Casio EX-G1 Review
|Full model name:||Casio EXILIM EX-G1|
|Sensor size:||1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
|Extended ISO:||64 - 3200|
|Shutter:||4 - 1/1250|
4.1 x 2.5 x 0.8 in.
(104 x 64 x 20 mm)
|Full specs:||Casio EX-G1 specifications|
4.0 out of 5.0
Casio EX-G1 Overview
by Theano Nikitas and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 03/26/2010
Sporty, rough-and-tumble cameras like the Casio EX-G1 have been gaining in popularity ever since Olympus really got things rolling with its Stylus TOUGH series of point-and-shoot cameras. With more than 25 years' experience with its G-Shock timepieces, it makes sense that Casio has released a camera that is shock-resistant, waterproof, dustproof, and freeze proof. It's also the thinnest camera so far in this category, and has an unusual but cool design.
In addition to resistance to all kinds of weather and handling, the 12.1-megapixel EX-G1 offers unique Best Shot (scene) modes and Casio's special Advanced Dynamic Photo for combining a moving/animated image with a still image. Interval shooting, widescreen movies (848 x 480), and a special YouTube video mode (640 x 480) add to this camera's appeal. Although there are no manual exposure controls, the Casio EX-G1 provides enough options to keep a snapshooter happy when taking pictures on a hike, at the beach, or under the water. And with this year's wild winter weather, the Casio EX-G1 was perfect for pictures of snowdrifts.
Like most compact and sub-compact cameras, the Casio EX-G1 doesn't have an optical viewfinder or a very long lens. However, its 2.5-inch LCD is usable under almost all lighting conditions and the EX-G1's 3x optical zoom offers a reasonable, albeit not very wide, 38-114mm (35mm-equivalent) focal range.
Available now for US$299.99, the Casio EX-G1 is available in black, or red with black accents.
Casio EX-G1 User Report
by Theano Nikitas
At this time of year, many of us are thinking of--and wishing for--signs of Spring so we can go outside and take pictures, but the EX-G1 has no seasonal limitations. Sure, the Casio EX-G1 is perfect for the beach, snorkeling, or even just a boat ride when the salt spray would wreak havoc on other, more delicate cameras. But the EX-G1 can handle cold winter weather (down to 14 degrees F), mud, sand, dust, and pretty much any other extreme conditions photographers encounter when outdoors. You won't have to worry if you drop the camera, either; well at least not if you drop it from a maximum of seven feet. The Casio EX-G1 is a hardy camera that even the wildest child will have a hard time destroying.
Look and Feel. Measuring only 4.01 x 2.53 x 0.78 inches and weighing 5.4 ounces, including battery and memory card, the Casio EX-G1 fits easily into most pockets and can be worn comfortably around the neck with a lanyard. Rather than the standard rectangular design, the Casio EX-G1 body features interesting angles along the top and sides. The camera is visually exciting, yet the design does not interfere with function. It is easy to hold. You use your thumb and forefinger to pinch-hold the left side of the camera, and the right side has room to rest your thumb on the rear panel. Take care not to squeeze too hard or you'll activate the Zoom controls or the Movie mode.
As expected for a camera in this rough-and-ready class, the Casio EX-G1 is solidly built and sealed against dust and water. Even when submerged, the camera and its lens comes out relatively water-free, with no fogging. You won't necessarily see the O-ring seals they ask you to inspect, but it's best to examine the compartment doors for stray bits of sand or hair, which can allow water or dust to enter the otherwise well-sealed port doors.
Small cameras have small controls, but the Casio EX-G1's buttons aren't super tiny. Still, those with larger hands may want to try this camera on for size. The Power button is very small, and almost flush with the top of the camera so it can be a little difficult to use. On the other hand, that makes it less likely that the Casio EX-G1 will accidentally power on when stowed in your pocket or bag.
Controls. Given the Casio EX-G1's angular design, some of the control buttons are shaped a little differently from most cameras, but they work just fine. All the expected controls are available on the Casio EX-G1, with two zoom controls, a Playback button, a Four-way controller with a center button, a Menu button and a dedicated Movie button.
A 2.5-inch LCD occupies most of the rear real estate with most of the controls running down the right side. The Zoom buttons operate pretty smoothly, though users with larger hands may have some problems telling the two buttons apart. Below the Zoom is the Playback button, which sits above a Four-way controller. Press up on the Four-way controller to change the Display info between image only, or a vertical settings list, battery levels, number of shots remaining. Press once again to add a live histogram. To access the on-screen menu, just press the center button and scroll to adjust a number of options. The default options for the Control panel are: Resolution, Movie quality, Flash, Self-timer, AF area (Intelligent AF, Spot, Multi, or Tracking,), ISO (Auto, 64-3,200), Record Light on/off, Face Detection on/off, and Time. But you can customize the control panel from within the main camera menu (press the center controller button to turn on the Control panel, then press Menu) and choose the eight parameters that work best for you.
Just left of the lens is a bright LED cluster that aims in toward the lens for closeups. Called the Record Light, it functions as a modeling light (of sorts) for Macro shots both above and below the water, and provides a whisper of extra light for movie recording. Though its range is limited, it's bright enough that you should think twice before you aim it at a person's eyes.
In addition to cycling through the flash modes via the on-screen menu, you can also access flash settings by pressing the bottom key of the Four-way controller. This doubles as a Delete key in Playback mode.
Press the right or left keys to turn Make-up or Vivid Landscape options on and off. The former softens the skin for a smoother look and works pretty well. The latter just bumps up the color and, personally, I prefer to leave it turned off.
The final button on the rear accesses the in-camera Menu, which is discussed in the Menu section below.
As mentioned earlier, a tiny power button sits atop the camera, between the shutter and BS (Best Shot or scene modes) button. Initially, I kept hitting the BS button instead of the Power button, and out of habit kept looking for the Best Shot button on the rear of the camera. Even after embedding the information in my brain, I would still hit the BS button on occasion when looking for the Power button. Old habits die hard, I guess.
Lens. Ranging from 38 to 114mm equivalent, the Casio EX-G1's 3x zoom is not as wide as some of the competition, but it serves pretty well. It's a folded optic, which allows it to zoom internally, so no elements protrude from the camera body. As a result, corners are soft, and there's some chromatic aberration, but that's very common in waterproof cameras. There is no optical or mechanical image stabilization, which is unfortunate thanks to its f/3.9 to f/5.9 aperture.
Modes. The Casio EX-G1 has no Mode Dial. Instead, you use the Best Shot button to change shooting modes, which you pick from an onscreen menu. There are 26 Best Shot options to choose from, including a custom/user-set mode, so the EX-G1 covers a lot of ground with these scene modes. Press the zoom key for each Best Shot option to get a description of what each one does.
The Auto mode provides automatic exposure with access to the full complement of other adjustments, such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation, etc. This is not to be confused with BS (Best Shot) Auto, which selects the most appropriate scene mode (i.e., Best Shot mode) for the conditions as determined by the camera.
In addition to the standard Portrait, Scenery, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Snow, Children, etc., the Casio EX-G1 offers an Underwater mode that compensates for the blue hues of water. There are also still and movie Interval Shooting options, which can be used for extra creative still and video shots. For the best results, place the camera on a tripod (although you can put the camera on another, solid surface where it won't be disturbed), set how often you want the camera to take a shot and you're good to go. With video interval shooting you can also program the length of time the camera records.
Two modes unique to Casio are the Multi-motion Image and Dynamic Photo options. The former allows you to capture multiple images of an action, such as someone doing a cartwheel or swinging a golf club and saves them as a single image. With Dynamic Photo, the camera shoots a series of images of a moving subject, which can be cropped out and placed in a still image. The end result is like having a little animation with a still image background. It may be a little challenging to get it perfect on your first try but once you understand the mechanics of the process, you can easily make some of these fun shots. The Casio EX-G1 also has special modes for shooting images for eBay and movies for YouTube so you don't have to bother resizing them for posting online.
Menu. The Casio EX-G1's menu, in both Record and Playback modes, is simple to understand and easy to navigate. Designed with a three-tab layout in Record mode and two tabs in Playback, even beginners will be able to move through the menus easily.
In Record mode, the tabs include: Record, Quality, and Set Up. For Record, you can change the Focus, adjust Continuous Shooting, Self-timer, Record Light, Movie Audio (movies can be recorded with or without sound) and other options. Under the Quality tab, Size and Quality for still and movie images can be set, as well as White Balance, ISO, Metering, Sharpness, Saturation, and Contrast, among others. In Set Up you can adjust the Screen images, Sounds, Time, Auto Power Off, and other basics.
Go into Playback for a variety of options including the Histogram view and Zoom, or zoom out to see thumbnails and a Calendar view. You can also create a basic Slideshow, choose an image for a Dynamic Photo background, converting the multiple images in a Dynamic Photo to a movie, and you can even grab a snapshot from a movie (Motion Print). The Casio EX-G1 also offers basic in-camera movie editing options. For still photos, you can adjust lighting, brightness, correct red eye and white balance, giving you a second chance if your originals don't look as good as you'd like. Making adjustments in-camera also helps avoid having to work on your computer to correct the photos.
Storage and battery. If you thought SD cards were small and that memory cards for digital cameras couldn't get any tinier than xD cards, think again. The Casio EX-G1 (along with a couple of Samsung cameras) uses a microSD card. You may have a microSD card for your cell phone, so this may be good news for you. Frankly, I'm not happy. The card is difficult to handle, you need an adapter to plug it into a card reader, and it's really, really easy to lose. In fact, I lost mine for a few days amongst the papers on my desk (and I'm not fond of being forced to clear off my desk to find a tiny memory card).
But wait, there's more! The microSD card slot is hidden under a door on the right side of the camera. Above the door is a small dial that, in Lewis Carroll style says, "Open" with an arrow pointing in the direction you're supposed to turn this tiny, half-hidden dial. Had I read the manual prior to working with the camera, it might have made more sense. Instead, I turned the dial as far as I though it would go and nothing happened. I tried this several times, feeling much less lucky than Alice in Wonderland, until finally, the microSD card/USB port compartment door popped open. Then I realized I hadn't been turning the dial all the way. Problem solved.
The Casio EX-G1 has about 35MB of internal memory, so if you can't get the door open or don't have a microSD card handy, you'll be able to capture only about four high resolution images. A 4GB microSDHC card can hold about 490 of the same size/quality images or record 52 minutes and 45 seconds of standard (640 x 480) movies.
Powered by a tiny rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Casio EX-G1 can capture about 300 shots on one charge, or about 2 hours 20 minutes continuous movie recording. If you're going on vacation, you might want to pick up an extra battery so the camera doesn't run out of juice. Beware, though, figuring out how to open the battery compartment door on the bottom of the camera was even more difficult than turning the memory card compartment door. Several broken fingernails and sore fingertips later, I was able to concurrently press the release lever and pop open the door to get the battery in the camera. The camera does come with a little plastic Battery Cover Opener but I couldn't figure out how to use it and it's too small to carry around. Still, even when you get the door open, it's very stiff and doesn't move easily. I think someone needs to rethink both battery and microSD/USB access points.
Also keep in mind that battery ratings given assume a "normal" temperature of 73 degrees F. Colder temperatures shorten battery life.
Shooting. The Casio EX-G1 accompanied me on a couple of trips to NYC and came in handy for shooting at home as well. I carried it in a small camera case that I stowed in a shoulder bag while on the road and used a lanyard to drape it around my neck when I didn't want to keep digging in my bag to get the camera out. A windy and freezing evening found me on the deck of a downtown building to view the sunset, which looked pretty through the EX-G1's LCD. Auto white balance worked pretty well for the sunset and the exposure wasn't bad, silhouetting the tall buildings against the river and the semi-colorful sky. These weren't the best sunset shots I've ever captured, and even at different focal lengths, ISO's and shutter speeds, the background was a little soft. Small snapshot prints look okay, though.
Although I shot most of NY Fashion Week with a Nikon D3s, I challenged the Casio EX-G1 to a few shots at a fashion presentation. (For a presentation, the models generally stand in one position rather than walk down a runway.) It was a very dark venue with only a few spot lights, so I thought it would be fun to take some snapshots. The Casio EX-G1's flash is pretty weak and wasn't very effective at lighting the group of models regardless of focal length. With a maximum wide angle zoom of 38mm, I wasn't able to get close enough to a group of models for the flash to illuminate them. In order to get the flash to deliver decent lighting with this lens, and in this dark venue, I had to move in within a few feet of a single model. I was actually very pleased with the shot which was evenly exposed and showed good detail and smooth skin tones.
Even with the flash activated, the Auto White Balance turned out a rather unpleasant yellowish cast, which was eliminated when I switched White Balance to the Tungsten preset. The dark and moody images where the flash didn't reach the models would have worked, though, if it weren't for user error. In order to keep noise at a minimum, I had set the ISO to 200, which then kept the shutter speed at 1/40 second. I didn't check the LCD before shooting to see what the shutter speed was, and with this too-slow-to-handhold shutter speed, most of the images were, sadly, blurry.
Fortunately, or in some ways, unfortunately, a winter storm dumped more than 30 inches one weekend in January, which allowed me to test the Casio EX-G1's ability to deal with a snowstorm. It handled the snow better than I did. I let it sit outside for a short time while the snow was falling and would have left it out there longer but was afraid it would get buried and not appear again until spring. When the snow stopped, I ventured outside to take some shots and never once worried about dropping the camera in the snow or on the residual ice that coated the driveway after it was shoveled. I am a little confused, however, about why Casio included "protectors" (attachable bumpers) to protect the sides of the camera if it is dropped. I dropped it several times on purpose with no ill effects.
Instead of mittens, which were too bulky to operate the Casio EX-G1's buttons, I wore thinner leather gloves and was able to comfortably cycle the power, change settings, and shoot. Auto White Balance worked better than expected, although snow that lay in the shadows was, not unexpectedly, fairly blue. Many of the snow images showed good, albeit not super crisp, detail in the snow and tree trunks, but given the blinding white expanses of snow, exposures were surprisingly accurate and well-balanced.
Since I couldn't jet off to a Caribbean island to test the Casio EX-G1 underwater, I had to resort to dunking a bikini-clad Barbie doll in the sink. Since both the camera and doll are buoyant, it was difficult to hold them underwater (sounds cruel, doesn't it?) and shoot at the same time so the resulting images were blurry. But the AF assist light was bright, and if it hadn't been for camera/doll movement, some of the shots would have looked good. Close-up, the flash did evenly expose the subject. Auto White Balance also worked pretty well. Afterwards, I wiped what little water remained on the camera with a dry cloth and let it sit for about a half hour before opening the battery and memory card compartments--both of which were bone dry. Since the Casio EX-G1 was submerged in tap water, there was no need to rinse it off. If it had been exposed to salt water or even swimming pool chlorine, I would have rinsed it in fresh water after each use.
Although I liked many of my test shots, I would probably use the Casio EX-G1 when I wanted to shoot under challenging weather situations or on vacation where the sand or water would be dangerous for other, less rugged cameras. If you're a snowboarder or skier, the Casio EX-G1 will work for you as well.
What impressed me was the Casio EX-G1's extremely low shutter lag. Autofocus speed wasn't bad either. However, you can take a short nap between shots during normal shooting. Even with the automatic review turned off, the Casio EX-G1 needs to finish writing data to the microSD card before the autofocus kicks in for the next shot. As I mentioned earlier, the tiny flash isn't very powerful--no surprise there--so be sure to get close to your subject, especially underwater, to get the best results.
There are color shifts in greens, yellows, and oranges to be aware of when shooting landscapes and macro flower shots (although macro is pretty good for this class of camera).
I have a wish list for Casio, though. First, a wider angle zoom--at least 35mm but preferably as wide as 28mm. Also, make the battery compartment and the memory card/USB port compartment easier to open. Otherwise, I think the EX-G1 is a cool camera in both looks and utility. I would definitely keep this in my snorkel gear bag or poolside during the summer.
Casio EXILIM EX-G1 Lens Quality
Wide: Slightly soft at center
Wide: Quite soft upper right
Tele: Soft at center
Tele: Softest upper left corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Casio EXILIM G EX-G1's zoom is quite soft from center to corner, with strong blurring noticeable in the furthest corners. At telephoto, blurring is again strong in the corners. However, at both zoom settings the most extreme degree of blurring doesn't extend far into the frame (though both do show soft detail at center).
Wide: Average barrel distortion; quite noticeable
Tele: Some visible barrel distortion
Geometric Distortion: Barrel distortion is about average at the Casio EXILIM G EX-G1's wide-angle setting (0.8%), though it is higher than we generally like. There's also a small amount of barrel distortion at telephoto (0.3%), which is slightly noticeable.
Wide: Moderate but bright
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, but those pixels are a bit bright. Telephoto also exhibits moderate distortion, but the red and blue pixels here are not quite as bright, and are less distracting.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Casio EXILIM G EX-G1's Macro mode captures a very sharp image at the center, though blurring in the corners is quite strong. Minimum coverage area measures a somewhat large 3.35 x 2.52 inches (85 x 64mm). The camera's flash provides slightly uneven coverage at this close range, with noticeable falloff in the left corners of the frame, though results are still usable.
Casio EXILIM EX-G1 Image Quality
Color: The Casio EXILIM G EX-G1 produced generally good color in many respects, though with noticeable oversaturation in strong greens and some reds. However, it held bright blues in check, as well as bright yellows. In terms of hue, a few shifts are noticeable in the warm tones, such as red toward orange, orange toward yellow, yellow toward green, and green toward yellow, oddly. Many consumer digital cameras push cyans toward blue, but the EX-G1 resists and keeps cyans reined in better than most. Darker skin tones are strongly pushed toward yellow, while lighter skin tones are nearly spot on. Overall, generally good performance with just a couple of foibles.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is fair at ISO 64, though already a bit soft. Luminance noise becomes a problem as early as ISO 400, and completely obscures fine detail from 800 on up. Color balance also shifts as colors become muted at the higher settings. For more on how this will affect printed images, see the Printed Results section below.
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) showed dim results at the rated wide angle distance of 9.4 feet, despite an ISO jump to 400. The telephoto test came out brighter at 4.3 feet, though it too has an ISO increase to 400. Thus, the Casio EX-G1's flash is a bit limited, but should prove useful in close quarters.
Auto WB: Close to accurate
Incandescent WB: Too cool
Manual WB: Good, but greenish
Incandescent: The Casio EX-G1's Auto, Incandescent, and Manual white balance settings each produced very nearly accurate results under our household incandescent lighting. The Manual option is perhaps the most accurate overall, though it is a bit greenish.
Printed: ISO 64 and 100 printed results look good at 13x19 inches, though color is more muted than we expected. ISO 200 shots are a little too soft at 13x19, but look better at 11x14. ISO 400 shots are too soft for 11x14, but look decent at 8x10. ISO 800 shots are usable at 8x10. ISO 1,600 and 3,200 shots look good at 5x7 and 4x6 inches respectively.
Overall, printed results are good, but we were disappointed with the low color saturation.
Casio EXILIM EX-G1 Performance
Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is quite good, at 0.23 second at wide angle and 0.28 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.007 second, exceptionally fast.
Cycle time: Cycle time, however, is quite slow, capturing a frame every 4.78 seconds in single-shot mode. Part of the problem here is that the EX-G1 won't employ autofocus until the previous file finishes writing. (We used a Lexar 8GB microSDHC card for our testing.) A "High-speed" continuous mode is available which Casio says can shoot 3 frames-per-second for 8 frames, but only at 2-megapixels.
Flash Recycle: The Casio EXILIM G EX-G1's flash recycles in about 4 seconds after a full-power discharge, though the actual recharge time was difficult to measure because it's faster than the time it takes to write to the memory card.
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Casio EX-G1 body
- Lithium-ion Battery Pack NP-80
- Battery Charger BC-80L
- Wrist Strap
- Casio Digital Camera Software for Windows (including full User's Guide)
- USB Interface Cable
- AV cable
- Protectors (bumpers) and screws
- Battery Compartment Opener
- Printed Quick StartGuide
- Large capacity microSD or microSDHC card. A minimum of 2GB is recommended; 4GB or higher if you're going to shoot video
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
Casio EX-G1 Conclusion
The Casio EX-G1 joins a number of other rugged snapshot cameras on the market with its shockproof, waterproof, dustproof, and freezeproof body. From previous experience, none of these "4-proof" (a term borrowed from Fujifilm) cameras deliver outstanding image quality and the same is true for the Casio EX-G1. Although its images aren't outstanding, in most cases they are well-exposed and, despite some softness, look good printed--particularly for snapshot sized prints. Despite its extremely slow shot-to-shot time, the Casio EX-G1 is no slouch when it comes to snapping a photo--shutter lag seems so low (0.23s to 0.28s) I want to say it has none at all. With a full complement of Best Shot scene modes and a few unique features such as still and movie interval shooting, the Casio EX-G1 is easy to use and can be a fun creative tool as well.
For the price, outdoor snapshooters on a budget may be satisfied to use the Casio EX-G1 as their one and only camera. Enthusiasts, however, will want to keep the Casio EX-G1 set aside for times when conditions require a rugged, weatherproof model and use a more capable camera for their everyday images. As a rugged camera, though, the Casio EX-G1 earns a Dave's Pick!
Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.