BUILD AND DESIGN
At the risk of overstating the obvious, I'll say it again - the Exilim S200 is a really slim camera. It measures and weighs about the same as my Blackberry Curve, and it's easily carried in a coat pocket. As a testament to the camera's ultra-compact-ness, I pulled it out of my purse more than once thinking it was my phone.
Ergonomics and Controls
The camera body appears to be thick plastic with chrome accents. The plastic tripod mount on the bottom of the camera is offset below the lens, making it possible to change out memory cards while using a tripod. A tiny on/off button and a shutter button with a zoom ring occupy the top of the camera. The backside is equally minimalist. There's an auto button to toggle between the camera's two primary shooting modes, Auto and Premium Auto, an image review button, and a one-touch movie recording button.
There's also an unusual "REC" button denoted by a camera icon that will power the camera on, but not off. It will also bring you back to the main shooting screen if you're in any menu, though a half press of the shutter will do the same thing.
There's also a circular directional controller with a "set" button in the middle. Pushing the middle button brings up a quick menu with shortcuts to change AF mode, image size and so on. In minimalist fashion, the directional buttons aren't labeled except for small delete and flash icons at the "south" position and a "disp" function at the north.
On the front panel, you'll find a small flash, microphone and an AF lamp. The curvaceous side of the camera has a hook for the included wrist strap and a USB/AF port. The SD card slot at the bottom is easy to unlock, open, and then close and relock.
The S200 comes with a quick start guide on paper and a CD containing a user's guide and photo/video uploading software. A battery charger, USB cable, AV cable and power cord are included (as is a rechargeable NP-120 lithium-ion battery, of course). The S200 is SD/SDHC compatible.
The control layout is logical, if a little redundant, and the camera itself presents no unusual challenges in handling and operation. The left side of the top deck is clear of buttons for left handholding, and there's enough room on the front to keep fingers clear of the lens. The only potential problem is that there's no thumb rest on the back. Such a slim, slick camera would be liable to slipping out of a one-handed grip. It might be wise to use the included wrist strap.
Menus and Modes
One look into the menus and it's clear that this camera is designed for hands-off, no nonsense beginners.
There are two main shooting modes, Auto and Premium Auto. A few basic controls available to the user in Auto mode. Premium Auto will analyze the scene in front of the camera and make some adjustments for the user, so there are fewer control options in this mode. If it's quick and painless snap shooting you're after, the Casio S200 was designed for you.
As mentioned above, pushing the "set" button from the main shooting screen brings up a quick menu. Here are your options in Auto mode:
In this quick menu there's a shortcut to a broader three-tabbed settings menu. Here you have access to controls like image stabilization, AF assist light on/off, and image quality. The middle tab contains two pages of image capture settings like ISO and White balance.
Premium Auto limits your selections to just image size, movie quality, flash settings, self-timer and the Best Shot menu. Under the settings menu, you'll still be able to control image quality and EV, but that's about all the control you'll have over image capture.
If I was an engineer at Casio, and I'm sure as heck not, I'd replace the "auto" button on the back with a "menu" button. Drilling down through the quick menu and the quality menu to get to the white balance setting is a little tedious. If you aren't a control freak and you don't mind leaving those settings up to the camera, then the menu system probably won't bother you much.
The Casio S200 utilizes a 2.7-inch LCD with a 230,400-dot resolution. That's about par for the course in cameras less than $200. It's adequate for framing quick shots and reviewing images.
We measured a peak brightness of 680 nits from the LCD, which would suggest that it's somewhat viewable outdoors. I was able to use it for composition outside, but very bright conditions and direct sunlight proved (as predicted) very challenging for the screen. A contrast ratio of 829:1 suggests that the LCD displays a nice range of light and dark tones, and I found that to be true. Colors are vibrant and true to the image.
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