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Design

The EX-Z3 continues the EXILIM tradition of being extremely thin, especially when you consider the size of the lens which extends out of it. Having said that it's not quite as thin as the Pentax Optio S which uses the same lens, the difference seems to be the EX-Z3's two inch LCD monitor which adds a few millimeters (the Optio S has a flush fitting LCD monitor). Or perhaps Pentax said, "sure you can have the lens, just don't make a camera thinner than ours!" Joking aside, the EX-Z3 is very pocketable and lightweight with clean lines, good build quality and a reliable long lasting feel.

Side by side

As noted above the Optio S is slightly thinner than the EX-Z3 but there's very little difference in size between the two. Although the cameras are based around the same lens system they are certainly not based on the same chassis, all other items in the camera are in different places, even the lenses are at different heights. Fully loaded (ready to shoot) the EX-Z3 weighs 146 g (5.1 oz) compared to the Optio S at 116 g (4.1 oz), this difference is probably down to the use of aluminium for the body of the Optio S.

In your hand

Despite its thinness I found the EX-Z3 easy to grip, it does have a small finger grip on the front which helps orientate the camera. At the back the LCD monitor dominates the entire rear, it's all you can see once you've grabbed the camera. Casio do have a knack for tactile design, the EX-Z3 is no exception, all controls and surfaces feel solid and look good.


LCD Monitor

What can I say about the EX-Z3's LCD monitor other than the obvious, it's huge. A two inch LCD monitor looks big on most digital cameras, on a tiny pocketable digital camera like this it simply dominates. I'm sure the large LCD monitor will become a selling point for this camera. While the LCD is big on size it's not big on pixel count, with just 85,000 pixels it can look blocky and slightly rough compared to the high resolution 1.5" units we're used to using. The LCD monitor provides 99% frame coverage.


Viewfinder

It goes without saying that this ultra compact digital camera doesn't have much in the way of a viewfinder, more of a pinhole to squint through. I admit I'm being a little cruel, there isn't a single ultra compact digital camera with a good viewfinder. The EX-Z3's viewfinder has no dioptre adjustment, no parallax correction lines (for close shots) and no center cross or brackets. The viewfinder offers just 75% frame coverage (which is pretty terrible).

The two lights beside the viewfinder indicate the following:

Green Steady Good AF Lock
Green Flashing Can not AF Lock
Red Steady Flash is charged, will be used for next shot
Red Flashing Flash charging
Green & Red Flashing Writing image to SD / MMC card


Battery & Storage Compartment

The EX-Z3 has a combined battery and storage compartment. Open the door by sliding it to the side (neat metal hinge mechanism), inside you will find the battery (held in place with a small latch) and an SD/MMC slot. The SD/MMC is a press click-in, press click-out type. As you would expect the EX-Z3 has a very small Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery with a rated capacity of 680 mAh at 3.7V.


Cradle

The supplied cradle performs four functions. Firstly it acts as a charging station for the battery, drop the camera into the dock and the battery begins charging. Secondly it can be used to turn the camera into a 'Photo Stand' which runs a slideshow of images on the LCD monitor. Thirdly it provides USB connectivity to a computer and lastly can also connect directly to an Epson printer supporting the USB Direct-Print protocol. It does not however provide any video out capability, something missing from the EX-Z3.

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