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Casio Exilim EX-S10 review: Casio Exilim EX-S10

Casio Exilim EX-S10

Theano Nikitas

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6 min read

Arriving six years after Casio first introduced its slimmer-than-slim Exilim line, the 10-megapixel EX-S10 launched as the "thinnest 10-megapixel" digital camera on the market. For those of you who want a carry-anywhere point-and-shoot camera, that's a good thing. While an ultracompact--and fashionable--design is not quite enough to make the S10 a star these days, especially considering its modest 36-108mm (35mm equivalent) 3x zoom lens, this little camera has a few tricks up its sleeve and it's fun to use.

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6.6

Casio Exilim EX-S10

The Good

Slim design; features not often found on cameras in this class/price range; convenient onscreen menu; live histogram; broad Best Shot options; peppy performance.

The Bad

Tiny controls; impossible to read icons/text on buttons and camera body; soft photos; moderate zoom focal range.

The Bottom Line

Although its tiny size and just-average image quality may be dealbreakers for some, the Casio Exilim EX-S10 comes equipped with tons of features that will appeal to snapshooters who want an easy-to-use camera that delivers more than simply point-and-shoot control.

Working with any ultracompact has its benefits and drawbacks, and the S10 is no exception. On the one hand, the S10's slender chassis is ultraportable and small enough to squeeze into skinny jean pockets; measuring 3.7 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.6 inch and weighing 4.6 ounces fully loaded, you can even wear it around your neck dangling from a lanyard for quick access (and to show off the camera). It looks good in silver, black, red, or blue--all with silver accents--and its slightly rounded corners adds another dash of style. Because its lens extends out from the camera when powered on, there's little chance of an errant finger blocking the lens as is often the case with ultracompacts.

The downside is, of course, tiny external controls, including a very low profile power button and small shutter/zoom combo along the camera's top edge. Given that the S10 features a 2.7-inch LCD, which occupies the majority of its rear real estate, it's no surprise that buttons and the four-way controller are diminutive as well. You're more likely to need a fingernail tip to operate the camera's dedicated buttons and four-way controller than the pad of your finger, so if you're a nail biter, in between manicures, or have large hands, operating the S10 may be a little awkward, if not challenging. Complicating matters, the silver-on-silver icons and text on the buttons are difficult to read, as are the silver icons and text on the camera body (at least on our red review unit).

But the LCD, with manual and auto brightness adjustments, works pretty well under most lighting conditions and is easy to view from an angle when shooting overhead or showing off images to family and friends. After trying both auto settings (Auto 1 and Auto 2), I decided to manually bump up the brightness to +1 for outdoor shooting. A +2 option is also available, but it's a little too washed out in sunlight.

Once you get past its size, operating the S10 is pretty easy thanks to the onscreen panel menu. With the four-way controller and the center set button, you can quickly change the image resolution as well as access flash, auto shutter, and trigger sensitivity options. The onscreen menu also let you enable face detection, and adjust continuous shooting, ISO, and exposure compensation settings. The time is also displayed at the bottom of the list. No worries if you don't know what each one does since there's a text explanation that will make sense to pretty much everyone, even beginners, can figure it out.

You won't find any manual exposure controls, and basic shooting options are limited to automatic and a full complement of scene modes (Best Shot modes in Casio parlance). But the S10 offers a few notable features. Because it lacks optical image stabilization, Casio added a couple of Auto Shutter settings that help capture nonblurry images. Detect Blur, which automatically triggers the shutter when no motion is detected (either from you or your subject), actually works pretty well. Of course, it can be frustrating when you're photographing an inanimate object, think that you're holding the camera rock steady, and no shot is taken. The second blur compensation option works in much the same way for Panning; it automatically captures an image when the subject is in focus. The third Auto Shutter option, Detect Smile, triggers the shutter when the subject smiles. It's not infallible, but it works relatively well.

Face Detection has become a pretty standard feature these days, but Casio has expanded the options to include personalization in the form of Face Recognition: Family First. You can record the faces of family and friends to the camera's memory and then assign priority to those faces when shooting a group so the people on your A-list will be given focus and exposure priority. You can also edit the entries to switch priorities, rename, or eliminate anyone on your list.

Another people feature is Portrait Refiner with optional +1 and +2 Noise Filter settings. Essentially, Noise Filter softens the image, which gives the subject's skin a smoother, more pleasing look. Use this feature sparingly, though, so you don't end up with a portrait that looks out of focus or completely bland-featured friends.

Dynamic range controls are starting to become more popular, although mostly on higher end cameras. The S10 has a Dynamic Range expander (+1, +2 or Off) that does a pretty good job of lightening shadows and retaining detail in those areas but is less adept at holding onto highlight details. Still, it's useful when shooting high-contrast scenes. There are also extras not often found in cameras of this class--and price--such as control over contrast, saturation, and sharpness.

One feature that kind of stumped me is the S10's shutter sensitivity setting, which has a three-step adjustment. The camera has little shutter lag so this just seems like an afterthought. And I could barely tell the difference between the three settings.

Casio does a good job of providing a lot of Best Shot (scene) modes, with everything from two-person self-portrait to fireworks, eBay, and YouTube. Now the S10 records movies in H.264 MOV with AAC audio so Mac users can simply drag and drop their videos into iTunes and then transfer them to iPods or iPhones.

Overall, the S10 is pretty peppy with a fast 1.5-second start-up time and relatively little shutter lag of 0.4 second in high-contrast scenes and 0.8 second in low. Shot-to-shot time is good at 1 second and slows only to 2.3 seconds when using flash. The flash isn't very powerful, though, even when adjusted up one or two steps in the main menu, so don't expect this camera to light up a room. Equipped with three continuous shooting modes, the S10 offers a slow rate of less than one frame per second at full resolution; you can also take three quick consecutive high-resolution shots with flash. If you want more speed, the S10 can deliver at almost 4 fps but you'll end up with low-resolution 1MB files.

ISO starts at 50 and extends only to 1,600 manually; you have to go into the Best Shot mode for High Sensitivity but it's best that you stick with the lowest ISO possible to keep image noise to a minimum. Going above ISO 400 really isn't recommended unless you plan to make snapshot-size prints.

Fussy photographers might not be satisfied with the S10's image quality, and upon close examination, photos are a little soft, especially around the edges where there's significant lens distortion. Colors are reproduced naturally, albeit without much detail. Purple fringing appeared along some high-contrast edges, but not all of them. The S10 is far from being perfect but it looks cool, has some useful features for point-and-shooters who want a little more control, and, frankly, I was pretty happy with most of my snapshots.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot SD770 IS
1 
3.7 
2.5 
0.6 
0.4 
Casio Exilim EX-S10
1.5 
2.3 
1 
0.8 
0.4 
Kodak EasyShare M1033
1.7 
2.4 
1.7 
0.9 
0.4 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W150
1.9 
3.7 
1.5 
0.9 
0.4 
Nikon Coolpix S210
2 
3.5 
3.1 
1.5 
0.9 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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6.6

Casio Exilim EX-S10

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7Image quality 5