The Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505 also has three unusual video modes. Past Movie records the action 5 seconds before you press the shutter release. It does this by continually recording to a 5-second buffer. This is a terrific feature for capturing sports plays, wildlife, or other fast-moving subjects. Short Movie is limited to 8-second clips, and you can set how much of the 8 seconds will be drawn from the buffer. Best Shot, the third mode, provides five preprogrammed settings: Portrait, Scenery, Night Scene, Fireworks, and Silent. All the video modes have full access to the zoom while recording. You may want to use the zoom sparingly because the mechanism is loud enough to be picked up by the built-in stereo microphone.
Photos are saved as JPEG files using one of three levels of compression. Videos are saved as MPEG-4 files at either 640x480 and 30fps or 320x240 and 15fps. A video shot can last until the SD card is full, except when recording in Short Movie mode. The camera provides 7.5MB of internal storage.
The Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505 did reasonably well in our performance tests. Casio advertises the camera as having a 0.01-second release time lag when the image is prefocused, and that's extremely fast. When you don't prefocus, however, that time jumps to 0.3 second, which is still good. Similarly, Casio touts a start-up time of 0.8 second--again, very fast. A more practical measure is the wake-up-to-first-shot time, which we timed at 2.4 seconds. That's better than most cameras.
Shot-to-shot lag times were more typical at 2.9 seconds without the flash and 3.6 seconds with the flash. This camera doesn't have a burst mode, which is surprising, given that it appears to have a fast processor.
The two zoom speeds are dependent on the pressure you apply to the zoom lever. The fast speed was slightly slower moving from telephoto to wide angle rather than the other way around: 2.7 seconds vs. 2.3 seconds. This was due to the camera briefly starting in the slow speed when moving to wide angle, even when we applied the maximum pressure. When using less pressure to engage the slow speed, the timings were consistent, averaging 6.5 seconds.
The autofocus was generally spot-on accurate with well-lit exteriors shots but fell off steeply--both in speed and accuracy--in low light. The automatic macro mode worked very well in bright environments but often failed to kick in automatically in dim light.
The LCD screen was bright and relatively sharp, despite its limited 354x240-pixel resolution. However, it washed out in bright sunlight and was essentially useless in very low light.
The Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505 gave us daylight photos that were well saturated without having the bright colors pop out excessively. Exposure levels were generally accurate with a broad dynamic range. The focus was a bit soft with some photos that had varying contrast levels. That left us with the impression we weren't always receiving the full benefit of the 5-megapixel sensor.
In photos exposed at ISO 50 or 100, visual noise was barely noticeable, although in reduced light at ISO 200 and 400, there was often a moderate amount of noise. The camera became slow to focus as the light level dropped, and the focus and exposure accuracy declined. Given these issues with noise, focusing, and screen visibility in low light, this wouldn't be the best camera to use with available light in darkened rooms. You can supplement the light with the built-in flash, of course. We found the flash to have sufficient coverage for most subjects within 10 feet, though there was a tendency to slightly overexpose the subject. With exterior shots, the flash did a good job filling in areas that needed brightening.
When the camera and subject were stationary, our video shots were nearly perfect, with a sharp resolution and beautifully saturated colors. When there was moderate movement, the video began to blur. And when the camera panned quickly, there were significant amounts of compression artifacts. That may sound bad, and it certainly wouldn't be acceptable with a MiniDV camcorder, but that's the state of the art these days for video compressed in real time on a consumer-grade digital camera. With the EX-P505, these problems are less evident--and the resolution holds up much better--than with competing cameras. If you want television-quality video or footage you can edit, buy a camcorder. If you want usable video captures in an affordable digital camera, this is about as good as it gets.