The 12.1-megapixel Exilim EX-Z90 compact camera with 3x zoom offers a 'dynamic photo' mode, Casio's 'continuous shutter' technology and an intelligent autofocus system that can work out what to focus on and how to adjust the exposure to match. It's all wrapped up in a neat little metal body. That doesn't look like too bad a deal for around £150.
This intelligent autofocus isn't so easy to figure out, though. What is it actually doing? According to the blurb, it recognises all sorts of different subjects -- not just human faces. Sure enough, when this mode's switched on, the camera's AF markers dart around the scene and pick out different subjects according to where you point the camera. Why? What has it 'recognised'? Is it what you wanted? It could well be clever, but it's hard to be sure without knowing what it's doing, why and whether it's making any difference.
Casio's also enhanced its dynamic-photo mode. With this, you can shoot a moving subject and get the camera to extract it from its background and place it against a new one. Previously, you had to shoot two photos, with one being just the background on its own. Now, as long as the background has a plain, even tone you only have to shoot one. You get a collection of 'dynamic photo' images on a CD in the box, too.
The dynamic-photo mode has some novelty value, as has the 'make-up' mode, activated via a menu at the bottom of the on-screen control panel. This adjusts the focus and exposure, smoothes skin and softens shadows.
Except that it's not the same. Casio's been slightly cheeky and used the same jargon for cameras which have nothing like the same capabilities. The EX-Z90 can croak along at up to 4 frames per second, but only at a resolution of 2 megapixels, which is fit for very little, and a world apart from the capability of Casio's true high-speed models. At full resolution, its continuous-shooting mode takes 2 seconds to chew over every single image before it's ready for the next one.
But that's not the biggest moan. You get a basic 3x zoom lens that doesn't even offer the saving grace of decent image quality. In fact, our review sample was terrible at longer zoom settings, producing soft, blurry detail and blue fringes around anything with an edge. Let's hope our model was a dud.
The controls are clear and simple, but too cramped, especially in the case of the four-way controller. The menu system is quite complicated for a camera like this, although there's an optional 'easy' mode that looks much simpler.
Shooting movies is easy -- you just press a button with a red dot on the back of the camera. You can't use the camera's optical zoom while filming, though, so, while having a high-definition movie mode is good, this one's pretty limited.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z90 offers a lovely little body but a horrid lens and smart-sounding technology that has too many limitations. If you could swap all the gadgets for a decent lens, it might be a decent camera. Casio can do better than this.
Edited by Charles Kloet