If you're a Casio fan and interested in the 7.2 megapixel EX-Z750, do yourself a favor and do not look at Casio's sexy little S500 first. In and by itself, the Z750 is a thin, stylish and totally terrific digital camera with almost no weaknesses. However, sit it next to its stunningly glamorous little sister, and the Z750 looks big as a house and almost a bit frumpy. Which is amazing as its footprint is actually a little bit smaller than that of the S500. It's also only a quarter of an inch thicker (0.88 versus 0.63 inches) and weighs less than an ounce more, yet that makes all the visual and tactile difference in the world--the Z750 is a small compact camera whereas the S500 is a sensuous fashion statement. It also doesn't help the Z750's cause that its overall very nicely styled body feels a bit chintzy (down to the gray plastic tripod mount) though it looks metallic.
If you appreciate beauty that is more than skin-deep, you'll find an awful to like in the Z750. 7.2 megapixel mean you have a lot more resolution to work with. The LCD is a full 2.5 inches diagonal and there is also an optical viewfinder. While the controls aren't quite as minimalistically stylish as those of the S500, they are equally clear and well designed. An indication of the Z750's superior power is a standard mode dial with eight settings: auto, scene select, manual exposure (including aperture and shutter priority), voice recording, past movie (5-second clip before shutter is pressed), short movie (for 8-second clips centering on shutter click), movie best shot (similar to picking scenes), and just plain movie.
If battery life matters, the thicker body of the Z750 allows for a much higher capacity powerpack that's rated at a nice 325 pictures. Some other features of the Z750 are likewise beefier. You can not only attach audio snaps to individual pictures, but you can also use the camera as a regular voice recorder and keep recording until the memory card is full. And audio playback is loud and clear.
The Z750 excels in the video department. It records 640 x 480 video at 30 frames per second and in the high quality MPEG4 format. You can keep recording as long as you want (only limited by memory and battery) and zoom in and out during recording as well as during playback. The exceedingly clever "Past Movie" and "Short Movie" modes are addictive. With "Past Movies" the camera "watches" what's going on without actually recording. Then when something happens you push the record button and, bang, the eight seconds leading up to the event are recorded. With "Short Movies" the camera also watches, then records four seconds before and four seconds after you press the shutter. Scenes, likewise, pack a punch. There are 30 in all, including one that creates five different size portraits from a single shot, one that straightens out business cards, anti-shake, filters, you name it.
Finally--and perhaps most importantly for serious photographers--the Z750 is one ultra-compact that also offers complete manual control as well as aperture priority and shutter priority.
Despite its larger size, the Z750 also relies on the cradle for charging and for all cable communication with a PC. That means you have to take along the cradle wherever you go--not a pleasant prospect. You can, of course, get a separate battery charger, but that adds US$50 to the overall cost.
While it doesn't have the sex appeal and stunning looks of the S500, the Z750 offers more in almost every respect, and it does so at just US$50 more and with a very small penalty in extra thickness and weight.The difference between those two stablemates is really a difference in philosophy. While the S500 is a fashion statement that is also a surprisingly decent camera, the Z750 is a truly great camera that is also surprisingly small and elegant.
With all the praise we heaped on the Z750, does it excel in image quality also? It does, scoring near the top. Pictures consistently looked terrific. The sole caveat is that at times there isn't quite as much sharpness under magnification as we'd have liked to see.