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.
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.