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Casio Exilim EX-S10: A Lot of Camera in a Tiny Package

Sept. 4, 2008


Casio Exilim EX-S10: A Lot of Camera in a Tiny Package

It's a funny thing -- when you come across the rare tech device that's very sturdy, reliable, and continues giving you sharp results even after several years, you may actually be missing out. The fact is, if you've been happy, say, with a camera you bought in 2005, you've probably missed all the cool models that have hit the consumer market since.

Take the Casio Exilim EX-S10, for instance. recently tested the device, which has a slim, streamlined, and frankly, sexy form. Its combination of being tiny and taking large, 10.1 megapixel pictures make it a very desirable product -- even if some of its weaker points are a direct result of that shape. It also loaded with impressive-sounding features, most of which, in a week of testing, seem to match the hype.

The EX-S10 is slightly larger than a driver's license at about 2.15 by 3.7 inches. It's a little more than 1/2 inch thick as well. It easily fits in a pocket or handbag. Those of us who prefer our devices with a little heft may have some cause for complaint; the EX-S10 so light that you may forget it's there.

While it's light, it feels sturdy and well made. The startup time is about a second; combined with its portability, this is a great device to capture spontaneous shots. The zoom lens button is conveniently located on a toggle switch situated around the shutter release button itself. It's very easy to operate those two important functions with one finger. Also convenient is the dedicated video-record button; no need to scroll through a menu or flip a switch when you want to capture a movie. There are also four additional tiny buttons with dedicated functions: camera mode; view pictures mode; menu mode; and BS -- or "Best Shot" mode -- more on these later. You navigate the latter two with a 4-way directional pad with a 'select' button in the center. This 4-way/button combo also accesses many of the camera's features and settings. All in all, the interface and menus are fairly intuitive.

What you might need to spend time getting used to is utilizing the large LCD screen to frame your shots. There's no optical viewfinder (i.e., the little hole through the camera to look through), so you're completely reliant on using this screen. Because the screen is so large, you may hold the camera a little farther from your face than usual, as to see the whole shot.

Oddly, images on the 2.7 inch-wide screen look sharper before you actually take the picture; the snapshots, once still, seem to lose some of the luster. Not that the picture quality is poor; in fact, it seems very good in general. This phenomenon, however, sets you up for disappointment and contributes to a vague impression that your shot could have been better.

The features are interesting. First, the "BS", or Best Shots, function opens a menu wherein you select a setting for the type of shot you desire. The Auto function, which I used most often, worked fine, but options for "portrait," "scenery," "self-portrait," "children," "pets," "flowers," "sports," and many more are available. There's even one optimized for shots you intend to post on eBay. There's a voice-recording mode, and a couple movie modes as well, one of which is optimized for YouTube.

There are several "detect" modes, where the camera will automatically take a shot once a certain condition is met. These include a mode where it will shoot the picture once your subject and the camera are still; one that helps you pan with a moving object; and one I found particularly useful that automatically shoots when your subject smiles. Very useful for capturing good pictures of toddlers (see below).

There's also a face detection function. You can actually store facial shots within the camera itself in a special database. Then, when you turn on the "Face Recognition: Family First" mode, the camera will give focal priority to those you've registered.

This easily hidden camera is a lot of fun. Aside from worrying about sitting on it or leaving it in your pants on laundry day, it's a great recreational camera with some interesting functionality that you may or may not make use of. It'll take getting used to if you prefer using an optical viewer to take a picture rather than a screen. Even so, it's very portable, takes nice shots, and, at about $250, could well prove a good investment. Especially if you can keep it safe for several years -- the feature-rich gadget isn't likely to become dated anytime soon.

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