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This 3.2-megapixel shooter's small size belies all the features crammed into its ultracompact 3.46-by-2.24-by-0.66-inch stainless-steel case. Casio managed to find room for a 2-inch LCD and a 2.8X optical zoom on the Exilim EX-S100, while retaining a sensible, easy-to-use control layout. It boasts excellent performance and is packed with fun features, including do-it-yourself user-definable scene modes and in-camera HTML album generation.
This camera lacks a burst mode and the optical viewfinder that would be handy in bright sunlight. Its merely average image quality will limit the EX-S100's appeal among photographers looking to make larger-than-snapshot-size prints. However, if you're looking for a superpocketable camera with versatility to spare, this camera fills the bill.
The 5-ounce EX-S100 fits your hand easily despite its small size; however, the zoom rocker on the back panel is a bit of a reach for most thumbs when the right index finger is poised over the shutter-release button. A tiny power switch is the only other control on the clean top surface.
The large LCD dominates the back panel. It's bright and easy to view under dim and average illumination levels but tends to wash out outdoors. There's no mode dial: just press separate record or playback buttons to enter either mode. Scene modes are accessed by pressing the Set/Enter button in the middle of the four-way cursor pad, which also serves to control focus mode (up), flash options/delete (down), and one custom function (left/right). A Menu key and button to cycle through info-display options are the remaining controls on the back.
Although aperture and shutter speed can't be set manually, this Exilim offers plenty of shooting options, including 23 scene modes and exposure compensation to plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV increments. The left/right cursor keys on the camera back can be programmed to provide EV control if you prefer not to use the LCD menu system.
The EX-S100's plethora of scene modes includes all the usual suspects--Portrait, Scenery, Sunset, Night Scenes, and Fireworks--along with some less common options, such as a split-screen Coupling mode and a double-exposure option for combining a background image with a foreground shot photographed separately. The White Board and Business Card scene modes automatically straighten out images taken at a slight angle.
Especially cool is the custom Best Shot feature, which lets you select as many as 999 images and save their focus mode, exposure, ISO, white-balance, flash mode, sharpness, saturation, intensity, and other settings as a new scene mode that appears on the same menu as the factory-installed options. These custom scenes are stored on the 9.3MB of internal storage and are deleted when the built-in flash memory is formatted. Using an optional SD/MMC memory card provides some protection for your personal scenes.
The 36mm-to-102mm 2.8X zoom lens owes its small size to what Casio touts as the world's first transparent ceramic lens. Macro focus is no closer than 6.7 inches, which is adequate, although some other ultracompacts focus as close as an inch or two from the lens. There's also a manual focus option; the center of the image enlarges, making it easy to focus manually on the LCD.
It's common for ultracompacts to have underpowered electronic flash units that place less demand on their tiny batteries, but the EX-S100's speed light is even punier than most. It's good only out to a maximum of 8.5 feet in wide-angle mode and no more than 5 feet at the telephoto zoom position. The camera has a flash-assist option that provides some exposure compensation.
This little shooter offered good to excellent performance in most categories, including shutter lag times of 0.3 second under high-contrast lighting and a mere 0.4 second under low-contrast illumination, even though there is no autofocus-assist lamp. The optional Pan Focus setting turns off the autofocus completely and allows taking photos with almost no shutter lag--about 0.1 second in our tests.
First-shot times averaged about 2.6 seconds, and thereafter, the Casio was able to snap off shots every 1.3 seconds for long sequences. If you have a limber trigger finger, the fast shot-to-shot times almost make up for the camera's complete lack of a burst mode. With flash activated, though, shooting slowed down to about 3.4 seconds between snaps.
The 680mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery was good for just 342 shots on a single charge, during a workout that included 50 percent shots with flash, plus card reformatting, zooming, picture review, and other power-sapping tasks.
Image quality was fair to good. Most of our test shots weren't extraordinarily sharp, and there was visible noise even at ISO 50, rising to abundant at ISO 400. Chromatic aberration also reared its ugly head, with purple fringing quite evident around backlit subjects. Colors were good, if a little muted, although highlights were easily washed out. The red-eye-prevention preflash seemed to have little effect.