With its slim, metal body and rounded edges, the 6-megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z60 looks more like a slightly oversized high-tech business-card case than a camera. It boasts enough style to impress a fashionista, adequate speed to please football mums, and sufficient features to keep a tweaker happy. Unfortunately, it lacks the photo quality required to satisfy all but the most casual of photographers.
When equipped with its tiny 700mAh battery and an SD card, the 61 by 100 by 20mm, 136g Exilim EX-Z60 hardly even makes a lump in your jeans pocket, and its 3x, 38mm-to-114mm lens (35mm equivalent) retracts completely into the camera body. As you'd expect, the controls on the EX-Z60 are quite small, but for the most part, they provide enough tactile feedback to distinguish among them.
Though it lacks manual and semimanual exposure modes, the Exilim EX-Z60 has lots of snapshot-friendly features. These include 33 Best Shot modes, Casio's version of scene modes. The Best Shot options range from the basic Portrait, Landscape and Sports to more specialised choices such as Party, Soft Flowing Water, Business Cards and Documents, White Board, Collection and of course, eBay. What's nice about Casio's implementation is that the camera tells you what settings it uses for a given mode -- for example, in Collection mode the EX-Z60 uses macro focus and a circle plus grid appears on the display to help compose the shot.
This full disclosure allows you to fake some semimanual operation, such as switching into Soft Flowing Water (slow shutter speed) when you want to produce other slow-shutter effects. You can also save custom Best Shot modes. Unfortunately, since the camera doesn't provide the same setting info for the custom modes, they're not as easy to use, and all photo settings require a trip into the menu system for adjustment. You can program the four-way rocker switch for use with a single setting, and that's about it. This camera design really needs an Olympus-style top-level quick-access menu. There are also some entries, such as Keystone correction, within the menus that need more explanation.
In general, it seems like there's a way to manually access almost all the options used by the Best Shot settings -- except, of course, aperture and shutter speed. For instance, Movie mode (grouped with Best Shot options) automatically selects pan (fixed) focus, but you can choose it when you're not in a Best Shot mode -- from the Focus menu, to be exact -- as well.
Unlike many cameras in its class, the Casio Exilim EX-Z60 allows you to select a metering mode from pattern, centre-weighted and spot options. After a shot, the ever-useful Audio Snap selection prompts you to press the shutter again and record a brief audio annotation. There are also a variety of focus and continuous-shooting choices, including nine-segment multi- or single-point autofocus, infinite fixed focus, manual focus and three-shot flash- and high-speed continuous shooting.
Unfortunately, many of these modes merit caveats from Casio in the documentation about possibly degrading image quality. That's because most of them work by either increasing ISO sensitivity -- unless you set it manually, the camera never seems to drop below ISO 200 -- or simply not focusing. The aforementioned Keystone correction is in there because the Business Card and White Board modes need it -- the lens is so bad. Pincushioning squeezes pictures inwards at the not terribly long telephoto end, and barrel distortion bloats them outwards at the not terribly wide-angle end. Thankfully, these effects aren't so noticeable in typical snapshots, as long as you avoid shooting buildings and bridges.
You can't avoid soft, noisy, overprocessed photos, though. The colours aren't bad, but in shots taken using ISO 50 at the highest-quality setting, you can see halos around edges and a whitish stippling. The Exilim EX-Z60 also clips highlights, producing large, flat white areas in outdoor shots. It's hard to tell if red-eye reduction works -- the lens's chronic chromatic aberration results in a blown-out catch light in people's eyes, with purple fringing that overwhelms any red. The EX-Z60 prefers shooting at ISO 200 and higher -- especially its Anti Shake option, which simply increases ISO sensitivity. Let's just say that we wouldn't print any of its photos larger than 100x150mm (4x6-inches), and we certainly wouldn't crop them.
It's a shame about the photos because the movies are good. The EX-Z60 offers VGA-resolution, 30fps movies with mono audio and can record up to the capacity of the card. A 2GB SD card holds about 25 minutes of highest-quality movies. Card speed should affect the movie capture -- we used a 2GB Kingston Ultimate SD card for testing the EX-Z60. You can't zoom in Movie mode, however.
The EX-Z60's performance holds up well, too. Once you turn it on, it starts shooting in about 2 seconds, with sequential shots taken about 1.8 seconds apart. That's in good light -- in poor light, shutter lag bumps from 0.6 seconds to 1.1 seconds, and using the flash requires 5.1 seconds between photos. There are several burst modes, but the only one that lets you shoot more than three frames and reframe between shots maxes out at less than one frame per second. The 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD on this viewfinder-less model turned out to be a disappointment, too. It's relatively coarse, and its shiny surface produces a fair bit of glare in bright sunlight, and there's no way to change its brightness to compensate.
Casio's Exilim EX-Z60 makes a better fashion accessory than a camera. If you're looking for style and photographic substance in the same price range, we suggest you check out Canon's Digital IXUS series or Nikon's S series of cameras.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
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(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Additional editing by Kate Macefield