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Casio EXILIM PRO EX-P600

6.0 megapixels, a Canon 4x zoom lens, and a host of features.

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Review First Posted: 07/30/2004

Executive Overview

Trim, compact, and sporting a stylish new user interface, the Casio Exilim EX-P600 is one of the smallest digicams I've seen that offers so much manual control. The EX-P600 offers a generous six-megapixel CCD, which, combined with the high-quality Canon 4x zoom lens, captures high-resolution images with loads of fine detail. Also packed into the EX-P600's tiny body is full manual exposure control, an excellent range of bracketing and shooting modes, a full range of image adjustment tools, and a unique Free AF autofocus area selector that gives you complete control over where in the frame the autofocus system takes its cues from. The EX-P600's BESTSHOT mode is better suited to novices, offering no less than 25 (!) preset scene modes, but a wide array of features and the option for partial or full manual exposure control makes the EX-P600 well suited to a range of experience levels.

Neat and trim in its small body, the EX-P600 is perfect for travelers, and may also suit more experienced pros who want something smaller than their bulkier digital SLRs for vacations and casual outings. Though the lens protrudes a fair amount from the camera when shooting, it retracts just enough to make the EX-P600 reasonably pocket friendly. The camera measures 3.8 x 2.7 x 1.8 inches (97.5 x 67.5 x 45.1 millimeters) with the lens retracted, and is about seven-eights of an inch thicker with the lens fully extended. Its mixture of plastic and light metal body panels weighs just 9.2 ounces (260 grams) with the battery and memory card loaded, light enough to fit into a purse or coat pocket.

The EX-P600 features a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 2.0-inch, TFT color, high-definition LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder doesn't offer a diopter adjustment, but has an unusually high eyepoint, making it very comfortable for eyeglass wearers. The LCD provides a detailed information display and an optional, stylish interface design that's fun to use, once you get used to it. The Canon-built 7.1-28.4mm, 4x zoom lens is equivalent to a 33-132mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8-f/4.0 (wide angle to telephoto). Canon is well known for the quality of their optics, and the lens on the P600 seems to be no exception, delivering better sharpness in the corners than most digicam lenses I see. A hybrid autofocus system delivers amazingly fast shutter response, with the shutter firing less than 0.3 seconds after you press the shutter release, including autofocus time. In addition to the 4x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to an additional 4x with the digital zoom option, effectively increasing the camera's zoom capabilities to 16x. (Keep in mind though, that digital zoom directly trades off image quality for magnification, because it simply crops out and enlarges the central pixels of the CCD.) The EX-P600's maximum image size is 2,816 x 2,112 pixels, but lower resolutions of 2,816 x 1,872 (a 3:2 ratio), 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; and 640 x 480 pixels are also available. Image quality options include three JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed mode that produces full-resolution TIFF images.

The EX-P600 offers the full range of exposure modes, including Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual settings. In Program mode (also referred to as Snapshot), the camera controls both aperture and shutter speed, while Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, and the camera chooses the best value for the other exposure variable. Manual exposure mode provides total user control over both aperture and shutter speed. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 60 seconds, with a Bulb setting. The Bulb option still has the maximum 60-second shutter time, but lets you determine the length of the exposure without being confined to preset times. In addition to the main exposure mode, a BESTSHOT mode lets you choose between 25 preset shooting modes. You can also create your own BESTSHOT setup, based on the settings used to shoot a previously captured image.

The EX-P600 has five ISO settings (Auto, 50, 100, 200, and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, three metering modes (Center-Weighted, Spot, and Multi-Pattern), plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure value units (EV) in one-third-step increments. The auto exposure bracketing system also brackets white balance and focus settings. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Daylight Fluorescent, White Fluorescent, Flash, or Manual to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions. Image contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustments are available through the LCD menu, as well as a Filter option that alters the tint of an image (Black and White, Sepia, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, and Purple options). A Multi-Bracketing mode brackets images for contrast, sharpness, filter, and portrait settings, providing even more exposure flexibility. An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock (AEL) function locks an exposure reading, eliminating the need to hold down the Shutter button halfway to maintain the exposure setting while you reframe the image. There's also a self-timer option for self-portraits (two or 10 seconds), and an optional remote control.

The EX-P600's Movie mode records QuickTime movies with sound at 320 x 240 pixels. Actual recording times vary with the amount of memory card space, and are limited solely by memory space. (That is, there's no arbitrary limit set by buffer memory capacity.) An Audio Snap mode records 30-second sound clips to accompany captured images, while a Voice Recording mode records up to 40 minutes of audio. Two Continuous Shutter modes capture multiple images in rapid succession, at High or Normal speeds. In Normal Continuous Shutter mode, the camera captures images for as long as the Shutter button is held down, at a rate ranging from 0.6 to 1.1 frames/second, depending on the image size selected. High Speed Continuous Shutter mode is limited to a series of six images, at a rate of approximately three frames per second. (2.3-2.4 frames/second, according to my measurements.) There's also a Multi Continuous Shutter mode, which captures 25 stop-action shots at high speed, and stores them in a single image (25 thumbnails in a 5x5 array). A Coupling mode combines two images shot side-by-side into one (so you and a friend can shoot two pictures, yet get both of you into the final image), while a Pre-Shot mode lets you record a second image on top of a previous one, like a double-exposure (both of these modes are accessed via BESTSHOT mode). The camera's internal flash unit offers four operating modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On, and Off), and an external flash sync terminal on the side of the camera accommodates a more powerful flash unit.

The EX-P600 has 9.2 megabytes of built-in memory, and accepts SD/MMC memory cards as well. Though the internal memory ensures you can snap images with the camera straight out of the box, I highly recommend purchasing a large-capacity memory card along with the camera, ideally at least a 128MB one, given the large files the P600's six-megapixel sensor produces. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images, and if you want a slightly larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Casio also includes a video output cable for connection to a television set. Software shipped with the unit includes Casio's utility package, a capable all-in-one image management program that provides basic organization and editing tools, including an album feature. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Mac and Windows are also supplied.

 

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