Casio Exilim Card EX-S600 6Mp camera
Snapability or manual control?
Review This, the latest edition to the company's range, without a doubt strengthens Casio's Exilim Card camera collection. The EX-S600 combines ultra-compact design with stylish looks and high-resolution six megapixel snaps...
The 600 also plays host to a few neat technologies such as image stabilisation in both still and video recording, the latter allowing you to take 640 x 480 movies at 30fps with audio.
Movies with sound are not the only things you'll hear when using the 600 - there'll be many an "ohh" and many an "ahh" uttered around you as mates turn the svelte little all-metal camera over in their hands. The 600 really is very small, only 1.4cm wide at its thinnest point. Its "Card" moniker is very fitting.
Such a small camera can conversely become a bit of a handful to use, however, as anyone with larger hands will become all fingers and thumbs if they're not careful. A tiny on/off button partners a shutter release on the sliver-like top plate. The camera's large 2.2in colour screen plays host to the other controls. This screen lacks resolution for my liking but is bright, colourful, and easy to use in all but the brightest of conditions.
The 3x optical zoom lens control is integrated nicely with the camera's wrist strap lug. Above the screen are the playback, still image mode and video recording release buttons. Menu activation is via a button adjacent the square four-way jog-style control with a central Set button for confirming options. At the bottom is the Bestshot button. This is the entry point for the massive array of subject (or scene) modes, which range from the usual portrait, landscape and night scene pre-sets to a few more esoteric offerings.
These include both Food and Text modes; a Collection setting optimised for Macro photography; a high sensitivity setting that boosts the ISO rating to 1600, as does the additional Anti-shake mode - the 'usual' sensitivity settings run from 50 to 400. There's even an Old Photo mode, which can restore the colours in faded photographs if you use the EX-S600 to copy them.
There are also a couple of neat movie tricks you can perform with the camera. One, Past Movie mode, allows you to start recording a movie just before the record button is pressed - that's right, before the button's pressed. Another, called Silent mode, bumps up the frame rate slightly and shoots in black and white to give any movies you make look like an old-time wrong-speed silent movie. And there are plenty of others to numerous to go into detail here.
The downside of all these automatic scene modes is the complete lack of manual control. What manual adjustments you do get, such as the exposure compensation, saturation, contrast or sharpness adjustment, all must be made by navigating the menus and require time to make them. One function can be assigned to the left/right jog buttons, however, allowing a modicum of usability to return to proceedings.
Nevertheless, this camera is not aimed at the enthusiast requiring control of every element of the camera - it's designed for the snappers among us, and as such, it fills that niche well. So what of the results?
Image quality is generally very good indeed. Focusing and metering are reliable enough, and the amount of detail the lens can capture is more than adequate for the tasks presented. However, there are couple of niggles. The most problematic is the very soft periphery to images: edge sharpness is quite poor, particularly the bottom left on the camera used for this test. The other niggle is the distracting lens flare I got in shots where I wouldn't have expected it. The EX-S600 has reduced contrast and thrown unwanted colour flaring across many of my shots even where the sun, though in front of the camera, is still well out of the frame.
Finally, there's a mere 8.3MB of on-board memory - sufficient for just six 'economy' mode shots; or two in 'fine' mode - though you can increase it by adding MMC or SD cards.
The Casio Exilim Card EX-S600 provides a very satisfying feeling if photo-gadgetry is your thing. It comes in three colours - silver, orange and blue - to satisfy the fashionistas among you. And while snaps printed at 6 x 4in won't really show some of the image issues mentioned above, anyone wanting to make larger prints, particularly A3 or above, might not like the results.