The Casio Exilim range continues to grow and this, the latest little Exilim puts a marker down for those requiring a simple and easy to use digital camera with a modicum of extras thrown in to help get better results.



The Z60 also features a whopping 33 Best Shot (or scene or subject) modes, each tailored to specific tasks such as portraits, landscapes and the like. In fact this is where the Z60's auto modes take over from the more manual control chores; it has so many of these Best Shot (BS) modes because they're designed to take the guesswork out of the scene they're designed to get the best of.

Therefore, those looking for more manual control will not be enamoured of the Z60's all auto approach on that front, but as this camera is not designed with them in mind anyway, it's not a problem. The downside is you need to dig the setting you need out from within the comprehensively complex BS menu, you get help text with each mode so you know what it's best for too.

This BS menu contains the usual array of such scene modes; as well as the two mentioned earlier you get a plethora of other settings from macro and "collection" modes to party, candle with portrait, pet, natural green and splashing water settings. There are also document settings for copying text or even copying old photos (Casio calls it Revive Shot technology) and restoring their colour, all in-camera.

It is also within the BS modes that the anti-shake mode can be selected, as can the high sensitivity setting. The drawback here is that rather than have the anti shake usable in any mode it must be selected specifically from within this menu.

That aside the rest of the kit is fairly standard at this level: the 3x zoom lens offers a modest 38-114mm focal range (in 35mm film terms) and an equally modest maximum aperture range of only F3.1 to F5.9, hence the high sensitivity setting of ISO 800 – or the anti shake mode – are called into action quite a lot.

Actually using the camera is straight forward thanks to a typical control layout providing a shutter button and an extremely small sliver of an on/off button on the curved top plate. The rest of the controls sit alongside the impressively large, 2.5-inch colour screen on the camera's back plate.

Here are displayed the 9-point AF zones, the histogram display (if selected) and other shooting information or camera settings and battery life indicator. Incidentally, as with most Casio Exilims, the latter provides a good duration of around 180 shots from a full charge depending on flash and screen usage.

Other neat functions include a superb high-speed flash refresh mode: you can shoot three consecutive flash shots within one second, which is very cool. The flash control is however a bit hit and miss, with close subjects getting bleached out by unquenched flash (though there is a Soft Flash setting to help combat this problem), yet more distant subjects not getting enough, light that is!

However, Casio's Exilim engine (the bit that does all the image processing and lends these cameras their name) works very hard indeed making the most of the camera's excellent 6-megapixel resolution and proving very responsive.

The camera switches on quickly (just under a second) with negligible shutter lag when snapping and image playback is extremely snappy at around 0.1-seconds from pressing the playback button to an image appearing on the screen. So, while the camera provides a simple to use, nippy package, what of the all important image quality?

Significantly, noise is controlled well in brighter areas of a scene using the Z60's two high ISO modes the anti-shake and high sensitivity settings – other ISO's available provide the fairly usual 100, 200 and 400 ISO sensitivity – but shadow areas and darker parts of scene do suffer from red and blue blotches of noise.

However, a high-quality ISO 50 mode is there to cut noise issues down to practically nothing, but I found myself wishing for the combination of the anti shake mode and ISO 50 setting to be selectable together as a manual option. However, the way the camera is designed it is not possible since the ISO is selected automatically in the anti-shake-shooting mode.

Keeping things satisfyingly sharp, the 3x zoom lens provides a crisply defined image right up to the edges (something the recently tested Casio S600 failed to do) so getting pleasing enlargements (or crops) is not a problem. What is problematic is some odd processing artefacts within highlights, which give some admittedly small areas of the image an odd speckled look.

One other aspect of the camera's image making performance is highlight control, which quickly losses detail and saps colour from areas that are more neutral. Having said that, for most general snaps, the camera performs excellently and it is only when pushed to its limits, say, shooting with heavy backlighting or very bright subject matter in the frame, things can go a bit awry.

Verdict

Casio's Exilim compacts are quietly building a big fan base with those that know of them and word of mouth, offering stylish, simple to use and compact cameras at good prices. The Z60 retails for a penny under £200, but you'll get it around £30 cheaper by shopping around and as such it makes great value.



More than adequate image quality and a veritable host of automated snapping options to throw at almost any shooting situation make it very usable indeed. It may lack the controllability of some similar competitor models, but it also lacks their price premium. As such, it is certainly worth putting on your wants list, if a simple to use and competent digital compact is what you’re after.