Casio EX-P700 Review
The EX-P700 is the second Exilim "Pro" series camera from Casio (as of 2/2005) and includes all of the features found on its predecessor the EX-P600, but increases the resolution to 7-megapixels. This is a durable, full-featured camera that offers an exposure mode for every member of your household. There's an Auto record mode for point-n-shoot ease as well as Aperture priority, Shutter-speed priority, and full Manual modes for the more experienced photographer. Its 27 pre-programmed "Best Shot" scene modes optimize the camera's settings for specific shooting conditions and users have the ability to create their own Best Shot scene with the Register Favorites function.
We were glad to see that the EX-P700 continues to offer Audio/Video out capabilities as well as a standard PC flash sync port for connecting external flash units (the EX-P600 was the first Casio to offer this.) Its Ex Finder display was "cool" to show off to our friends, but during test shooting it was difficult to use and see what I was framing with all of that overlay information in the way. Someone at Casio must have a lot of free time on their hands to have created the "Image Roulette" mode that cycles images like a slot machine on the LCD, before stopping at one of them. At first, images scroll at high speed, then the scrolling slows down gradually until a single image is stopped on the screen. Another "cool" but useless feature. It does however offer a very useful help menu that includes a wide variety of helpful screens that make the more advanced shooting modes like Aperture priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual easier to use by less experienced users. You can see illustrations of these menu screens by going to our Record Modes page.
Shooting performance was very robust. Power-up to first image captured measured about 2 seconds, confirming Casio's claims of ultra-fast startup. The all important shutter lag (the time from depressing the shutter release to actually capturing the image) measured less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and just 3/10 of a second including autofocus. The camera has three Continuous modes (Normal, Fast, Multi). In Normal mode I was able to capture 10 frames in approx. 16 seconds. Fast mode captured 5 shots in an amazingly fast 1.6 seconds. Multi continuous mode captured 25 frames in 1.5 sec. and saved them as a single 1600x1200 image. After capturing a burst sequence, it takes about 8 - 12 seconds to clear a full buffer. The camera is very robust when reviewing your images too. By holding down either the Left or Right buttons on the 4-way selector, you can zip through your images at lightning speed. Our tests were done using a Lexar 1GB SD card, Large/Fine quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, media, camera settings, etc.
We were pleased with the overall image quality when using its 7-megapixel Fine mode. Note however that the average file size for those images is about four and a half megabytes so plan on buying a large SD card. Just like almost all of the cameras we have seen that use Sony's 7-megapixel imager, the EX-P700 captures sharp and well saturated pictures. We noticed very little noise in high/low (bright/shadow) contrast areas, and there were very little traces of Chromatic Aberration (purple fringing around extreme highlights.) The Canon 4x optical zoom lens covers a 35mm equivalent of 33-132mm and has a 4x digital zoom feature. However as always, we discourage the use of the digital zoom as it degrades image quality, you'll achieve better results by cropping later in an image editor. With 7- megapixels, there's plenty of resolution to work with. We saw moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle but almost no pin cushioning at full telephoto, and its zoom mechanism is smooth and quite as it goes from wide angle to telephoto.
When shooting indoors, our flash portraits were sharp, well exposed and skin tones appear very natural. However when shooting in low-ambient lighting, the camera does have problems focusing; this is when a focus-assist lamp would come in handy. Also its flash has a maximum range of about 12 feet, which is sufficient for most interior photography. This limited range will however pose some problems when trying to illuminate large rooms like at a high school basketball game or wedding, but thanks to its built-in PC flash sync port, you can make use of more powerful external flash units.
You can also record motion JPEG (.AVI format) movies at 320x240 (15fps) with audio. The length of these movies are limited only by available memory. However as with most digicams, holding the camera to record movies is quite awkward. Overall our movie samples were sharp and showed the usual amount compression noise. The sample movie of the boat also shows how sensitive the microphone is, it wasn't as windy as it sounds, it was actually fairly calm that day.
Its large high resolution 2-inch color LCD monitor covers almost two-thirds of the back. Since the monitor is large, the menu text is also bigger and more legible. We found it worked great outdoors, even in the bright sunlight. However it does not "gain up" when shooting indoors, which can at times make it difficult to use; but hey you can't see out of an optical viewfinder under these conditions either.
Power is supplied by a proprietary 3.7v 1230mAh lithium-ion battery that's charged in the included BC-L30 rapid charger in 2 hours or less. This is a handy little charger that requires no cords; it has fold away prongs and plugs directly in to the wall outlet. We also saw this same battery pack/charger combo used with the EX-P600, which according to Casio powered it for approx. 260 shots (LCD On.) With past models we have reviewed from Casio, we usually see an increase in battery life. However we saw a slight decrease with the EX-P700 at about 200 shots on a full charge. It also has only 9MB of internal memory and the average file size of a Large/Fine image is about 4.5MB, so you should consider purchasing a larger 512MB - 1GB SD card like the one we used for our tests. These cards seem to be getting cheaper by the day; you can get a high-speed 512MB card for around $60 (USD.)
Bottom line - the Casio Pro EX-P700 is good overall performer. It will make a great choice for those wanting a durable, high-resolution digicam with a wide variety of exposure options. With a street price of around $549, it offers a good overall value. If your looking for a more feature-rich 7-megapixel camera check out our reviews of the Canon G6 , Olympus C-7070, or the Sony V3; which can be had for about $150 more.
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