The Casio Exilim EX-Z800 is a digital camera created to be the cheap alternative to the sleeker S200. The two cameras share the same 14.1-megapixel, 4x lens, and 2.7-inch LCD specs, but the S200 comes in a thinner body and sells for about $30 more than the Z800. As the frumpy big sister, the $149 Casio Z800 was an utter disaster.
Body and Design
The Casio Z800 feels flimsy and cheap because it is flimsy and cheap. The skinny body is constructed with thin plastic; clearly, Casio cut corners on this area – and it shows. After a few days of normal use, the Z800 broke. The scoping lens got stuck part-way out of the camera body, and the camera wouldn’t turn on after that. Casio sent us a new Z800 to replace the defective one, but that one broke too. After another few days of testing, some kind of error code appeared on the screen, and the camera wouldn't shut off without pulling the battery. This did not make a very good impression.
The Z800 has a skinnier sexier sibling, but it is good-looking and thin enough with 91 x 52 x 19.5mm measurements. It has a glossy finish and comes in six bright colors. The front of the camera has a 4x optical zoom lens that telescopes outward when turned on (at least when it's working). The lens has a 27mm wide angle to it, perfect for better landscapes, but beware the moving parts on this camera: They won’t last.
The 2.7-inch LCD screen takes up most of the real estate on the back of the camera, so the remaining space is crowded with tiny buttons. The buttons aren’t anything special, but they get the job done (unless you have big and/or numb fingers). The power button on the top of the Z800 is recessed enough that it won’t turn on in your pocket, and the shutter button is smartly designed as the biggest button on the camera.
There is a tiny plastic cover on the side of the Casio Z800 that hides the USB/AV port, but the cover doesn’t fit well into the body. Rather than sealing dust out, the cover hangs loose. I would normally say that after a year or two, dust and grime are bound to get into the camera through this port, but I don’t think the Casio Z800 will last even that long.
Image Quality and Performance
When it worked, the Casio Z800 was fun to use. It has 35 of Casio's Best Shot scene modes that cover just about every possible photographic situation, from Food and Documents to Landscape and Portrait. There are a few artsy modes such as Watercolor and Crayon that transformed the live view into a sketchy cartoon. I don’t see these producing great quality photos to hang on a wall, but they are fun to play with. The Make-Up mode is interesting: it combines face detection with in-camera processing that exaggerates skin colors and smoothes blemishes in skin. This mode made my one-year-old daughter look like a baby doll.
The all-purpose Premium Auto mode had trouble with exposure even in decent outdoor lighting. The highlights were overexposed and the shadows were sometimes underexposed. The Z800 employs a fair amount of in-camera noise processing, which shows when you enlarge the image beyond about 8 x 10 inches.
Between the smoothing effect of the noise processing and the slow, ineffective auto focus, the images aren’t very crisp. The Casio Exilim EX-Z800 is a 14-megapixel digital camera, but all that resolution won’t do you any good if the subjects are fuzzy.
The colors in the Z800’s images are typical of a compact digital camera: they are exaggerated, but the exaggeration depends on the selected scene mode. The colors in the Auto mode look eye-catching, and colors in the Landscape mode look eye-boggling.
The Casio Z800 has a movie mode with standard and high definition resolution options. The standard 640 x 480-pixel mode records at the usual 30 frames per second (fps), but the 1280 x 720-pixel HD mode records only 20 fps. You can’t tell the difference when subjects are still, but you’ll be able to tell that something is amiss whenever your subjects are moving.
Do not buy the Casio Z800. Both review models had serious quality-control problems. When the first one broke, it could just have been a fluke. But after the second one bit the dust, despite my bubbled-wrapped efforts to keep it safe, it was pretty easy to chalk up the defects to a poor design. And even if you're lucky enough to get one that works, the picture quality is mediocre.
Sure, the Casio Z800 is inexpensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to entirely sacrifice quality and run the risk of such disasters. There are dozens of better point-and-shoots and ultracompacts out there, most of which cost less than the Z800. Once again, do not buy this camera.