Casio QV-R4 Review

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Steve's Conclusion

There's no mistaking the similarity of the Casio QV-R3 and QV-R4 twins with the Pentax Optio 330RS and Optio 430RS twins. There are some exposure mode and feature differences and the Pentax cameras use CompactFlash media but otherwise they are very similar in many respects. Most noticeably they all use the same Pentax 3x zoom lens, the same lithium battery pack and are housed in ultra-compact and highly durable metal bodies. It hasn't been confirmed but I'd be willing to bet that Casio makes all four of these excellent digicams.

Casio QV-R4

Pressing the power button causes the camera to extend the lens and it does this quite quickly, being ready to record in about five seconds. The shot to shot time in the highest 4-megapixel size and best quality is about three seconds which is quite robust for a camera of this size, it's equal to the image processing speed of the larger digicams. The auto focus is accurate and faster than many of its peers with an average AF lock time of a second or less. In dim to dark conditions the camera uses its focus assist illuminator to provide sufficient light for the auto focus system to do its job. Many of the digicams today lack these focus assist lamps and it makes all the difference in poor lighting where many other cameras fail to achieve a focus lock.

The QV-R3 and QV-R4 are identical in size, features and performance, where they differ is the resolution and price. If you don't need to print larger than 8x10" then the QV-R3 will do the job nicely and you can use the $100 you save to purchase a nice, big 128MB SD card and/or a second battery pack. The built-in 11MB of memory is OK if you shoot in the lower resolution size, serious users will want to purchase at least a 64MB size card. These cameras are incredibly durable thanks to their stainless steel bodies and the lens is retracted inside the camera when powered down and protected by a builtin lens barrier. If you're an active outdoor person you can stow these cameras in your pocket, fanny or back pack and not have to worry about it taking some abuse. They'll stand up to most anything other than getting wet but this is something that will ruin most any electronic device.

The battery life is not too shabby considering that small cameras have to be powered by equally small battery packs. If you limit your color LCD usage you can easily take hundreds of photos between charges. The lithium rechargeable battery pack holds a charge much longer than NiMH type packs which can lose as much as 20% of their charge in a day or two of just sitting around. The charger is quite small and plugs directly in the AC socket and can be taken with you as easily as the camera.

Even though these cameras are small, they're packed with features. Some of the features are quite unique like the Coupling Shot mode. Imagine you're with your spouse or friend and want to take a shot of the two of you and there's nobody else around to help you. One of you poses, the other takes the shot. Then you switch places and stand where you would if you had been next to your partner and she takes a second shot. The two pictures are now "merged" in the camera to form one picture. This of course works best if the camera is sitting on a tripod or other sturdy support surface. The next unique exposure mode is called Pre-Shot and it lets you takes a shot of a suitable background and then you can hand the camera to someone who sees a semi-transparent image of the first shot on the LCD screen. They now frame you in the picture and take the shot, only the second "merged" image is saved.

As with other Casio digicams, the QV-R3 and QV-R4 also feature the BestShot mode. There are 33 different "scenes" that you can select from the menu, pick the one that best suits your current shooting requirement. These scenes are illustrated by a sample image on the color LCD to help you chose the right one. Select from: portrait, scenery, portrait w/scenery, coupling shot, pre-shot, closeup portrait, 3/4 portrait, double portrait, children, candlelight portrait, party, pet, floral closeup, floral field, natural green, autumn leaves, flowing water, splashing water, buildings, city street, blue sky, white sand beach, sundown, night scene, night scene portrait, fireworks, food, text, collection or create your own. These BestShot scenes set all the necessary exposure modes, filters and shutter speed or aperture values to insure the best possible picture.

You can alter the way your images look using the adjustable sharpness, contrast and saturation controls. Special color effects can be added using the color filters to enhance red, green, blue, yellow, pink or purple. And you can shoot in B&W or Sepia mode for that special "old time" look. There is also an general enhancement mode for red, green blue or flesh tones. If you need to shoot a time-lapse scene it's no problem, just turn the Mode Dial to the Interval mode and select the desired number of shots and the delay time between them. Needless to say this mode is best implemented with a tripod and optional AC power supply. Full motion video clips in 320x240 resolution can be recorded up to 30 seconds in duration. There is no sound as the camera lacks a microphone.

Another feature unique to Casio digicams is the ability to build HTML-based slide shows and albums right in the camera. You just copy the entire ALBUM folder to your hard drive and then load the INDEX.HTML page with you favorite browser to view your photos. This folder and images can also be placed on your website and accessed by your friends, it's a very useful feature. One feature that is sadly lacking is a Video Out capability so you can plug your camera into a TV set. I don't know why all of the sudden this is being left off some of the new cameras that we've reviewed lately. It's really handy when you're on vacation and sitting around your hotel room. Jack the camera into the TV set, most all of them have accessible Video In port for digicams and camcorders, and watch your pictures on the BIG screen. Please bring this feature back ... many of us use it frequently.

The bottom line on the QV-R4 is good image quality and that's what we want out of any digicam. It's small and built like a tank thanks to the highly durable stainless steel body so you can take it along with you wherever you go. It's priced well against the competition and if you don't need 4-megapixels of resolution then take a look at its 3- megapixel sibling the Casio QV-R3 for $100 less. Either one of these cameras will serve you well and they also make great gifts, something to keep in mind with the holiday season rapidly approaching. Who says that good things don't come in small packages?

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