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ePHOTOzine verdict and ratings
|Casio Exilim EX-S200: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.|
|In this review, Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at the latest slim compact Exilim digital camera from Casio.|
Sitting pretty at the top of Casio's range of slim compact digital cameras, the EX-S200 comes equipped with a 4x zoom lens with a wide angle equivalent to 27mm on a 35mm camera, and a 14 megapixel CCD sensor with mechanical image stabilisation. All this has been squeezed into a body which is only 14.9mm thick, if any protrusions are ignored.
When the camera hits the shops it should retail for around £199 and will be aimed at those after a high quality, but simple to use compact, that will easily slip into a purse or pocket. The style conscious amongst us will also be pleased to hear it comes in a range of colours. Besides the orange colour of our review sample, it will also be available in Black, Silver, Blue and Pink finishes.
Casio Exilim EX-S200: Features
The Exilim EX-S200 is described as a lifestyle camera by Casio, due to the inclusion of features to aid ease of use and due to it's slim, compact dimensions. A 14 megapixel CCD sensor lies at the heart of the EX-S200, which should provide images with ample resolution for very large prints. A 4x zoom lens covering a useful range equivalent to 27-108mm does the job of forming an image, and image stabilisation is taken care of by a CCD shift mechanism, which should allow sharp images to be taken at slower shutter speeds. To extend the zoom range further, Casio have included a feature which reduces the resolution once the zoom has reached it's telephoto limit, rather than upsampling the image like traditional digital zoom system do. This should give very little loss of quality in practice.
Casio's new Premium Auto mode is also included, which works in a similar way to automatic scene selection modes on other cameras, choosing the correct scene program for the shooting scenario, which should produce better results. Face detection is also included to aid focus and exposure when taking shots of people.
Finally HD video recording is possible at 720p resolution for a maximum of 29 minutes. A one-touch video recording button is provided so there's no faffing about in the menu when you want to take a short movie quickly.
Casio Exilim EX-S200: Handling
The EX-S200 feels every bit a quality product. The materials used are of very high quality, and the fit and finish on the orange model supplied for review is very good indeed. I quite like the silver and orange two-tone design, but if the colour's a bit much for you, you can opt for a much more conservative silver or black option. The overall finish is smooth and sleek, but not slippery, so holding the camera is comfortable, despite its compact dimensions. To finish off the sleek appearance, the control on the rear of the camera are flush to the body. I found this could make them a little fiddly at first, but once I'd given myself chance to adjust to them they were quite pleasant to use.
Weighing only 132g with an SD card and the battery installed, the EX-S200 will be barely noticeable in a handbag or pocket. A silver wrist strap loop is provided if you prefer to have the camera dangling from your wrist in use. The controls are laid out in a simple and straightforward manner, with all the most common features falling within easy reach of index finger and thumb.
Casio Exilim EX-S200: Performance
In use I found the EX-S200 to be quite a responsive camera, focusing quickly and with little noticeable shutter lag. However, when using some of the Best Shot modes, or the Premium Auto Mode is used, the camera stalls for a second or two while it processes the image taken, which can delay taking the next shot.
Overall, the metering system of the EX-S200 performs well, coping admirably in a wide range of conditions, including backlit and predominantly bright scenes. When the face detection system is active exposures are bang on pretty much all of the time.
Images have good contrast and colour saturation, but the saturation is never so strong that it looks unnatural. I noticed that the dynamic range at lower sensitivities appears good for a camera of this level, with the transition to blown highlights looking natural, rather than abrupt.
ISO and noise performance
The EX-S200 produces images with no significant noise up to ISO200, where a little noise starts to creep into the shadows, but the levels are still quite low and won't really affect the quality of printed images. Squeezing so many pixels into a small sensor as found in this camera is bound to have its own compromises, and in this case it's the early increase in noise levels, and softening due to noise reduction.
By ISO400 images are still of acceptable quality, but detail is lost to heavy noise reduction. This can be seen clearly in the brickwork in the outdoor ISO test images. Beyond ISO400 the noise levels continue to increase, but aren't overly disturbing until ISO1600, where coloured speckles and JPEG artefacts start to destroy detail, even on the highest quality setting. Images taken at ISO3200 should be reserved for sharing at small sizes on the web, as the speckles of noise, and the noise reduction system's attempts to control it have all but destroyed any fine detail in the image.
|Casio Exilim EX-S200 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
|Casio Exilim EX-S200 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
I have to say I am impressed by the performance of the Auto White balance on the EX-S200. In use, and in our formal studio tests, it appears to perform almost as well as setting the white balance preset manually, under either incandescent or fluorescent lighting. Under incandescent lights a slight warm cast can be left behind, but this looks pleasant and natural. The images taken with AWB and the fluorescent preset under the warm-white fluorescents in our studio are virtually indistinguishable.
Buffer read/write times
When shooting in the standard auto mode, with no Best Shot functions enabled, the camera's shot to shot delay is typical of this level, taking 2.1seconds on average. When the Premium Auto mode, or certain Best Shot functions are enabled, this can take up to five seconds, while the screen informs you that it is processing premium auto. Although the results with this feature are generally good, the delays involved may put many off using it altogether.
A 14 megapixel sensor as found in the EX-200 will be quite demanding on the quality of the lens. It seems Casio haven't scrimped with the 4x optic fitted, as it produces images with good sharpness, detail and contrast from edge to edge in good conditions.
Distortion is well controlled, with straight lines remaining true, even at the wide end, only showing obvious signs of barrelling when you use the macro function. The closest focus during macro shooting is only 8cm, which is a little disappointing.
Flare and ghosting is kept well under control, with little or no flare present when the sun is in the frame. Chromatic aberrations don't pose much of an issue either, with slight fringing becoming visible in areas of extreme contrast.
Casio Exilim EX-S200: Verdict
Overall I found the EX-S200 to be a very good quality, stylishly designed compact which is capable of taking excellent quality images in good lighting conditions. It would have been nice for the quality at high sensitivities to be a little better, but as a point and shoot for holidays, or for snapshots with the flash it is a very competent performer.
Those after a slim and stylish compact with excellent build quality and plenty of features to aid ease of use won't go far wrong with this camera. To me the recommended price of £199 seems about right for a camera of this level.
Casio Exilim EX-S200: Pros
Slim and compact
Good build quality
Easy to use
Good lens quality
Great quality at low ISO sensitivities
Good auto white balance performance
Casio Exilim EX-S200: Cons
Noise at higher sensitivities
Limited macro range
Delays in premium auto and some best shot modes
Casio Exilim EX-S200: Specification
|What comes in the box||Rechargeable lithium ion battery, lithium ion battery charger, AC power cord, USB cable, AV cable, strap, CD-ROM|
|Lens||6 lenses in 5 groups, including aspherical lens|
|Sensor type||Square pixel CCD|
|Max. Image size||4320 x 3240|
|LCD monitor size||2.7inch|
|Focusing system||Contrast detection|
|Focusing modes||Intelligent AF, Spot AF, Multi AF, Tracking AF, Face Detection|
|Metering system||Multi-pattern (center weighted for some BS scenes)|
|Metering modes||Auto, Premium Auto, Dynamic Photo, Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with Scenery, Self Portrait, Children, Sports, Candlelight Portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Autumn Leaves, Soft Flowing Water, Splashing Water, Sundown, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Collection, Auction, Backlight, High Sensitivity, Oil Painting, Crayon, Water Colour, Monochome, Retro, Twilight, Multi-Motion Image, ID Photo, Business Card, Whiteboard, Silent|
|White-balance||Auto WB, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White FL, Daylight FL, Tungsten, Manual WB|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 2EV|
|Shutter speed range||4 to 1/2000 second|
|Anti-shake mode||CCD Shift Shake Reduction|
|Movie mode||HD: 1280 x 720|
|Media type||SD, SDHC|
|Power||Rechargeable lithium ion battery (NP-120)|
|Size (wxdxl)||100.1 (W) x 55.3 (H) x 17.8 (D) mm, 14.9mm thick excluding protruding parts|
|Weight (with battery)||132g|
The Casio Exilim EX-S200 costs £199.