Casio EX-Z550 Review

May 6, 2010 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Casio EX-Z550 compact camera offers 14 megapixels and a 4x wide-angle zoom lens with a focal length of 26-104mm with CCD-shift image stabilization mechanism. The EX-Z550 also boasts a 2.7-inch LCD monitor, 720p high-definition movies and creative Dynamic Photo and Art Shot modes. The new Engine 5.0 image processor increases operational speed by 30%, while the Premium Auto mode automatically optimises settings for exposure, ISO speed, focus, blur correction, tonal range, colour balance, and even noise reduction. Available in black, red, blue and pink, the Casio EX-Z550 retails at £149 in the UK and $169.99 in the USA.

Ease of Use

Casio cameras from its ever extending and regenerating EX ('Exilim') range often eschew the tried and tested, the flexibility to try something a little different - and yes at times gimmicky - a by-product of its non traditional photographic heritage.

We recently likened the flint-like EX-G1 from Casio to a Swiss Army knife, and the same manufacturer's new 14.1 effective megapixel (from a 14.48MP 1/2.3-inch CCD), 4x optical zoom EX-Z550 comes similarly festooned with the latest gadgetry. This includes the Photoshop-like ability to cut and paste elements from one still image (or even HD video clip) to another, courtesy of the Dynamic Photo function squirreled away among the Best Shot scene/subject modes. Casio has always targeted the younger audience, so there's also a dedicated video mode (again among the Best Shot options) pre-optimised for uploading to YouTube.

For a suggested retail price of an exceedingly reasonable sounding £149, and available in a quintet of colours including the sober black we had in for review, this snapshot model is also very small at 21.1mm in depth. A centimetre or so longer than a business card, you can almost lose the EX-Z550 in a clenched palm, never mind a pocket. Despite this it feels reasonably solid even at 137g when gripped and lithium ion battery and optional SD/SDHC card inserted. A 24.5MB internal capacity is otherwise offered.

The diminutive dimensions are due in part to folded optics; the 26mm equivalent wide-angle zoom lens is protected within the body when not in use. To avoid blur when shooting handheld at the telephoto end of the zoom, the camera comes with proper CCD-shift image stabilisation. Pictures are composed and reviewed via a 2.7-inch LCD screen that like most suffers in sunlight and isn't the sharpest we've ever seen, but remains usable nonetheless and matches that expected at this end of the market.

As well as the full auto functionality you'd expect from what is at its heart an easy to use point-and-shooter, Casio has added its own Premium Auto function that purportedly optimizes the look of images - correcting for blur for example or exposure errors. As a result images shot when the camera is in this mode take a moment or two longer to process than non-optimized shots. In truth we noticed little difference between results taken when this mode was selected and in regular auto - not a black mark, but a way of saying this little camera achieves an impressive consistency.

Casio EX-Z550 Casio EX-Z550
Front Rear

Like Olympus' Pen range with its effective and fun Art Filters, Casio has additionally squeezed in an Art Shot function among its numerous 'BS' modes. Whilst the crayon etching, 'retro' and watercolour effects are familiar, less well traveled is an eye-catching oil painting effect. So if a 'friend' has ever remarked: 'you're no oil painting', now's the opportunity to prove them wrong with the Z550; and in a style closely reminiscent of Van Gogh no less.

Whilst the camera appears unassumingly conventional from the front - especially when compared to the same manufacturer's EX-G1 model, which we reviewed at the start of this year - it's not without a dash of style, epitomized by subtle details adding a touch of drama such as the chrome lug for a wrist strap at one side tapering around to the faceplate.

In terms of achieving a steady hold when shooting handheld, there's nothing in the way of a grip provided however, with just four small raised plastic nodules aiding purchase for your thumb at the rear. Otherwise it's obviously the lens that draws the lion's share of attention, with its own attractive mirrored surround, beneath which is a small hole for the built in microphone, and top left of the optic an tapering window housing the built-in flash. Positioned just below the shutter release button, it's easy for fingers to stray in front of the bulb when shooting handheld - in fairness something most diminutive compacts have in common due to space restrictions.

The Z550's top plate continues the minimalist design ethos. Featured here are just the essentials: a springy shutter release button with definite determinable halfway point and the largest control on the camera so you can't miss it, conveniently encircled by a rocker switch with protruding lip for controlling the zoom that likewise falls under the user's forefinger.

While to the right of this is an obtrusive indicator light, adjacent on the left is an on/off button, recessed into the bodywork so it doesn't break the visual 'flow'. As a result it requires fingertip operation to activate, the Z550 powering up in just over two seconds, lens barrel extending to maximum wideangle setting with low mechanical buzz and rear LCD simultaneously blinking into life with a bright 'beep'.

Go on to attempt a shot and, with a half press of the shutter release button, focus and exposure are determined near instantly, AF point highlighted in green with an accompanying beep of confirmation. Take the picture and a full resolution image is committed to memory in around two seconds, again more than adequate for this class of camera. Everything here falls to hand and response times are swift enough to allow the user to concentrate fully on image taking without worrying what the camera is or isn't doing.

Casio EX-Z550 Casio EX-Z550
Side Top

The Z550's back plate sports a similarly unfussy layout with clearly marked and well-spaced controls, plus the LCD screen swallowing up nearly two thirds of the backplate 'real estate'. Top right is a dedicated video recording button, the advantage of which is that user can quickly switch from shooting stills to filming movies and back again, not having to alternatively fiddle with a mode dial (here there isn't one, the BS button does that job) to first select the correct mode.

Beneath this are an opposing pair of small buttons, with on the left a means of playing back images and on the right, one to select still photo capture mode. Yes, this is the default setting anyway so at first glance appears a little unnecessary, but in practice enables the switch back from video to photo mode with a single press.

While that much is straightforward, so too is the inclusion of a four-way directional control pad just below, where it again falls conveniently under the thumb. With the letters 'disp' displayed at 12 o'clock on the pad, a press of this edge either adds a live histogram to the collective display of current settings detailed down the right hand side of the screen, or turns any distracting information off entirely so the user is merely left with a central AF point indicator.

At six o'clock on the pad is a dual use means of adjusting the various flash settings - including a 'soft flash' option among the usual red eye preventing suspects - if in capture mode, or deleting unwanted images when in review/playback mode. Although the other two edges are unmarked, users press left or right on the dial to tab through images and menu options if in those respective modes, or, if in capture mode, swap from Auto Picture mode to Premium Auto and back again.

The final two controls on the back of the Z550 are a 'menu' button bottom left and aforementioned 'BS' button to the right. A press of the former when in capture mode and the user is presented with three menu sub folders that can be tabbed between: record, quality and set up. Within the record menu photographers can switch between auto and manual focus, with macro and infinity options listed in between. Displaying a more comprehensive variety of options than your standard point and shoot, Z550 owners can further adjust AF points, and call up a nine zone compositional grid to practice the 'rule of thirds'.

Within the quality folder as expected resolution of both stills and video can be adjusted to suit the intended end purpose, as well as blemish smoothing 'make up' and vivid landscape digital filters applied if so wished - on other Casio compacts, such as the EX-H15 for example, these last two get their own button. It's under the 'quality' heading that we also find a means of manually adjusting exposure (+/- 2EV), white balance, ISO (ISO64-3200), metering (multi zone, centre weighted or spot) plus applying a palette of colour filters to variously warm or dampen the image. Sharpness, saturation, contrast and the intensity of the flash can further be tweaked. Again, this is more than we expected at this beginner friendly level and price point.

Casio EX-Z550 Casio EX-Z550
Battery Compartment Memory Card Slot

In Set Up mode meanwhile, users have the ability to turn Eye-Fi connectivity on, should they have a suitable Eye-Fi media card loaded that will provide automatic wireless uploading whenever they come within reach of their desktop PC or laptop. Otherwise operational sounds, start up visuals and time stamps can be governed in this mode as expected, though like us you're probably most likely to access it to format the card in use and quickly delete all the images contained therein.

The final button/control on the EX-Z550's back is marked 'BS' for 'Best Shot' mode - Casio's umbrella term for its collective per-optimised scene and subject modes. Most of the nigh on 40 options are illustrated with a photo thumbnail, and, if the user operates the zoom with their forefinger as they alight on each one a brief text description of each is additionally provided to save beginners reaching for the manual. Here a hard copy quick start guide is provided out of the box along with a CD Rom - but here Casio is up to its old (dodgy) trick of printing instructions in three different languages on the same page, which doesn't make for the easiest perusal.

The Best Shot modes govern all the familiar subjects from portraits and self-portraits through pictures of autumn leaves, fireworks, flowers and food, plus backlight and high sensitivity modes joining the yet-more-creative Art Shot modes mentioned at the outset of our review. We even get help here with taking ID photos for passports, photographing business cards and presentation boards, along with a pre-record movie function for anticipating action sequences. You get the impression Casio has packed a lot into its little palm sized point and shooter.

What the camera does lack however is HDMI output to make the most of its 1280x720 HD movie option - something rivals are increasingly including even at this relatively simplistic level. As expected we do get a shared port hidden under a plastic flap at one side for combined AV and USB output (and relevant cabling in the box), whilst the opposite side of the camera is devoid of features entirely.

The base of the Casio EX-Z550 meanwhile features a narrow catch-operated door hiding the combined battery good for 250 shots from a full charge which is average for its class and media card ports, plus, slightly off-centre, a screw thread for mounting a tripod.

And that's basically it for this outwardly unassuming snapper, with the exception of taking a closer look at the images produced and drawing our conclusions. Like any compact boasting a 14MP resolution, the question has to be asked as to whether its manufacturer has over egged the pudding to the effect that, yes, occasionally you can have too many pixels on too small a chip. So let's take a closer look then at image quality and find out if this is an area in which the Casio delivers more than expected...

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14.1 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 7Mb.

Mostly the Casio EX-Z550 acquits itself well when it comes to delivering even exposures. Colours are generally well saturated and brought the best out of the scene before the lens at any given time - all that one can really ask for from a point and shoot model. Generally there was little in the way of visible blur from camera shake, though inevitably we did get the very occasional soft shot. Pixel fringing was also evidenced on close inspection between areas of high contrast, though again this can be expected and was not at a level we felt uncomfortable with.

We did experience a few white balance issues however - getting a cool blue tone indoors on one shot when taking a portrait using natural daylight, and then, a correct, warmer tone with the subsequent image - but such conditions would test most point and shoots. Slightly more serious was loss of definition towards the corners when shooting at maximum wideangle setting; again not totally unexpected, given the wider than average 26mm equivalent, but slightly disappointing nonetheless.

The same blue colour cast - due to daylight conditions - invaded our sample ISO shots, rendering them cooler in tone than the actual conditions were at the time; albeit this is an issue quickly dealt with via the application of Auto Levels in Photoshop. With a broad light sensitivity range starting out at ISO 64, up until ISO 400 a sharp level of detail is maintained, fractionally softening when we come to ISO 800, and more pronounced a degradation on close inspection between that setting and ISO 1600. The latter is still very usable however - not bad at all a performance from this class of compact. At top ISO 3200 detail has softened across the image to limit the appearance of noise and it is beginning to take on a fuzzy, watercolour-like effect. But again, it's not bad at all a showing, especially given the high pixel count on offer.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Casio EX-Z550. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Casio EX-Z550 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with a small amount of purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The Casio EX-Z550 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 5cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The flash settings on the Casio EX-Z550 are Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Soft Flash, and Red Eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (104mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (104mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Both the Flash On and the Red Eye Reduction settings caused a small amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red-eye Correction

Red-eye Correction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The Casio EX-Z550's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night scene mode, which isn't good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/2 second at ISO 400.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Casio EX-Z550 camera, which were all taken using the 14.1 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 28 second movie is 59.3Mb in size.

Product Images

Casio EX-Z550

Front of the Camera

Casio EX-Z550

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Casio EX-Z550

Isometric View

Casio EX-Z550

Isometric View

Casio EX-Z550

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Casio EX-Z550

Rear of the Camer

Casio EX-Z550

Top of the Camera

Casio EX-Z550

Bottom of the Camera

Casio EX-Z550

Side of the Camera


Casio EX-Z550

Side of the Camera

Casio EX-Z550
Battery Compartment
Casio EX-Z550
Memory Card Slot


The 14.1 megapixel Exilim EX-Z550 from Casio looks like any other run of the mill pocket-sized point and shoot compact at first glance. Its sub £150 price seems to confirm that, high resolution aside, there's nothing extraordinary here. It's a pleasant surprise therefore that, taken as a whole proposition, the Z550 adds up to more than the sum of its parts and actually delivers a fair amount of bang for your buck.

The EX-Z550 does its best to enable its users to take better pictures, effortlessly. When conditions are ideal, you can just point and shoot, and if they are less than ideal you have the Art Shot filters to pull something interesting and usable from adversity.

It might not be the 'ultimate' travel compact that this site maintains a constant search for on your behalf. It lacks the increasingly ubiquitous HDMI output or a particularly great deal of truly hands-on photographic control, and incorporates a zoom that at 4x appears quite modest with 10x, 12x and 14x alternatives doing the rounds, albeit for an increased price. But anyone looking for an unobtrusive snapper for an equally modest outlay will find that the Z550 makes an able companion.

The inclusion of a dedicated video record button and a greater range of (fully auto) creative options than usually found in its class ensure that, while it may not be an option for the enthusiasts and pros, the Casio Exilim EX-Z550 is deserving of a Photographyblog recommended badge nonetheless.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 5


Number of Effective Pixels 14.10 million
Image Sensor   1/2.3-inch square pixel CCD
Total Pixels 14.48 million
File Format Still Images JPEG (Exif Version 2.2, DCF 1.0 standard, DPOF compliant)
Movies AVI format, Motion JPEG, IMA-ADPCM (monaural)
Audio (Voice Recording) WAV format (monaural)
Built-in Flash Memory (Image Area)*1 24.5MB
Recording Media SDHC Memory Card, SD Memory Card*2
Number of Recorded Pixels Still Images 14M (4320 x 3240), 3:2 (4320 x 2880), 16:9 (4320 x 2432), 10M (3648 x 2736), 6M (2816 x 2112), 3M (2048 x 1536), VGA (640 x 480)
Movies HD: 1280 x 720 (24 fps) / STD: 640 x 480 (30 fps) / LP: 320 x 240 (15 fps)
Recording Capacity (Maximum Image Size Setting) Still Images (JPEG) Built-in Flash Memory Approx. 2 shots (Fine) / 5 shots (Normal) / 7 shots (Economy)
SD Memory Card 1GB*3 Approx. 103 shots (Fine) / 199 shots (Normal) / 298 shots (Economy)
Movies Recording Time Maximum Recording Time per File: 29 min
SD Memory Card 1GB*3 Approx. 6 min. 51 seconds (HD)
Operating Speed Power on to First Shot*3*4*5 Approx. 2.0 seconds
Shutter Release Time Lag*3*4*5*6 Approx. 0.009 second
Image Playback*3 Approx. 0.1 second/image
Shot to Shot Time*3*4*5*6 Approx. 2.0 seconds intervals
Auto Focus Speed Approx. 0.20 second/image (At full wide angle; speed measurement conditions defined by CASIO)
Normal Speed Continuous Shutter*3*5*7 Approx. 1.7 second intervals
High-speed Continuous Shutter*3*8 Approx. 4 frames per second; max. 8 images at 1600 x 1200 pixels
Flash Continuous Shutter No
Lens Construction 7 lenses in 6 groups, including aspherical lens
F-number F2.6 (W) to F5.9 (T)
Focal Length   f = 4.65 to 18.6 mm
35mm Film Equivalent Approx. 26 to 104 mm
Zoom Optical Zoom 4X
Digital Zoom 4X (16X in combination with optical zoom)
HD Zoom 27.0X (image size: 640 x 480 pixels)
Focusing Focus Type Contrast Detection Auto Focus
Focus Modes Auto Focus, Macro Mode, Super Macro, Pan Focus, Infinity Mode, Manual Focus
AF Area Intelligent, Spot, Multi, Tracking
AF Assist Lamp No
Focus Range*9 (From Lens Surface) Auto Focus Approx. 15cm to infinity (W)
Macro Approx. 5cm to 50cm (First step from widest setting)
Super Macro Approx. 5cm to 50cm
Infinity Mode Infinity (W)
Manual Focus Approx. 15cm to infinity (W)
Exposure Exposure Metering Multi-pattern, center weighted, spot by imaging element
Exposure Control Program AE
Exposure Compensation -2EV to +2EV (in 1/3EV steps)
Shutter Type   CCD electronic shutter, mechanical shutter
Shutter Speed*10 Auto 1/2 to 1/2000 second
Night Scene 4 to 1/2000 second
Aperture*9 F2.6 (W) to F7.8 (W)*11
White Balance Auto WB, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White FL, Daylight FL, Tungsten, Manual WB
Sensitivity (SOS/REI)*12 Still Images Auto, ISO64, ISO100, ISO200, ISO400, ISO800, ISO1600, ISO3200
Movies Auto
Other Recording Functions Image Stabilization Mechanism CCD-shift image stabilization
Premium AUTO Yes
Make-up Mode Yes (12-level steps)
Landscape Mode Yes (Vivid Landscape: 2-level steps / Mist Removal: 2-level steps)
Handheld Night Scene Yes
Lighting Function Yes
BEST SHOT   Yes: 42 scenes
Dynamic Photo Yes
Art Shot Function*13 Oil Painting, Crayon, Water Color
Multi-motion Image*13 Yes
YouTube™ Capture Mode Yes
Voice Recording Yes
Face Detection Yes
Auto Shutter Yes
Self-timer 10 seconds, 2 seconds, Triple Self-timer
Built-in Flash Flash Modes Auto, Flash Off, Flash On, Soft Flash, Red Eye Reduction
Flash Range*8 Approx. 0.15 to 5.8m (W), approx. 0.6 to 2.5m (T)
Flash Charge Time Approx. max. 5 seconds
Monitor Screen 2.7-inch TFT color LCD, 230,400 dots (960 x 240)
Timekeeping Functions Date and Time Recorded with image data
On-image Time Stamp Function Yes
Auto Calendar To 2049
World Time 162 cities in 32 time zones, city name, date, time, daylight saving time
Input/Output Terminals   USB/AV port
USB Hi-Speed USB
Microphone Monaural
Speaker Monaural
Power Requirements Rechargeable lithium ion battery (NP-80) x 1
Battery Life Number of Shots*14 (CIPA Standards) Approx. 250 still images
Continuous Playback (Still Images)*14*15 Approx. 4 hrs.
Continuous Movie Recording Time*16 Approx. 1 hrs. 50 min.
Continuous Voice Recording Time*17 Approx. 4 hrs.
Dimensions (CIPA Standards) 99.5 (W) x 55.4 (H) x 22.4 (D) mm, 21.1mm thick excluding protruding parts
Weight (Including battery and memory card) Approx. 137 g (CIPA Standards)
Weight (Excluding battery and memory card) Approx. 116 g (CIPA Standards)
Bundled Accessories Rechargeable lithium ion battery, lithium ion battery charger, AC power cord, USB cable, AV cable, strap, CD-ROM

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