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Casio, QV-5000SX Digital Camera
1.3 million pixels, with Casio's first autofocus lens and "Digital Zoom."

1280 x 960 resolution

2X/4X digital zoom

Autofocus lens

Built-in flash

In-camera image editing

New-technology, high-res LCD

Casio, long a giant in consumer electronics, has also been a consistent innovator in the world of digital cameras. Their original QV-10 was the first digital camera to incorporate an LCD screen, a feature that has by now become almost a mandatory component. Casio was also the first company to introduce a swiveling lens, a feature that until now has been almost a trademark of their digital cameras.
Announced at the Spring '98 PMA show in New Orleans, with first shipments beginning in May, the QV-5000SX marks several departures from Casio's past designs. First and most notably, it is their first "megapixel" cameras (1.3 megapixels, to be exact). It also marks the first time Casio has included autofocus in one of their cameras, a fact that probably accounts for their simultaneous departure from the trademark swiveling lens design. (The autofocus motor, etc. doubtless occupying too much space to fit into the small, side-mounted swiveling lens module.) Another notable departure for Casio is the inclusion of an optical viewfinder in addition to the LCD panel. This is a very welcome addition, particularly when shooting in brightly -lit surroundings.
The QV-5000SX is also somewhat simpler than other recent Casio models (the QV-700 and QV-770), lacking the sophisticated timed exposure modes of the QV-700 and '770, while continuing and extending the "Movie" mode. Overall, it appears to be somewhat of a move away from Casio's prior camera-as-consumer-electronics vision, and more toward a view of the digital camera as a photographic tool. While we're sad to see the "past" and "future" recording modes go, we're pleased by the autofocus lens and the higher resolution that the QV-5000SX brings.

As mentioned above, the QV-5000SX's standout feature relative to prior Casio models is its 1.3 megapixel resolution. Casio lists the CCD sensor as being a 1/3 inch unit with 1,310,000 pixels, but only 1,250,000 "effective" pixels. We've seen this more conservative "effective" pixel rating on other cameras, but have to admit we don't really know what it means. Its possible that some pixels at the extreme periphery of the array may be masked-off by the camera's optical system. Regardless of how the sensor pixels are counted, the camera captures images with pixel dimensions of 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480, depending on the image quality setting selected.
Once images are captured, they can be viewed on the rear-panel LCD screen, a 1.8-inch "TFT" unit, specified as having 122,100 pixels in a 555 x 220 array. While it will still wash out in direct sun, we found the anti-glare coating on the LCD screen of the '5000 to be much more effective than that of many digital cameras, and the screen being is useful in bright light than those of many cameras we've tested.

The QV-5000 also includes a flash, which now appears to be a standard feature on Casio's cameras. The autofocus lens mentioned earlier also has a macro mode (selectable from the top-panel controls), as well as a manual-focus mode. This last is a feature missing from many top-end digital cameras, and particularly welcome when shooting under dim conditions.

The QV-5000's Movie Mode allows you to capture "movies", with successive frames captured every 1/10th of a second, and a duration of 3.2, 4.8, or 6.4 seconds. "Movie" mode works by cleverly changing the clocking of the CCD sensor elements to read out portions of the array independently of each other, creating 16 movie frames from each conventional frame stored. This of course, greatly reduces the resolution of resulting images, but the small 160x120 pixel image size makes for quite compact final files, well-suited to casual inclusion in an email or in the corner of a web page.

Other innovative functions retained from the QV-770 include in-camera panorama stitching, and the ability to capture high-contrast images and apply them to other shots as titles.

While shaped much like a conventional (eg, film-based) point & shoot camera, the plethora of pushbuttons and switches and the LCD panel immediately give away the QV-5000 as a digital device. Surprisingly compact (for a megapixel unit), the '5000 is only slightly larger than the QV-770, at 5.1 x 2.7 x 1.7 inches (131 x 69 x 43 mm), and weighs in at about 8.8 ounces (250 grams) without its batteries. Like many smaller digital cameras, it will fit comfortably in the average shirt pocket, but its weight clearly won't let you forget that it's there.

Like most digital cameras, the control layout of the QV-5000SX favors the right hand, with most major functions controlled either by the right forefinger, or by pressing one of the four buttons arranged along the rear of the top panel. The most commonly used operating controls are directly accessible via the top-panel buttons, while less common ones are reached via a menu system using the LCD screen to display menu choices. As we'll describe in more detail later, we've consistently found Casio menu systems to fast and easy to navigate.)

While Casio originated the concept of an LCD viewfinder, the QV-5000SX also provides a separate optical viewfinder. The LCD viewfinder has the advantage of avoiding parallax problems, particularly at close quarters, by showing what the CCD array is actually looking at. (This is especially useful when shooting macro subjects.) In contrast to most digital cameras we've tested, which crop the CCD image, even on the LCD screen the LCD viewfinder of the QV-5000SX is dead-accurate. Of course, there are downsides to LCD viewfinders as well: They invariably wash out in bright sunlight, although the QV-5000SX does better in this respect than most. LCD screens also consume large amounts of battery power, and for this reason, the '5000 allows you to turn the screen off or on at any time. (One unfortunate consequence of turning the display off though, is that this disables the menus! We were rather surprised that pressing the "Menu" button didn't automatically turn on the LCD panel - Rather, you must activate the LCD screen manually before accessing the menu display.)

The QV-5000SX's optical viewfinder is a fixed-view design, but includes framing marks for both normal and macro shooting. There are also markings defining a central region in which the autofocus is active, which happen to fairly accurately define the field of view when running in "4x" digital zoom mode as well.

The lens on the QV-5000SX is a moderately "fast" f2.8 design, with a focal length equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm film camera. The normal autofocus range is from 12 inches (0.3m) to infinity. When the "macro" mode is enabled, the optical configuration is changed to allow focusing as close as four inches (10cm). In the QV-5000SX the aperture switches automatically between f2.8 and f8.

A particularly welcome feature on the QV-5000SX is its provision for manual focus adjustment. When the camera is operated in "manual" mode, you can preset the focal distance to 10 different values, ranging from 10cm (4 inches) to infinity. We say that this is a welcome feature because most digital cameras with autofocus lens systems have difficulty focusing in very dimly-lit conditions. A few units provide one or two fixed focus points as a manual override, but few offer the range of manual focus adjustment that the QV-5000SX does. Manual focus override is important because most autofocus cameras will simply refuse to take a picture if they aren't able to achieve a solid focus lock. One minor quibble: It would be nice if finer focus adjustments were available, as we're concerned that the camera's depth of field at maximum aperture may be smaller than distance between adjacent focus steps. (This is only a guess, however, as we don't explicitly test depth of field.)

In addition to the manual focus option, the QV-5000SX provides a fairly standard "focus lock" feature, in which the camera will autofocus whenever the shutter button is half-depressed, and then retain that setting as long as the shutter button isn't released. This is very useful for focusing on off-center subjects. The QV-5000SX is a bit different than many cameras though, in that the focus lock doesn't simultaneously lock the exposure as well. We'd probably prefer it to lock exposure at the same time as focus, but this is mitigated by the easy exposure compensation adjustment we discuss below.

"Digital Zoom"
Like several other recent digital camera models, the QV-5000SX offers a "digital zoom" function that simulates the operation of an optical zoom lens. We say "simulates," because the end result is not the same, and it's important to understand the difference. Also, various manufacturers are implementing "digital zoom" in different ways, adding to the confusion. (As it turns out, the QV-5000SX employs both approaches commonly used for digital zoom, in its 2x and 4x modes.)

All digital zoom techniques involve taking data from a portion of the CCD array and using it to "fill" an image file in some fashion. We say "in some fashion" because there are two ways in which manufacturers "fill" the file: The first approach is to simply chop out the data from the central pixels of the CCD array, and package it as its own file, pixel-for-pixel. This results in a smaller data file, containing only the pixels from the center of the array. You could achieve the same effect by simply cutting out the center of a file in an image editing application, and saving it as a separate image. The effect is the same as using a longer focal-length lens on a lower-resolution camera, but you end up with a lower-resolution picture as well. Nonetheless, the ability to create a "telephoto" image (albeit at a lower resolution) without resorting to copy/paste operations in software is often a decided advantage. (Close-up shooting subjects for 'web publishing comes to mind.) This "in-camera cropping" approach is used by Casio in the '5000s "2x" digital zoom mode, producing a 640x480 image that is a pixel-for-pixel copy of the center of what would normally be the 1280x960 full-frame image.

The other way to "zoom" digitally also begins by taking data only from the central portion of the sensor array. This time though, rather than just saving it in a file "as-is," the camera interpolates it back up to the size required to fill the original frame: The "zoomed" file has the same number of pixels in it as the original, but object edges are softer and there's less detail. Again, while not a true zoom, this effect is similar in some respects, and the result may be useful for some applications.

Casio uses a combination of both methods just described in the QV-5000SX's "4x" zoom mode: Data is taken from only the centermost 320x240 pixel area of the sensor array, and this data is then interpolated up to create a 640x480 pixel final file size. While we found the '5000s 2x digital zoom to be of some practical use, we felt it would be hard to find a practical use for the 4x output. To our eye, the 4x-mode images were far too pixelated and soft to be of much value. An argument could be made in favor of their use for web presentation, as we discussed above for the in-camera cropped images. In that situation though, you would in most cases want to scale the image down to produce the final web image, which somewhat defeats the purpose of in-camera "zooming" to begin with.

Overall, our opinion on digital zoom techniques is that they can be a genuine convenience for some applications, but they in no way take the place of a true optical zoom lens. Bottom line, it's a nice feature to have for those times you need it, and a worthwhile addition to digital cameras, as long as it comes more or less for free (eg, adds little or nothing to the end-user cost of the camera).

As with most of their cameras, Casio doesn't give an explicit equivalent ISO speed for the QV-5000SX in their literature, but does claim a usable exposure range of EV6 to EV17. This is quite a broad range, running from very low light levels up to full sunlight, although the very brightest scenes in bright sunlight are likely to wash out. (For instance, bright sun on snow or sand.) As a reference point on the low-light side, our fairly brightly-lit indoor portrait shot is taken at a light level of about EV12. A value of EV6 is only 1/64th as bright, which would correspond to a rather dimly-lit room. The lower end of this range is better than that of most digital cameras on the market, although the VGA-level Casio models typically go as low as EV5. Exposure time is apparently controlled both through the mechanical shutter, as well as electronically, through the CCD itself. Shutter speeds range from a 1/8 of a second up to 1/4,000th of a second. As with most digital cameras today, the QV-5000SX includes a 10-second self-timer, allowing the photographer time to get into the shot him/herself.

As to effective ISO speed, working backward from the 1/8th second maximum exposure time, the f2.8 lens aperture, and the lower limit of EV6, you arrive at an effective ISO of roughly 3200! (Exceptional low-light performance has long been a hallmark of Casio digital cameras.) One might ask why Casio doesn't tout this exceptional light sensitivity more in their marketing literature. The answer probably lies in the fact that the 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 taken by the international standards committees. (And in the process, be blamed for falsely "hyping" their products.) What Casio has done in the QV-5000SX (and most of their other QV-series cameras) is to use greater amplification on the CCD's electrical signals 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-5000SX 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-5000SX 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.

Given the fairly long maximum exposure time of 1/8th second on the QV-5000SX, we feel compelled to insert here our standard mini-flame against handheld exposures in low light: (Regular readers of our reviews can skip the remainder of this paragraph.) Many third- or fourth-generation digital cameras such as the QV-5000SX 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 are wrongly blamed for fuzzy images that often are the fault of the photographer. A general rule of thumb for amateur photographers is to use a tripod whenever the shutter speed drops below 1 divided by the lens focal length in millimeters. With the QV-5000SX's 35-mm equivalent lens, this guideline would suggest a tripod for any shutter speed slower than 1/35th 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! (Flame off.)

Like any other auto-exposure system, that of the QV-5000SX 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 appreciated how easy it was to change the exposure compensation during shooting, simply by pressing the "+" or "-" buttons prior to each shot, liking the fact that we could adjust the exposure compensation directly from the camera's pushbuttons, without having to enter the menu system. This allowed us to make exposure adjustments much more quickly than would otherwise have been possible. When exposure compensation is active, the letters "EV" appear at the bottom of the LCD panel, accompanied by one or more small "<" or ">" symbols, corresponding to the number of compensation steps you've taken. The LCD screen provides a preview of the adjusted exposure, but you really need to take the picture itself to know what the final effect will be. Any exposure compensation applies only to the current picture: The EV compensation resets to zero after each shot.

As we mentioned earlier, we were somewhat surprised to find that the QV-5000's exposure didn't "lock" at the same time as the focus did. While you can use the EV-compensation buttons to much the same end, we personally prefer the simultaneous focus/exposure lock used by most cameras, although some recently-introduced higher-end digital cameras have also adopted the approach used in the QV-5000SX. (Perhaps this is a trend?)
The built-in automatic flash has a specified working range of 2.3 to 6.6 feet (0.7 to 2.0 meters), a bit smaller maximum distance than most digital cameras we've tested. At the other end of its range, despite the rather high minimum distance rating, we found the flash performed exceptionally well when shooting close-ups: We found no tendency to wash-out the subject, even when shooting at the minimum focusing distance of 4 inches (10cm). The flash offers four operating modes, including "off" (flash never fires), "on" (flash always fires, for "fill flash" operation, "auto" in which the flash fires as directed by the camera's autoexposure circuitry, and "red eye reduction" mode, in which a single pre-flash fires before the main exposure, to make subjects' pupils contract, reducing the chance of red-eye. Because the flash consumes appreciable battery power, and can take a fair while to charge when the batteries are low, we liked the fact that the flash setting was saved in the camera from one use to the next. (In other words, if we left the flash in "off" mode, it remained so when we next turned the camera on.)

As with the QV-770, we found that the flash on the QV-5000SX was somewhat prone to producing oddly-colored images when shooting under moderate levels of incandescent lighting.. The problem seems to involve the balance between room light, light from the flash, and the assumptions the camera's white-balance circuitry makes about the light source. In situations where there was almost enough light to take the picture unaided, the flash fires and (properly) provides only a subtle "fill" illumination. The white-balance circuitry however, sees that the flash is being used, and adjusts the color balance as if the scene was lit only by the flash. This results in a fairly strong yellow cast. We found we could avoid or minimize this in any of three ways: 1) By selecting an incancescent white-balance setting in "manual" mode. 2) By turning the room lights either way down or off, so the scene would be mainly lit by the flash. 3) By using the EV adjustment to decrease the exposure, which appeared to affect only the room lighting, and not that from the flash. Bottom line, the flash was quite usable under all conditions, but required a little manual fiddling under moderate incandescent lighting.
White Balance

The QV-5000SX normally operates with a very effective automatic white balance control enabled. Alternatively, you can manually select a fixed white balance to compensate for incandescent, fluorescent, or daylight lighting. We found the automatic white balance to be quite effective at neutralizing colors, particularly if the scene contained at least some pure white object. If the scene has an overall color balance biased in one direction or another by the subject's coloration (such as a large background area of colored wallpaper on an indoor shot), this could fool the automatic white balance and produce an incorrect color correction. Surprisingly, we found that the automatic white balance produced a more neutral tone than the "tungsten" manual setting on our indoor-portrait test subject, which did contain large areas of pure white, in the model's shirt.
Movie Mode

Like the VGA-resolution QV-770 before it, the QV-5000SX has a unique "movie" mode, in which long sequences of low-resolution (160x120) images are captured in very rapid succession (at 0.1 second intervals). The resulting movies can be played back directly on the camera's screen, or downloaded as composite images to the host computer, where they can be assembled back into a movie via software. Movies on the QV-5000 can be 32, 48, or 64 frames long, stored as two, three, or four 640x480 image frames in memory. The maximum duration of 6.4 seconds is twice that of the QV-770. The efficient memory usage, combined with the large 8 MB on-board memory capacity of the '5000 means you can store quite a few movies without overly encroaching on your storage capacity for normal still images.
Panorama Shooting

With recent software innovations, "panorama" shooting has become increasingly popular, and Casio provides unique features in the QV-5000SX to support this. As in the QV-770 though, they go the competition one step better, and allow you to actually preview panoramas you've shot directly within the camera. To create a panorama, a series of up to 9 images are taken in sequence, panning the camera between each shot. In playback mode, panorama images are identified by an icon at the top of the frame. Pressing the shutter button while viewing a panorama frame shrinks the image to occupy only the central portion of the LCD screen, and presents a sub-menu for controlling "playback" of the panorama. Pressing the shutter button again begins a slow-motion pan back and forth across the breadth of the panorama, which can be paused with another actuation of the shutter button. Panning direction is controlled via the top-panel "+" and "-" buttons, and panorama viewing can be cancelled by pressing the "menu" button. In-camera panorama playback only works for images still residing in the camera, in their original, as-captured state. Once images have been downloaded to the host computer, the panorama they create can't be played-back in the camera after they are uploaded back again.

As you might expect, the in-camera image-assembly is only of sufficient quality for display on the small LCD screen: You'll want to use the Spin Panorama software included with the '5000 to assemble the separate images together into a single, super-wide picture on your computer. (Note that Spin Panorama allows you to stitch as many images together as you like, bypassing the 9 image in-camera limit.)

One of the big challenges in creating panoramas is to have all the initial images line up properly, and to 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-5000SX though, a clever panorama display 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 every time. (Although we confess that using a tripod is still necessary to obtain the best results.) 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 the final panorama.
Operation and User Interface

With all its operating modes and features, you'd expect the QV-5000SX to be cumbersome or complex to operate. While there are a lot of buttons and menu options, we found the 5000's user interface easy and *fast* to navigate. (The QV-5000 uses the "pSOS" operating system from ISI, a competitor to the new "Digita" system. We found menu navigation on the QV-5000 to be much faster than on Digita-based cameras, perhaps due to the simple monochrome screen icons it uses.)

Major camera modes are selected by pressing the top-panel "Mode" button, which cycles progressively through normal still-picture mode, movie mode, title mode, and panorama mode. Most camera options are accessed by first pressing the top-panel "Menu" button, and then navigating the menus shown on the LCD screen using the "+", "-", and shutter buttons. Commonly-used functions, such as exposure compensation, flash controls, macro and self-timer modes, and digital zoom are accessible directly via top-panel pushbuttons at any time during normal camera operation. (In other words, you don't need to go to the menu system to change these functions.)

Given the wide array of functions on the QV-5000SX, we can't realistically step through each one here, but we'll describe several of the major functions to give a general sense of what it's like to operate the camera. (Readers of our earlier QV-770 review will find the following descriptions quite familiar, as the operation and menu structure of the QV-5000SX is very similar to that of the '770.)
Normal Picture-Taking

Most of your picture-taking will probably be done in the "normal recording" mode, designated by a horizontal "page" icon at the top of the display. 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 screen are controlled by the "Disp" pushbutton on the top panel. You can show or hide several informational displays, including the mode indicator itself, a storage indicator showing the current resolution setting and frames remaining in memory, 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 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 2 EV units in either direction, simply by pressing the "+" or "-" buttons on the top panel. EV compensation is one area where we found the QV-5000SX to be more responsive than the earlier QV-770, in that the LCD display responded almost instantly to exposure adjustments, eliminating the slight delay we observed with the '770.

Changing image resolution in recording mode requires entering the menu system, where you can select from one of the four alternatives (Super, Fine, Normal, Economy) using the "+", "-", and shutter buttons. Other options on the record menu include White Balance (Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Daylight); Focus (Auto, Manual); Picture (sharpness) (Auto, Soft, Hard); and Movie Time (3.2, 4.8, or 6.4 seconds). When Manual Focus mode is selected, the current lens focus distance is displayed in the lower left-hand corner of the LCD screen, and the "+" and "-" buttons control the focus distance, selecting among 8 settings between 10cm and infinity. (Note that exposure compensation isn't available in manual-focus mode.)
Cycle Times

For a megapixel camera, the QV-5000SX cycles fairly rapidly between successive images, but we confess we missed the almost instantaneous cycling of Casio's earlier VGA-resolution models. In "Super" resolution mode, the camera was ready to take the next picture after about 10 seconds, a time that dropped to about 7 seconds for economy-mode images. Flash charging happens after the prior image is stored to memory, adding to the picture-to-picture cycle time. We found the worst-case cycle time to be about 19 seconds with a set of NiMH AA batteries with very little charge left in them. In common with many other late-model digital cameras, the QV-5000SX takes a little while to "boot up" when you first toggle the power, but at 9 seconds, the delay before you can take the first picture is far from the longest we've measured.
Movie Mode

In "Movie" mode, the frames-remaining indicator changes to show the number of movies (of the currently-selected duration) that may be recorded in the available memory. In Movie mode, the flash is disabled (indicated by a blinking "no flash" icon on the LCD screen), and the zoom indicator shows in the lower right-hand corner, because only the central portion of the CCD sensor is used for capturing movies. You can toggle between 2x and 4x zoom modes though, via the top-panel "Zoom" button. Unlike the QV-770, all the normal record-mode menu functions remain available in movie mode, allowing access to manual white-balance settings, manual focus, etc.
Self-Timer Mode

Self-timer mode is indicated by a stopwatch icon. Self-timer mode on the QV-5000SX is a bit simpler than on the QV-770, as the self-timer function works in conjunction with any of the camera's other recording modes, rather than requiring option selections within the self-timer function itself to choose between single-shot or movie recording modes. This is a nice feature, as you may sometimes want to use self-timer mode for panorama-mode shooting, if you're taking pictures using available light with long exposure times: Light, inexpensive, bring-anywhere tripods are generally a bit rickety, particularly if used at full extension. Using the self-timer with such a tripod gives vibrations time to die down before the shutter trips, contributing to sharper pictures.
Panorama Mode

We discussed panorama mode at some length earlier, so won't spend much time on it again here. Like the QV-770, panoramas can only be shot in the horizontal ("landscape") orientation. (The earlier QV-700 permitted panorama recording with the camera oriented either horizontally or vertically.)
Image Review

Once you've taken one or more pictures, you can view them on the LCD screen 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 images more quickly, you can switch to a 4-up or 9-up index display via the "Menu" button. In these modes, the +/- buttons step you through the camera's memory 4 or 9 images at a time. (When you return to normal single-image viewing mode by pressing the shutter button, the image that was in the upper left-hand corner of the screen is displayed at full size.)

In Play mode, you also have the option of zooming in on the images, 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 currently viewing. (Note though, that movie and panorama images aren't subject to zoom-viewing.)
In-Camera Image Manipulation

As digital cameras become increasingly "smarter," it becomes practical to do more and more image manipulation within the camera itself. While not providing quite the range of in-camera capabilities as the QV-700 or '770, the QV-5000 does include several special-effect filters, and the ability to overlay a previously-captured "title" image onto other shots, varying title background shape, color, and position. (Title backgrounds can even have varying degrees of transparency.)

The image manipulation and titling capability is clearly directed toward 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 using 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 computer, we found the in-camera functions both more useful and more fun than we had anticipated: You might not want to rely on the QV-5000SX as your only presentation tool for a multimillion-dollar business deal, but they'd be absolutely great for family "slide shows" or school projects.

While on the subject of presentations using the camera as the "host," we need to make an important note: Some cameras are very finicky about what images they'll display on their video screens, insisting either that the uploaded images be original (untouched) camera files, or that they adhere strictly to the "EXIF" standard for camera JPEG images. While we haven't experimented extensively with this capability, several readers have commented to us that the Casio cameras appear to be much more obliging in this respect, happily accepting all manner of uploaded images for subsequent display.
Image Storage and Interface

The QV-5000SX stores images on 8 megabytes of internal (non-removable) memory. This will hold approximately 16 images in "Super Fine" mode, 30 in "Fine" mode, 57 in "Normal" mode, and 88 in "Economy" mode. As mentioned earlier, movie files occupy the same space as 2, 3, or 4 "Economy" frames, depending on their duration.
Computer Interface
Images are read from the camera using the included QV-Link or TWAIN driver software to download images via the built-in serial port. The QV-Link software is quite straightforward in its operation, and versions for both Mac and PC platforms ship with the camera. In the most common mode of operation for QV-Link, you would probably 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 transfer all the selected shots in a single download. Alternatively, the camera's entire memory image can be downloaded for later sorting and culling in a single operation. Images from the host can also be uploaded back to the camera, increasing the QV-5000's usefulness as a presentation device.

The maximum data-transfer rate between the QV-5000SX and a computer is 115,200 baud. For maximum-resolution images, this translates into an image-transfer time of roughly 50 seconds. Economy-mode images take about 11 seconds to transfer at the same data rate. (These times were measured on a laptop with a 120 MHz Pentium processor: A few seconds of the "transfer" time is occupied by image processing, meaning that faster processors will show slightly lower overall transfer times.)
No Camera-to-Camera Mode or IR-TranP
Since much of this review has compared the QV-5000SX with its lower-resolution predecessor the QV-770, we feel compelled to note two capabilities present on the QV-770 that weren't carried forward to the QV-5000SX:

While we must confess that we never quite saw the point to it, earlier Casio cameras provided for transferring images between cameras, using a special cable. Perhaps due to the larger basic image size of the QV-5000SX, this capability is no longer present. The wireless "IR-TranP" connection supported by the QV-770 was also dropped on the '5000.
Video Output
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 is often sufficient. For a better viewing experience, whether in home or office, there's frequently a computer handy, and computer CRTs almost always look better than televisions. On the other hand, 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. Most digital cameras support either the NTSC video standard used in North America, or the PAL standard common in most of the rest of the world, but not both: The QV-5000SX allows you to select either, using the "Setup" menu to do so.

The QV-5000SX 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 NiCd and NiMH batteries. (A word of caution though: We've heard from owners of earlier QV-camera models that the lower operating voltage of most rechargeable batteries can cause the camera to fatally "hang" as the batteries approach the end of their usable charge. We've never experienced this ourselves, but suggest you be very careful not to push you batteries too far: Recharge them fully at the first sign of a low-battery warning! Casio themselves recommend against NiCd or NiMH batteries.)

As with most similarly-equipped cameras, the LCD panel on the QV-5000SX 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-5000 than in some 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. (Moderated in this case by Casio's recommendation against that battery type, and our notes above about appropriate caution with low-battery conditions.)
Included Software

In common with Casio's other cameras, the QV-5000SX has a rich assortment of included software, although one that heavily favors the Windows platform over the Mac. The software package includes Casio's own QV-Linkdriver software, Adobe's PhotoDeluxe 2.0, ISR's IxlaPhoto, PictureWorks' Spin Panorama and Spin PhotoObject, and a trial offer from PictureMall, an internet-based photo novelty supplier. Of these, only QV-Link and PhotoDeluxe are available for both the Mac and PC: The others are provided for Windows onnly.

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 Mac computers, and a TWAIN driver for Windows ones. All 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-5000SX.

Several of the included software packages provide for image manipulation, and the creation of various projects such as calendars, cards, etc. Adobe's PhotoDeluxe program supports both Mac and Windows environments, while Ixlaphoto and PictureMall work only on Windows 95/98 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. PictureMall's software features ease of use, and links to their internet-connect services for ordering various photo novelty items.

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-5000SX, it is particularly easy to assemble panoramic images. (As mentioned earlier, the panorama shooting mode helps you lineup successive shots, making the final stitching process easier, and the seams between images less evident.) Conversely, Spin PhotoObject lets you take pictures of an object from all sides, and then combine them into a QuickTime "object" that you can turn and look at different sides of on your computer.
Test Results

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the QV-5000SX performed: Explore the links at the bottom of this page, to see how well the QV-5000 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

The comments here are a summary of our more detailed analysis on the "Pictures" page for the QV-5000SX: Refer to that page for a more in-depth analysis of the test results.

Overall, the QV-5000SX exhibited good image quality, turning in respectable, middle-of-the-pack performance in most parameters. Resolution and color quality were neither the best nor worst we've seen in equivalent cameras. Resolution measured-out at roughly 650 line pairs per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions, with slight color aliasing for parallel lines at high frequencies. We did notice an odd artifact that shows as jagged "zipper" edges along vertical or horizontal edges on various subjects. In fairness, this artifact is only visible on the computer screen when you zoom the image to 200% in an image-manipulation program. High-quality inkjet printers will show the artifact at large image sizes though. (To check this with your own printer, try downloading the "house" image, and print it at various sizes. Look around the horizontal slats of the louver in the central gable to see if the artifact is visible, or at what image size it becomes so.)

The optical viewfinder on the QV-5000SX is about average in its representation of the final captured image, showing about 13% less image area both horizontally and vertically than that ultimately captured by the CCD. The LCD viewfinder, on the other hand, is deadly accurate, showing exactly 100% of the final image. (This is a real benefit for macro shooting, or other situations where exact framing is particularly important)

Color accuracy on the QV-5000SX was quite good, although contrast tended to be a bit high, producing slightly over-saturated bright colors, and a minor tendency to lose highlight and shadow detail. Overall though, the 5000's color rendition clearly puts it in the mainstream of megapixel-class digital cameras.

The QV-5000SX' built-in macro capability worked quite well, even surprisingly so, given the lens' wide-angle focal length. At its closest focusing distance of 4 inches (10 cm), it covers an area 3.2 x 4.2 inches (8.0 x 10.7 cm). If all you need is a 640x480 image, the 2x "zoom" is quite effective in macro mode, reducing the minimum area to only 1.6 x 2.1 inches (4.0 x 5.6 cm).

Overall, we found the QV-5000SX' "digital zoom" to be useful in the 2x mode, in which it is simply chopping out the central portion of the image. The resulting 640x480 images would be useful for web work or other low-resolution applications. On the other hand, we didn't see much point in the 4x zoom (which interpolates the central 320x240 portion of the CCD up to a 640x480 image), as the resulting images were so soft and lacking in detail.

As noted earlier, the flash on the QV-5000SX is similar to that on the QV-770, in that it behaves a bit oddly under bright incandescent lighting, producing images with a strong yellowish cast. In other situations, it works well, but shows some light falloff in the corners. A decided plus for the QV-5000SX' flash capability though, is it's stellar performance in close-up situations, showing essentially no tendency to wash-out the subject, even down to the 4-inch minimum focusing distance.
See for Yourself!

Take a look at the test images from the QV-5000SX (with extensive comments), or jump to the Comparometer(tm) page to compare its reference images to those from other digital cameras.

Overall, the QV-5000SX turns in a very respectable "megapixel" performance, with some unique features either unavailable or hard to find elsewhere. (The movie and panorama-capture modes.) Its flexibility and multimedia capability make it uniquely suited for web publishers, but we expect its true megapixel resolution will find it many print-based applications as well.

Reader Sample Images!
Do you have a QV-5000SX camera? If you'll post an album of your samples on one of the photo-sharing services and email us at [email protected], we'll list the album here for others to see!


For More Info:
View the data sheet for the QV-5000SX

View the test images from the QV-5000SX

Visit the Casio web page for the QV-5000SX

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