Casio EX-S200 Review
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The Casio EX-S200 is a slim, credit-card sized camera that is just 17.8mm thick and 14.9mm at its thinnest part. The 14 megapixel entry-level S200 compact digital camera offers a 4x optical zoom lens that starts at 27mm wide-angle, CCD-shift image stabilization mechanism, 2.7 inch LCD screen, 720p HD movies with a one-touch recording button, Premium Auto and Dynamic Photo functions. Also new to the S200 is the Single Frame SR Zoom feature which extends the zoom range by a factor of 1.5x, and Single Frame SR Quality which delivers images with improved clarity and resolution. The EX-S200 comes in five different colors - black, silver, pink, orange and blue - for around £150 / $179.
Ease of Use
The Casio EX-S200 is a very well-made, compact and super-slim digital camera, small enough to fit into the palm of your hand and inside a trouser or shirt pocket or a small handbag. As with almost every Casio camera that we've reviewed before, the EX-S200 is one of the better models around in terms of build quality, despite being made predominantly of plastic. The overall finish is excellent, looking and feeling much more expensive than its budget price-tag might suggest. There's no hand-grip on the front and no thumb-grip area on the rear either, which does make it difficult to get a good grip on the camera. The plastic tripod mount is off-centre in the bottom of the camera, and changing cards or batteries is not possible while the S200 is mounted on a tripod because the compartment door hinge is too close to the tripod socket.
The Casio S200 features a 4x optical zoom lens that's equivalent to a focal range of 27-108mm in 35mm terms. The 27mm wide-angle focal length provides a wide-angle outlook that can only increase your creativity. You won't want to go back to a "standard" 35mm zoom after using the 27mm lens on the EX-S200. The 4x zoom lens provides quite a versatile focal range, especially as it is coupled with Casio's effective anti-shake system, which helps to ensure that the majority of photos taken in good light are sharp. The S200's lens is quite fast at the wide-angle setting, with a maximum aperture of f/3.2, but not so good at the 108mm telephoto setting, with a maximum aperture of f/5.9.
The Casio EX-S200 has relatively few external controls, just 10 in total, which reflects the fact that this is a simple camera in functionality terms, with very limited photographic possibilities on offer. All the controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology, with just a couple of Casio-specific buttons that require a quick read of the manual.
Located on top of the EX-S200 are the small On / Off button and the tactile Zoom Lever and Shutter button. On the bottom of the EX-S200 are the plastic tripod mount and lockable battery compartment, which also houses the SD / SDHC / SDXC memory card slot.
On the rear is the 2.7 inch LCD screen, with a number of controls to the right, including a traditional navigation pad. You can directly access the various flash options by clicking down on the navigation pad, whilst up is used to toggle between the various Display modes (no information, shooting info, shooting info with histogram). The unmarked Set button in the middle performs two main tasks - it selects menu options, and also accesses the EX-S200's Control Panel.
This is a vertical list of options displayed on the right of the LCD screen, which provides quick access to some of the camera's more important options, including image size, movie quality, flash, auto-focus type and area, self-timer and continuous shooting, and face detection. It takes a little while to get used to the presence of this on-screen list, but you can toggle it off using the Display mode if it proves too distracting. Annoyingly there is no option for ISO speed, which means that you have to go into the menu system to change this commonly-used setting.
Directly above and below the navigation pad are the self-explanatory Camera and Playback buttons, which switch between the two modes. Above the Camera button is the very welcome inclusion of a dedicated Movie button, which makes it quick and easy to shoot a movie without missing the start of the action. The EX-S200 can record HD movies at 1280x720 pixels at 24 fps, standard quality movies at 640x480 pixels at 30fps, and VGA movies at 320x240 at 15 fps, all in the AVI format.
There are some limitations to the EX-S200's movie mode. The AVI format choice results in some massive file sizes that quickly fill up your memory cards, and the length of a movie is bizarrely limited to only 10 minutes. The sound quality is not that great, with the usual background noise that accompanies movies shot with cameras that only have mono sound. Thankfully you can use the 4x optical zoom during movie recording (there is also a digital zoom setting available).
The EX-S200 doesn't have a dedicated Menu button - instead you have to press Set and then scroll to the Menu option in the Control Panel list. The menu system on the Casio EX-S200 is perfectly straight-forward to use. Quite a lot of the camera's main settings are accessed elsewhere, so the main menu system isn't actually that complicated. A row of 3 icons along the top of the LCD screen represent the Record, Quality and Set Up sub-menus, with most of the options being the kind that you set once and then forget about. Due to the large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 6 are shown onscreen at one time.
Accessed via the Best Shot Control Panel option, the Casio EX-S200 offers Auto and a comprehensive range of 42 different scene modes aimed at the user who just wants to point and shoot, making this camera particularly well-suited to the beginner, although picking the most appropriate one can get confusing! BS Auto mode will do its best to pick the most appropriate mode for the current scene, although it doesn't choose from all 43 modes.
The Landscape mode makes colours more vivid, filters haze, and performs other processing that enhances the beauty of natural scenery. You can choose from two settings, Vivid Landscape or Mist Removal, with Off, +1 (Weak) and +2 (Strong) strengths available for both. The Make-up mode smoothes the skin texture of the subject and softens facial shadows caused by harsh sunlight for better looking portraits. You can set one of 13 levels in the range of 0 (no correction) to +12 (maximum correction).
The final controls on the rear of the EX-S200 are the self-explanatory Delete button and the Auto button. The EX-S200 has two Auto modes, the standard one and Premium Auto. The latter mode automatically optimizes the camera's settings for exposure, ISO, sensitivity, focus, photo blur correction, tonal range, color balance, and level of noise reduction, leaving you to concentrate on framing and taking the picture.
Taking a leaf out of Panasonic's compact camera book, the new Single Frame SR Zoom option electronically increases the zoom range by a factor of 1.5, from 4x to 6x. As with its rival's solution, this does come at the expense of reduced image quality. Similarly, Single Frame SR Quality promises to improve the clairty and resolution of your images - you can see the results of using both modes for yourself on the Image Quality page.
There is a single port on the right side of the Casio EX-S200 (when viewed from the back) which accepts both the USB interface cable required to connect the camera to a printer or computer, and the AV cable. There are no controls on the left side of the EX-S200. Overall the camera body feels very well-designed and not at all cluttered, despite the presence of the large 2.7 inch LCD, which has a wide viewing angle from left to right, average resolution of 230,000 dots, and is visible in most conditions. There is no optical viewfinder on this model.
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If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and fairly easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Unfortunately Casio have chosen to cut costs and only supply the full manual as a PDF on a CD, rather than in printed format. Not much use if you're taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does.
The start-up time from turning the Casio EX-S200 on to being ready to take a photo is fairly quick at around 2 seconds, and it takes about the same time to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations, helped by the green focus-assist lamp. It takes about 0.5 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is a very quick LCD blackout between each image.
In Continuous mode the camera takes 4 frames per second at the highest image quality, which is fast for this class of camera, with the shooting rate maintained until your memory card is full. There is also a High-speed Continuous Shutter mode, which shoot at 10 frames per second at 1600 x 1200 pixels (up to 20 shots), and a Flash Continuous Shutter mode, which takes 3 frames per second at 1600 x 1200 pixels (up to 3 shots).
Once you have captured a photo, the Casio EX-S200 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view up to 25 thumbnails onscreen at once, and zoom in and out up to 8x magnification. You can view slideshows with different effects and interval settings and set the print order and the transfer order, and also protect, rotate, resize, trim, and copy an image. For editing your images and movies in-camera, options include Dynamic Photo which extracts images of a moving subject and combines them with a still image to form a new background, Movie Editing for trimming your movies, and four different Art Effects. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance.
In summary the Casio EX-S200 is a simple, stylish and slim entry-level digital camera - now let's find out what its image quality is like.