Casio EX-S880 Review

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Casio Exilim EX-S880

Steve's Conclusion

Building on the success of their "Card" line of ultra-compact Exilim cameras, Casio's has added a new model for 2007, the Exilim EX- S880. Like its predecessors, the S880 is a stylish point-n-shoot that includes many high-end features. These include an 8-megapixel image sensor, 3x optical zoom lens, 2.8-inch LCD, Face Detection AF, and 848x480 (UHQ Wide) H.264/AVC .MOV format high-quality movie mode; just to name a few. This model truly has an exposure mode for just about every shooting situation, with 39 fully automatic "Best Shot" exposure modes. While Auto or "Program AE" mode is also automatic, you can still make adjustments to more advanced camera settings (ISO, metering, white balance, etc.).

Like all of Casio's "Card" models, the S880 is very compact and durable, measuring a mere 3.72" (W) x 2.38" (H) x .68" (D). While it is very small, I found it still fit comfortably in my hands, when using the "pinch" technique. You simply pinch the camera between your index fingers and thumbs. The various controls along the right-hand side of the LCD are easily accessed by your right thumb, however, I did not like the orientation of the zoom controls. You press it "Up" or "Down" to change the focal length, where most models you would press "Left or "Right", which made it a bit awkward. The camera's onscreen menu system was logically organized and very easy to navigate. It also offers a wealth of options, much more than one would expect from a consumer ultra-compact. While novice users will love all of the extra settings, beginners might feel a bit overwhelmed.

The large 2.8-inch LCD is the only viewfinder, and is used for composing your shots, reviewing captured images and navigating the menu system. This display occupies most of the back of the camera, leaving no room for an optical viewfinder. Thankfully, it's a high-quality display with plenty of resolution (approx. 230K pixels). Outdoors, I found it was quite usable, however the display's surface is very reflective. When shooting in marginal lighting conditions, like indoors, the LCD "gains up" the live image, helping you compose your shots.

As we expected, our shooting performance results show the S880 is a robust performer. Power up to first image captured measured just 1.6 seconds, which includes the time it takes to extend the lens and boot up. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing the image, was instantaneous when pre-focused, and only 1/10 of a second when pre-focused! Rapid shooting in single drive mode captured images at intervals of 1.8 - 2 seconds without flash, and between 2 and 3 seconds with flash, depending on your subject distance. You must wait for the flash to recharge, as indicated by the Operation Lamp, before depressing the shutter button for the next shot.

There are also four continuous capture or burst modes to choose from (Normal, High Speed, Flash Cont. and Zoom Cont.) Note, that Face Detection AF must be turned Off to use burst mode. Normal mode allowed me to capture 5 images in 4.4 seconds. High Speed mode was able to capture 10 frames in just 2.4 seconds. The disadvantage of this mode is that it shoots in 2-megapixel Fine mode , so the images are small. Flash Continuous mode was also very robust, capturing 3 frames in only 7/10 of a second, in the full 8-megapixel Fine mode (note you may also use the flash in Normal mode, but not High Speed). Zoom continuous mode allows you to capture two images at different zoom (digital) lengths at the same time. The LCD viewfinder briefly displayed the live image between exposures in Normal and High Speed mode, but in all other modes it blacked out completely; making it difficult to follow moving subjects. All tests were done using a Patriot Memory 2GB SD card, Auto recording mode, 8M Fine size/quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The S880 includes the same exact lens found on the EX-S600 from last year. This is a typical 3x optical zoom which has a focal range of 38 - 114mm (in 35mm equivalence). At 38mm, there's enough field of view for most of your interior and landscape shooting needs, while its 114mm telephoto extreme is great for close-up portraits, macro shots, and will help bring distant subjects a bit closer. I noticed this lens exhibits slight chromatic aberration (purple fringing in high-contrast areas), noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle as well as slight pincushioning at the telephoto end of the zoom range.

I was a bit disappointed with the S880's image quality results using 8m Fine mode. While images looked awesome on the camera's LCD, further inspection on a PC later showed that images are well exposed and colors are richly saturated, however there's a lot of edge softness present. This wasn't just on a few of our samples, but ever one of about 190 pictures. Luckily the S880 does offer adjustments for sharpness, contrast and saturation, which will help with this issue. Noise levels were typical for a consumer model, becoming more noticeable as you increase the sensitivity. While you can see "grain" when viewing images at 100%, where the ISO is set from 400 and above, you will still be able to produce useable 8x10-inch or smaller prints (depending on the setting used.)

The flash unit on this model is rated to cover up to approx. 12.8 feet when shooting at wide angle using ISO Auto. I found the flash coverage was average for an ultra-compact. Because these models are so small, they require a tiny battery, which in turn means a short flash range. Portrait mode uses the Face Detection AF mode, and you can select the priority for Speed or Quality. With the priority set for Quality, I found the Face AF system was very fast, finding and locking focus/exposure on our subjects face in less than a second. Overall, our indoor flash portraits look nice, however the edge softness is still an issue. You can see what I mean by looking at the subjects hair and forehead in our portrait example on the samples page.

You can record video at various resolution settings, 848x480 (UHQ Wide, HQ Wide) 640x480 (UHQ, HQ, Normal) and 320x240 (LP), using H.264/AVC MOV recording format. The length of a clip is limited by available memory, with a maximum clip size of 4GB. I like the fact that it has separate movie and still image shutter buttons, and you can capture a still image in the middle of recording a movie, with only a small interruption in the recording. Our movie mode results were good when using UHQ Wide and UHQ modes, however like all of the Casio models we have recently reviewed, the YouTube mode videos were not impressive. However, the file size is drastically lower than the other settings, so it does fulfill its intended purpose of creating movies with small file sizes for sharing on YouTube's site.

The EX-S880 is powered by a tiny 3.7-volt 700mAh NP-20 rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, which is charged in-camera when placed in the included camera dock. Casio claims a battery life of approx. 220 shots or 180 minutes of continuous playback on a fully charged pack. I had no problems capturing many of our samples (about 150 shots) and concluded many of our other tests before having to give it a fresh charge. As always, we erge that you obtain a second battery and keep it charged and ready.

Bottom line - the Casio Exilim EX-S880 is a nice digital ultra-compact package. It has a very respectable price tag of US$249 or less, great list of features (8-megapixels, Face Detection, Anti-shake, 2.8-inch LD, etc.), as well as blazing fast performance, all packed in a stylish and durable shell. However, as stated earlier, I feel the quality of its images is not quite up to par with similar models in this category. That said, the Casio EX-S880 offers an Ok value for an 8-megapixel model that can be stuffed in the smallest of pockets, just be sure to take a good look at the competition before making your final purchase decision.

Casio has announced a Firmware Update Software Version 1.01 for the EX-S880

Improvements provided by this update: Stabilizes movie white balance.

Visit Casio's Support site for more details.

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