-of-the-curve MPEG-4 files suffixed in .AVI: they can't be played or read on many computers including mine unless you load special software. The EX-Z750 not only can do basic trimming of video clips in-camera, it also can extract individual frames as still images. Thus you have a camera which can shoot 30 frames per second with a buffer depth of over 60,000 frames with a 1 gig card! Beat that with your Canon 1Ds-MkII. Hah! More here.
LCD Screen: 2.5," a HUGE screen on a tiny camera. Rated 115,200 dots and 480 x 240 pixels. It has a solid plastic cover over it so you're not touching the delicate glass as you do with the Canon ELPH line, however you do see waves as you touch the screen meaning you should still avoid pressing on it.
CCD Sensor: generously big 1/1.8" CCD sensor; 7.5 x 5.62 mm. The weird inch fractions date from the days of tube TV cameras which had smaller active areas compared to the size of the tube and therefore don't actually correlate to anything you can measure on a CCD. This bigger sensor than most fixed lens cameras gives much better performance at high ISOs. It also means you get less depth of field and the ability to throw backgrounds out of focus.
Focus Modes: Nine-zone auto-selecting AF (Casio says seven, I get nine.). The auto selection works great. Through a menu you can put the AF sensor anyplace in the finder, something even $8,000 DSLRs can't do. You do this by pressing the EX button, selecting the "free" focus mode, and using the nav keys to move it. This manual placement is handy for shooting repeated portraits with the same composition. More here.
Metering: Matrix, center-weighted and spot. I always use matrix, called "Multi" by Casio. Even if you have it set to Matrix (Multi) it reverts to center weighted when you use exposure compensation; also called EV Shift by the Japanese and called "Lighten/Darken" by normal people. The Z750 has a trick pseudo-RAW mode that allows you to correct exposure after a photo has been made. More here.
Shutter: at least 1/8 to 1/1,000 in any situation. It goes as fast as 1/1,600 depending on lens setting, and as slow as one minute (60 seconds) in manual and S modes. Clever dark-frame subtraction noise reduction below 1/8 second; takes less than double the usual time other cameras take for this. More on this and all the various film advance modes here.
Flash sync at any speed, almost ten times better than the $8,000 Canon 1Ds-MkII.
Exposure Modes: Complete Manual, Program, Aperture-preferred and Shutter- preferred modes. Also loaded with dozens of preset scene exposure modes as well as the ability to program in 999 complete scene modes of your own as camera presets. The smaller EX-S100 lacks the manual and A and S modes of this EX-Z750.
White Balance: EIGHT White Balance settings including Shade and Manual gray card as well as Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent and two Fluorescent settings. These are all very important to getting good color and are much better than the paltry offerings of most other compacts. Manual White balance works marvelously and can be set to a gray card with only two button pushes, including the shutter release, better than any other camera. Even slicker, the camera includes a special phony RAW mode which allows you to select any image and change it's white balance and save the result as a new, corrected image! More here in general and here specifically about the correction trick.
Memory: SD memory cards, none included. I use a 1GB 32x Lexar card I got here and it works great, capable of storing something crazy like 434 images at full resolution at the normal setting. You can get as few as 221 at the FINE 3,072 setting, or 10,000 at the economy 640 x 480 setting. The 640 x 480 setting is all you need for the internet and email, so you could store a lifetime of snaps on one postage-stamp sized card if you never intended to print them.
The EX-Z750 includes an additional 8.3 MB of permanent built-in memory instead of a throwaway SD card. Therefore the Z750 can record images, movies or sound without a card and also plays some neat tricks with all this memory. This is great for spy use since you can hand all your memory cards to the guard when entering a sensitive facility and shoot away with this little camera that fits undetected in your pocket.
More on memory here.
Battery: Tiny NP-40 lithium ion rechargeable good for hundreds of shots. 1,240 mAH, 3.7V. Mine weighs 1 oz or 25 g and measures 38mm square and 9mm thick, three gold terminals. Casio's specified weight is heavier. More here.
Cases: It comes with no case. You can get different kinds of cute little Casio brand cases here, here and here for about $15 to 20. Personally I just drop the camera into my pocket; it's smaller than my cell phone.
Next page: Ergonomics and Usability
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