By Bryan Young
The EX-M20 is one of the smallest 2-megapixel camera that we have reviewed as of this date (10/03). This camera is packed with a list of features such as: a 1.6-inch color LCD, optical viewfinder, flash, powerful rechargeable battery pack, movie mode with sound and a new feature to the digicam market; the ability to play MP3 music files. All this in an attractive durable stainless steel case that is actually smaller than a credit card.
For the "person on the go", the fully automatic EX-M20 is just what they need to take great pictures at a precise moment, without spending a lot of time learning how to use a complicated camera. With the "BestShot" modes the camera's settings are optimized for any of fifteen predefined shooting conditions. If you truly want to be creative and over-ride the camera's automatic settings, you can adjust the White Balance, the ISO and the EV Shift (+/-2EV).
The shooting performance of the EX-M20 is extraordinary, because the lens is fixed-focus. There is no auto focus delay when releasing the shutter; we measured shutter lag at under 1/10 second, including viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture. This camera and the EX-S20 are the most responsive cameras we've recently tested. We measured the delay from power-on till the first shot captured at 1.5 seconds, again the fastest of any recently-tested cameras. Finally, we measured shot-to-shot time at 1.1 seconds with Review mode off; these cameras have no continuous mode feature, but the shot-to-shot performance effectively eliminates a need for it.
We were generally pleased with the outdoor shooting results of the EX-M20 considering the size of the camera and its lens. The lens produces fairly sharp wide angle images with a rather obvious central "hot spot." The EX-M20's lens has no optical zoom feature while it does have a 4x digital zoom. It is still advisable to zoom with your feet if possible since a digital zoom will degrade your picture quality. The 1.6- inch LCD viewfinder was a pleasure to use outdoors; it was bright enough to use even in direct sunlight for both composing and reviewing your images. There is an optical viewfinder for those who like taking pictures the old-fashion way and saving battery life.
The very limited flash range (under 5 feet) of the EX-M20 makes it a poor choice for photographing large groups indoors. Your indoor shots will be limited to head and shoulder portraits of individuals and very small groups. Use the Macro mode when photographing subjects within 1 to 3 feet. You may not be able to achieve good results photographing small objects, since there is no optical zoom allowing you to fill the frame. The EX-M20 squelches its' flash adequately to produce a properly exposed image. The EX-M20 does include a self-timer, but no tripod mount which will make it difficult to shoot a self portrait.
Due to its unique size and shape it is sometimes awkward to operate the controls if you have larger hands. The shutter release button is quite sensitive, causing you to sometimes capture unintentional images. The power button is beside the shutter release button, and you may turn off the camera as I have done several times. Be especially careful when holding the camera with your left hand as you may accidentally slide your finger over the lens and ruin your otherwise perfect image. Battery life was good, allowing us to capture over 200 images with the LCD on, and included a great deal of time using the LCD to explore and test the menu system. We did find that the battery door opened quite easily, and sometimes accidentally, allowing the battery to slide out.
When your not taking pictures you'll be rocking to your favorite MP3 tunes and looking great wearing your new Casio Exilim EX-M20. At an MSRP of under $340 at the time of this review (October, 2003), the Casio Exilim EX-M20 is a good value considering its stylishness, small size, durability and performance.
Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.