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Casio EX-Z750 Test Review and User Guide
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Casio EX-Z750

I'd get it here or here

ERGONOMICS AND USABILITY   back to top of review

Introduction
Ergonomics
Power Switch
Speed
Grid Lines
LCD Screen
Best Shot (Scene) Modes
Presets
Histograms
Manuals
Cleaning, Durability et cetera

Introduction     top of page     top of review

Having the correct controls and the ability to get to them quickly is the most important factor in practical image quality. A good camera makes it easy to adjust the critical settings crucial to making a good shot. Poor cameras hide these under incomprehensible menus. Accomplished photographers make these adjustments often for each and every shot, since conditions and camera angles change continuously.

This series of Casio credit card cameras are the most usable cameras I've ever used. Because of this it will enable one to get more good shots under a broader range of conditions than many other cameras that may be more impressive in a sterile laboratory. In lab tests there is no penalty for having to stop and read a manual for every setting, and in life this is the difference between getting the shot or missing it.

Ergonomics     top of page     top of review

The EX-Z750, and all of the Exilim series, are the easiest to use compact digital cameras I've ever used. All the menus and functions are extremely well thought out and thus easier and faster to use than any other fixed lens camera I've used, including Nikon and Canon. My Canons all take a while to respond to menu inputs while the Z750 responds instantly. The Z750's functions are easy to find and don't need the manual while I've always found Nikon's fixed lens digital cameras impossible to operate without the manual.

The Z750 is a tiny camera with no blank space on the rear to place a thumb while holding it. I stick my thumb over the mode dial. This works better than using the blank space that's on the back of the EX-S100 since keeping your thumb on the mode dial keeps it away from accidentally hitting the macro button, That was a problem for me on the S100; this is better.

Casio EX-Z750 rear

Holding it like this works great.

Because it's tiny it's easy to slip out of your hand compared to a big rubberized SLR. Casio and I both strongly suggest always wrapping the included fabric strap around your hand.

Setting Which Camera Defaults Reset on Power-On

You easily can program which settings camera does or does not reset to default when it's turned back on.

By default most settings reset each time to their defaults, which is good because it means if you have the camera set to ISO 400 for shooting at night that the next morning when you turn it on it won't have you shooting at ISO 400 all day by accident. Of course you can set the camera to stay set at ISO 400 if you want; that's the whole point of this feature.

In the REC mode menu use the bottom MEMORY menu to set these. This lets you define which settings are memorized each time the camera is turned off. You may select the Flash mode, AF mode, White Balance setting, ISO, AF area, Metering, Self Timer, Flash Exposure Compensation (called Flash Intensity), Digital Zoom on/off, Manual Focus distance and the focal length setting of the zoom lens!

Magic EX Button     top of page     top of review

Casio EX-Z750 EX Button

The Magic EX Button

This unique button brings you directly to the settings you need for every shot.

Press and hold it, navigate to what you need and change it (all on one screen) and release it. You just set image size, ISO, WB, and AF area in one step. HA! Try that on any other camera.

Also you can press the EX button, make your changes, and press it again to return. It's easiest to hold it down while making adjustments and then just release it.

Yes, you can make manual WB settings to a gray card with just two button pushes, better than any DSLR! One of those two pushes is pressing the shutter button. If you last used this EX feature to set manual WB, the next time you press it it will be at the manual WB adjustment setting. Press and hold EX, tap the shutter, release the EX button and you're all set!

It would be even nicer if it also included the JPG quality adjustment in addition to image size and also included exposure compensation, but tough, it's still a great and very important feature lacking on other cameras.

This EX button is one of the small but very important things that set the EX-Z750 way ahead of other cameras.

Power Switch     top of page     top of review

The power switch works like every other power switch. The camera turns on in the record mode.

There's a very clever extra: just like the brilliant design of a Bang & Olufsen stereo, the Z750 is smart enough to turn on the power if you just hit the PLAY or RECORD button, in which case it wakes up in that mode. Contrast this to most other products that waste your time requiring the redundant pressing of a power switch and then the RECORD or PLAY buttons, duh. You may deactivate the automatic power on when pressing the PLAY or RECORD buttons, and you also may set these to turn off the camera when pressed again. This is all easy to set in the SET UP menu.

I leave my camera naked in my pocket. The REC and Play buttons will sometimes get pressed, so I disable their ability to turn on the camera. Otherwise I will sometimes find a very excited camera in my pocket.

Speed     top of page     top of review

Everything is fast! The lens pops out with such authority when you switch it on it's almost startling. If you're used to the usual lame, limp, slow whirrrrrrr... as other cameras wake up and roll out their lenses you're in for a pleasant surprise. You'd better make sure your fingers are clear of the lens port so they don't get whacked as this baby bursts open in record time.

Menu response is instantaneous, far better than my Canon A70 or the Canon S70.

Playback images scroll at ten per second, and they are sharp, not fuzzy like Canon under fast scrolling.

The Casio Z750 takes just under two seconds to make a completely autofocused photo from scratch.

Even more impressive, pressing power on to making the first properly autofocused photo is just two seconds. My Sony Mavica used to take 10 seconds just to wake up, and the original Canon Digital Rebel takes two seconds just to turn on.

In the continuous motor drive mode you can run at 1.5 FPS continuously, but with focus, exposure and WB locked to the first image of the burst. Burst depth seems unlimited.

Autofocus speed is pretty good for a compact, but still not up to shooting sports. No fixed lens digital camera is either.

Grid Lines     top of page     top of review

It's easy to get basic grid lines on the LCD, ideal for anything like landscapes and architecture and anything with horizons and lines that need to be kept straight. Set this in the REC menu under "Grid."

Even sneakier, for those of us who prefer the more complete grid lines of a view camera you can get these in the "Collection" best shot mode #19. I have no idea what else this mode does, but it sure puts up a better grid. This best shot mode #19 can't make an exposure longer than 1/8 second, so I have not figured out how to get the finer grid for use at night. No big deal.

This is another sign that a photographer actually designed this camera. I find these grids indispensable for keeping my shots straight and wish other digital cameras had them.

LCD and Viewfinder     top of page     top of review

The huge 2.5" LCD is bright, sharp and colorful. It has a native 480 x 240 pixel resolution. It's about as big as one can fit on a camera this small.

The conventional peephole viewfinder crops quite a lot from what you actually get, as other digital cameras also do. This keeps you safe; you always get more than you think. At night the two red and green status LEDs are too bright and make it hard to see your subject through the finder. I may tape over part of them to fix this.

The LCD actually is visible in direct sunlight! Not brilliant, but OK, and of course you'll want to shade to see what you're really doing. This is better than most LCDs.

Tip: I just jam my unprotected camera in my pocket all the time. I use a stick-on screen protector from an office supply store designed for PDAs to protect the LCD. When the stick-on protector wears out, peel it off and put on a new one. This beats having to buy a new camera every time the screen gets worn! These protectors here are just the right size in three dimensions requiring only one cut for a perfect fit.

The Review mode is weak in while shooting. When selected it lets you see the image you just made right after you make it. The problem is it only stays up for a second and then vanishes. Other cameras allow one to choose a longer review time, or even to hold and zoom that image indefinitely without having to resort to the Play mode. On the Z750 you have to revert to play mode to see it in detail. I found no trick for this; on my Canon A70 you keep the shutter pressed and the image holds indefinitely.

Tip: A partial work around for a longer review time is to choose "audio snap" in the REC menu. Doing this freezes the new image on the screen waiting for you to record an audio note by pressing the shutter button. Leave a note if you want; or just press the MENU button to get back to shooting. This solution still isn't great since if you hit the shutter button before MENU you'll make an audio recording instead of a photo. Also you can't zoom in this mode.

There is a "Bright" mode for the LCD. It's not that much brighter, and I find it a lot easier instead to use my hand to shield the LCD from the sun than it is to find the much less effective "Bright" mode. If you'll be out all day shooting with the sun by all means use the"Bright" mode, found as the first item, "Screen," in the Setup menu.

Bestshot or Scene Modes     top of page     top of review

Casio calls their preprogrammed scene modes "Bestshot" modes, not to be confused with Nikon's Bestshot mode which selects the sharpest of several tries. There are some handy settings in these modes. For instance, the twilight mode adds a magenta filter electronically, saving me from bringing my glass CC30M for trick shots.

There are some clever new ones as well as the usual Portrait, Scenery, B/W and Sepia modes.

The Sundown mode adds an electronic equivalent of a CC30R red filter.

The Twilight mode adds an electronic equivalent of a CC30M magenta filter.

The Fireworks mode sets a two second exposure.

Here's the coolest: the Business Card and Whiteboard modes automatically crop out a card or powerpoint slide then corrects keystoning! You shoot, it gives a preview of where it thinks the corners are, and then it does the perspective transformations and saves the corrected and cropped image!!! Actually I tried this as a trick for real estate and architectural work to save from having to use Photoshop or a view camera, but it won't work since it crops out everything outside of what it perceives as the center rectangular subject. It works great for shooting a slide, but for buildings or racks of equipment or furniture it crops away the outside borders or landscape. Oh well. Since this mode is cropping and transforming from a larger image the largest final image size it will make is 1,600 x 1,200. It works great for photographing computer screens, paper documents, projected images, restaurant menus and anything rectangular.

The Z750 lacks the clever "Coupling Shot"and Preshot" modes of the S100 designed for taking photos of yourself in front of American landmarks.

Trick: In the BestShot mode just press the center SET button to allow immediate selection of the scene mode (bestshot) you want with the left/right nav buttons. You then press the SET button again to set the one you've picked. You still have the L/R buttons available for immediately shifting the ISO or WB or whatever you've assigned to the L/R selectors if you don't press the SET button first. Brilliant!

Trick: When selecting among the various Best Shot modes tweak the zoom control toward wide. You'll now see the key images from twelve of these modes at a time on the screen for fast selection. Navigate around these with the usual up/down left/right controls. Just press Set and you're in that mode. Slick!

Hint: Casio's Japanese site has details on all the modes here in English.

Custom User Presets in Best Shot mode     top of page     top of review

This feature is usually only found in the best $4,000 SLR cameras. My $1,000 D70 can't do this and the $5,000 D2X and this Casio can. The Nikon forgets some settings like the AF mode while the Casio remembers most of them.

Once you've found a set of camera settings you like you can save them to be used again. For example I have a setting for night shots with tungsten white balance at ISO 400 along with my focus, resolution, quality, contrast, sharpness and saturation settings. It's much faster to recall presets than to set all of this each time.

You do this in the Bestshot (scene) mode. If you're in the Bestshot mode just press the center SET button and keep clicking to the right to get to "Register User Scene;" no menus required. Select your shot with the settings you want to save. It saves the settings along with an index of the image you used for the settings.

One may program in 999 complete sets of cameras settings as presets! This is more than any camera I've ever seen at any price and the same as the Casio S100. These presets remember ISO, Focus Mode, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Metering Mode, Flash Mode, Flash Exposure Compensation, Flash Underexposure Correction, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpening and the presence or absence of various viewfinder grids. I'm unsure if any SLR camera regardless of price can do this. If you selected manual gray-card set WB then the preset will recall the MWB position, but with the most recent white value stored there, not the value stored when the preset was stored.

Even better than the $5,000 D2X, this Casio recalls these settings as not simply "setting 1" and "setting 2" but actually uses a little version of the photo that you used as the reference to save the setting.

After making a shot at the settings you want to save I suggest shooting a slate with the settings written in big letters. Now you'll you see the slate as you recall the presets. "Slate" is the term we use in Hollywood to refer to a clapper board with writing put in front of a camera to mark a shot at the beginning of a take in a movie. For instance, I shoot a slate that says "ISO 200 Tungsten" as more informative than just a photo made under those conditions. Of course if I was saving scenes for my mom I'd leave it as is.

Great news is that you can back up and restore these presets. They are stored in the camera's SCENE folder as files in the form "UZ750xxx.JPE." "xxx" goes from 001 to 999. I've never gotten around to putting in more than a dozen. You ought to be able to trade the user configuration/scene/camera setup files by email between other users. Copy it to your computer, remove your SD card from your Z750, connect the Z750 to your computer and copy that .JPE (not .JPG) file into your camera's SCENE folder.

Have you caught your breath yet? If so, I'll go on to mention that when you're using these presets all you have to do is hit the SET (center) button to use the L/R buttons to select among them! This really goes to show that a real photographer designed this; this is years ahead of Canon and Nikon's models that cost ten to twenty times as much. This means you can recall all your settings immediately to allow instant adaptation to changing conditions to get the shot you need NOW. Newspaper photographers pay big bucks for the big Nikon and Canon SLRs which at best offer a few presets labeled A, B, C and D and not with an index image like this cute little Casio.

You will erase all your presets if you format the camera's internal memory. This only happens if you format the camera with an empty SD card slot. Doing that formats the Z750's internal memory instead of the SD card. You also may erase them when the EX-Z750 is connected to your computer with no SD card by using your computer to erase the .JPE files contained in the camera's SCENE folder.

Over time you will store and erase many presets. Each new one is numbered from the last one, thus in a year you might have just six numbered 23, 34, 36, 42, 56 and 68. If you want rename them as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 then copy them all to your computer, rename them (that means change the last three digits of the .JPE file only), restore those to the Z750 and erase the originals. I suppose you also could rename the files in the Z750 directly from your computer, however I like to have a backup before messing with them.

Live YRGB Histograms!      top of page     top of review

Histograms help you set exposure. The Z750 has the best histograms I've ever used, along with the S100 and I presume the other Casio cameras.

The Z750 shows a full YRGB histogram on playback. YRGB means luminance (Y), red, green and blue. Some other cameras can do this, although many only show one channel instead of all four and are therefore useless or only show histograms on playback.

Even better than playback only, the EX-Z750 shows a living, breathing YRGB histogram as you compose, zoom, set white balance or exposure or whatever. It doesn't get better than this.

OK, it does get better. Unlike other cameras this Casio makes it easy to get the histogram and to turn it off. Other cameras may have this but you'll never find it again deep in some menu. With the EX-Z750 you just hit the DISPlay button and toggle between 0.) LCD off (for saving batteries when using the peephole finder) ,1.) a screen with just the picture and no data, 2.) all the numeric data superimposed on the screen at the same time (flash mode, shooting mode, pictures remaining, resolution, JPG mode, date, time and battery charge) and 3.) all that data and add the histogram.

The manual is incorrect on page 117 explaining that a correct histogram is one evenly centered about the middle. In fact a correct histogram usually is one where one of the three colors just barely makes it to the far right of the graph. If any color clips off on the right you have a clipped highlight, and if none of them make it all the way to the right you'll have a dark image. It's normal for dark images to have most of the graph towards the left and for light images to cluster to the right; just beware if any part gets clipped off the right edge of the histogram.

You even get live histograms, although only the Y channel, in movie mode!

Users' Manuals     top of page     top of review

One of the best things about this Casio is that anyone experienced with digital cameras doesn't need a manual. It's all easy and obvious, end of story.

Like the Olympus Stylus Verve the Casio comes only with an excellent but basic guide. What looks like a manual is just a book filled with the same 18 pages repeated in SEVEN languages. That's OK since few people read manuals and this lets Casio spend more on the camera for the same selling price. Those of us who read manuals are a minority and will whine, but honestly today the larger manuals are mostly just filled up with idiotic legal warnings and no more actual instructions than the basic get started guides. For instance, the big manual on the CD makes you wait until page 18 to get to the "How to Get Started" section and waits until page 43 to tell you how to turn it on! I read it all so if you read this entire review I'll tell you all the tricks I found to save you the trouble.

Pages 13 and 14 warn you that this cute little Japanese camera all by itself is more dangerous than a US Marine and his rifle. For instance, the EX-Z750's flash can kill an entire busload of people and cause a huge multi-vehicle pile-up if you point it at a moving car with a single unaimed shot, and simply turning it on while in an airplane can make that plane crash. Give me a break; if I were a lawyer I would sue them for wasting my time with all this clearly untrue and blatantly deceiving information. If enough pro-bono lawyers pick up this baton maybe we can stop all the wasted time and space in these manuals which is there purely because manufacturers are afraid of being sued if they don't warn people not to be stupid. For instance, page 40 cautions not to put the battery in a microwave oven.

Like most Oriental products the manual appears to be in English, but it can sometimes read like Japanese. Like all camera manuals it could use some editing for clarity. It wasn't written by Kurt Vonnegut. The best thing Casio could do is to rename the functions more clearly.

Tripod Socket     top of page     top of review

The tripod socket is made of plastic as most other digital and compact cameras. The EX-S100's is made of metal by comparison.

Triple Self Timer

Not only does it have 2 and 10 second delay settings, it also has a setting in which it makes three shots a couple of seconds apart after waiting 10 seconds!

How does Casio think of all these things? This means you stick it on a tripod, run into the photo, and you get THREE shots a few seconds apart. This saves you most of the running back and forth to get a good shot. Brilliant!

Sounds

It's easy to make the camera silent. It's the very first menu under SET UP. Please turn everything off out of respect for others. Turn the level for "Operation" all the way down, please.

Idiot (Status) Lights

There are two on the back near the peephole: a red and a green.

Like many cameras, steady green is GO!, meaning focus and everything are ready. Flashing green means the AF system couldn't get a good focus, so take your finger off the button and try again.

RED means the flash is charged. Flashing red means the flash is charging.

Cleaning     top of page     top of review

It's easy to clean since the only exposed optical surfaces are both sides of the peephole and the lens which is only 10 x 12 mm. I haven't let it get dirty, however I suspect that dust specks on the lens will be less of a problem than with larger cameras because they are so much closer to the front nodal point and therefore more out of focus. Likewise the bigger sensor and longer, faster lens than other compact cameras means it's less likely that any dust speck will leave a mark on the photo.

Like all fixed lens cameras and unlike DSLRs the sensor never needs to be cleaned since it's sealed.

Durability

Because it's bare metal and not covered in leather or rubber it can slip out of your hand if you don't use a strap. Look out!

Casio warns to treat the extended lens daintily because it's delicate. They go out of their way with a package insert to warn you that if you crock it that it's not covered under warranty.

When new my camera got the lens stuck partway in or out for reasons I don't know. Pushing it in helped it get back to where it was happy.

Just be careful with this.

Unlike the stainless steel EX-S100, I see no claims of what metal the case of the EX-Z750 is. I'll presume aluminum.

Fonts

I like the font used for the graphics on the camera's body to label two rear buttons and the lens spec on the front. This is a personal observation since I just happen to like DIN Schriften variants.

Next Page: Power and Battery Performance

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