Feel free to jump at this camera and put it through the wringer – no worries, it can take it. Casio’s Exilim EX-G1 rides the wave of rugged adventure cameras that are shock-absorbent, waterproof, and cold-resistant. You can drop it from up to 7 feet (2.10 meters), take it swimming in the summer and rush down a ski slope in the winter: none of it should harm this tough little image grabber, whose sealed metal body protects the electronic circuitry from moisture and freezing cold. The EX-G1 doesn’t mind being under water for up to an hour at a maximum of 10 feet (three meters) and can be used at temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), according to Casio. Needless to say, if you actually drop the camera onto a hard surface or, say, slam into an obstacle while filming yourself skateboarding, you may see scars and bruises on the camera body (if not your own).
The Exilim EX-G1 is a small and light point-and-shoot camera, easy to carry around at just 5.4 ounces/154 grams of weight. At roughly $200 in the U.S. and about 250â‚¬ in Europe, it doesn’t break the bank. The resolution of 12 megapixels is on par with many much bigger cameras, while the zoom covers a focal length of 38 to 114 mm. That’s OK, if not particularly powerful. At the wide end, in particular, you may often wish that you could zoom out a little further, because 38 millimeters means that you’re relatively close to the action – not very practical for landscape shots or group photos, for example.
Still, in everyday situations the EX-G1′s zoom covers most of the ground you’ll need, and everything is good and well as long as there’s plenty of light. In dusk and dawn things get more tricky, as the lens has a maximum aperture of f3.9, which isn’t much and means you will often have to use higher ISO settings, resulting in noisier images – especially since the Casio features only basic image stabilization to counteract shaky hands at slow shutter speeds. Check the photo samples from this review.
Like any modern camera, the Exilim also takes videos. Don’t expect HD quality, though. Maximum resolution in widescreen mode tops out at 848 by 480 pixels, which is roughly equivalent to a DVD. There’s also a scene mode optimized for YouTube. Windows users find a special application on the software CD-Rom which allows quick and easy uploading to Google’s online video service. Unfortunately, the Exilim requires microSD memory cards rather than the more popular (but bigger) SD cards.
In Your Hands
Despite being small, the Exilim is generally pleasant to operate, even if you don’t have tiny fingers. The buttons are well placed and provide some tangible feedback, so you can turn off the confirmation “beep!” When you switch it on, prepare to wait for a second or two until the camera is ready to shoot, then fire away. Make sure to use a fast memory card – otherwise you may have to wait a couple of seconds between shots.
There are plenty of scene modes for various situations, from standard ones like portrait and landscape to more esoteric choices such as eBay (macro mode), fireworks and food. Basic settings like image size, movie quality and exposure compensation are easy to access via the Control Panel menu, which requires just one click of a button.
All of that works well as long as you want to go “click-click” and not think too much. The moment you’re more ambitious, intending to pick particular settings for a certain effect, prepare for some confusion and frustration, as many of the more advanced options are tucked away in submenus and accessed via several different buttons. There is no manual mode or even program automatic – you’re limited to adjustments in Casio’s scene modes. Not all options are available all the time. In Portrait mode, for example, you cannot choose the auto focus area (spot, intelligent, multi), while the Underwater mode disables ISO speed choices.
In several weeks of usage, I never managed to fully understand why the camera decided to show me information like shutter speed and aperture settings in some cases but not in others. Or why the anti-shake setting reverted to “off” whenver I chose a different scene mode. At some point, I just gave up and let the camera have its will. And in fairness, it does try to make things easy with its automatic features, among them face detection and smile detection. Both work reasonably well, even though they are far from failsafe.
The trick with relatively cheap point-and-shoot cameras is not to expect too much. That way, you can’t be disappointed. The EX-G1 is no exception: Images taken in bright daylight generally look fine, even if the colors often lack a bit of punch. But than easily be corrected in Photoshop & Co. Things get more tricky in low-light conditions, as image quality quickly degrades at higher ISO settings. Even at ISO 200, the camera’s image processing software is busily suppressing noise. While that’s mostly visible at pixel level on your computer screen, images taken at sensitivies of ISO 800 and higher may seem blurry or blotchy even when you print them out.
The lens performs like many in its class: You’ll see some bended lampposts and other distortions at wide-angle, as well as purple spots (so-called chromatic aberrations) around window frames, tree leaves and other areas of high contrast. Sharpness is not as good as it could be, and underwater the Exilim sometimes had trouble focusing. In good light, though, the underwater results were comparable to photos taken under regular conditions.
The Casio Exilim EX-G1 is not a camera for serious photographers – and it isn’t meant to be. It’s a point-and-shoot for having fun, mostly outdoors, mostly under conditions where you don’t want to carry a serious camera with you: when you go rock climbing, mounta
in biking, skiing, swimming, surfing, roller blading – all those situations when you may have always wished you had a camera, but you didn’t want to bring one because the risk of damage was too high. In the U.S., at least, Casio’s little pixel juggler is cheap enough to make it a viable option as a secondary camera that comes handy under tough conditions. The picture quality could certainly be better, but while the images are not flawless, they’re better than being left with only fading memories. And with the underwater option you’re free to play with the elements to produce stunning effects in a way that no SLR permits, unless you spend a lot of money on a waterproof case.
Review and photos by Karsten Lemm
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