Review: Casio EX Z150

Hey, Casio: Time to call Jenny Craig. Your formerly slim, sexy Exilim cameras have ballooned up like William Shatner. Witness the EX-Z150, a chunky, pocket-sagging model that looks like it has a glandular disorder. Fortunately, like the fat guy on the basketball court who hits every jumper, the Z150 quickly proves its worth.

To instantly win the mine’s-better-than-yours contest, show friends the Z150’s gorgeous 3-inch LCD. It’s mammoth for a camera with a sub-$200 price tag, and bright enough to see in direct sunlight. You can also fire off a group shot without having to take the customary 20 steps back to fit everybody in: The Z150’s wide-angle lens (28mm) offers a dramatically broader field of view than most pocket cams. Meanwhile, the lens zooms to 4x before the digital faux-zoom kicks in — that’s a whole “x” better than other models in this price range.

Idjit-proof controls and logical onscreen menus make the Z150 a camera anyone can pick up and use sans manual, though its small, cramped control pad hurts the overall ergonomics. Users with Shatner-size fingers will have trouble. One saving grace: a dedicated video-record button. Press it to start capturing YouTube-friendly movies at 30 fps, then again to stop. Note to other camera makers: Steal this button! Casio bundles a handy YouTube uploader utility, but you have to install it the old-fashioned way, from a CD. We’re spoiled by Flip Video’s camcorders, which run their software when you plug ‘em in.

Available in five colors, the Z150 tops out at 8.1 megapixels — more than adequate for the party scene (birthday and otherwise). A generous helping of Best Shot presets takes the guesswork out of shooting fireworks, auction photos, candlelight vigils and the like. But as you might expect, the camera produces considerable image noise when the lights are low and the ISO high. With sufficient lighting, however, you’ll get smooth, sharp, well-balanced photos. Only the color reproduction disappoints: It’s good, but lacking that zing we see in competing models from, say, Canon.

Of course, some of Canon’s pocket shooters tend toward the bulky as well, so we can forgive the EX-Z150 its slightly excessive carriage. And we’re mad for its big screen, sweet wide-angle lens, and affordable price. Priceline Shatner would be proud.

  • Camera Resolution: 8.1 megapixels
  • Optical Zoom: 4x
  • Digital Zoom: 4x
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