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Casio Exilim EX-S7 Review
by Andy Stanton -  3/31/2010

Casio makes many compact cameras bearing the "Exilim" name. Some have long zoom lenses, others have high speed shooting ability, and one recently-released Exilim is tough and waterproof. However most are modestly priced, thin cameras ideal for undemanding picture-taking needs. The Casio Exilim EX-S7 is a good example of an Exilim camera that falls under this category. For a list price at the time this was published of $139.99, you get a lot for your money.

Casio S7 Test Image


The EX-S7 features a 1/2.33 inch sensor and 12.1 effective megapixels. Its lens has a focal length (35mm equivalent) of 35.5 - 106.5mm (3x optical zoom) with an aperture range of f/3.1 at wide angle through f/5.9 at maximum telephoto. It also has a 4x digital zoom. It comes with four different movie modes, including a 640 x 480 "YouTube" mode that is activated by a dedicated button.

It features many interesting scene modes and a useful "Auto Best Shot" mode, which automatically selects what the camera determines to be an appropriate scene mode based on present shooting conditions. It's an attractive, functional camera that should appeal to consumers looking to shoot occasional snapshots and movies. But does the performance and image quality of the EX-S7 live up to its appearance? Read on to find out.

Casio S7 Test Image
Wide angle

Casio S7 Test Image
Telephoto


BUILD AND DESIGN
The EX-S7 has a slim but strong body that appears to be a combination of plastic and metal. Its dimensions are 3.8 x 3.3 x 0.78 inches, and weighs only 4.3 ounces. Despite its small size, it feels solid in the hand. Our review unit was metallic magenta, with a retractable, black lens and lens ring.

Casio Exilim S7

The EX-S7 also comes in all black if you're interested in a more conservative color palette. It has a 2.7-inch 230,000 dot LCD screen. Its controls appear to be metal, but the tripod mount is plastic. Vulnerable parts of the camera include its thin, plastic door covering the battery and memory card compartment, and a rubber latch over the USB port. The latch is hard to move out of the way and is barely attached to the camera, so it won't take much force to possibly become detached, which will leave the port open to the elements.

Ergonomics and Controls
While the EX-S7 can be held with just the right hand, I could easily hold it with both since there is nothing on the left side of the camera that could get in the way. The camera's front has a self-timer lamp and pinhole microphone around the lens ring. The flash is located at the top, near the center of the camera. The left side of the camera contains a sturdy metal holder for the wrist strap and a USB port.

Casio Exilim S7 Casio Exilim S7

The top of the camera contains a recessed on/off button and the shutter button is encircled by a control ring, which I prefer more than the separate zoom switches used in many small cameras. The rear of the EX-S7 is dominated by the 2.7-inch LCD. To the right of the LCD is a dedicated button for recording videos at a YouTube-friendly 640 x 480 resolution. Below that is a circular panel for controlling flash and deleting pictures by pressing down, adjusting the display by pressing up and moving through the camera's menus. In the center is the set button, which accepts menu selections and gives you access to a shortcut menu.

Beneath the control panel are buttons that activate the menu and select the Best Shot mode. At the top of the panel are buttons that activate playback and picture taking. The bottom of the camera contains holes for the camera's speaker, a plastic tripod mount and the combination battery/memory card compartment. The camera uses an NP-80 rechargeable lithium-ion battery that according to Casio will last for 260 shots. In two weeks of using the camera, I charged it once and never saw the low battery icon. The EX-S7 also accepts SD and SDHC memory cards.

Casio Exilim S7 Casio Exilim S7

Casio provides a brief Quick Start Guide, with a comprehensive 180 page User's Guide in the form of a PDF file located on a CD. The CD contains Photo Transport, for moving photos from the computer to the camera, a YouTube uploader and Adobe Reader. It does not contain photo management software.

Menus and Modes
The EX-S7 uses a two-menu system: a main menu accessed by the menu button and a shortcut menu accessed by the set button. The main menu contains three columns; one for recording settings, another for adjusting quality (image size, compression level and movie resolution), and a third for set up. The shortcut menu contains many options, accessible only if the camera is in Auto mode, rather than Auto Best Shot mode or Easy mode. These options include image size, ISO and face detection, among several other settings, which are also in the main menu.

The EX-S7 provides the following shooting modes:

Casio S7 Test Image
Monochrome

Casio S7 Test Image
Retro

Display/Viewfinder
The EX-S7 has a 2.7-inch diameter LCD with 230,000 dots of resolution. The LCD brightness level cannot be adjusted and there is no viewfinder, so in bright lighting conditions you may have a problem seeing the screen - I know I did.

Casio Exilim S7 Casio Exilim S7

Shooting Performance
The EX-S7 took about two to three seconds to start up and shut down, which is not bad. I was impressed by the absence of shutter lag. As the performance tables show, its times for focus acquisition, when pre-focused and not pre-focused, are extremely short, in DSLR territory. I occasionally had problems finding focus, especially in low light, but the EX-S7 is a quick camera when it comes to shutter lag.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Casio Exilim EX-S7 0.01
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS 0.01
Sony Cyber-shot S2100 0.02
Nikon Coolpix S70 0.02

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Casio Exilim EX-S7 0.16
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS 0.41
Nikon Coolpix S70 0.67
Sony Cyber-shot S2100 0.68

It's a different story when you want to take successive photos. While shot-to-shot time with the flash enabled was moderate - between four and five seconds - times did not improve with the flash off. Most small cameras take only two or three seconds between photos without the flash, so the EX-S7's slowness is disappointing. As the studio timing shows, the EX-S7 is also very slow in continuous shooting mode, managing only 0.4 shots per second. The EX-S7 has a high speed continuous shooting mode that takes a quick four shots per second, but the images are low resolution - only two megapixels.

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Nikon Coolpix S70 2 1.5 fps
Sony Cyber-shot S2100 1.0 fps
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS 0.9 fps
Casio Exilim EX-S7 0.4 fps

Flash range is up to 9.5 feet at maximum wide angle and 5.2 feet a maximum telephoto. The flash can be set to auto, off, on, soft and red-eye reduction (flashing twice).

Lens Performance
The lens produces photos that are sharp in the center but bit soft in the corners. Vignetting was successful. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) sometimes appears in high contrast shots.

Casio S7 Test Image

I found barrel distortion to be present at wide angle but there was no pin cushion distortion at maximum zoom:

Casio S7 Test Image
Wide angle

Casio S7 Test Image
Telephoto

Video Quality
The EX-S7 shot HD movies adequately. The movies were smooth with good sharpness, color and decent sound. Optical zoom cannot be used in movie mode. Our sample video offers a view of the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.

Image Quality
Images from the EX-S7 had very pleasing color, though overexposure was sometimes a problem. The images are generally sharp, with minor softness in the corners, which is almost impossible to see unless the photo is blown up.The EX-S7 has white balance settings for daylight, overcast, shade, day white fluorescent, daylight fluorescent, tungsten and manual. Auto white balance consistently performed well.

Casio S7 Test Images
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

As the studio images show, the EX-S7 produces its best images at low ISO levels. Noise becomes visible at 200 ISO, but is not a major problem until 800 ISO. For a relatively low priced camera, the EX-S7 does pretty well in this regard.

Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 64
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 64, 100% crop
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 100
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 100, 100% crop
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 200
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 200, 100% crop
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 400
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 400, 100% crop
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 800
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 800, 100% crop
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 1600
Casio S7 Test Images
ISO 1600, 100% crop

Additional Sample Images
Casio S7 Test Image Casio S7 Test Image
Casio S7 Test Image Casio S7 Test Image
Casio S7 Test Image Casio S7 Test Image

CONCLUSIONS
I enjoyed shooting with the Casio EX-S7. It has more interesting features than I would have expected for such a modestly priced camera, though it lacks optical image stabilization. It's small and thin, with good build quality. Performance is a mixed bag; it's very quick in focusing but annoyingly slow when taking successive photos.


Its image quality is good, with bright but realistic colors and a good quality lens with little distortion. Overexposure is an occasional problem when shooting outdoors. Overall, I recommend the EX-S7 for consumers on a limited budget who want a well-built, small camera that has many interesting features.

Pros:

Cons: