Less is More; Casio Exilim

The Background

I've currently got two proper cameras; one Fuji S602Z and the Exilim. The Fuji is an SLR-like camera from many years back. I use that camera when I'm taking "serious" pictures. When the Fuji was my only camera I noticed that my overall photo snapping had gotten less, quite unfortunate really. Therefore I wanted something that would up my snap-count.

The Criteria

My 2nd (or has it become my 1st?!) camera had to fulfil a few very important criteria. Some of them a bit geeky, but mostly they're complete anti-geek requirements. Without further typing..:

  • It had to be small, so small that I couldn't make any excuse to take it with me.
  • It had to take pictures that had enough quality to be published on the web. I don't print pictures so super-high quality wasn't an issue. I had a mental soft limit of 3 megapixel.
  • It had to "just work", no fancy-pants stuff. Turn it on, snap a picture, put it back in your pocket.
  • It had to connect to a computer as an external drive, as I use Linux, and I could see myself in a situation where I take the camera to a friend's place and in that situation I don't want to install anything, nor do I want to carry around installation software.
  • It had to use a common storage format. Preferably MMC as I already had a Nokia 9500, which used MMC cards for storage. Using MMC meant that I could slide the card out of the camera and into the phone and email a picture away. Neat! MMC is also cheap. SD would have been another option, as SD is also cheap and readers are readily available.
  • As ever battery life is very important, so it would either have to run on common rechargeable AA or AAA batteries or the battery life would have to be such that I wouldn't care about charging etc. The Fuji S602Z uses 4 x AA batteries, so I already have that equipment. However AA batteries aren't very small. I didn't have much hope about finding a camera that was small and had an adequate battery life. This could be tricky.
  • Another criterion was that the camera had to be cheap. And by cheap I mean so cheap that should I lose it whilst riding home on the beer-scooter, I wouldn't regret it in the morning.

That's quite a list of things - especially the combination of small and cheap - they usually don't come walking hand-in-hand in the gadget world.
The geek in me would also like to see the following:

  • Good Zoom
  • Nice big display
  • Movie recording capability
  • Tons of settings that I'll probably never use.

The more I think, the more I realize that this little camera would have to be exceptional to "do it" for me.

Casio Exilim - My Choice

Casio Exilim compared to a UK 50p coin., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

The little Exilim, next to a UK 50 pence coin.

Casio Exilim's width, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Here you can see the thickness of the camera, or rather the lack of thickness.

Photo of the Casio Exilim, its battery and a 1gb MMC card, along with a box of matches and a 50p coin for size comparison, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

The Casio Exilim, the 680mAh battery, the 1gb MMC card, a 50p and a box of matches. The camera makes the matchbox look huge! You might notice how much of the innards of the camera is taken up by the battery. Quite an amazing feat to cram it all into that size.

I admit that I didn't do tons and tons of research (pretty much like the normal consumer?) before I ended up with the Exilim EX-S100. I did compare it to the slightly bulkier Exilim EX-Z40 which has got more pixels and is generally a bit more advanced camera. However size does matter and I opted for the smallest one.
One reason I didn't hesitate to go with the EX-S100 was that I'm aware of Casio's good reputation when it comes to the Exilim range. My friend bought one of the first Exilims and he was raving about it, despite the lack of screen and zoom. The newer ones come tricked with pretty much everything you could wish for, despite the small size.

The Tech

For the number aficionado amongst you the numbers won't impress you - but keep in mind that this is a very tiny camera. It's got a 3 million pixel sensor, and it's got a 2.8x optical zoom (digital zooms are evil and I won't mention that it's got a 4x one). It uses an SD or MMC card to store the pictures. I've got a 1GB MMC card in mine and it works just fine. If you wander into the settings you'll find tons of preset settings, including sports, birthdays etc, basically way too many to really be bothered with. The camera is also capable of recording movie clips as long as your battery or memory will allow. Quite a neat feature. I've not really used that properly so I can't really comment. The quality isn't the best, so better hang on to your camcorder for a little longer.
It also comes with a little (WHITE!) docking and charging station. I've bluetacked mine onto the top of one of my monitors. The Exilim connects to the computer as an external hard drive via USB. Nice.
The proprietary battery is something of a little marvel as I've only once managed to deplete it completely. Only once. That's after going on several day long trips, including a wedding where I was snapping pics like I would have gotten paid for it. That's a big plus in my books.
For more technical and promotional stuff, check out Casio's website

So, How is it?

No surprise to say that it's extremely easy to use. If you've used any digital camera before it won't take you many minutes to get to grips with it. It's got clear symbols on all the buttons and they're giving good feedback.
Snapping pictures couldn't be easier, just point, zoom and semi-press, press, click, done. The speed at which the camera saves the images to the card is also quite reasonable, it definitely isn't frustrating.
You can easily switch between the "Play" and "Record" modes thanks to the two dedicated buttons on the back. Just press any of them and the camera pops into life. Press the "Record" button and the lens extends at quite a good speed meaning that you can snap pictures quite quickly (if you don't need the flash to be charged). Auto focus is another thing that's relatively speedy.

Picture Quality

If you expect a camera, that's 16.7mm at the thickest point, to come out with amazing pictures you're in for a disappointment. But on the other hand, if you are like me, and expect good quality web pics then you won't be disappointed at all. When you look at the pictures you won't recognise any problems, but if you start to look really closely you'll see that there's quite a lot of fuzz around the sharp edges. Compare it to a camera with a "proper lens", like the S602Z, and you'll see that the Exilim's tiny lens isn't really up for the best quality shots. The pictures taken with the S602Z seem close to flawless in comparison.
But again, put it into the right perspective; it's an incredibly tiny camera that you can carry around with you pretty much anywhere, and you'll see that it takes pictures that actually are very good quality. In fact, for the size of the camera, I'd say the pictures are excellent.
The little flash can't really muster everything, but given a bit of reasonable help from lights in the ceiling etc, you'll end up with reasonable pictures in the dark. Don't expect any good results in a dark pub. Sure, you'll get a picture that's many times better than the average camera phone, but I wouldn't stretch to calling it a quality shot. The small size does show its limitations here.
All in all I have to say that I rarely have anything to complain about when it comes to picture quality, that is if I use the camera within its limitations.

Any Complaints?

The Casio Exilim belt case., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

This is the nice case for the camera. In this picture the camera is slid half way into the case. You can see the little SD-card pouch too. I don't think that's relly necessary today when we have 1gb cards available at reasonable prices. The case is very well made and very protective, but it's quite tick. d'Oooh!

Showing the Casio Exilim's case's thickness., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

My only complaint with the case is that it is very thick. It increases the width of the camera substantially.

I've had to think quite hard to what's "wrong" with this camera, and I can't really say that something is "wrong" with it, but I have found a few things that I'm a bit surprised over.
The first thing is that sometimes the way of going back in the menus can be a bit confusing, I'd either like a dedicated back-button or some visual indicator on the screen. Not a big problem as I rarely access the menus, but it's still a bit of a niggle.
The second little thing I've got to complain about is actually not the camera, but the case I got for it. You see, I wanted a very small camera, but I also want to protect it, and sometimes I want to wear it on my belt, but this case is so well made that it makes the camera quite bulky. This means the whole idea of the small camera is kind of lost... In all other respects the case is very nice.

The Goal Shot

This camera is amazingly small. It's even so small that you handle it like a delicate flower and you wonder how to hold it without blurring the picture when pressing the shutter button. I love it. It's truly amazing. With astonishing battery life and a 1GB memory card in it I can take tons and tons of reasonable quality photos without carrying a bulky camera. Best of all, the camera only cost me £100 from Casio Extra! Result!