Casio's recently introduced Exilim EX-G1 rugged 12 megapixel compact marks the company's first entry in their new Exilim G brand of digital cameras - the "G" denoting an "endurance category" of camera intended for "top athletes" and "adventurers" ... "who never quit challenging both extreme conditions and their own limits." To that end the G1 is shock-resistant, waterproof and dustproof: rated to survive falls from 7 feet and waterproof for up to 1 hour at depths to 10 feet.
The camera can withstand temperatures as low as 14 degrees F. Sounds good, but when you read the fine print the drop testing involved dropping the camera onto plywood at 26 different angles and survival is not guaranteed for all drops from 7 feet. Also, camera shocks from a drop(s) may compromise watertight integrity. Still it's safe to say the G1 is apt to fare better under adverse treatment/conditions than most any other compact on the planet, while offering an increased possibility of survival due to operator-induced sloppy handling.
I found the body fairly attractive - it dispenses with the typical mostly rectangular box that characterizes most compacts and instead presents an angular, quasi-rectangular collection of ridges and slightly contoured edges. The body exterior of our test unit is stainless steel finished in a matte grey two-tone paint (there is a red version available) and the camera has the solid and substantial feel one would hope for in a unit designed to operate in adverse conditions. The battery cover is a two-handed proposition to open - a latch needs to be held aside to unlock the cover, but the end of the cover that is the lift point sits adjacent to the latch, and two fingers just don't fit into this same area very well.
The camera features a 38 to 114mm zoom lens (35mm equivalent) with fairly slow maximum apertures of f/3.9 and f/5.6. There is about 35MB of internal memory and the camera will accept microSD/SDHC memory media; image composition and capture is accomplished via a 2.5 inch LCD monitor.
If this is your first experience (like me) with a camera utilizing microSD memory media, don't assume your friendly local camera store will carry this item - I ended up at a large, wide-ranging photo/appliance/electronics super store to get mine after striking out at a large national chain camera store.
AF acquisition times in good conditions seem fairly quick - shutter lag appears to be pretty good as well, but the G1 seems to have prolonged write times in single shot operation (in the range of 3 seconds shot-to-shot). I'm using a class 4 card at present but will try to track down a class 6 to see if things improve. Image quality looks OK at small sizes but seems to show a fair amount of artifacts at 100%, even at the large/fine quality setting. Color fidelity looks pretty good at default and the G1 has a fair number of user inputs available to tinker with image sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color, so these initial impressions on overall image quality are certainly subject to change once we do some extensive shooting and experimentation.
The G1 seemed a bit less intuitive to just pick up and shoot with than many other compacts - but part of this might stem from the fact I've only shot one other Casio before this. Casio provides a printed quick start guide that covers the basics to get the camera up and running, but the complete guide is in the included software and has to be printed by the user if a hard copy is desired. The bulk of the shooting modes available in the G1 aren't covered in the quick start guide and stumbling upon them with no printed manual in the box took some doing. Movie capture is a simple process of pushing one button to start capture with the second push stopping the process and returning the camera to whatever shooting mode it was in prior to the movie.
We've got a week of wet weather bearing down on us here in soon-to-be-not-so-sunny southern California, but once that passes and the ocean clears the plan is to take the Exilim G1 into the waves and see what we can get shooting surfers up close and personal. There will be a lot of other subjects as well before we ultimately deliver a verdict on Casio's slim all-weather wonder.
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