Casio EX-V7 Review
The 7.2-megapixel Casio EXILIM Hi-ZOOM EX-V7 incorporates a cutting-edge, non-protruding 7X internal optical zoom lens, making it the world's slimmest digital camera with a 7X optical zoom lens as of January 8, 2007. Add to this, four blur reduction technologies, with a new CCD shift system that actually mechanically compensates for camera shake, and an "Auto Tracking AF" function that follows moving subjects, keeping them continuously in focus until the photo is taken, and you have a neat new compact digicam. It features a wealth of fully automatic "Best Shot" exposure modes (33 to be exact), that will allow you to capture great images in various shooting conditions, but still offers adjustments to more advanced camera settings like ISO, metering, white balance, etc. High-quality movies are made using the next-generation H.264 video encoding method.
The EX-V7 is very compact, and considered an "ultra-compact", but its ergonomics are good. The right hand side of the body is raised slightly to bring the shutter release and power button up, making it much easier to access with your index finger. The space between the 4-way controller and zoom controls allow you to place your thumb without interfering with any buttons. The onscreen menus are easy to navigate and use, allowing you to concentrate on your picture taking without worrying about settings. The durable all-metal body will protect it from everyday bumps and bruises.
The large 2.5-inch LCD 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. The high-quality display was quite usable in most outdoor conditions, with only a few angles that reflected the sun and made it difficult to see. While being used indoors, it "gains up" the live image, helping you compose your shots in dim lighting. The V7 does brighten and darken the live image in response to your exposure compensation adjustments, so you can accurately see what your final product will look like.
The EX-V7's shooting performance is quite good. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 1.6 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing the image, was instantaneous when pre-focused, and about 1/10 of a second when not pre-focused. Rapid shooting in single drive mode captured images at intervals of 1.3 seconds without flash, and between 2.5 and 4 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. In high speed continuous capture or burst mode it allowed me to capture 3 images in about 0.8 seconds, but is limited to 3 frames at a time. The LCD viewfinder does not displayed the live image between exposures, making it hard follow a moving subject. All tests were done using a Kingston Elite Pro 2GB SD card, Auto recording mode, 7M Fine size/UHQ 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 7x optical zoom lens produced images that start sharp at wide angle and then soften as you zoom in due to the image stabilization. Its 38-266mm (in 35mm equivalence) focal length range is much greater than most cameras in this class. At 38mm, there's enough field of view for group portraits and landscapes, while its 266mm telephoto extreme will bring distant subjects a lot closer. The lens exhibits a lot of pincushioning throughout most of the middle and longer settings. Color fringes aren't a problem, but if you look hard, you can see some in the corners at the ends of the zoom range. They go away in the middle of the range.
Image quality was good for a consumer 7-megapxiel camera. We used the highest quality setting, 7M Fine, and were very pleased with our results. Outdoors it captures images that are sharp and well exposed. Colors are richly saturated, and you can even adjust the saturation as well as sharpness and contrast via the Record Menu. While we feel the default settings are just fine, you will have the ability to "dial in" that certain look. Casio has come a long way to improve its image noise. This does become more noticeable as the camera's sensitivity is increased. I was happy to see that the EX-V7's noise levels were low, but increased as ISO was raised toward ISO 800 (the highest setting.) You can see a "grain" to the image when viewing it at 100%, however it is much better than similar models.
Indoors, you will have to work within the limited flash range of approx. 7.2 feet at wide angle. While it will be sufficient for close-up portraits, do not expect it to illuminate a mid to large sized room (like the living room etc.) If there is plenty of ambient light, you should be fine, but if is dark outside, be sure to shoot from about 5 - 6 feet away at the most. However, this is a common problem with "ultra-compact" models, tiny cameras + tiny batteries = tiny flash with a short range. When staying within its limitations, the EX-V7 produced beautiful flash portraits, that showed good exposure and skin tones that were very natural. Because of the close proximity of the flash to the lens you will have red-eye to deal with.
Like past Casio Exilim models, the EX-V7 is loaded with helpful and "cool" features. In addition to Auto exposure mode, it has 33 Best Shot scene modes ranging from the typical Portrait, Scenery and Sports to the unusual Soft Flowing Water, Candle Light, and Splashing Water. Text, White Board, and Business Card mode allows you to capture images at an angle or bad perspective, then correct the images in-camera to make the perspective as if you had shot the picture dead on to the subject. There's also the Anti Shake technology, that will allow you to capture blur free images in lower lighting. Be aware that the Anti Shake and Image Stabilization features are great but come with a price of soft images and noise.
Movie mode allows you to capture VGA up to 848�480 (UHQ Wide) resolution video with audio, limited in length only by the amount of available memory. It too has some cool features, like the Past Movie mode, which captures moving images continuously, but begins saving the clip from a point in time 5 seconds before the record button is depressed. And, you can zoom optically while shooting, a feature not present in most compact cameras. All features aside, this camera's movie mode produced high-quality clips with very little compression noise.
Power is supplied by a small 3.7-volt 950mAh NP-50 rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, which is charged in-camera when placed in the included camera dock. Casio claims a battery life of approx. 240 shots or 100 minutes of continuous recording in movie mode on a fully charged pack. I had no problem capturing all of our samples (over 105 shots) and concluded many of our other tests on a single charge. However, we still suggest that you obtain a second battery and keep it charged to avoid the inevitable disappointment of finding a dead battery during a unique photo op.
Bottom line - The Casio Exilim EX-V7 offers a tremendous amount of features in a small compact package while continuing the tradition of a durable, lightweight model that can be tucked away just about anywhere, while
still capturing great photos and offering outstanding performance. It has loads of user-friendly exposure modes, and with an MSRP of around $399, we feel it offers a good value. The camera itself is a pleasure to
use; it's fast, is feature-packed, easy to use, has very reliable exposure, and an excellent movie mode. The decision is yours.
Casio has announced a Firmware Update Software Version 1.02 for the EX-V7
Improvements provided by this update: Fixes a problem with year display during leap years.
Visit Casio's Support site for more details.
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