At first glance, Casio's Exilim EX-V7 looks like a typical, humdrum compact camera. It borrows the sliding lens cover design made popular by Sony's T-series cameras, has a 7.2 megapixel CCD sensor and a 2.5-inch LCD, and though heavier than most cameras its size, you should feel comfortable carrying it in a pocket. On closer inspection, you'll notice that the lens covers a 7x optical zoom range, covering the equivalent of 38mm to 266mm. Also, Casio includes sensor shift (aka mechanical) image stabilization to help minimize blurry pictures with that long lens.
While the body design seems slick at first, it does have certain issues. Foremost for us was the camera's control system. Almost entirely menu driven, we found it annoying compared to the systems used by most other manufacturers, which provide quick access to essential functions, such as ISO, white balance, and macro mode. It's easy to switch between shooting modes using the mode dial, but changing ISO, even in the best case scenario, takes at least nine button pushes. For comparison, on the Canon PowerShot A570 IS, the same maneuver took three button presses. Also, Casio puts macro mode in the menu under Focus. While this is technically correct, it would've been better to include direct access via a button, as most other manufacturers do. Image stabilization also deserves its own button. Since image stabilization typically changes the way the camera's exposure system chooses shutter speeds, it's best with any camera to turn it off if you are in a situation that doesn't demand it, so a dedicated button really makes sense for this feature as well.
As usual, Casio includes a vast number of scene modes. We don't know why they refer to them as "best shot" modes instead of scene modes, but this model has 33 of them, including specific modes for shooting text, whiteboards, and business cards, as well as one mode made specifically for eBay. We were glad to see that the V7 includes aperture- and shutter-priority exposure modes, along with full manual, should you wish to choose your own exposure. The live histogram in capture mode makes manual exposures a bit easier to calculate, and the static version in playback mode makes double-checking your work less confusing.
The Exilim EX-V7 showed decent speed in our lab tests. It took 1.47 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG. Subsequent JPEGs took 1.63 seconds between shots with the flash turned off and 1.76 seconds with the flash enabled. Shutter lag measured 0.5 second in our high-contrast test, which is meant to mimic bright shooting conditions and 1.2 seconds in our low-contrast tests, which mimics dim shooting conditions. Continuous shooting yielded about 1.4 frames per second (fps) when capturing 7.2-megapixel JPEGs and about 1.7fps with the pixel count reduced to VGA.
Given this camera's price range, we would've liked to see better image quality. While adequately sharp, images still appeared just slightly soft when viewed at full size and we also spied a minor amount of image artifacts unrelated to ISO noise. Colors, while generally accurate, seemed a bit washed out. The camera's automatic white balance turned in slightly yellowish results with our lab's tungsten lights. The tungsten preset fared much better, as did the manual white balance. Casio keeps noise under control through ISO 200. Though we saw minor noise at ISO 200 on our computer monitors, prints weren't adversely affected. At ISO 400, noise was more noticeable on monitors and the noise reduction algorithms smoothed away a significant amount of finer details. Also, a mild amount of shadow detail was lost. By ISO 800, noise became very prominent, destroying all finer detail and most shadow detail. We suggest sticking below ISO 800.
We were impressed with the Casio's video capabilities. In all but its lowest quality mode, the EX-V7 uses H.264 encoding for video clips up to 848x480 pixel resolution in wide mode, or 640x480 pixels in 4:3 aspect ratio. The video we recorded was slightly better than we're used to from a still camera, and Casio even includes stereo microphones on the front of the camera. Of course, since the mics are only 0.5-inch apart, we're not sure just how "stereo" that really is, but again it's more than we usually see on a camera such as this.
We give Casio credit for trying to push the limits of the compact camera market, but ultimately found this model's interface made it annoyingly awkward to use. Add its mediocre image quality to that and we find it hard to recommend this camera. If you really want a long zoom, you'd be better served with a real superzoom, such as Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-H2 or DSC-H5, or Canon's PowerShot S3IS. If it's an ultracompact you're after, try Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-T10 or Canon's PowerShot SD800 IS.
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|