Casio EX-Z450 Review
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The Casio EX-Z450 is a 12 megapixel compact camera with a 4x wide-angle zoom lens offering a focal length of 24-112mm, complete with CCD-shift image stabilization to help combat camera shake. The EXZ450 boasts a battery life of 550 shots, plus a large 3.0-inch LCD monitor and the ability to record 720p 1280x720 HD movies. The new Intelligent AF function automatically detects the photo subject even if it is not a human face and determines the focus and exposure area accordingly. The EX-Z450's Dynamic Photo feature cuts out images of a moving subject that have been photographed and combines them with a different still image that forms the background. Available in silver, champagne, brown, pink and red, the Casio EX-Z450 retails at £199 in the UK and $199.99 in the USA.
Ease of Use
The Casio EX-Z450 is an extremely well-made, fairly compact digital camera, with a shiny silver metal body and excellent overall finish. It's small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, and for storage inside either a trouser or shirt pocket or handbag. Casio boasts that the EX-Z450 can take 550 shots on a single battery charge - we managed just over 475 shots and the usual amount of image reviewing before the battery icon began to flash.
The Casio Z450 features a 4x optical zoom lens that's equivalent to a focal range of 24-120mm in 35mm terms. The 24mm wide-angle focal length provides an entirely new outlook that can only increase your creativity. You won't want to go back to a "standard" 35mm zoom after using the 24mm lens on the EX-Z450. The 4x zoom lens provides quite a versatile focal range, especially as it is coupled with Casio's effective anti-shake system, which helps to ensure that the majority of photos taken in good light are sharp. The Z450's lens is fast at the wide-angle setting, with a maximum aperture of f/2.6, but not so good at the 112mm telephoto setting, with a maximum aperture of f/5.8.
As with almost every Casio camera that we've reviewed before, the EX-Z450 is one of the better models around in terms of build quality, despite being made predominantly of plastic. The overall finish is excellent, looking and feeling much more expensive than its price-tag might suggest. There's no hand-grip on the front and only s tiny thumb-grip area on the rear, which makes it difficult o get a good grip on the camera. The plastic tripod mount is nearly in the centre in the bottom of the camera, but changing cards or batteries is not possible while the Z450 is mounted on a tripod because the compartment door hinge is too close to the tripod socket.
The Casio EX-Z450 has relatively few external controls, just 12 in total, which reflects the fact that this is a simple camera in functionality terms, with very limited photographic possibilities on offer. All the controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology, with just a couple of Casio-specific buttons that require a quick read of the manual.
Located on top of the EX-Z450 are the On / Off button and the tactile Zoom Lever and Shutter button. There is also a button above the LCD screen offering two special modes. The Landscape mode makes colours more vivid, filters haze, and performs other processing that enhances the beauty of natural scenery. You can choose from two settings, Vivid Landscape or Mist Removal, with Off, +1 (Weak) and +2 (Strong) strengths available for both. The Make-up mode smoothes the skin texture of the subject and softens facial shadows caused by harsh sunlight for better looking portraits. You can set one of 13 levels in the range of 0 (no correction) to +12 (maximum correction).
On the bottom of the EX-450 are the tripod mount and lockable battery compartment, which also houses the SD memory card slot. On the rear is the large 3 inch LCD screen, with a number of controls to the right, including a traditional round navigation pad. You can directly access the various flash options by clicking down on the navigation pad, whilst up is used to toggle between the various Display modes (no information, shooting info, shooting info with histogram). The Set button in the middle performs two main tasks - it selects menu options, and also accesses the EX-Z450's Control Panel.
This is a vertical list of options displayed on the right of the LCD screen, which provides quick access to some of the camera's more important options, including image size, ISO speed, auto-focus area, and continuous shooting. You can also pick and choose the settings that you want to show in the Control Panel from 14 different options. This system is a good compromise given the size of the camera's LCD screen and therefore the limited space for external controls. It takes a little while to get used to the presence of this on-screen list, but you can toggle it off using the Display mode if it proves too distracting.
Directly above the navigation pad are the self-explanatory Playback and Camera buttons, which switch between the two modes. Above these buttons is the very welcome inclusion of a dedicated Movie button, which makes it quick and easy to shoot a movie without missing the start of the action. The EX-Z450 can record HD movies at 1280x720 pixels at 24 fps, standard quality movies at 640x480 pixels at 30fps, and VGA movies at 320x240 at 15 fps, all in the AVI format.
There are some limitations to the EX-Z450's movie mode. The AVI format choice results in some massive file sizes that quickly fill up your memory cards, and the length of a movie is bizarrely limited to only 10 minutes. The sound quality is not that great, with the usual background noise that accompanies movies shot with cameras that only have mono sound. Even worse, you can't use the optical zoom at all during movie recording (although there is a digital zoom setting available).
The Menu and Best Shot buttons are positioned below the navigation pad. The menu system on the Casio EX-Z450 is perfectly straight-forward to use. Quite a lot of the camera's main settings are accessed elsewhere, so the main menu system isn't actually that complicated. A row of 3 icons along the top of the LCD screen represent the Record, Quality and Set Up sub-menus, with most of the options being the kind that you set once and then forget about. Due to the large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 6 are shown onscreen at one time.
Accessed via the Best Shot button, the Casio EX-Z450 offers Auto and a comprehensive range of 38 different scene modes aimed at the user who just wants to point and shoot, making this camera particularly well-suited to the beginner, although picking the most appropriate one can get confusing! BS Auto mode will do its best to pick the most appropriate mode for the current scene, although it doesn't choose from all 38 modes.
There is a single port on the right side of the Casio EX-Z450 (when viewed from the back) which accepts both the USB interface cable required to connect the camera to a printer or computer, and the AV cable. There are no controls on the left side of the EX-Z450. Overall the camera body feels very well-designed and not at all cluttered, despite the presence of the large 3 inch LCD, which has a wide viewing angle from left to right, average resolution of 230,000 dots, and is visible in most conditions. There is no optical viewfinder on this model.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Unfortunately Casio have chosen to cut costs and only supply the full manual as a PDF on a CD, rather than in printed format. Not much use if you're taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
The start-up time from turning the Casio EX-Z450 on to being ready to take a photo is fairly quick at around 2 seconds, and it takes about the same time to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations, helped by the green focus-assist lamp. It takes about 0.5 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is a very quick LCD blackout between each image.
In Continuous mode the camera takes a respectable 2.8 frames per second at the highest image quality, which is fast for this class of camera, with the shooting rate maintained until your memory card is full. There are also two High-speed Continuous Shutter modes, which shoot at 10 frames per second at 1280 x 960 pixels (up to 20 shots) or 4 frames per second at 1600 x 1200 pixels (up to 8 shots), and a Flash Continuous Shutter mode, which takes 3 frames per second at 1600 x 1200 pixels (up to 3 shots).
Once you have captured a photo, the Casio EX-Z450 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view up to 25 thumbnails onscreen at once, and zoom in and out up to 8x magnification. You can view slideshows with different effects and interval settings and set the print order and the transfer order, and also protect, rotate, resize, trim, and copy an image.
For editing your images and movies in-camera, options include Dynamic Photo which extracts images of a moving subject and combines them with a still image to form a new background, Movie Editing for trimming your movies, Lighting, Red Eye correction, White Balance, Brightness, Keystone and Color Correction. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance, and there is a small histogram available during shooting and playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure. A third press of the Display button shows just the image with no information displayed.
In summary the Casio EX-Z450 is a well-built and compact point-and-shoot digital camera with the main attractions being the large LCD screen, HD movies and wide-angle zoom lens.