In January 2007, Casio launched the EXILIM Hi-Zoom EX-V7, said to be the world’s slimmest 7x zoom digital camera. Just 25mm thick, the EX-V7 crammed in a seven megapixel CCD image sensor mounted on a moving platter so as to provide for CCD-shift type mechanical image stabilization function. Just seven months later, Casio replaced the V7 with the very closely related Casio EXILIM V8. A minor update with a slightly higher resolution sensor and a couple of other slight tweaks, the Casio V8 also came in nearly 20% cheaper than its predecessor.
The other main change Casio made between its V7 and V8 models was to reposition the flash strobe, now located behind a small, clear window in the sliding lens barrier. This allows a bit more distance between the flash and the lens, designed to reduce the effect of red-eye in photos. One other adjustment is the addition of a trim piece with a low lip on it that serves to give fingers purchase when opening the lens barrier. As with its elder sibling, the Casio EX-V8 includes an unusually capable 30 frames-per-second movie mode that reaches a maximum of 848 x 480 pixels with stereo sound. Casio chose to use the H.264 (also known as MPEG-4 Part 10) compression format, which offers good video quality at substantially lower bit rates than other codecs. Usefully, given the above-average movie capabilities, a silent lens motor enables optical zooming while recording.
The 7x optical zoom lens offers a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 38-266mm; not particularly generous at the wide-angle, but more powerful than most such compact cameras can offer at telephoto. The Casio EXILIM V8 offers quite a selection of “best shot” scene modes, helping beginners in a variety of situations such as Autumn Leaves, Soft Flowing Water, Fireworks, and Underwater. Business users will appreciate Casio’s inclusion of Whiteboard, Business Card / Document, and ID Photo modes. More experienced photographers will be pleased to find both aperture- and shutter-priority modes, as well as a fully manual mode.
Of course, as with just about every digicam these days, the Casio EX-V8 includes face detection technology; however, Casio’s implementation is rather more feature-rich than most. Family members can be “recorded” in the camera’s memory, and even given a priority rating. The Casio V8 can then identify those recorded individuals in a scene and give them higher priority when deciding on auto-focus and auto-exposure variables.
Priced at suggested price of $330, the Casio EXILIM EX-V8 packs a lot of features into a very pocket-friendly body. If you’re seeking a camera that will accompany you most anywhere you go — perhaps as a complement to your digital SLR — and still want a fair degree of control over exposure variables, the Casio V8 is worth a closer look.
Casio EX-V8 User Report
by Michael Tomkins
Like the EX-V7 model it replaced the Casio V8 boasts a slim yet solid body, which somehow crams in a fairly powerful 7x optical zoom lens. Images are captured by an 8.1-megapixel CCD image sensor, and Casio has included a wide range of exposure modes and shooting options aimed at both business and personal use.
Available only in silver and weighing in at 6.3 ounces (179 grams) with battery and memory card, the Casio V8 measures 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 inches (96 x 60 x 26 millimeters). The EXILIM V8 is a camera that will accompany you anywhere, easily slipped into a pants pocket ready for that surprise photo opportunity. While it would also fit in many shirt pockets, I’d personally find it too weighty to be comfortable there. A sliding lens barrier on the Casio V8’s front panel is more solid than the flimsy aperture-style lens barriers found on many digicams. The finish does seem to show fine scuff-marks rather easily, and so a light /soft case of some kind is still a good idea.
Look and feel. The Casio Exilim Hi-Zoom EX-V8 has a pocket-friendly, relatively compact body that’s mostly free from protrusions, save for a slight lip on the end of its sliding lens barrier. Shooting one-handed with the Casio V8 was a breeze, with two-handed shooting only necessary for slower shutter speeds; although given the camera’s heft you do have to pay attention to get your horizons level shooting single-handed, since my fingers found relatively little purchase on the smooth panels. If you aim for the two-handed approach, you have to be careful where you place your left hand, because it is fairly easy to block the lens as it is so close to the corner of the camera. There’s also a small LED directly underneath the lens which acts as the AF assist light, which is also easy to block.
The Casio V8 features a 7x optical zoom lens which is entirely internal to the camera, saving a little power-up time, since there’s no need to extend the lens. The lens is equivalent to a 38-266mm zoom on a 35mm camera, more generous than you’ll find on most point-and-shoot digital cameras, but tight at wide angle. The Casio V8’s all-glass lens is of good quality but does show some traits that indicate the compromises required to make a very compact, relatively long-zoom lens. Importantly for a camera with such a comparatively long telephoto, the Casio Hi-Zoom V8 also offers true mechanical image stabilization, with the CCD sensor being mounted on a platter to combat camera shake. This is part of a multi-pronged approach to fighting blur, with the V8 also analyzing motion and boosting the ISO sensitivity / shutter speed as required to freeze action and camera movement. The Casio V8 also employs software de-blurring of both still images and movies.
In addition to the 7x optical zoom, the Casio V8 offers a maximum of 4x digital zoom which enlarges the center of the image using interpolation, with the usual loss in image quality. Digital zoom shots lose significant detail and resolution, appearing soft and sometimes rather pixelated. At lower resolutions, the image is first gradually cropped before the digital zoom kicks in, so for example at VGA resolution you can achieve a simulated 35.1x zoom without degrading the image quality; although the exact same effect could be achieved by cropping the image in a PC after the fact.
The Casio EXILIM V8’s controls are laid out simply and fairly logically. There’s only one dial, one slider, a four-way pad with central “Set” button, and three other buttons on the camera’s body, with all but the shutter button located on the rear panel to the right of the LCD display. The buttons all have a good feel to them and they’re all easy to reach. The zoom slider is easy to find without taking your attention off the LCD display, and is pretty responsive. I did find that it occasionally paused for a moment when zooming in and out repeatedly.
The display itself was easy to see in sunlight, and rather usefully can be set to control its three-step brightness adjustment automatically based on ambient lighting conditions. There are two such Auto settings available: one tweaked to be more aggressive in changing the LCD brightness as ambient lighting changes, while the other waits a little longer before deciding the ambient lighting conditions have changed enough to require an adjustment. Which you’ll use ends up depending on the lighting conditions, and if you prefer, it is possible to set the brightness manually as well. I found that images tended to look rather flat on the LCD display (especially under bright sunlight), to where I almost deleted some shots while in the field, fearing them to have to have too little contrast for a useful picture – only to find that in my PC, the same images were borderline or even perfectly usable.
One other feature of the Casio V8’s LCD display proved handy when shooting single-handed. As mentioned previously, I found that the camera wanted to “droop” in my right hand somewhat, leading to crooked horizons. Through the menu system you can enable a grid overlay on the LCD, making it easier to keep your images squared up nicely. The Casio V8’s histogram function is also a help on shots where you’re not sure of the exposure. Available in both Playback and Record modes via a couple of presses of the Display button, it provides a hint as to under- or over-exposure, and displays not just luminance but also separate red, green, and blue levels. Also accessed via the display button in both Record and Playback modes are the “detailed info” and “minimal info” display overlays you’ll find on many digital cameras these days.
Interface. As previously mentioned, the Casio V8’s user interface is fairly clean and intuitive. I do question Casio’s decision on names and icons for a couple of the modes on the control dial, though. If you’re anything like me when handed a new camera, you’ll tend to seek out and stick with the Program mode to allow access to controls you occasionally need to use, dipping into the Aperture, Shutter, and Manual modes occasionally as needed. Place a V8 in your hands, though, and you’ll find that while the oh-so-useful “A / S / M” modes are on offer, there’s no “P” on the control dial. In its place is “Snapshot” mode, which sounds less authoritative and to the unfamiliar suggests to me that the camera will be set up with lesser image quality to favor speed or file size, or perhaps in a “Dummies” mode for simplicity. In actual fact, Snapshot mode is basically the same thing as Program mode on any other digital camera.
The “Snapshot” mode is also indicated with a red frame icon on the Mode dial, and the Easy mode is indicated with a black “clover leaf” icon. Pretty much anyone who’s just been handed an unfamiliar camera to take a picture is going to fall back to any experience they have with other cameras, and “Simple,” “Easy,” “Auto,” name it what you like but such modes are almost always indicated with a green frame icon. The choice of a clover leaf is not intuitive (nor necessarily recognizable to all cultures), and many users are going to either have to pull out the manual or switch to the mode and try it out before they understand what it’s for. The color choices also seem a little odd given that Red is generally associated with “bad”, Green with “Good”, and – well, clover leaves are green, not black, which we don’t tend to associate with anything specific as a camera icon. The decision to buck the trend on some of the more common design features on a digicam (and in the case of “Easy” mode, one which should be as approachable as possible for the beginner) seems odd. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to this since I handle so many different cameras, making me more sensitive to designs that don’t follow the crowd.