Apart from a still modest and pocket-friendly depth of 23mm, Casio's newest camera maintains the Exilim tradition of being roughly the same size as a credit card. Shoehorned into these modest dimensions is a mighty 12.1MP sensor and some serious supporting technology, delivering pictures up to 4000 x 3000 pixels in size.

To make the most of this kind of resolution, you'd normally need a high-quality DSLR lens, so we were keen to see how well the Casio's thimble-sized optics delivered.

Like most new compact cameras, the Casio has no optical viewfinder, relying instead on a generously proportioned 2.8-inch LCD for framing shots.

Apart from shooting movies in optional widescreen format, the LCD's wide-aspect ratio enables space for a useful display panel down the right-hand side, listing the important settings currently in use.

The perennial problem of framing shots with an LCD rather than a viewfinder is that you have to hold the camera at arm's length, so there's plenty of potential for unwanted camera-shake. The EX-Z1200 combats this with an anti-shake system.

The poor relation of a true optical image stabiliser, this is a CCD-shift mechanism, often used on camcorders. However, value-added features include options like automatic ISO boosting to reduce the effects of movement. In our tests, the system worked reasonably well but it isn't a match for a 'proper' optical stabilisation system in terms of consistency or giving you extra stops to play with.

More cunning trickery is on offer in the focusing department which, apart from having multi-zone and nine fixed points to choose from, also comes with a face- recognition option and an automatic tracking facility. In

Tracking mode, the camera analyses both the velocity and vector of a moving subject and, as well as adjusting focus continuously, adjusts the ISO and shutter speed if necessary, in an attempt to freeze fast-moving targets. All the focus modes worked effectively in our tests, with fast, consistent performance.

The Casio's lens fares well, considering its meagre size. There's only a 3x zoom range, equivalent to 37-111mm, but distortion, flare and chromatic aberration are all kept under control. In Aperture Priority mode there are only two settings to choose from, ranging from f/2.8 or f/8 at the wide-angle end to f/5.4 or f/15.4 at the telephoto end - a limited choice, but better than nothing.

The lens and supporting Exilim Engine 2.0 image-processing engine produce crisp results, doing justice to the sensor's 12MP resolution and enabling even radical picture cropping.

Colour rendition is vibrant by default, with the kind of colour curves you associate with Kodachrome or Fuji Velvia slide film. Darkly rich greens in landscapes are a speciality. To be picky, colour balance is on the cool side, especially for skin tones, but the auto white balance is good indoors under tungsten lighting.

Switching to flash, the sync speed is exceptional, enabling its use throughout the entire shutter speed range from 30s to 1/2000s.

In basic Snapshot mode, the camera makes good choices for contrast, colour, sharpness and other image attributes almost all of the time. However, when the going gets tough and you get more discerning, there are 35 Best Shot scene modes to choose from, available from a clear, thumbnail-enhanced menu.

Better still, there's the option to change various image attributes like dynamic range, white balance, brightness, keystone and colour correction, after shooting in Playback mode. What's more, the LCD is just about accurate enough to let you do this with confidence.

So, overall, the Casio is perfect for when you need a really high-resolution, versatile camera that's still small enough to fit in your pocket.

Via PhotoRadar