Casio, QV-700 Digital Camera
A "Digital Time Machine" with myriad features and a boxful of software!
|640X480 w/flash, macro modes|
|Multiple time-recording modes|
|Unique panorama-shooting support|
|In-camera image combination/editing|
|Video-out for presentations|
|A LOT of software...|
Consumer electronics giant Casio has been one of the true innovators in the world of digital photography, although their role is seldom recognized as such by industry commentators and pundits. Their original QV-10 camera was the first to include an LCD display panel, a feature that has become nearly ubiquitous across the entire digital point and shoot camera marketplace. The swiveling lens first seen in the QV-10 has also become more common among other manufacturers.
With the QV-700, Casio is not only making a move toward more mainstream photographic features (with the inclusion of a built-in flash), but continues their history of innovation with unique timed-exposure modes. These modes are so genuinely useful and take such unique advantage of digital capabilities that we expect to see them mimicked by other manufacturers in the near future. All in all, the QV-700 is a dense package of unique imaging capabilities unavailable in any other device on the market.
The first thing that caught our eye about the QV-700 was the unusually large LCD panel it carries: 2.5 inches doesn't sound that much bigger than the 1.8 inch units that are standard on most digital cameras, but the total viewing area appears much larger than the 0.7 inches of difference in diagonal measurement would suggest. The camera fits the hand well, with the bulge of the battery compartment providing a comfortable bulk to wrap your fingers around. The camera also features the by-now-trademark Casio swiveling lens on the left-hand side of the camera body, rotating through 270 degrees to capture shots below, in front of, above, or behind the camera. A 1/4-inch (6mm), 350,000-pixel CCD sensor capture images at a basic resolution of 640x480.
As mentioned above, the camera is unique in offering a wide range of unusual features, many of which we found highly useful. Foremost among these are its various timed-exposure modes, which we'll explore further in the "Exposure" section of this review. Of the timed-exposure modes though, two deserve special mention: "Past" and "Future" shooting. Each of these modes allow you to capture a total of 4 frames in the space of two tenths of a second (0.2 seconds). These modes virtually insure that you won't have to worry about your subject blinking just as you click the shutter. Even better, the "Past" mode scans the subject continuously, and saves the two frames just before you pressed the shutter, helping to compensate for lagging reflexes that normally result in pictures snapped just after the critical moment has passed.
Overall, the QV-700 offers a tremendous package of features, full VGA resolution, a rich software bundle, and an attractive price for the whole package.
The QV-700 is shaped much like a conventional film-based point & shoot camera, but the plethora of buttons, knobs, and switches give away the fact that this is definitely an electronic-age device. At 5.8x2.7x2.0 inches (147x69x50mm), it will fit into a roomy shirt pocket, but its weight and bulk make it more at home in a coat or jacket pocket instead. At 10.2 ounces (290g) without batteries, it's about in the middle of the weight range for cameras in its class. Designed to be held primarily by your right hand, the most often-used controls are readily available under either your thumb or forefinger. If you haven't used a camera with a swiveling lens before, it may take a little getting used to: Conditioned by years of using less flexible devices, we at first found ourselves tilting the whole camera body up or down to get the shot we needed. Once we became accustomed to the freedom offered by the swiveling lens, we loved the convenience, and the opportunities it provided for candid shots.
Casio originated the concept of an LCD panel as the camera viewfinder, and continues that tradition in the QV-700. The advantage of a direct LCD viewfinder is that it avoids the parallax problems of optical viewfinders at close quarters, letting you see exactly what the lens is looking at, a particularly useful feature when doing macro photography. Likewise, the combination of LCD and swivel lens lets you unglue your eye from the viewfinder, and hold the camera wherever makes most sense for the shot you're taking. In a crowd, you can hold the camera over your head and still see what you're shooting. Alternatively, ground-level close-ups don't require you to be a contortionist to compose the shot.
Of course, there are downsides to LCD viewfinders too: Direct sunlight can swamp the illumination of the backlight, making them hard to read. LCDs are also famous for their power consumption, meaning that near-continuous usage as a viewfinder can lead to short battery life.
We've already talked quite a bit about the swiveling lens mount on the QV-700, so won't spend more time on it here. The lens itself is a very fast f2.0 design, with a focal length equivalent to 38mm on a 35mm film camera. The lens is a fixed-focus design, with two modes; normal and macro. In the "normal" setting, everything from 2.3 feet (0.7m) to infinity is in focus, while at the "macro" setting, the focal range is reduced to 5.5 to 6.3 inches (14 to 16cm). At closest approach in macro mode, the QV-700 can capture an area as small as 3.2x4.2 inches (8.0x10.7cm). (This was one of the best macro performances among the VGA-level cameras we'd tested as of this writing - 3/15/98.)
The lens uses a switchable iris, with two fixed aperture settings. The wider setting corresponds to a very fast f2.0, while the smaller opening stops the lens down to f8. When moving from a brightly-lit scene to a dimmer one, there's a delay of four or five seconds while the smaller aperture is switched in or out. Accordingly, if there's a sudden, drastic change in illumination, allow a few seconds for the camera to get things sorted out before attempting to take a picture. One consequence of the QV-700's switchable aperture is that images shot with lots of light are noticeably sharper than those taken under dimmer conditions. If you're shooting a subject for which sharpness is critical, you may want to use the manual override on the aperture to choose the f8 setting.
Casio doesn't give the QV-700 an explicit equivalent ISO speed in their literature, but does claim a usable exposure range of EV 5 to EV 18. This is a very wide range, and extends quite a bit lower than most other digital cameras. Exposure time is controlled electronically at the CCD, and "shutter" speeds range from 1/8th to 1/4000th of a second. Working backward from the 1/8th second maximum exposure time and the f2.0 lens aperture, you arrive at an equivalent ISO speed of 3200! This is pretty remarkable, and one might ask why Casio doesn't tout it more in their marketing literature.
The answer probably lies in the fact that the standard methodology for calculating "equivalent ISO speed" hasn't been defined yet for digital cameras, and Casio doesn't want to run afoul of any future direction taken by the international standards committees. (And be blamed for falsely "hyping" their products.) What Casio has done in the QV-700 (and in most of their other QV-series cameras) is to use greater amplification on the CCD signal when shooting in low light than is common among other manufacturers. This lets you capture pictures that you otherwise couldn't, but at the cost of increased "noise" in the image.
When the "ISO equivalent" standard is defined, it will most likely take image noise levels into account, meaning that the Casio devices will probably have ISO ratings lower than the value of 3200 we calculated above. Perhaps the best way to understand what the QV-700 offers is to liken it to "push processing" of film, in which changes are made during development to increase the film's sensitivity, at the expense of larger grain and less resolution. Bottom line, however you interpret it, the QV-700 lets you capture usable images in very low light conditions, albeit with a somewhat higher level of image noise than you would see under brighter conditions.
Many third or fourth-generation digital cameras such as the QV-700 are allowing much longer exposure times than were possible with earlier devices. This has proved to be somewhat of a mixed blessing for the manufacturers though, in that they often are wrongly blamed for fuzzy images that may be the fault of the photographer. The QV-700 has a fixed-focus lens, so blurry pictures can't be blamed on poor autofocus performance, but we're concerned that novice photographers adequately understand the steadiness required by a 1/8 second shutter speed: The general rule of thumb for amateur photographers is to use a tripod whenever the shutter speed drops below 1 over the lens focal length in millimeters. With the QV-700's 38mm-equivalent lens, this guideline would suggest a tripod for any shutter speed slower than 1/38th of a second. When you realize that the longest exposure time the camera is capable of is over four times slower, you can appreciate the need to brace or otherwise support the camera in some fashion when shooting under dim conditions. Don't blame blurry pictures on the camera when you're blithely hand-holding shots even a pro would shy away from.
Like any other auto-exposure system, that of the QV-700 is prone to being "fooled" by unusual lighting conditions, such as a bright subject against a dark background, or strong backlighting. To allow for this, Casio has provided an exposure compensation capability, permitting a +/- 2EV adjustment in the base exposure, in nominal 0.5 EV steps. (There are four compensation steps available in each direction.) We liked how easy it was to change the exposure compensation during shooting, simply by pressing the "+" or "-" buttons prior to each shot. In practice though, we found the steps between compensation levels weren't uniform, sometimes making it difficult to achieve exactly the exposure we were trying for. Also, the camera would sometimes take a few seconds to respond to an exposure compensation change, which could result in losing a critical shot.
The built-in automatic flash has a specified working range of 2.3-9.8 ft (0.7-3.0m), and has three operating modes: On ("forced on" or "fill"), Off, and Automatic. The QV-700 is the first Casio digital camera to include an on-board flash, and we found it a welcome addition.
Although we list "cycle time" (the minimum time between successive exposures) in our camera data sheets, we don't normally cover it explicitly in the camera reviews themselves. In the case of the QV-700 though, we feel it deserves special mention, since it is so fast compared to other popular cameras. We found that we could take picture after picture very rapidly, with as little as 1 second between successive frames! This addresses a frequent user complaint with digital cameras, as most take a minimum of 10-15 seconds to process each image. (Note though, that the flash still takes 5-6 seconds to cycle, so you'll still need to be patient with flash shooting. - This flash cycle time though is very much on a par with typical film-based point & shoots.)
The QV-700 normally operates with a fairly effective automatic white balance control enabled. Alternatively, you can manually select a fixed white balance to compensate for incandescent, fluorescent, or daylight lighting. While the automatic white balance setting works well in most circumstances, we found that the incandescent setting provides a much more neutral color cast under incandescent lighting. (Minor interface quibble: We would liked to have had the white balance settings labeled more descriptively, instead of the cryptic "WB-1," "WB-2," etc.)
Timed Exposure Modes
We've mentioned the QV-700's timed exposure modes several times already, but feel they're so important that we're giving them their own section here.
The most interesting exposure modes on the QV-700 take advantage of the sensor's ability to continuously capture images every 0.05 seconds (!), and the availability of high-speed "buffer" memory capable of storing four full-frame images temporarily, until the camera can save them permanently.
The neatest trick is the QV-700's "Past" mode, in which the camera captures three frames of data before you press the shutter button! How can this be? Does the camera read your mind and know when you're about to press the button? Of course, the answer is no, the camera can't read your mind. What happens instead is that, when operating in "past" mode, the sensor and camera electronics run all the time, constantly grabbing frame after frame, one new image every 0.05 seconds. At any moment, the three previous frames are held in memory, until the next one arrives and pushes the oldest one out. When the shutter button is finally pressed, all that happens is that the camera stops overwriting the oldest image each time, saving it to permanent memory instead. The net result is you capture a total of four images, the last captured shortly after you pressed the shutter button.
The "Past" mode can be a real boon, if you're trying to catch a fleeting event or expression, and don't have the reflexes of Superman: If you can manage to push the shutter button within as much as a tenth of a second or so of the event itself, it will be safely recorded.
The QV-700's "Future" mode is the same trick in reverse: Instead of stopping its continuous recording with the button-press, it starts it instead. The end result here is a sequence of four images taken about 0.05 seconds apart, beginning at the moment you pressed the shutter trigger.
The final "rapid exposure" mode is "Continuous" recording, in which pictures are taken about every second, as long as the shutter button is held down, and there's space available in memory.
Sadly, none of the short-interval timed-exposure modes can be used with the flash, as it can't cycle nearly fast enough to keep up with such rapid-fire exposures.
In addition to the short-interval timed-exposure modes, the QV-700 can also automatically capture images over longer periods of time. The simplest of these "Timer" modes is the familiar self-timer, in which the camera counts down for either 10 or 2 seconds before taking the picture. Even here though, Casio goes the conventional approach one or two better: First, you have a choice of three different settings. Two single-shot modes give you either 2 or 10 seconds before the picture is taken. A third, multi-shot mode counts down a 10 second delay, and then takes four pictures at about one second intervals. (How many times have you set up your camera for a self-timer shot, and later discovered that someone blinked when the shutter went off?) Finally, thanks to the swiveling lens, you can turn the camera so the LCD faces the subjects, so everyone can see the big, bright numbers counting down the time until the exposure.
More complex (and unique to the QV-700 as of this writing, in early 1998) is a powerful time-lapse exposure mode, in which the camera can be programmed to take a series of pictures, at fixed intervals ranging from 1 to 60 minutes between shots. In this mode, you can also specify a delay until the first picture of the sequence is captured, up to 24 hours from the time the shutter button is pressed. (You can also configure the camera to take a single shot, after a delay of up to 24 hours.)
The time-lapse exposure mode can be a lot of fun, and could be really useful for school science projects. (We had a lot of fun making time-lapse movies of the clouds racing by outside our window.) We could also imagine industrial or security applications as well. With a large memory card (see the later discussion on image storage), you could capture large numbers of frames to produce longer-running "movies:" A 20-megabyte CompactFlash card could hold nearly 500 images in "economy" mode. (Note though, that you'll need additional software to produce true animated movie files.)
With recent software innovations, "panorama" shooting has become increasingly popular, and Casio provides unique features in the QV-700 to support this. To create a panorama, a series of images are taken in sequence, panning the camera between each shot. Then, software such as Spin Panorama (included in the box with the QV-700) can be used to "stitch" the separate images together into a single, super-wide picture.
The big challenge in creating panoramas is to have all the initial images line up properly, and include enough overlap between them to allow the software to smoothly blend from one image to the next. Normally, this requires either a special tripod head, or a lot of guesswork. In the QV-700 though, a clever panorama mode saves a slice of the image from the right-hand side of the previous frame and moves it over to the left-hand side as an aid to alignment. Even better, the reference image is translucent, meaning you can "see through it" to the current scene coming from the sensor. This lets you achieve almost perfect alignment effortlessly. The ability to achieve such good alignment between shots makes the final stitching process much easier, and reduces the likelihood you'll have visible seams in your final panorama.
Operation and User Interface
Given all its operating modes and features, you might expect the QV-700 to be complex to operate. While it's true that there are a lot of buttons, and a rotating thumbwheel with no fewer than six different positions, Casio's extensive use of the LCD panel makes accessing the different functions pretty straightforward: The key is to familiarize yourself with the meaning of the six symbols on the thumbwheel. Once you know which setting to turn to for a particular function, feedback from notations on the LCD panel make setup easy.
Given the vast array of functions on the QV-700, we can't possibly step through each one here, but we'll describe several of the major modes to provide a general flavor of what it's like to operate the device.
Most of your picture-taking will be done in the "normal recording" mode, conveniently marked with a green rectangle. (It's the only green marking on the thumbwheel, so it immediately suggests "go here.") With the back-panel switch set to "Rec," you're ready to take a picture. In this mode, the LCD panel acts as a viewfinder, but also gives you some information on camera settings: Indicators in the upper left-hand corner show the flash mode (no icon means auto-flash), and whether or not the lens is set to macro mode. Other information displays on the LCD are controlled by the "Disp" push-button on the top panel. You can turn on or off a date/time display; a storage indicator showing resolution setting, frames remaining in memory, and the current storage folder (more on this later); and a battery-condition indicator.
While previewing the scene, the viewfinder display gives a fairly good representation of what the final image will look like. Assuming you don't have direct sunlight falling on the LCD panel, you can generally get a pretty good idea of what the exposure will look like on the final image. If the image seems too light or too dark, you can adjust the exposure by up to 2EV units in either direction, simply by pressing the "+" or "-" buttons on the top panel. (As mentioned earlier though, you may need to wait a few seconds after making a change, as there seems to be a slight time lag built into the camera's autoexposure circuitry.)
You can change the image resolution setting (fine, normal, or economy) at any time while in recording mode, simply by pressing the "F>N>E" button on the camera's top panel. If the camera isn't set to display resolution and remaining image capacity, that indicator will briefly illuminate in the LCD when you change the resolution setting.
In normal recording mode, the "Menu" button brings up a screen allowing you to select "manual" mode, by forcing the aperture to either f2 or f8, or by explicitly selecting one of the fixed white balance settings.
In "Continuous" mode, the menu button brings up choices for Continuous, Past, or Future recording modes. You select a mode by pressing the +/- buttons until the desired mode is highlighted, then the shutter button to select it. When in any of the continuous modes, the flash is disabled, and the flash icon blinks on the LCD screen.
In "Timer" mode, an "INT" (Interval?) indicator illuminates on the LCD screen, and the menu button takes you to a screen where you can set the number of shots you want to capture, the interval between them, and the time at which you want the image capture to start. (The start time is optional. If not specified, capture will begin when you press the shutter button.)
We discussed panorama mode at some length earlier. When in panorama mode, the menu button takes you to a screen that lets you choose between vertical or horizontal camera orientation.
Once you've taken one or more pictures, you can view them on the LCD panel by flipping the back-panel switch to "Play." In this mode, the last picture taken is displayed first, and you can page back and forth between shots by pressing the "+" and "-" buttons. To review your images more quickly, you can switch to a 4-up or 9-up index display. In these modes, the +/- buttons step you through the camera's memory 4 or 9 images at a time.
In Play mode, you also have the option of zooming in on the image, using the LCD screen as a "window" into the full picture. Zoomed in, the full image is about twice as large as the LCD screen, and you can pan around to inspect the full detail of the picture. Panning is controlled by the ubiquitous +/- buttons, and a small icon in the upper right-hand corner of the LCD shows you what part of the image you're looking at.
In-Camera Image Manipulation
As digital cameras become increasingly "smarter," it becomes practical to do more and more image manipulation within the camera itself. Casio has taken this capability to new heights with the QV-700, allowing you to cut-out one image (in any of several different shapes) and overlay it on another; change the color of an image; rotate an image in the display, filling the sides of the horizontal frame with any of a choice of colors; or add titles to your images. Titles are created by capturing a high-contrast image using a special recording mode, selecting one of several standard banner formats, choosing title and banner colors, and finally picking an image to drop the title onto. Title backgrounds can even have varying degrees of transparency!
The image manipulation and titling capability is clearly directed at those who would use the camera's video-out capability (see below) for presentations driven directly from the camera. Some may question the benefit of assembling presentations in the camera, rather than on a computer and simply uploading the results back to the camera for display. While the camera's standalone capabilities are obviously less than those of a software package running on a host PC, we found the in-camera capabilities both more useful and more fun than we had anticipated: You might not want to rely on the QV-700's presentation capabilities to sell a multi million-dollar business deal, but they'd be absolutely great for family "slide shows," or school projects.
Image Storage and Interface
The QV-700 stores images on CompactFlash memory cards. The included 2 megabyte card can hold 14 images in "fine" mode, 26 in "normal" mode, and 47 in "economy" mode. Larger CF memory cards are available, both from Casio and on the open market. (Presently, CF cards are available in sizes up to 48MB, and larger models become available every few months.)
As an aid to managing your images (and in a tip of the hat to the common practice of mixing business and personal use of digital cameras), Casio provides a system of "folders" to help organize your images. At any time, one of six different folders is active. Any images captured will be stored in that folder, and you'll only see images in that folder when in playback mode. Images may be deleted singly, an entire folder can be cleared, or all images in the camera can be erased at once. Images can also easily be moved from one folder to another. Especially in the case a camera with a large memory card used for multiple purposes, we believe the "folders" organization would be very useful.
Images can be read from the camera either by popping the CF card into an optional adapter, which then plugs into a PCMCIA card slot on your computer, or by using the included QV-Link or TWAIN driver software. The QV-Link software is quite straightforward in its operation, and versions for both Mac and PC platforms ship with the camera. The normal mode of operation for QV-Link would most likely be to begin by opening the camera's memory as an index of thumbnail images. From there, it's easy to select multiple images for download, and then pull down all the selected shots in a single operation. Alternatively, the camera's entire memory image can be pulled down for later sorting and culling in a single operation. Images from the host can also be uploaded back to the camera, increasing the QV-700's usefulness as a presentation device.
On the Windows platform, the maximum data-transfer rate is 57,600 baud. This translates into an image-transfer time of roughly 7 seconds, with another 3 seconds per image required for processing and screen display on our 133 MHz Pentium. On the Mac platform, the maximum transfer speed doubles to 115,200 baud, which would proportionately reduce the transfer times.
Shoot them, collect them, trade them with your friends! - Inherent in all of Casio's digital camera models is the ability to transfer images directly from one camera to another. We're not sure just what application this would serve, other than in a high school full of gadget-happy kids. (Its not hard to imagine kids swapping pictures of each other during study hall.) Other than this though, we confess we're hard-pressed to understand how one would effectively use this capability...
Casio was one of the first companies to include video output capability on their cameras, a function that is now commonplace. We've mentioned this ability earlier, and the concept of using the camera as a presentation tool. We vacillate somewhat though, as to how frequently the typical user will take advantage of this capability. For casual one-on-one sharing, the built-in LCD screen (especially the larger than normal one on the QV-700) is often sufficient. For a better viewing experience, whether in home or office, there's frequently a computer handy, and computer CRTs always look better than televisions. On the other hand though, regardless of where you are, you can probably find a television handy that will either have a jack for direct video input, or have a VCR attached that does. Overall, video-out is a handy feature, and one that we'd rather have than do without. (QV-700 models sold in the US only support the NTSC signal standard: Presumably those sold in other countries would support some flavor of PAL.)
The QV-700 is powered by four standard 1.5v AA batteries, or the included AC power adapter. Casio recommends either alkaline or lithium primary cells, but we also had good luck with Rayovac Renewal rechargeable alkalines, NiCd, and NiMH batteries. (A word of caution though: Casio specifically doesn't recommend NiCd or NiMH batteries for their cameras, due to their tendency to drop output voltage very rapidly at the end of their capacity. This can lead to a variety of memory errors, the most severe of which (although rare) requires you to return the camera to Casio for service! We've had good luck with rechargeables in Casio cameras ourselves, but suggest you be very careful not to push your batteries too far: Recharge them fully at the first hint of a low-battery warning!)
As with most similarly-equipped cameras, the LCD panel on the QV-700 consumes large amounts of power. Extended viewing of images will drastically shorten your battery life. That said, although we didn't conduct any formal tests, our general impression was that batteries lasted somewhat longer in the QV-700 than in other LCD-equipped cameras. Nonetheless, our standard recommendation that you use high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries for all your digital cameras holds here as well.
The QV-700 has one of the richest assortments of included software we've seen in any digital camera to date. The software package includes Casio's own driver software, Adobe's PhotoDeluxe, ISR's Ixlaphoto, a trial version of InMedia's Slides & Sound, ColorDesk Photo, Spin Panorama, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Basic camera operation and connectivity is provided by Casio's own QV-Link application for both Mac and Windows platforms. Also included from Casio are a Photoshop plug-in driver for Macintosh computers, and a TWAIN driver for Windows ones. All of these basic applications allow full control over uploading and downloading to or from the camera, and are all you really need to get images into or out of the QV-700.
Several of the included software packages provide for image manipulation, and the creation of various creative items such as calendars, cards, etc. Adobe's PhotoDeluxe program supports both Mac and Windows environments, while IxlaPhoto and ColorDesk Photo work only on Windows 95 machines. All of these provide for basic image manipulation and project creation. PhotoDeluxe includes the greatest number of "guided activities," and the most fonts and project templates, while Ixlaphoto includes "album" organization capabilities, tools for business presentations, and the ability to create simple web pages. ColorDesk's claim to fame is more extensive image manipulation, and a special color-matching system to insure good-looking printouts.
Slides & Sound is a very powerful and easy-to-use presentation package, letting you create slide shows with animated transitions, background sound and/or narration, on either Mac or Windows computers. Finished presentations are actually standalone applications: You can send them over the internet or via email, and the recipient can play them back even if they don't themselves have Slides and Sound. You can even make presentations on the Mac that play under Windows, and vice versa. The version included with the QV-700 is a "trial" copy, that expires 30 days after installation. Even the expired version still lets you create slide shows that will run on your own computer: You just lose the ability to make standalone presentations.
Spin Panorama is a panorama "stitching" program, that lets you combine multiple shots into wide panoramic views. Used in conjunction with the special panorama mode of the QV-700, it is particularly easy to assemble panoramic images. (The panorama shooting mode helps you line up successive shots, making the final stitching process easier, and the seams between images less evident.)
Finally, Microsoft's Internet Explorer is a great "browser" application for the World Wide Web portion of the internet. Although freely available on-line for download, it's a big program, and having all of it available on a CD will save you a lot of download time!
As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the links at the bottom of this page, to see how well the QV-700 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.
Overall, we found the image quality of the QV-700 to be about in the middle of the pack for VGA-resolution cameras. Its resolution measured-out at about 400 line pairs per picture height in the vertical direction, and roughly 375 lp/ph horizontally. This is a bit lower than some VGA-level cameras we tested, and may be due to Casio's use of a 1/4 inch CCD, rather than the larger 1/3 inch one that the higher-performing devices used. On a positive note though, the QV-700's images were almost completely free of the color artifacts that plague many digital cameras when taking pictures of high-contrast objects with fine detail.
We found the "live" LCD viewfinder was both reasonably accurate, and very predictable: In common with most point & shoot camera viewfinders, it displays slightly less of the image than is actually captured. (The captured image is about 8-9% larger than what you see on the LCD panel.) To its credit though, the displayed area is very accurately centered in the final image, avoiding the problems off-center viewfinder framing we've seen on several digital point & shoots.
Color accuracy on the QV-700 was quite good, although saturation (color intensity) was lower than that of the highest-performing units we tested. The fact that the color hues were fairly accurate though, means that a slight bump in saturation in an image-editing program should improve the color rendition with few side-effects.
While it didn't prove to be much of a problem under normal shooting conditions, the tonal range of the QV-700 is somewhat compressed: In scenes with contrasty lighting, you're likely to lose detail in both the shadows and the highlights. This tendency was more evident in strong highlights, but we found we could generally compensate fairly well by using the manual exposure compensation to bring down the overall exposure level one notch.
The QV-700's macro lens setting performed well: At closest approach, it captured an area as small as 3.2x4.2 inches (8.0x10.7cm). This was one of the best macro performances among the VGA-level cameras we'd tested to date.
Overall, the QV-700 is quite a package! It offers a number of features and capabilities that simply aren't available anywhere else in the market (the unique timed exposure modes, and its slick support for panorama images), and its image quality is quite respectable as well. Combine this with the unusually robust software package that Casio includes, and the result is a very compelling combination: You probably get more capability in one box (in terms of ways you can capture images, and things you can do with them) than with any other product on the market.
Reader Sample Images!
Do you have a QV-700 camera? If you'll post an album of your samples on one of the photo-sharing services and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll list the album here for others to see!