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The arrangement may be handy for trick shots, but the reliance on the large LCD means it's hard to see what you're shooting in bright light - even though you can angle the screen to avoid excessive glare. It also means that the camera has to be used away from your eye, usually at chest height - and this is not the most comfortable, natural or sturdy position to shoot photographs from.
The number of buttons around the camera are kept to a minimum - and for most of the controls you need to access the on-screen menu system. This is brightly laid out, but the navigation system takes a bit of getting used to, as in conjunction with the two cursor keys on top of the camera, you have to select options using the camera trigger itself.
The camera's 2.1 million-pixel CCD can yield images, in JPEG format alone, at up to 1600x1200. Using the lowest, highest-quality, compression, up to eight of the resulting 850Kb files can be stored on the supplied 8Mb CompactFlash card. Obviously for those wanting top-quality results a bigger card is going to be top of your accessory purchase list - but the good news here is that the camera supports IBM Microdrive for those wanting as much storage as possible. This storage medium means you can store up to 400 high-quality images on one 340Mb microscopic hard drive (costing under 250).
The camera's powered by four AA batteries - but a rechargeable option is available, which allows you to replenish the power from the mains, without having to remove the cells.
Casio have gone out of their way to provide all the exposure controls that you would ever need - for the beginner and expert alike. In aperture-priority mode, you get three iris settings from f/3.2 through to f/8. In shutter-priority, there are 52 steps from 1/2000sec down to 60secs. There's also a B setting to keep the shutter open as long as you keep the shutter pressed (again up to 60secs) - to minimise vibration during such long exposures you can use the supplied wired remote control. Additionally there's a full manual exposure mode where you can select the aperture and shutter speed yourself.
Program exposure control is available along with three special programs that optimise exposure for portraits, landscapes and night scenes. For those who want to be guided further into creative photography there are 28 pre-recorded programs that set up the camera for special picture situations - such as architecture, group portraits, flowing water etc. With each you get a thumbnail shot showing the type of effect you might achieve and the assumptions it will make. Not only do these change shutter speed and aperture to suit, they also change the sharpness, contrast, saturation and filtration of the image. With some of these scene modes, an outline is even superimposed over the viewfinder, to help you with the composition. Experienced users might scoff, but there are some handy settings here for know-alls too - such as a mode for photographing text and for taking better-saturated close-ups of flowers. What's more you can save settings for four scenes of your own - giving you a quick way of getting to different preferred set-ups you might develop. You can also call up a grid that superimposes over the viewfinder that's useful with architectural shots to help you keep verticals upright.
Digital effects can be applied separately with a choice of black/white, sepia, green, blue, yellow, pink and purple filters at a flick of a few switches. A PC socket for connecting an additional flash is provided - and the built-in gun has three power settings so that flash output can be adjusted separately from the ambient exposure.
This camera is a treasure trove of interesting features. There's an intervalometer to take pictures at regular intervals from one minute to one hour, you can also delay the start, up to 24 hours, to capture, say, nocturnal wildlife while you're asleep. There's also full control over focusing (let down by no information on distance and cumbersome interface), and an infinity lock (handy when shooting out of bus windows or fireworks etc.
As well as offering USB connection for Mac and Windows 98/2000, PC users also get a serial connection lead. PC users also get Photo Loader and Panorama Editor software (Mac users get nothing other than the USB driver).
Our test shots show that the camera offers excellent colour reproduction. However the resolution and sharpness obtained are not quite up to that of the rivals in this test, but this is still a respectable performance.
This is an extremely well-specified camera for its price - particularly as you get such a wide-ranging zoom. However, to keep below 60, Casio does make you work harder to take advantages of the facilities. The lack of eyelevel viewfinder is one obstacle to easy picture taking - and then there is the convoluted on-screen menu system. However, if you want lens power, and can't afford more ergonomic models, then this is still a good choice.
- 8x optical zoom
- Small size
- Value for money
- Microdrive compatibility
- No optical viewfinder
- Fiddly on-screen controls
- Only 8Mb card supplied
Test by Chris George