By Mike Flacy
Improving on the Exilim S10 from last year, Casio's new Exilim S12 keeps to the size and feature specifications set forth by its predecessor. Measuring in at just .58 of an inch thick, it is Casio's overall thinnest camera. Don't let the size of this ultra-compact fool you, it still comes packed full of useful features. It sports a 12.1-Megapixel imaging sensor, high quality 2.7-inch LCD screen, eBay and YouTube modes, Auto Best Shot (BS) selector, Dynamic photo tool, and a dedicated video record button that allows the camera to record video without switching record modes.
Like with the previous model, the S12 features 3 different auto shutter modes, which allow the camera to automatically take a picture depending on the mode it is set for. Blur detect mode: the camera will automatically wait until the subject is still before capturing an image, eliminating motion blur. Panning mode: captures an image when the subject is clear while the camera is moving, blurring the background. Finally, Detect Smile mode: automatically shoots when the camera detects that your subject is smiling, so even if you are not ready, the camera is.
This incredibly thin camera is heavy (for its size) and has a very sturdy feel to it. It can be a little hard to hold and operate one handed for someone with large hands, however, using the "pinch" technique allows for easy shooting, playback and navigation of the cameras menu system. To make the camera even easier to use, you can now change the selections in the quick menu (right side of the LCD screen) to the settings that you use the most. The 2.7-inch, 230,160 dot, LCD screen is used for all of your framing and viewing of images. It has several levels of adjustment, including 2 auto modes, meaning that you will have no trouble seeing the screen in any lighting conditions.
Performance from the S12 is ok, capturing 5 images in 11.2 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 13.7 seconds with it in single shot mode. Shutter lag is well under 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and between 1/10 and 2/10 of a second when allowing the camera to autofocus. This helps to keep the time down when capturing the first image after turning on the camera, which took 1.9 seconds.
The camera also features several burst modes for you to choose from. Normal continuous works with or without the flash and captures a full 12-Megapixel image at just over 1/2fps (5 images in 9.6 seconds) without the flash and 4/10 of a second (5 images in 12.9 seconds) when using the flash. There are also 4fps and 10fps modes, both of which will capture images for 2 seconds before filling the buffer. When using these you have to remember that 4fps will only capture a 2-Megapixel image while 10fps will only capture a 1-Megapixel image. Finally there is a continuous flash mode, which can capture 3, 2-Megapixel images in just 1.3 seconds while firing the flash for each image. All of our tests were completed using a 2GB Patriot SD memory card, Auto mode, Flash off, ISO auto and all other settings at the factory defaults, unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality from our outdoor samples is excellent. They show a crisp image from side to side with great exposures and bright, vivid colors. The 3x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 36 - 108mm is great for shooting landscape and portrait photography on the wide end. Using the telephoto end will not get you too much closer to your distant objects, but it is a great help in composing your shots. At the wide end you will see some barrel distortion and there are also some instances of chromatic aberrations in high contrast areas. While you will see slight instances of these throughout the zoom range, they are most noticeable at the wide end.
Our indoor sample images show the same crisp image with good exposure and colors. You will also see that in all of the M&M man shots, there are visible aberrations along the bottom of the flag stand in the high contrast areas with the table. The camera's auto white balance does a good job of adjusting colors for most lighting conditions, including when using the flash, as the flash shot is only slightly cooler than without. One problem that we have seen lately on the Casio cameras is that the flash does not cover the entire image when shooting in macro mode. You can see in our flash macro sample that the left side is not lit entirely.
Portrait shots are incredibly easy, thanks to Casio's face detection software and smile shot software. Face detection does an excellent job of recognizing and following faces, even those of small children. Our portrait shot shows good exposure and realistic colors. It also displays very soft skin textures that look more like a porcelain doll than actual skin. The other feature that was mentioned above is the smile shutter, which allows the camera to take a picture when your subject smiles, whether you are ready or not.
A big addition to the S12 over the S10 is the ability to record video in 720p HD along with the standard 640x480 and 320x240 resolutions. Our video sample shows a bright, sharp image when shot in a well lit situation. You will see some noise in the video if there is not enough light present. The built in mic is very sensitive and picks up all noises near the camera, including wind and background noises, which you can hear in our sample. To help avoid this, be careful where you shoot from; staying away from AC units or fans indoors and out of the wind if possible when outdoors.
Powering the S12 is a 3.7V, 720mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Casio claims that it can capture up to 270 shots (CIPA) on a single charge. During our tests we were able to capture 150 images and several videos with plenty of battery power to spare. If this is not going to be enough for you, then the included charger allows you to quickly charge your battery anywhere you can find an outlet. It also allows you to keep a spare battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - Casio's Exilim S12 is a 12-Megapixel ultra-compact model with excellent image quality and slew of useful features. Loaded with BS modes, including Auto BS selector, 720p movie mode, auto shutter modes and several burst rate modes; there is a shooting mode for anyone in your home or office. With a MSRP of US$249.99, this is a good deal if you are looking for extra features in an ultra-compact package.
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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.