DigitalCameraReview.com
Casio Exilim EX-S10 Review
by SarahM -  3/27/2008

I was pretty excited when I found out I would be reviewing the Casio Exilim S10, "the world's smallest and thinnest 10.1 megapixel camera." The camera I currently own is far from being the smallest or thinnest any-megapixel camera, and definitely lacks in the style department.

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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The S10 does not have this problem. Encased in stainless steel and decked out in four color choices (I got red, my favorite), it looks and feels like a great accessory. Of course, it's not all about looks, as any fool knows, and that's why we're reviewing the performance of the S10. Want to know if the book lived up to its cover?


FEATURES OVERVIEW

Besides being the "smallest and thinnest 10.1 megapixel model," the S10 is also equipped with a 3x optical zoom lens, 2.7-inch wide Super Clear LCD, Auto Shutter, face detection and iTunes-compatible H.264 video. The S10 also has Best Shot, a series of 36 scene presets including YouTube capture, pre-record, anti shake, fireworks, and more.

The EX-S10 has the following primary shooting mode options:

The Auto Shutter function is one of the most hyped features on the S10. It includes the smile detection, where the camera focuses on a face and fires the shutter as soon as it detects a smile. This function seemed to work well: you didn't have to over-force a smile just to get camera to capture the smiling face.

Two immediate drawbacks: the S10 doesn't have optical/mechanical image stabilization and the user manual is incredibly difficult to use. The manual is spilt into seven "books" based on language, which would be great if they didn't try to pack three different languages into each "book." Besides the confusing layout, there was a lack of direction and bad use of terminology (such as using REC to refer to the shooting mode).

Overall, I liked using the S10 because it was easy to use (no thanks to the user manual). It can be operated with one hand, it takes decent pictures in auto mode, the battery is rechargeable, and the pictures were easy to load on to my laptop, no software required.

For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL

This is where the S10 shines. Being the smallest and thinnest is no easy feat and it comes in some nice, but subtle, colors. No lime green or bubblegum pink necessary.

Styling and Build Quality

The S10 is a good looking camera. The style is sleek and simple; if you are a fan of the Casio Exilim design, you'll be happy to note they didn't break the mold. It comes in four color options: red, blue, silver, and black.

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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The S10 looks and feels solid despite its size. The camera is surrounded by sturdy stainless steel, and when you squeeze the camera, it doesn't feel like it would explode if dropped.

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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The battery door seems average – it has some give to it and it's made out of plastic. But if you keep it locked you shouldn't have problems.

Ergonomics and Interface

The S10 is 3.71 inches wide, 2.15 inches high, and .59 inches thin. If measurements mean nothing to you, let's just say the camera easily fits in one hand. If you trust your children with a $250 camera, it would fit in their hands too.

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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Using the camera with one hand is pretty simple. The buttons for playback, movie mode, and shooting mode were easily within reach of my thumb, and you can zoom in on a shot with the toggle around the shutter button.

The four-way controller, menu button, and Best Shot button are just below the playback and shooting mode buttons, so even editing and/or deleting shots is easily accomplished using one hand.

The interface was simple enough to navigate. When you turn on the camera, the main panel consisting of nine options is displayed on the right (this can be turned off). The nine panel settings are: image size, flash mode, auto shutter, trigger sensitivity, face recognition, continuous shutter, ISO sensitivity, EV shift, and date/time.

You can scroll and change any of these settings by using the four-way controller and set (center) button. If you want more options, the menu button brings up the REC, quality, and set up sections. You can adjust panel settings here too.

I mentioned before that the user manual used interchangeable terminology and was generally confusing. The on-screen icons, however, are thankfully fairly obvious. For example, the movie settings icon was a video camera and the face detection icon resembled a person.

Display/Viewfinder

The LCD on the S10 definitely lives up to Casio's "Super Clear" name with its 230,160 dot resolution and high contrast ratio. Pictures and movies on the display are clear and crisp; it's easy to track moving images and the screen remains fluid even in low light.

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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There is no optical viewfinder on the S10 for you old-school photographers, but this LCD is a pretty good substitute, I promise. In bright sunlight, you can still see your subjects clearly on the LCD screen, whether taking or reviewing a shot. In low light the LCD automatically gains up. The screen brightness can be also be manually adjusted; there are five settings.


PERFORMANCE

Timings and Shutter Lag

All in all, the S10 turned in an average performance in this area. On the plus side, the S10 can extend the lens and snap a picture in less than two seconds from start up, and when pre-focused, the S10 can snap a picture in .04 seconds – better than a few DSLRs out there.

The S10 isn't so impressive when it's not pre-focused. You either get a fast but completely unfocused shot, or you can half-press the shutter button first, giving you a slower (.9 seconds) but focused shot. On further examination, it seems that the S10 is defaulting to the pan focus mode (where the camera selects a narrow aperture and the appropriate hyperfocal distance for this aperture, making as much of the frame in focus as possible) when the shutter is fully pressed without pre-focusing. If this behavior could be changed, no one in our office could figure out how, and while this may work alright for shooting at a distance, it guarantees close-ups shot in this way will be out of focus.

For all intents and purposes, then, the S10 forces you to pre-focus if you want auto focus: you have to half-press the shutter button, then press the shutter button down once the focus box turns green. Basically, if you can live with having to remember to pre-focus (or live with pan focus for quick shooting situations) you will get reasonably quick, consistently focused shots.

The S10 has good continuous shooting time, shooting consistently at two frames per second at full resolution.

Lens and Zoom

The zoom is notchy, with distinct steps, but it moves quickly from the wide end to the tele – faster than similar cameras that may have smoother zooms. The toggle is very responsive and easy to use. There is a zoom display on the LCD that pops up when you use the toggle to give you a visual cue as to what area of the range you're in.

As noted, the S10 has a 3x optical zoom, and the camera has a definite stop when you hit the 3x limit (a red line in the zoom display). Like many cameras, you can zoom beyond this stop, but the camera switches to digital zoom with the attendant loss in image quality.

The S10 is not especially noisy when zooming and the barrel is of average construction. It has a little more give than similar cameras but not to the point where it should be a serious concern.

Auto Focus

Pressing the trigger halfway focused shots in about .7 seconds, with the white frame box turning green to signal the camera was ready. As noted in the timing section, the S10 can perform erratically if not prefocused.

In low light, the camera still focused well, and the pictures were crisp.

In the face detection mode, family members' faces can be recorded so that the camera will automatically focus/give priority to their faces. You can also set up face detection to record all faces equally or even give priority to speed or quantity when taking shots of a large number of faces.

Other than the face detection options, there are no auto focus mode settings on the S10.

Flash

Flash performance was a little weak – succumbing to the endless battle between quality and quantity. If you want a solid, room-filling flash, the S10 will boost the ISO, which in turn makes the images grainer. If you lock the ISO below 400 (best image quality) you lose much of the flash range.

Exposure color was good but was slightly skewed towards magenta/red in the auto settings. The flash wasn't always metered perfectly either, resulting in some blown highlights.

When it comes to skin tones on your subjects, the S10 rendered evenly without too much flattening/blasting. The soft flash option can help, but at the expense of the flash range.

Full-power flash recharge times were only 4.4 seconds and average recycle times were below 2 seconds, making the S10 a good option for back-to-back flash shooting.

Battery Life

The battery lasted about a week without needing charged. Over that time I took about 155 shots and shot about five videos (all around one to two minutes in length). The Casio manual was actually correct about the S10's rechargeable lithium-ion pack's charge time: it took about an hour and half.


IMAGE QUALITY

The S10's image quality at the baseline ISO is good, especially for an ultracompact. There's a fair amount of contrast but the image shows lots of detail thanks to the sharpness in the center of the lens.

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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The sparkplug tool in the center of the shot shows a good amount of detail, in spite of not having loads of contrast/separation.

Casio Exilim EX-S10

Exposure, Processing, and Color

Certain colors, such as yellows and reds, are rendered with lots of saturation making them heavier and more syrupy than they actually appear. There is a small loss of highlights and shadow detail due to slightly strong contrast processing.

Casio Exilim EX-S10

On the bright side, the S10 takes images with lots of punch, which are preferable for general snapshot shooters. The images would also print well without little or any post-processing – another quality an amateur photographer can get behind.

Sharpness processing is just about perfect for a consumer camera, showing good, strong edges but no halos.

White Balance

Auto white balance is another area where the S10 performed well. Under tungsten (incandescent), mixed, and fluorescent lighting, the automatic white balance was good to very good. When using the flash, auto settings can make skin tones look a bit pink, however.

If you decide to change the preset, finding the white balance settings can be tricky – it's located in the shooting menu, rather than the control panel menu mentioned earlier.

Lens Faults

As it turns out, the S10 has an alright little lens for a compact camera. Barrel and pincushion distortion should both go unnoticed in normal picture taking, and as I mentioned previously, the lens shows good center sharpness. Sharpness falls off only slightly at the far corners of the image.

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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Casio Exilim EX-S10

The S10 showed only the very slightest hint of color fringing in high-contrast areas.

Casio Exilim EX-S10

All in all, a very good performance from an ultracompact camera.

Sensitivity and Noise

The S10's noise progression is as follows:

Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 50
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 50, 100% Crop

Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 100
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 100, 100% Crop

Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 200
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 200, 100% Crop

Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 400
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 400, 100% Crop

Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 800
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 800, 100% Crop

Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 1600
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
ISO 1600, 100% Crop

At ISO levels of 50, 100, and 200, the images are clean and nearly indistinguishable from each other, even at 100 percent view. At ISO 400, the images start to show some noise and slight flattening of colors. At ISO 800 and especially ISO 1600, the images become very noisy with heavy speckling and grain in the images.

Overall, the S10 is lagging behind its peers in performance above ISO 400, which means this might not be the best camera for taking quality pictures in low lighting.

The lack of optical/mechanical image stabilization doesn't help, as the S10 has to work at higher ISO's to compensate.

If you are taking the majority of your shots in well-lit areas, or even outdoors, the S10 is a good choice, but there are better cameras for low light shooting.

Additional Sample Images

Casio Exilim EX-S10
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
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Casio Exilim EX-S10
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CONCLUSIONS

The S10 is a good camera if many ways. It looks good, it's easy to shoot with, and it performs well in many areas: white balance, LCD screen, and auto focus (when pre-focused). But there were also areas in which the S10 was below average, most noticeably the lack of optical/mechanical image stabilization and weak ISO above 400.

Which leads me to my recommendation: the S10 is a good ultracompact camera when shooting in any well-lit area. If you are an amateur photographer who shoots mostly shots of outdoor events, family shots, or well-lit indoor events, the S10 could be the camera for you.

Pros:

Cons:

 

Casio Exilim EX-S10 Specifications:

Sensor 10.1 megapixel, 1/2.3" CCD
Lens/Zoom 3x (36-108mm) zoom lens, f/2.8-5.3
LCD/Viewfinder 2.7", 230K-dot TFT Super Clear LCD
Sensitivity ISO 50-1600
Shutter Speed 4-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Auto, Manual, Movie
Scene Presets 36 presets
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Tungsten, Manual
Metering Modes Multi, Center, Spot
Focus Modes Auto Focus, Pan Focus, Infinity Focus, Manual Focus, Macro
Drive Modes Normal, Continuous, High-Speed Continuous, Flash Continuous
Flash Modes Auto, Forced On, Forced Off, Soft Flash, Red-Eye Reduction
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
None
File Formats JPEG, MOV, AAC, WAV
Max. Image Size 3648x2736
Max. Video Size
848x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Not Specified
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion
Connections USB 2.0, AV output
Additional Features Auto Shutter, YouTube Capture Mode, iTunes-compatible video