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Casio Exilim Pro review: Casio Exilim Pro

Casio Exilim Pro

David English
6 min read

It's a secret--don't tell anybody. Hybrid cameras aren't true hybrids. Photo cameras inevitably have poor camcorder capabilities, and camcorders inevitably have poor photo capabilities. You'd think it wouldn't be that difficult to combine the two functions, but apparently it is. However, Casio's Exilim Pro EX-P505 inches us closer to a device that's equally adept with both functions.


Casio Exilim Pro

The Good

5X optical zoom; 22 Best Shot settings; automatic macro; zoom is fully functional during video recording; 5-second buffer for late-reaction video shots.

The Bad

Doesn't perform well in low light; zoom is sometimes audible on video recordings; can be awkward for large hands to grasp.

The Bottom Line

This camera comes close to successfully combining high-quality photos with acceptable-quality video.

In addition to being a compact and lightweight 5-megapixel camera with a 5X optical zoom, the EX-P505 takes passable 640x480 MPEG-4 video at 30fps. The video side has full use of the camera's zoom, captures its audio through a built-in stereo microphone, and can even record the action 5 seconds before you press the shutter release. So are we at the point where one device can serve for both high-quality photos and decent video? Not quite. This model doesn't perform well in low light, and its zoom mechanism is loud enough to be audible on some video shots. If you can live with its limitations, the small size and the 5X zoom could make this a convenient all-purpose camera.

Don't be fooled by the Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505 product photo. The deep grip and the rubber tread under the lens barrel suggest a hefty camera. In reality, everything is scaled down to a pint-size form. Weighing less than some cell phones and PDAs, the 8.8-ounce EX-P505 measures a scant 3.9 inches wide, 2.2 inches high, and 2.9 inches deep. You can buy thinner cameras, but they probably won't have a 5X optical zoom. As you might expect from the weight, this camera has a plastic body. Only time will tell whether it can hold up to abuse, but as plastics go, it feels sturdy.

Casio keeps the controls to a minimum on the camera's back.

There's no optical viewfinder, so you'll be totally dependent on the LCD screen for composing your shots. The 2-inch screen swivels across a 270-degree arc, letting you easily capture overhead and low-level shots, as well as self-portraits. We like that the camera turns on automatically when you swing open the screen and turns off when you close it.

On top of the camera, you'll find the mode dial, the shutter release, and the power button.

Because this is a big camera design that's scaled down to suit a small camera, the EX-P505 can be difficult to handle, particularly for larger hands. The front has a curved indentation for a right-hand grip, but the surface is so narrow, you may be able to grasp it with only two fingers. Similarly, the rubber tread underneath the lens is so small that you may find the fingers on your left hand colliding with the fingers on your right hand.

The EX button gives you quick access to common image adjustments.

The onscreen menus are bright and easy to navigate. You maneuver using a back-mounted four-way navigation array with a center-selection button. You can quickly back out of menus by pressing the menu button. Despite the camera's small size, all the controls are conveniently positioned.

Casio has loaded the Exilim Pro EX-P505 with thoughtful features. In addition to the fully automatic and manual exposure settings, you can select from 22 Best Shot modes. These modes select--and provide guidance for--subject-related settings, such as candlelight portraits, pets, splashing water, fireworks, and flowers. You can also create your own Best Shot.

Experienced photographers will appreciate the EX button, which provides quick access to white balance, ISO, meter, and AF parameters. Beginners and seasoned veterans will benefit from the 5X optical zoom; it's equivalent to a 38mm-to-190mm zoom on a 35mm-film camera, which doesn't give it as wide an angle as we would have liked. Its maximum aperture of f/3.3 to f/3.6 is remarkably consistent, though it's a bit slow for low-light photography. The macro mode focuses down to 1 centimeter. Even more impressive is the camera's ability to automatically switch to the macro mode, as needed. There are three focus options: spot, which concentrates in the center; multi, which combines seven different areas; and free, which you can position anywhere.

The Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505 also has three unusual video modes. Past Movie records the action 5 seconds before you press the shutter release. It does this by continually recording to a 5-second buffer. This is a terrific feature for capturing sports plays, wildlife, or other fast-moving subjects. Short Movie is limited to 8-second clips, and you can set how much of the 8 seconds will be drawn from the buffer. Best Shot, the third mode, provides five preprogrammed settings: Portrait, Scenery, Night Scene, Fireworks, and Silent. All the video modes have full access to the zoom while recording. You may want to use the zoom sparingly because the mechanism is loud enough to be picked up by the built-in stereo microphone.

Photos are saved as JPEG files using one of three levels of compression. Videos are saved as MPEG-4 files at either 640x480 and 30fps or 320x240 and 15fps. A video shot can last until the SD card is full, except when recording in Short Movie mode. The camera provides 7.5MB of internal storage.

Battery life was well above average, which is important if you plan to fill a large SD card with continuous video. We were able to snap 934 photos before the battery finally gave up.

The Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505 did reasonably well in our performance tests. Casio advertises the camera as having a 0.01-second release time lag when the image is prefocused, and that's extremely fast. When you don't prefocus, however, that time jumps to 0.3 second, which is still good. Similarly, Casio touts a start-up time of 0.8 second--again, very fast. A more practical measure is the wake-up-to-first-shot time, which we timed at 2.4 seconds. That's better than most cameras.

Shot-to-shot lag times were more typical at 2.9 seconds without the flash and 3.6 seconds with the flash. This camera doesn't have a burst mode, which is surprising, given that it appears to have a fast processor.

The two zoom speeds are dependent on the pressure you apply to the zoom lever. The fast speed was slightly slower moving from telephoto to wide angle rather than the other way around: 2.7 seconds vs. 2.3 seconds. This was due to the camera briefly starting in the slow speed when moving to wide angle, even when we applied the maximum pressure. When using less pressure to engage the slow speed, the timings were consistent, averaging 6.5 seconds.

The autofocus was generally spot-on accurate with well-lit exteriors shots but fell off steeply--both in speed and accuracy--in low light. The automatic macro mode worked very well in bright environments but often failed to kick in automatically in dim light.

The LCD screen was bright and relatively sharp, despite its limited 354x240-pixel resolution. However, it washed out in bright sunlight and was essentially useless in very low light.

The Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505 gave us daylight photos that were well saturated without having the bright colors pop out excessively. Exposure levels were generally accurate with a broad dynamic range. The focus was a bit soft with some photos that had varying contrast levels. That left us with the impression we weren't always receiving the full benefit of the 5-megapixel sensor.

In photos exposed at ISO 50 or 100, visual noise was barely noticeable, although in reduced light at ISO 200 and 400, there was often a moderate amount of noise. The camera became slow to focus as the light level dropped, and the focus and exposure accuracy declined. Given these issues with noise, focusing, and screen visibility in low light, this wouldn't be the best camera to use with available light in darkened rooms. You can supplement the light with the built-in flash, of course. We found the flash to have sufficient coverage for most subjects within 10 feet, though there was a tendency to slightly overexpose the subject. With exterior shots, the flash did a good job filling in areas that needed brightening.

When the camera and subject were stationary, our video shots were nearly perfect, with a sharp resolution and beautifully saturated colors. When there was moderate movement, the video began to blur. And when the camera panned quickly, there were significant amounts of compression artifacts. That may sound bad, and it certainly wouldn't be acceptable with a MiniDV camcorder, but that's the state of the art these days for video compressed in real time on a consumer-grade digital camera. With the EX-P505, these problems are less evident--and the resolution holds up much better--than with competing cameras. If you want television-quality video or footage you can edit, buy a camcorder. If you want usable video captures in an affordable digital camera, this is about as good as it gets.


Casio Exilim Pro

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Image quality 7