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Casio Exilim EX-G1 review: Casio Exilim EX-G1

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The Good Rugged construction; low shutter lag.

The Bad Photo quality is merely OK; long shot-to-shot times; slightly over-designed.

The Bottom Line The Casio Exilim EX-G1 is a good snapshot camera built to take a beating, but its photos and shooting features are nothing special.

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6.2 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 6

The Casio Exilim EX-G1 costs about $300, and it's clear that most of that cost is for its ruggedized body, which allows you to take photos and video where you can't use a regular camera. The ultracompact 12-megapixel camera can withstand a 7-foot drop because of its two-layer construction with a stainless steel outer casing, a resin ring protecting the lens, and a polycarbonate cover on its right side among several other protective measures. It's waterproof down to a depth of approximately 10 feet for up to an hour and it is freezeproof to about 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Its design isn't perfect. Depending on the size of your hands (gloved or not), it can be frustrating to use as a day in, day out point-and-shoot camera. Considering its price tag, some might expect more features and better photo quality. The G1 one is a good rugged snapshot camera, just not a great one.

Key specifications Casio Exilim EX-G1
Price (MSRP) $299.99
Dimensions (WHD) in inches 4x2.5x0.8
Weight (with battery and media) 5.4 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.5-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3x, f3.9-5.4, 38-114mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 300 shots
Battery charged in camera No; external charger supplied
Storage media microSD/microSDHC
Bundled software Photo Transport, YouTube Uploader (Windows only)

Available in red and black versions, the G1 certainly looks different from your average pocket camera. It's very small, which really is what you want in a rugged compact camera, and is something you won't hesitate to take with you no matter what the conditions are. That said, the camera seems over-designed. For starters, there's a dial on its right side for opening the cover on the memory card and Mini-USB/AV compartment--which is located directly below the dial. It takes less than a quarter turn to unlock the door and it turns easily. Other than adding to the rugged mystique, the dial's a little pointless. Better yet, the battery compartment on the bottom of the camera requires a special tool, or a very long fingernail, to open. Even with the tool, opening it requires finger dexterity. The kicker: the battery doesn't charge in the camera, so you have to remove it from the compartment whenever it runs out of power. Casio includes two types of detachable shock-absorbing protectors attached by small screws. Also, Casio went through the trouble of reinforcing the wrist-strap holder by making it out of die-cast zinc. However, the wrist strap is just a typical braided nylon you'd get with a regular compact camera--not so tough.

The camera takes microSD and microSDHC cards that need nimble fingers to handle. This is not much of an issue, though, since you can always use the USB port to transfer files from the camera and not remove the card, and it means you can use the card in a variety of other mobile devices. Of course, if you plan to use an SD card from another camera, then the type of card is an issue.

In my informal durability tests, the camera is tough. The compartment doors stayed shut after drops and there were never any malfunctions because of shock, underwater use, or the cold. The instruction manual, a PDF file on the included software disc, goes into detail about what the camera will survive and what you need to do to insure its survival.

The sizes of the EX-G1s controls are acceptable, but people with larger hands may have some trouble. On its top are Casio's Best Shot button for accessing shooting modes, a power button, and the shutter release. The remaining controls are angled down the back right side, just as the camera body itself is angled. There's a one-press record button for movies; a vertical zoom rocker; Play button; four-way directional pad with a Set button in the center; and a Menu button. All of the buttons look cramped, but, for the most part, they're easily pressed. The exception being the bottom of the zoom rocker (the wide position) and the Play button, which are the same height and too close together. More often than not, when I went to retract the zoom I would enter Playback mode. Putting on thick gloves didn't help things, either. Another issue is that the G1's body is somewhat slick. This, combined with its slim size keeps you from getting a secure one-handed grip on it.

All of the camera's settings are accessed through the Menu button. However, for faster access to shooting options, a programmable panel of settings can be opened on the screen's right side with a press of the Set button. The system is easy to navigate and straightforward and Casio always throws in some extra little options. For example, in the G1 the autofocus assist lamp is an ultrabright LED that can be turned on to use as a recording light for video or as an impromptu flashlight. Another option worth mentioning is Casio's Auto Shutter that will take a photo when the camera and the subject are still. Without optical or mechanical image stabilization, it's a big help when trying to reduce blur.

General shooting options Casio Exilim EX-G1
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto; 64; 100; 200; 400; 800; 1,600; 3,200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent (day white), Fluorescent (daylight), Custom
Recording modes Auto, Best Shot Auto, Best Shot scenes, Dynamic Photo, Interval, Movie
Focus modes Intelligent AF, Spot AF, Multi AF, Tracking AF, Macro, Pan, Infinity, Manual
Metering modes Multi, Center weighted, Spot
Color effects Sepia, Black & White, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, Purple
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

The G1's shooting features are tame. With only a couple exceptions, the camera has similar shooting options to Casio's budget compact, the Z33. With a press of the BS button, you can pick one of more than 20 scene types including standard options like Portrait, Landscape, and Night Scene. There are Underwater and Snow modes, too. The actual Auto mode is more of a Program AE mode that lets you adjust all of the G1's settings--but not shutter speed or aperture. There's also a Best Shot Auto mode that is Casio's automatic scene-recognition shooting option. The camera's Movie mode is VGA-quality video, but the recordings looked good in my tests and are suitable for online sharing. Also, the optical zoom works while recording. You can take a still while recording movies; however, it will take a chunk out of the movie while it's storing the shot.

So what are the exceptions? The company's Dynamic Photo mode makes an appearance; it lets you cut a subject out of one photo and stick them in another, all done in camera in just a few steps. There are Interval Snapshot and Movie modes. The shooting interval can be set at 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 3 minutes, and the capture time for movies may be set at 3, 10, 20, or 30 minutes. There's also the Multi-motion Image mode that captures several images of something in motion, such as someone jumping into a pool, and puts them into one photo. The interval capture options are really the only unique option for the G1. It'll be useful for some, but it hardly seems like a reason to buy this camera.

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