Price When Reviewed: 425
Pros: Fast and quiet with good image quality, plenty of advanced features, and bracketing options. The build is compact but solid, with comprehensive display options.
Cons: Stingy internal memory, a tendency to underexpose images, and a low-res LCD.
The Exilim Pro is Casio’s first foray into the burgeoning prosumer digital compact market, and the company seems to have succeeded at the first attempt.
The clunky design gives the appearance of a camera that favours function over form – and functions abound. The metal body of the Exilim Pro feels solid and well made, and all the controls and buttons are smooth, with good tactile response. The camera is large enough to hold in two hands for steady shooting, and allows easy access to all the function buttons, which are laid out around the two-inch LCD screen.
Though the LCD screen is large, clear, and bright, its 480-x-240 pixel resolution is disappointing. The optical viewfinder is clear – and a decent size too. On the top of the camera is a shoe for an external flash to complement the rather weak internal flash. The camera is pretty fast to start up, and has a remarkable 0.01 sec shutter lag.
The 4x optical zoom corresponds to 33-132mm zoom in 35mm format. The zoom mechanism is fast and quiet, and the auto-focus is quick – and accurate thanks to a hybrid AF system. There’s even a manual focus option which is reasonably easy to control.
The 1/1.8-inch CCD gives an effective resolution of 6mp, perfectly adequate for printing up to A4 size. There is a TIFF option for uncompressed file output, and the fine JPEG option gives small file sizes with little evidence of artifacts. The image quality is great for a 6mp compact, though shots were often a little underexposed. There’s no evidence of purple fringing, and little image distortion. Images taken at ISO 200 and 400 are pretty noisy though.
As a point-&-shoot camera, the Exilim Pro works well. The Best Shot mode gives access to 29 scene modes for most lighting situations, and you can save your own setting, too. A macro mode allows focusing from 10cm to 50cm.
In the hands of a more adventurous photographer, the full capabilities of this gadget-packed camera come to light. There are a huge number of bracketing options, including exposure, white balance, focus, sharpness, saturation, and contrast. The camera offers aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual modes. Disappointingly, the normal LCD display mode only shows both aperture and shutter speed in manual mode – why anyone would want to shoot in aperture-priority mode without knowing the shutter speed is a mystery.
The alternative is the Ex display mode. This is bewildering at first – it looks more like a fighter-pilot’s display. As well as
all the standard data you’d want on a display, you get an RGB histogram and a display showing the depth-of-field. However, all the extra information makes it rather hard to see the image you’re about to capture – though for tricky compositions it’s easy enough to turn the display on and off.
Battery life is acceptable, though replacement proprietary batteries are expensive as usual. A good remote control is included. One of the major drawbacks is the paltry 9.7MB of internal memory, which will hold three full-size images if you’re lucky. Most users will buy extra memory anyway, so this doesn’t detract from what is a top camera.