Ultracompact cameras are everywhere. It seems as if nearly every camera manufacturer is cramming a 6-plus-megapixel CCD and an inexpensive lens into a tiny case and putting it on the shelves. Without exceptional quality or a unique feature, it's easy for these small cameras to get lost in the crowd. Casio's 7-megapixel Exilim EX-Z700 is one of those lost cameras, a solid and small model that simply lacks the wow factor.
Though not as sleek as other Casio cameras, the Z700's flat, rectangular body comes in five different colours so users can accessorise. It feels comfortable and well-built in the hand. Weighing 142g and measuring 20mm in depth, it can fit comfortably into most pockets. Its few buttons are laid out comfortably and can be easily manipulated, even by large thumbs.
The EX-Z700 comes with the same handy features as the rest of Casio's Exilim cameras. Casio's Best Shot modes offer users more than two dozen different scene presets, including the auction-photo-optimising eBay mode. Digital image stabilisation helps reduce shake and blur when using the camera's 38mm-to-114mm-equivalent lens, though it shouldn't be confused with the more-effective optical or mechanical image stabilisation offered by some other camera makers.
The camera maxes out at ISO 400 sensitivity, leaving it somewhat under-equipped for low-light or high-speed shooting. The Z700's 71mm (2.8-inch) LCD screen is quite bright but washes out very easily. Since the display leaves no room for an optical viewfinder, users are forced to use the LCD whenever framing a shot, regardless of the lighting.
Despite a few quirks, the Z700's performance was very good. The camera powers up in just 1.2 seconds and can take a shot every 1.5 seconds thereafter. With the onboard flash enabled, shot-to-shot time increases to a still satisfying 2.7 seconds. Shutter lag measured a speedy 0.4 seconds in bright light and just 1 second in dim light. Burst mode was decent, pumping out 55 full-resolution images in 70 seconds for a rate of 0.8fps.
The Z700 also offers Quick Shot mode -- when you press down fully on the shutter release, the camera takes a photo without bothering to focus. Unfortunately, this feature, enabled by default, is of dubious value. You might snap dozens of shots very rapidly, but when you get home to edit, email or print them, they'll be nothing but grainy blurs. Instead, press the shutter release down halfway until it achieves a focus lock, then take the shot. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you get into the rhythm, you'll be taking quick, focused photos.
The camera's otherwise clear images had a few irritating flaws. Colours were reproduced well, and fine details could be easily spotted in our subjects, except on the extreme left side of our photos, which suffered from blurring and distortion. The distorted area is only on the left edge -- it can be easily cropped, but it's a bother. This lens issue also manifests in significant purple fringing on the edges of near-white objects.
For a camera that can reach only ISO 400, photos are surprisingly noisy. Grain starts to appear at ISO 200, and at ISO 400, it becomes a sparkly glaze that distorts green objects.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z700 is an unremarkable point-and-shoot camera that doesn't excel at anything, though its performance and size make it great for quick snapshots. If you can afford them, the Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T10 offer superior image quality in the same pocketable size for a slightly higher price.
Edited by Lori Grunin
Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin