At first glance, Casio's Exilim EX-V7 looks like a typical, humdrum compact camera. It borrows the sliding lens cover design made popular by Sony's T-series cameras, has a 7.2 megapixel CCD sensor and a 2.5-inch LCD, and though heavier than most cameras its size, you should feel comfortable carrying it in a pocket. On closer inspection, you'll notice that the lens covers a 7x optical zoom range, covering the equivalent of 38mm to 266mm. Also, Casio includes sensor shift (aka mechanical) image stabilization to help minimize blurry pictures with that long lens.
While the body design seems slick at first, it does have certain issues. Foremost for us was the camera's control system. Almost entirely menu driven, we found it annoying compared to the systems used by most other manufacturers, which provide quick access to essential functions, such as ISO, white balance, and macro mode. It's easy to switch between shooting modes using the mode dial, but changing ISO, even in the best case scenario, takes at least nine button pushes. For comparison, on the Canon PowerShot A570 IS, the same maneuver took three button presses. Also, Casio puts macro mode in the menu under Focus. While this is technically correct, it would've been better to include direct access via a button, as most other manufacturers do. Image stabilization also deserves its own button. Since image stabilization typically changes the way the camera's exposure system chooses shutter speeds, it's best with any camera to turn it off if you are in a situation that doesn't demand it, so a dedicated button really makes sense for this feature as well.
As usual, Casio includes a vast number of scene modes. We don't know why they refer to them as "best shot" modes instead of scene modes, but this model has 33 of them, including specific modes for shooting text, whiteboards, and business cards, as well as one mode made specifically for eBay. We were glad to see that the V7 includes aperture- and shutter-priority exposure modes, along with full manual, should you wish to choose your own exposure. The live histogram in capture mode makes manual exposures a bit easier to calculate, and the static version in playback mode makes double-checking your work less confusing.
The Exilim EX-V7 showed decent speed in our lab tests. It took 1.47 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG. Subsequent JPEGs took 1.63 seconds between shots with the flash turned off and 1.76 seconds with the flash enabled. Shutter lag measured 0.5 second in our high-contrast test, which is meant to mimic bright shooting conditions and 1.2 seconds in our low-contrast tests, which mimics dim shooting conditions. Continuous shooting yielded about 1.4 frames per second (fps) when capturing 7.2-megapixel JPEGs and about 1.7fps with the pixel count reduced to VGA.