Thursday, July 10, 2008

Casio Exilim EX-Z9 Digital Camera Review

I spent most of June traveling and I toted two cameras along: my usual 12X zoom Kodak Z612 and a new pocket camera I tried out for the first time, the Casio Exilim EX-Z9.

This Casio Exilim has a few drawbacks, but considering you can often find it on sale for around $130, it's a great value. It's small and ultra-slim (about half the size of my hand and less than an inch thick), easily fitting into a pocket without much of a protrusion. The LCD on the back is 2.6 inches, however, and looks good even when you're viewing shots in direct sunlight. The power button seems to have been shrunk proportionally though; I often had to try two or three times to turn the thing on or off and even my 7-year-old's fingers seemed too large for it. The other buttons are also teeny tiny and I usually had to resort to a fingernail to press what I wanted.

But what about the photos? Outdoors, especially for scenery, the shots were fan-fricking-tastic. Here's an example of a nice (unedited) shot of Moraine Lake in the Canadian Rockies. You could easily mistake that for something that came from a Nikon SLR.

It helps that the camera has built-in special situation modes you can select for scenery, night portraits, sports, candlelight, flowers, etc. (Accessed by the unfortunately named button labeled as "BS") There's also a handy mode that, after registering once, allows you to upload video to YouTube as soon as you plug into your computer, without actually visiting the site. That doesn't mean the video quality is any better than you usually get from a point and shoot camera, of course, especially when panning. To see a short clip I recorded with this camera, for the same area as the photo example here, check out the Moraine Lake Lodge video.

On the downside, shutter lag was a big problem--as it often is with cameras at this price point--and inside shots taken with a flash were really washed out, especially compared to what I get from the Kodak. Some were so overexposed in the normal automatic mode that they were just plain unusable. (The portrait mode fared a little better.) Also, the engineers were apparently loaded up on sake when they designed the charging system: the battery pack and bulky cord take up twice as much room in your pack as the camera itself and the connectors are not compatible with anything else you own, so you have to lug it all along to recharge the proprietary battery.

Overall though, this is a great little camera for the price, especially if you'll mostly be using it on weekend breaks instead of taking it on a long vacation where you'll need to cart along the recharging gear. The Casio Exilim EX-Z9 comes in pink, black, silver, or orange.

Search prices on the Casio Exilim EX-Z9

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