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Casio Exilim EX-S770 Digital Camera Review
by  -  10/24/2006

The Casio Exilim EX-S770 is the latest model in Casio’s Exilim Card line of ultra-compact/ultra-slim cameras.  It features 7.2 megapixel capture resolution, a wide-screen 2.8 inch “Super Bright” LCD and 3x optical zoom.  It’s available in three colors (blue, red, and silver) and is only 0.7 inches thick.  If you’re looking for a slim camera with a nice LCD and good battery life, the S770 should be considered.

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In the Box 

In the box, you’ll find the camera, battery pack, camera cradle, AC cord, wrist strap, USB cable, A/V cable, basic reference manual, and CD-ROM with software and full user’s manual.

Camera Design 

The S770 is part of Casio’s “Card” line, so it's pretty slim, about 0.7 inches thick (excluding projections).  It is available in Graphite Blue, Blazing Red, and Premium Silver.  I received the silver model for this review.  The body has a nice smooth finish and has a high quality feel to it.

The lens retracts into the camera body while powered off and is protected by a built in cover.  Also on the front of the camera, you’ll see the flash, focus assist light, and microphone.

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The back of the camera has the 2.8 inch “Super Bright” LCD.  In the upper right corner, there is a small round button that provides quick access to the movie mode.  If you push the button, a movie starts recording automatically.  To the left of this movie button is the zoom rocker switch.  Moving down, you’ll find the menu button, 5-way control pad, and “Best Shot” button.

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The top edge of the camera has a button to access the “data” storage of the camera, a button to change display (LCD) settings, a button to switch to playback mode, a button to switch to recording mode, the power button, and shutter release.

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The bottom of the camera has a tripod mount and door to access the memory media/battery compartment.

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Camera Features

The super-slim S770 features a maximum capture resolution of 7.2 megapixels.  Images can be captured at resolutions of: 3072 x 2304, 3072 × 2048 (3:2 aspect ratio for 4x6 prints), 3072 x 1728 (16:9), 2560 × 1920, 2048 × 1536, 1600 × 1200, and 640 x 480.   Three levels of JPEG compression are also available: Fine, Normal, and Economy.  At full 7.2 megapixel resolution and Fine compression, the file size is approximately 4.32 MB.  At this size, you can fit approximately 55 shots on a 256MB memory card.

The lens provides a 3x optical zoom range (a 35mm equivalent focal length of 38-114mm).  There are 6 increments of zoom control through the optical zoom range.

The 2.8 inch, wide format LCD on the back of the Casio has 230,400 pixels of resolution, is color accurate and refreshes quickly enough to afford a smooth image.  It gains up or down automatically, depending on the light conditions.  Outdoors in the sunlight, the LCD visibility is very good.

The best part about having the wide-format LCD is the arrangement of the controls.  There are actually two display modes, “normal” and “panel”.  Normal display mode overlays the camera settings over the image at which you’re pointing the camera.  To change settings, you need to access the menu button and use the directional pad.  If you use “panel” mode, the camera settings are visible on the right side of the screen and you can access resolution, flash modes, focus modes, timer modes, ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation by just using the directional pad – no digging in the menu.


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Two shots of settings accessibility when in "panel" mode. Setting are easily change with control pad.

Movies can be captured in several modes: 640x480 and 704x384(wide), at 30 fps; 320x240 at 15 fps.  Optical zoom is not available during movie capture.

For storage media, the S770 accepts SDHC, SD and MMC memory cards.  It also has 6MB of internal memory.

The camera is powered 700 mAh lithium-ion battery pack.  Battery life was very good.  Casio claims 200 shots per charge.  In an attempt to discharge the battery, I got to 243 shots before I gave up (but the battery was close to dead).  To charge the camera, you need to plug it into its cradle.  Charge time is 2 hours.

The “auto” capture mode on the S770 is essentially a program auto mode, where you can modify the ISO, exposure compensation, white balance and so on.  There are no manual modes on the camera, as is typical of this camera's target market.  If you want to get creative, you can use one of the many (over 30) Best Shot scene modes.  A dedicated button provides quick access to the Best Shot menu.

The auto focus system on the S770 can focus as close as 1.3 feet while in normal AF.   When you switch over to macro, you can get as close as 5.9 inches.  You can use a multi-zone focus area or a center zone focus area.  An infinity mode lets you set the focus all the way out, so the camera does nothing with focus when you take a shot.  A pan focus mode comes in handy when shooting a subject that the camera has a hard time getting a focus lock on.  There is also a manual focus mode.  There is also a focus assist light to aid focus in low light conditions.

If you need a timer, you can choose from a 2 second timer, 10 second timer, and 3-shot timer.  There are a few continuous modes on the camera.  Normal speed continuous mode lets you capture images continuously until you run out of memory.  The high speed mode lets you capture up to three images at an even faster rate.  The continuous flash mode lets you take three rapid-fire shots with flash.  In this mode, the camera splits flash power over the three shots, increases the sensor sensitivity, and decreases capture resolution.  Finally, a “zoom continuous” mode lets you take a close-up shot and a wide angle shot of the same subject simultaneously.

The flash button (down direction on directional pad) cycles through the available flash modes.  You can set the flash mode to auto, fill (always on), off, soft flash, and red eye reduction.  The flash range of the camera is 12.8 feet at wide angle or 6.6 feet at telephoto.  When using the continuous flash mode, the wide angle range is cut to 5.5 feet and the telephoto flash range is cut to 2.9 feet.

If you install the Casio Data Transport software, you can “print” any document to the camera.  Once the software is installed, connect the camera to the computer, and from the document’s print menu, you can “print” to the camera.  This way you can view Word docs, web pages, etc on the camera.

Camera Performance and Image Quality 

Camera performance was good.  The camera was ready to shoot under 2 seconds.  Shutter lag was good – on par with other cameras in this class.  Cycle time, even with flash usage, was very good as well.

For a small camera, the controls were laid out well, if you use both hands to hold the camera.  If you just use one hand, the zoom control requires you to relax your thumb grip on the back, leading to a less secure on the hold of the camera.  The shutter button is nice and large (the largest button overall) and easy to operate.  As I mentioned in the “Camera Features” section, I highly recommend that you leave the display in “Panel” mode since it lets you change all of the shooting settings via the control pad.

The flash performed well for a camera of this size.  The claimed range of 12.8 feet was pretty close to what I experienced. If you have a large area where there isn't a wall or backdrop nearby, flash range will be less as there's no reflected light.

While we’re talking about flash, I find the continuous flash mode to be pretty fun.  In this mode, you can take up to three shots, with flash, in rapid succession.  The camera boosts the ISO and decreases the resolution while splitting the flash power over three shots.  It does this well, but the resulting images were very noisy/grainy.

The camera typically achieved focus accurately and quickly.  When you get into darker conditions, need to zoom in a bit, and your subject is out of range of the focus assist light, you may have to work with the camera a bit to get correct focus.  However, these conditions are a challenge for every camera.

Image quality was good overall.  Details were sharp with just the tiniest amount of softness in the corners that isn’t noticeable unless you’re looking hard for it.  Colors were good, but, in my opinion, a bit on the “vivid” side.  Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was very well controlled.  The camera usually did a good job with exposure with possibly a slight tendency to over-exposure in tough lighting conditions.  If you notice this, just knock down the exposure compensation a bit.


(view medium image) (view large image) Sharp details - go ahead, count the blades of grass

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(view medium image) (view large image) Yellow plant is just a bit over-exposed in this shot in full sunlight

Noise performance was similar to other cameras in its class.  ISO 50 and ISO 100 are very clean.  At ISO 200, the trained eye will be able to see noise.  At ISO 400, you can still get a usable regular sized print, but some fine detail will be lost.

Additional Sample Images

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Specifications 

Conclusion

The Casio Exilim EX-S770 is definitely a head turner.  Even though my review unit was “just silver”, its looks and finish raised a lot of eyebrows.  People just like small shiny things, I guess.  Maybe it’s the 2.8 inch wide LCD.  Anyway, besides its good looks and LCD, the S770 is built well and is very pocketable at only 0.7 inches thick.  Once you get past the cover of this book, the camera also takes good pictures, has great battery life, and a very bright LCD, even outside in the sun. 

If you’re looking for a stylish, ultra-compact/slim digital camera and you don’t need manual exposure modes, the S770 would be a good choice.  While it may not be the cheapest ultra-slim camera, its good image quality, excellent battery life and the wide, bright LCD make it a good buy.

Pros

Cons