Good things can sneak up on you when you're not looking. Take the Casio Z 750, for example. It looks like any other pocket-size snapper but its release wasn't announced with dancing girls or Champagne fountains. In fact, it doesn't even profess to do anything particularly unusual.
It's so low-key we hardly noticed it. However, after a few of weeks of putting it through its paces, we love it. We'd go as far as saying it's as good as any pocket camera under £300. But keep it quiet... or everyone will want one.
What we have here is a neat little camera t hat looks all-but-identical to the 5-megapixel cameras we were swooning over a couple of y ears ago. Now, in 2006, they come with 7 -megapixels under the bonnet. The Casio Z 750 is basically the replacement for the Z50 and it's not just the pixel count that's been improved. What we are looking at here is a technological marvel.
Only a couple of years a go it would have been ridiculous to imagine packing so many pixels in such a small body. And to stress the point, this is genuinely pocket size - its longest dimension is only 8 9mm, or 3.5 inches, if you prefer. Casio promises A3 prints from such a modest box and it's not an exaggeration.
So why doesn't everyone own a Casio? The m ain problem is that Casio cameras have an i mage problem. Nothing to do with the quality of pictures they take, it's just that w hen you say to someone that you've got a Casio, they'll assume you're talking about a calculator. It's an unfair tag because the Japanese manufacturer has been pressing all the right buttons when it comes to pocketsized cameras for a few years now.
Off the blocks
The Casio starts as it means to go on. Turn it on and it snaps into life as though it's just been booted up the rear end. Press the shutter button and you've created yet another masterpiece in the blink of an eye. If that's not enough you can make the camera work even q uicker if you turn on the 'infinity focus' mode. T his little Casio is very eager to please.
With so much experience in making calculators you'd expect the buttons to be right and you will not be disappointed. T here's a red button to take pictures and a green one to play them back - simple. It's just a pity they aren't a bit bigger.
A new addition over its predecessor is the control dial on the back of the camera, which makes it easy to change the shooting mode. You use the dial to select a scene mode ( 'BestShot' as Casio calls them) or the snapshot or manual modes (although manual is far too fiddly to use).
You also use this dial t o select the video modes (there are four) and t he voice recorder. Although the control dial is useful, it is easy to accidentally turn it. More than once, we pulled the camera quickly from a bag to take a photograph to find out that w e were shooting a video - very annoying.
However, if you do find yourself shooting a video rather than a photograph, you'll not be disappointed with the quality. The Casio records in MPEG-4, which means it looks smooth, and you can keep shooting until the memory card is full.
So if you're one of the many owners of a similar pocket-sized 5-megapixel camera, is it worth upgrading to the Casio Z750? Well, it depends. If the largest print size you make is 7 x5 inches, then don't bother. If you make A4 prints then you will notice a slight difference.
If you have an A3 printer then the Z750's extra pixels will make themselves clear. We printed the image of the silhouette tree you see on this page at A3 and every branch is crystal clear.
Here we made another comparison between the Z750 and its forerunner, the 5 Mp Z50. At ISO 50 and 100 grain is hardly an issue with either camera but take it up to I SO400 and the 7Mp camera shows its extra c lass. Noise is reduced, as is colour noise.
Despite its desirability as a competent camera, the Casio Z750 has one major point against it - it looks a bit dull. In the style s takes it doesn't stack up well against the likes o f the Konica Minolta Dimage X1, the Nikon Coolpix P1 or almost any of the Olympus mju cameras. This could make it all too easy to overlook the Casio Z750 but you really shouldn't. It's one of the best pocket-sized cameras you can buy. Sean Malyon