Until that day arrives, we'll have to settle for models such as Casio's 5-megapixel Exilim Zoom EX-Z55 digital camera, a highly portable snapshot camera with a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD that's as bright as it is large. Though the Z55's lack of manual features and poor outdoor imaging can be frustrating at times, the camera delivers pleasing indoor results and acceptable shot-to-shot performance.
The centerpiece of the EX-Z55's design is its 64mm LCD screen, which takes up most of the small camera's back and so seems even bigger. Also contributing to this effect is the comically small and essentially useless optical viewfinder, which works only passably well during daylight and will temporarily blind you at night if you try it with the LCD turned on.
Casio crams all of the buttons on the 159g EX-Z55 to the right of 'Screenzilla' but organises them logically, despite their cramped layout. Though the camera lacks ports to charge the battery and download photos directly, the included dock accomplishes both tasks seamlessly.
The Casio Exilim EX-Z55's 3x optical zoom works well, although you're limited to six stops from its widest angle of 35mm to its 105mm telephoto (35mm equivalents). The camera's lens is small enough to keep the camera looking sleek, but protrudes enough to keep you from inadvertently taking ten shots of your own finger.
We like Casio's novel memory menu, which enables you to instruct the EX-Z55 to remember the camera's current settings -- zoom length, colour and ISO settings, white balance, and flash modes -- even after you've turned it off. This feature will benefit anyone who chooses to use the camera with a tripod, as you'll be able to compose your shots, then take a break without losing battery power. Speaking of the EX-Z55's battery, it's phenomenal: we took more than 1,000 photos, half of them with flash, without needing to recharge.
In practice, the EX-Z55's lack of manual features can make some shots difficult to capture properly; night shots are a good example. You're limited to the scene presets on the Best Shot menu, and though there's a fairly exhaustive list of shooting situations available -- 23 of them, including Casio's new Business Shot for photographing whiteboards and documents -- it's frustrating to know that the camera supports variable shutter speeds but you can't set them directly.
Though the EX-Z55 allows you to bump your flash intensity up or down, in most low-light situations the flash will still make people and skin tones look washed out. The EX-Z55 also lacks a burst mode, so you won't be able to hold down the shutter and snap photos in succession. Still, it ranks among the fastest in its class for shutter lag, grabbing pictures a mere 0.05 seconds after the shutter is pressed. Under typical conditions, shot-to-shot times typically lasted a mediocre 2.5 seconds and jumped up to 5.3 when we used a flash.
By and large, the EX-Z55 delivers evenly exposed indoor shots when there's adequate lighting. However, the same can't be said for its performance in daylight; the EX-Z55 falls victim to worse-than-average purple fringing at high-contrast edges and obliterates white highlights in otherwise perfectly exposed shots. To its credit, Casio has done an admirable job of limiting the noise captured by the camera's CCD, so if low-noise performance is a priority for you, the Casio Exilim EX-Z55 may deserve a serious look.
Edited by Lori Grunin
Additional editing by Mary Lojkine