Casio is adding an optical zoom function and higher resolution image sensor to its credit-card sized Exilim digital-still camera. The Exilim Zoom EX-Z3 is the third member of the Exilim family, which has been well received by consumers because of its light weight and compact size. The new camera combines a 3x optical zoom with a 3.2-megapixel CCD sensor. Both features are a step above the current top-of-the-range Exilim EX-S2, which offers a 4x digital zoom and two-megapixel CCD. For users, the company claims, the optical zoom will mean no reduction in picture quality when the zoom is utilized. The higher resolution means a maximum size image of 2,048-x-1,536 pixels, and will mean better-looking pictures, especially when printed out, Casio says. The company has also increased the size of the LCD monitor on the rear of the camera from 1.6-inches to two, although the resolution remains the same. Other features include 10MB of internal memory, which is a reduction from 12MB in the EX-S2. With the larger images that are a result of the higher quality CCD sensor, this means enough room for just six photos at maximum quality. Like the previous models, there is a slot for Secure Digital (SD) or Multimedia Card (MMC) memory cards. A 64MB SD card can accommodate between 34 images and 618 images depending on the quality and resolution setting. The camera also employs Epson’s USB Direct Print protocol that allows the camera to send images directly to a compatible printer without the need for a PC. Perhaps the biggest difference between the new Exilim and the two previous models is its greater thickness, which is a result of the addition of the optical zoom function and its associated mechanism. The camera measures 87-x-57mm tall, which is almost identical to the previous models and still roughly credit card size, but is 22.9mm thick. That’s double the thickness of the original models. It is also heavier at 126g, versus 88g for the EX-S2. Casio will put the Exilim Zoom EX-Z3 on sale in Japan in March at a price expected to be around ¥50,000 (about £300). Sales in international markets are expected to begin shortly afterwards.