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The 8 megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z850, big brother to stylish 6 megapixel sisters the EX-Z600 and EX-S600, shares some, but not all of its siblings’ fun and functional features. And then it adds some of its own features and functions to the lineup.

Like the EX-Z600, the EX-850 has eBay mode for optimized online auction images, and like the EX-S600, it has old-time silent movie mode.

The 3x Optical zoom (38mm-114mm 35mm equivalent) EX-Z850 has a slightly bigger footprint than either of its 6MP sisters, which allows more real estate for dedicated dials and buttons for certain functions and settings. Shooting mode is selected via a dial to the left of the 2.5 inch LCD, above the typical multi-direction plus center button cluster on the camera back. To the right of the LCD on the angled back edge of the camera are two small square buttons. The top controls shooting modes — single, multi, multi-flash, etc. The lower is dedicated to image quality controls — ISO, white balance, image size, and AF selection. The addition of all these dedicated buttons and dials means you’ll spend less time thumbing through menu after submenu, and more time framing your next photo. Also, the user can assign a number of different functions to the left/right multicontroller buttons, to make switching your most frequent image quality control choices that much quicker.

The 2.5 inch LCD display is slightly smaller than the 2.7 incher on the EX-Z600, but that’s because the EX-Z850 sports something rare in a compact digicam these days: an optical viewfinder! It’s tiny but functional, and it’s nice to know that the optical viewfinder, while rare, isn’t extinct.

In High-burst mode, the Exilim EX-Z850 can focus and shoot three shots in just about one second — with or without flash, which is a nice touch for a camera in this class. In flash burst mode, light output is very consistent, varying by just about 1/3 stop between the first and subsequent shots. In regular burst mode, the EX-Z850 shoots for a long time at a rate of just over one per second. In Regular Flash burst mode, the EX-Z850 managed to fire off 10 shots in 27 seconds, for an average flash burst recharge time of 2.7 seconds, indoors, in typical office lighting conditions.

Among shooting modes are the typical “Snapshot” full-auto mode, along with Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Full Manual, a nice touch in a camera of this class. The camera boasts a Best Shot mode for both still and video, which preselects certain settings based upon shooting conditions. It is possible to expand the ISO range up to 1600 in certain Best Shot modes. Additionally, there is an audio recording mode for recording audio without video. As for audio, there are two other ways that audio is employed in the EX-Z850. Audio Snap records up to 30 seconds of audio after you shoot a photo. Additionally, you can “dub” notes or comments to a photo in playback mode.

As with the other Exilim digicams we’ve tested, we’re impressed with the fast AF speed in good lighting, and with the AF assist beam in low lighting. It will slow down without AF assist in low light, but that’s to be expected.

On the video side, the EX-Z850 shoots up to 30 frames per seconds at 640×480 and allows you to zoom while recording. They’ve also included several Movie Best Shot modes, some of which are Backlighting, Nighttime, and the just plain fun “Silent Movie Mode,” which records in Monochrome, minus sound, and plays back slightly quicker than normal.

In the lab, the Casio Exilim EX-Z850 scored Excellent in Color Accuracy, with an Average Delta E of 8.88 (ISO 50, AWB). There is visible Barrel Distortion at 1x (.42%), Imperceptible Barrel Distortion at 2x (.10%) and Imperceptible Barrel at 3x (.05%). Noise is Low at ISO 50 (1.57), Low at ISO 100 (1.87), Moderately Low at ISO 200 (2.25), and High/Unacceptable at ISO 400 (3.08). Resolution is Extremely High at ISO 50 (1630), ISO 100 (1580), and ISO 200 (1515), and Very High at ISO 400 (1390).

As we’ve mentioned, the Exilim EX-Z850 packs a lot of features and functionality to keep the big camera “Control Freak” member of the family happy, but it doesn’t overlook fun and easy shooting modes. Kids will love the “Pastel” and “Illustration” Best Shot Modes, which tweak the image into funky, high-contrast, artsy creations. Star Filter is also fun, as those of us that grew up with a Cokin filter starter set on our film SLRs will recall from way back when.

On the Playback side, there’s a basic slideshow, cropping option, and DPOF, all mostly standard features these days. But the EX-Z850 also includes several nice additions, including in-camera White Balance, Brightness and Color Correction fixes. It’s a nice addition to the Playback side of this Exilim camera, especially for direct-from-camera printing options.

Despite resolution numbers that are low for its class, and a limited usable ISO range, the Casio Exilim EX-Z850 does a lot of things right. The enthusiasts in the family will love the manual controls, while the kids will love the ease of use and fun best shot modes. With its combination of fun and functional features in a pocket-sized package, this could be one compact camera to make the whole family happy.

What’s Hot
– Lots of manual controls
– Lots of buttons means lots of top-level menu items
– Fun best shot modes such as Pastel, Illustration
– In-camera color correction, white balance correction, exposure correction.
– Hi speed Flash Burst Mode
– Optical viewfinder
– Silent Movie Mode is fun, funny

What’s Not
– Barrrel distortion at 1x impacts Macro work
– Limited user-selected ISO range.
– Despite 8MP sensor, Resolution is closer to a 6MP camera

Certified Test Results
Noise: Low at ISO 50 (1.57), Low at ISO 100 (1.87), Moderately Low at ISO 200 (2.25), and High/Unacceptable at ISO 400 (3.08).
Color: Excellent. Average Delta E 8.88, ISO 50, AWB
Distortion: Visible Barrel Distortion at 1x (.42%), Imperceptible Barrel distortion at 2x (.10%) and Imperceptible Barrel at 3x (.05%).
Resolution: Extremely High at ISO 50 (1630), ISO 100 (1580), and ISO 200 (1515), and Very High at ISO 400 (1390).

In the box:
NP-40 Lithium-Ion Battery (3.7v 1230mAh)
– Special AC Adaptor with AC Power Cord (for USB Cradle)
– USB Cradle
– USB Cable
– A/V Cable
– Wrist Strap
– Software CD-ROM
– User Manual
– 1-Year U.S.A. Limited Warranty
– ISO Range: ISO 50-400 (selectable), up to 1600 in High Sensitivity mode
Dimensions: 2.3 x 3.5 x .09 inches.
Weight: Approx 4.9 oz with battery and SD card.
Media Type: SD Card
CIPA Battery Life Estimate: 440 shots per charge