Casio QV-R51 Review
The Casio QV-R51 is the big brother of the QV-R40 we reviewed in 2003, offering improvements in image size (5 versus 4-megapixels) and LCD size (2 versus 1.6 inches), while retaining the QV-R40's small size, durable aluminum-alloy body, ease-of-use and good image quality. With an MSRP of $399.99, it falls into the class of entry-level 5-megapixel consumer digicams, but its speed, size, features and photo quality are comparable to higher-end cameras costing much more. The QV-R51 is simple enough for a beginner to use and, although providing no way to manually set aperture or shutter speed, it offers plenty of adjustability to satisfy the creative urges of an intermediate user; EV (+/- 2 stops), white balance, ISO (50, 100, 200 and 400), sharpness, saturation, contrast and more can be changed via the easy to use menu system.
The QV-R51's shooting performance is impressive. From power-on until completion of the first image capture took only 2 seconds, a slight improvement over the QV-R40. While Casio claims a fast startup of approximately 1 second, our testing includes power-on, the delay of the photographer releasing the shutter, and image capture; this is a measurement that you will be able to reproduce in the real world. Shutter lag, the elapsed time between the photographer releasing the shutter and the camera capturing the image, measured an impressive and professional-class sub-1/10-second when pre-focused, and an equally impressive 4/10-second including autofocus delay. These timings were measured using the optical viewfinder; using the LCD viewfinder adds about 1/10 second to shutter lag because of the delayed live image it presents. The QV-R51's responsiveness will allow you capture unposed special moments and your childrens sports action while many of its competitors would leave you frustrated with their delays. Like the QV-R40, the QV-R51 has no continuous capture shooting mode, and its shot-to-shot time measured between 3 and 4 seconds; sometimes the shutter button required 2 depressions to take the next shot despite getting autofocus confirmation on the first attempt. All timings were obtained using a 5-megapixel image size, best quality, and no flash and a Sandisk Ultra II 256 MB SD memory card installed.
The unbranded 3X optical zoom lens produced sharp results in the telephoto range, but we noticed a drop off in sharpness at the edges at the wide-angle end of the zoom range. We also observed quite noticeable barrel distortion at extreme wide angle. The operation of the optical zoom is smooth and quiet, but not continuous; it moves through its 39-117mm range in 7 distinct steps, adequate for composing most shots but you might need to zoom a bit with your feet for precise image composition.
We were fairly satisfied with the results of our outdoor shooting. The lens and 7-point autofocus system combined to produce reasonably sharp images, while the exposure system delivered shots that were well-exposed but with oversaturated blue in the sky and water; you might prefer the results of using the Low Saturation setting. Its 5-megapixel imager provides enough resolution for 11X14 prints, and will enable you to produce pleasing 8X10 prints even when the image is heavily cropped. The large LCD viewfinder was a pleasure to use in most circumstances, but because it has no anti-glare coating or brightness control, you'll prefer to use the optical viewfinder on very bright days.
We were pleased with indoor shooting results. While it has no focus-assist lamp, the QV-R51's autofocus was surprisingly effective in conditions of low ambient light, as was the usability of its LCD viewfinder. The flash is well matched to the 39mm wide angle field of view, with no noticeable drop-off in lighting at the edges of the image. Because of the limited range of the flash (10.5 feet in wide angle, 6 feet in telephoto) and the limited field of view afforded by the wide angle 39mm focal length, you'll get your best indoor results shooting individual or small group portraits, or small rooms; you won't be illuminating an entire banquet room with this flash. We found a minor annoyance using the red eye reduction flash mode; the LCD viewfinder becomes blank when the pre-flash fires, leaving a one second delay with no live image on the LCD before the image is captured. Its ability to squelch the flash at close range and its macro focusing capability make the QV-R51 a good choice for photographing small objects for online auction listings.
Although it uses only 2 AA's for power, we were able to shoot more than 200 images on a pair of 2200mah NiMH batteries, even while making extensive use of the LCD viewfinder. Casio provides a pair of NiMH batteries and a BC-5H charger in the box; you should acquire at least 1 more pair and keep them charged and ready for the unexpected photo opportunity.
The QV-R51, like its sibling the QV-R40, is equipped with several unique and effective shooting modes. For example, the Coupling Shot mode combines 2 subjects into 1 image. 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 then "merged" in the camera to form one image. This of course works best if the camera is sitting on a tripod or other sturdy support surface. Another unique exposure mode is called Pre-Shot, allowing you to compose a shot of a suitable background for your own portrait. The Pre-shot background becomes a semi-transparent guide for another photographer to capture the same composition, but with you in the foreground. Only the second image is saved. Your results will benefit from a choice of 21 BestShot scene modes that have been optimized for a variety of shooting situations; they range from the unique Coupling and Pre-shot modes just described, to the more ordinary portrait, scenery, pet, macro and more. Each BestShot mode is well-described on the LCD viewfinder as you select it, helping you choose the right one for the conditions or subjects you're shooting. The QV-R51 also provides you with the ability to define your own BestShot modes as User Scenes, allowing you to quickly recall camera settings unique to your shooting style or subjects. The sample image used to establish your User Scene is displayed in the BestShot scene selection menu to help you recall its purpose.
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 that can take the place of 3rd-party software.
With its robust performance, useful and unique scene modes, 5-megapixel imager, small size, durable aluminum-alloy body and good image quality, the Casio QV-R51 packs a lot of value into its MSRP of $399.99. It's a camera that the entire family can use, but its simplicity doesn't diminish the usefulness of the more advanced features which make this camera unique in the digicam marketplace. We think that you'll enjoy this all-around family camera. If you like the QV-R51's features but don't need a 5-megapixel imager, the 4-megapixel QV-R40 will save you $100.
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