A friend frequently expressed her frustrations about her digital compact camera to us; she found her camera to be too "slow". She never understood why the camera would only capture the image a split second after she depressed the shutter release button. It was almost impossible for her to snap fast-moving subjects due to her camera's "speed" and she considered changing her camera more than once.
This limitation is actually very common to digital compact cameras and it is called shutter lag. It refers to the time delay between triggering the shutter and the actual capturing of the image. Unfortunately most digital compact cameras are known for their significant shutter lag so it’s especially tricky to snap fast-moving subjects such as children or pets.
That’s where Casio’s Exilim EX-ZR700 comes in. Launched at the end of January along with the EX-ZR400 model, they seem to genuinely want to help resolve the common shutter lag concern in the compact camera segment. Both the ZR700 and the ZR400 not only aim for zero-shutter lag, but also enable users to never miss a shot with a fast start-up time and quick autofocus. Focusing on the EX-ZR700 model we have for review, in addition to the above mentioned, it also sports an impressive 18x optical zoom, making it seem like an ideal compact camera for those who shoot sports and wildlife.
But will the ZR700 actually deliver on its promise? Or will it be another pipe dream for compact camera users? We share our findings in this next few pages.
The ZR700 has a metal body that feels sturdy and durable. The mode dial and zoom lever also give off these qualities, though the scroll wheel on the rear feels a bit cheap and fragile. Similar to other Superzoom models, the ZR700 has a multi-speed zooming lens, so how fast you move from wide-angle to the tele-end depends on how hard you move the zoom lever. The review model we got had a pink color body, but if that's not to your liking, you would be happy to know there are many more color options like white, black, brown and red.
The ZR700 also comes with a hand grip on the front and thumb rest on the rear. While these features contributed to a secure grip in the beginning, if you happen to have sweaty hands, the textured surface of the plastic grip and thumb rest won’t really help after a day of shooting. We would have preferred if Casio went with a rubber hand grip and thumb rest.
The rear of the camera is dominated by its 3-inch 921k-dot LCD screen. 921-k dots sounds pretty high-resolution, but not all high-resolution displays actually look great. Thankfully, the ZR700’s display looks sharp and nice. But with many current compact camera models sporting touch-sensitive displays, we were disappointed that the ZR700 did not come with one. Beside the display you have the Movie button, which oddly records video, while the Rec button actually brings you to the shooting mode if you press it while you’re in Playback mode.
People are drawn to digital compact cameras because of their size and ease of use. There are no complicated controls, multiple dials and buttons like on a DSLR camera; even those not familiar with cameras can just pick up a digital compact and start shooting. The ZR700 is one such camera that has a simple user interface that made shooting for us very fuss-free.
Settings that are commonly used during the actual process of shooting such as image size, quality and image stabilization can all be accessed via the Menu button. Depressing the Set button during shooting will bring up a list of most of the commonly-used settings such as white balance, ISO and exposure compensation. This made shooting far easier and quicker instead of having to access layers of menus in order to adjust a setting. But we mentioned most instead of all the commonly-used settings and that’s because we found ourselves wishing that Casio also included the AF mode selection in the shooting menu instead of the settings menu. For a camera that boasts superior AF speed and zero-shutter lag as its main selling points, having to access the settings menu and search for the AF selection mode felt jarring in an otherwise smooth shooting experience.