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Casio Exilim EX-S100 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 11/06/05
Rating: Highly Recommended!

Buy Now from Amazon: £159 | $219


Introduction: The Casio Exilim EX-S100, is available for around £159 | $219 - and is an ultra compact, ultra stylish 3 megapixel digital camera, with a 2.8x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 36-102mm on a 35mm camera), and a large 2" TFT screen. The camera is enclosed in a silver or white metal body. It records unlimited 320 x 240 / 15fps videos with sound. The camera's size is: 88 x 57 x 16.7mm. (without protruding parts), and weighs 113g (without the battery and memory card)

The CASIO Exilim EX-S100 is unique in the following way:

"With the EXILIM CARD EX-S100, CASIO presented a world first; the first digital camera to feature a "ceramic lens". This high quality material is predominantly used in high end technology at present due to its high resolution capability and precise refraction. In the EX-S100, the space saving lens enables a 3.2 megapixel resolution with a 2.8x optical zoom. The small camera, no bigger than a bank card, is now quicker and more impressive than ever before."

Casio have this to say about the camera: (from 'Exilim Adventure' in the Fun section on www.exilim.co.uk)

"The EX-S100, on the other hand, returns to the basics of the original EXILIM by adding zoom capabilities to a camera that embodies the basic concept of the original EX-X1: a camera you can keep with you all the time and capture those special moments whenever they happen. The EX-S100 is capable of a host of advanced features like 2.8X optical zoom, a big 2.0-inch LCD monitor screen, and auto focus, all packed into a thin design that puts the emphasis on quality and elegance. Though it was quite difficult to reconcile the needs of both a highly refined design and a slim body, we were able to achieve our success by using the world's first ceramic lens to develop a thin zoom lens module, along with high-density component mounting technology. The EX-S100, which is the flagship model of the entire EXILIM lineup, was honored with a 2004 Good Design Award by the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Organization (JIDPO). The EX-S100 is truly the perfect choice for anyone looking for a take-along-anywhere digital camera that provides the very best in terms of design, form, and function."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's very compact and slim and made out of stylish silver metal.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, led, microphone.


Back - the 2" TFT screen, play / photo button, zoom control, speaker, menu button, display button, 4way controller / OK button in the middle.


Top - on/off, shutter release.


Bottom, under the camera there is a metal tripod mount, the battery and memory compartments, and the dock port.


Left Side (from back).


Nothing on this side (apart from the strap hole).

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison next to the Canon Digital IXUS 30 (the S100 is slimmer).


Size comparison next to the Canon Digital IXUS 30.

Specifications / Features:

  • 2.8x optical zoom
  • 3.2 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 2.0'' digital TFT colour LCD
  • 4x digital zoom
  • BESTSHOT (23 predefined scenarios)
  • Flash assist function
  • Unlimited movie mode (320x240 15fps)
  • Macro, with auto macro function

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • USB Cradle
  • USB Cable
  • AC Adapter
  • Strap
  • CD-ROM (includes full 207 page manual)
  • Lithium-Ion battery (Casio NP-20)
  • 16-page basic reference manual

Average box contents - a large memory card and a small case would have been nice - the printed manual's pretty short as well, although the inclusion of the cradle is quite nice, and would normally cost you extra on other cameras.


S100 in docking station. You can display a slide show, or use it to copy photos to the computer. It is used to charge the battery as well.

Battery usage: Charging the battery takes 140 minutes. The battery life is rated as 180 shots, and up to 540 shots in continuous mode according to Casio. This is very impressive considering the small size of the battery, which is rated at 680 mAh. Battery life seemed very good.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the Play / Photo buttons, or the Menu/Record mode - alternatively you can set the left/right buttons to change the record mode.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is quite low resolution, but updates smoothly - the colours appear fairly accurate. There is a live histogram available and the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Photo menu options are: Record mode (Snapshot, Bestshot (scenes), Movie, Picture with voice memo, Dictaphone), Self-timer, Size, Quality, Exposure compensation, White Balance (Auto, Sun, Cloud, Shade, Flourescant 1 + 2, Tungsten light, Manual), ISO, AF area (spot, multi - multi seems to speed up focusing), Auto pan-focus (this will speed up shot taking), Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast, Flash intensity, Flash assist, Grid, Digital zoom, Review, Icon help, L/R key (can be set to change mode, exposure, white balance, iso, self-timer).

Panfocus Setup menu

Pan focus mode and live histogram - shutter, aperture, and ISO speed are displayed when you half press the shutter. Setup menu on right above

Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) Sounds, Startup image, File number, World Time, Date style, Adjust, Language, Sleep, Auto Power Off, Rec/Play button setup, USB (Mass storage / Pictbridge), Format, Reset.

Dateview (playback mode) Scenes (1 of 23)

In playback mode, pressing up will display a calandar preview of all the images on the memory card, as shown above on the left.

Scene modes are: Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with scenery, Coupling shot, Pre-shot, Children, Candlelite portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Sundown, Night scene, Nightscene portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Collection, Monochrome, Retro, Twilight, Business cards and documents, White board, Custom scene mode. Each scene mode has an explanation to explain what the photo does, and how the photo should be taken. Custom scene mode allows you to setup your own camera settings that can be easily accessed in future.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom is quick up to 4x

Playback menu options: Slideshow, Favourites, DPOF, Protect, Rotation, Resize, Trimming, Dubbing, Create Album (creates a HTML album of photos), Alarm, Copy.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 9.3mb memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
  Fine Normal Economy
3mp (2048x1360) 5 6 13
3mp 3:2 (2048x1360) 5 7 14
2mp (1600x1200) 8 12 23
1mp (1280x960) 12 19 33
VGA (640x480) 44 58 94
Video 320x240 15fps 30 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the 9.3mb memory card - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes, and there is a very good choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Casio Exilim EX-S100:

128mb SD memory card - £11.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
256mb SD memory card - £19.00 from Amazon.co.uk.
512mb SD memory card - £33.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £59.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Software provided: The CD-ROM contains Photo Loader (2.2E) - this lets you view the images and creates a html gallery viewable by date with a built in slideshow, and Photo Hands (1.1E) - this lets you retouch photos (Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, Sharpness, Noise removal, Filter), Resize, Rotate and Print photos. Both programs seem pretty basic and you may be better off using Google's Picasa 2 which is free.

Speed: The camera is very quick to switch on and take photos - the camera is quick to focus and good at focusing indoors (better than the Dimage X60 and much better than the Fuji F440 for example). The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is very quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 4x, this is quick. The camera shutter response seemed quicker than normal when pre-focused. Shot to shot time is quick, but is slower when using the flash - as you have to wait for the flash to recharge. The shot time of the camera can be increased further by using the camera's auto 'Pan Focus' mode which allows the camera to set the optimal focus distance without having to wait for auto-focus.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are very easy to use (I especially like the big play/record buttons). The camera is very compact - but easy to hold and use, although be careful not to drop the camera! The menus are very responsive, very easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a fully automatic mode as well as various scene modes for simple point and shoot operation.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well - although for probably stylistic reasons the labels are the same colour as the rest of the body so don't stand out as much as they would if they were different colours. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, and was the correct weight - it seemed a decent weight and felt very well built.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower Group photo

Inside: The camera has good colour. It has a fairly weak flash, so doesn't cope so well with group photos. The camera did a very good job at focusing the majority of the time. Red-eye didn't seem to be a problem. Images had fairly high noise, especially when left on automatic.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO50, 100, 200, and 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.


Noise test photo - flash on

ISO50 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels

Noise levels appear low at ISO50 and ISO100. At ISO200 noise becomes much more noticable and in my test photos it was high but just about acceptable, at ISO400 noise seems very high.

Outside:

Shops MG Rover 75 ZT (Saloon) at dusk.

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and high saturation. There was quite good detail. Noise seemed on the high side, and best results were obtained using ISO50 or ISO100. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: This camera has a 2.8x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 2.8x Optical zoom 2.8x Optical zoom + 4x digital zoom

Lens noise and zoom: The lens noise is about average, not overly loud, but not especially quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are at 6 steps between wide and telephoto.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing seemed very low.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode* - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, all the way to telephoto - however zooming in allows you to get the closest picture. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 17cm away from the subject from the front of the lens - thus best results are acheived using the zoom. *You don't actually have to switch macro mode on to use the macro mode, the camera will automatically try focusing at the macro setting if the subject is close enough. This makes the camera even easier to use, meaning you're more likely to get the photos you want without even having to switch it to macro mode - I can see this as being very useful for people who are just starting to use a camera.

Macro Tea Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is good - the camera does a good job of toning down the flash, and colours and detail are good. I especially like the auto-macro feature.

Movie: 320x240 - 15fps with sound - you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording, but you can use the digital zoom whilst recording. You can use the optical and digital zoom prior to recording. The movie is recorded as an AVI file. Length is only limited by the memory card size. The quality of the movie(s) is good although the size and frame rate is quite average.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is good, the images have very good colour, saturation, contrast and good detail with very low purple fringing - however there is high noise. The camera did a very good job focusing. There is a good range of image sizes and a very good choice of compression options. The macro mode is good. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good. Red-eye was controlled well. The movie mode is good but slightly outdated now. There is also very good control over image quality, with custom white balance, saturation, contrast, sharpness etc.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is very compact and very stylish being designed very well with a tough metal body - despite the ultra small size the camera feels comfortable in my hands. The camera is very easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a very good choice of features and options to suit all levels of experience, manual focus, flash intensity, auto-macro mode, scene modes, as well as manual white balance, live histogram, audio recording etc. The camera speed is very good, with a good switch on time, very good focusing time, very good shutter response. The camera has good battery life despite it's small size.

Alternative ultra compact digital cameras:

Casio Exilim EX-S500 (5mp version of the S100),
Canon Digital IXUS 30 / 40 / 50 (3, 4 and 5 megapixel),
Canon Digital IXUS i / i5
(4 or 5 megapixel with no zoom),
Pentax Optio S5n
(5mp),
Konica Minolta Dimage X50 / X60 (5mp, 2" or 2.5" screen)
Sony Cybershot DSC-T7
(Ultra slim 5 megapixel - one of the world's smallest with optical zoom),
Olympus Mju Mini Digital
(4 or 5 megapixel versions available in various colours),
Fuji Finepix F440
/ F450 (4 or 5 megapixel),
Nikon Coolpix S1
(5mp),
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7
(5mp with image stabilisation).

Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices. See more suggestions sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: There is a LOT to like about this camera, and very little to dislike! There are so many options and features it puts other well known brands to shame! The CASIO Exilim EX-S100 is an ultra compact, pocketable, take anywhere camera, one of the world's smallest. It's very quick and fun to use, and produces very pleasing results. The camera is very stylish and tough and features far more controls than other ultra compact cameras, allowing you to be more creative, and customise the camera to your own personal style and preferences. The camera is very easy to use for beginners, with numerous scene modes, auto macro-mode and easy to use play / photo buttons. This camera would suit beginners with the easy to use docking station - and would suit more advanced photographers looking for a ultra compact take anywhere camera - this is definitely a camera I'm going to be keeping for a long time - Highly Recommended!

While writing this review - CASIO announced the 5 megapixel upgrade to the S100, the Exilim EX-S500 - the S500 features a larger 2.2" screen, anti-shake technology, plus a VGA 30fps MPEG4 video mode. I can imagine people trying to decide between the S100 and the S500, so here's what I'll recommend: If you want an ultra compact camera with you at all times and want to take photos now, and will only occassionally want to print the photos at A4 size, then buy the S100, which I expect will be around half the price of the S500, but if you already have a camera that suits you and have more money to spend, and want a better video mode, and higher resolution pictures then wait for the S500, which should be available in July 2005.

CASIO Exilim EX-S100 Rating: Highly Recommended!
Buy Now from Amazon: £159 | $219

What I like:

  • Good image quality - rich colour saturation and contrast, good detail
  • Very compact (ultra thin), very stylish
  • Very fast
  • Custom white balance
  • Manual Focus
  • Membership of Ofoto is included with 15 free prints / Free photo hosting is also available from club Casio (http://www.exilim.co.uk/)
  • Good battery life
  • Good quality videos with sound (although only 320x240/15fps)
  • Lots of scene modes, including customisable scene modes
  • Quick access to different modes / features with customizable buttons
  • Audio recording (acts like a dictaphone)
  • Auto macro mode
  • Tough metal body

What I don't like:

  • Picks up fingerprints very easily.
  • Screen grainy (low resolution)
  • High noise (at ISO200 and especially at ISO400)
  • Poor bundled software

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.