Casio EXILIM EX-S770
No one else makes ultraslim cameras like Casio, and its latest model in the svelte EXILIM line — the 7.2 megapixel EX-S770 — raises the style bar once again. As I remarked in a review of the Casio EXILIM EX-S600 last year, EXILIM cameras look a lot like the popular RAZR cell phones from Motorola, and the new Casio EX-S770’s resemblance is even more pronounced. And like the latest RAZRs, the Casio S770 comes in different colors including silver, red, and purple.
As with most of its cameras, Casio doesn’t skimp on interesting features with the EX-S770. Along with a fairly standard 3x optical (38-114mm equivalent in 35mm) focal range, the Casio S770 has a very bright 2.8-inch LCD with a very respectable resolution of 230,400 pixels. As usual, there are 34 scene modes, which Casio dubs “Best Shot,” including an eBay mode that captures images at reduced resolution with auto macro focusing. More unusual is the new 16:9 movie mode which lets you shoot wide-screen video clips for playback on your widescreen TV. The Casio EX-S770 also boasts special new software which lets you convert documents and web pages on your computer to JPEG format for viewing on the camera’s large (by digicam standards, anyway) LCD display. Another cool feature on the Casio S770 is a Continuous Flash Mode — known as Rapid Flash — which allows three flash shots to be captured in a single second. The tradeoff, of course, is that flash range is roughly halved, and ISO is raised.
All these features in such a slim but solid model come at a price — $380 list, to be exact, though we’ve seen it for as low as $250 online. Read on to find out if the Casio EXILIM EX-S770’s picture-taking ability matches its sleek design and robust feature set.
Casio EXILIM EX-S770 User Report
by Dan Havlik
Form vs. Function. At just 17mm at its slimmest point, the Casio EXILIM EX-S770 is about as ultracompact as ultracompact cameras can get. Though the Casio S600 was impressively sleek, it’s no match for the S770 which has dimensions of 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.7 inches (95 x 61 x 17 millimeters). With the SD card and rechargeable lithium ion battery installed, the Casio S770 weighs in at 5.08 ounces, or 144 grams.
Along with being slimmer overall, the Casio S770’s corners are more rounded and the front faceplate — aside from the space for the lens — is almost completely smooth. There’s no metal finger grip on the front, as there was one the S600, which makes the Casio S770 more attractive but harder to hold. Definitely use the wrist-strap with this model to protect from accidental drops.
Tiny Buttons. The price of having such a slim form factor with such a huge LCD screen means something’s got to get smaller. In the case of the Casio S770, it’s the buttons which have been made smaller than on any camera I’ve tried.
Speaking of wriststraps, in my review of the S600, I complained about how the metal eyelet to hold the strap on that camera jutted out from the body, interrupting the overall design flow and providing an annoying protrusion that could easily get snagged. Well, somebody at Casio must have been listening because they’ve now indented the eyelet into the side of the S770 so that’s its barely noticeable. Good thinking.
Where the S600 was a blend of metal and polycarbonate, the Casio S770 is composed mostly of metal which gives the camera an attractive and durable body. On the downside, all the attention to maintaining a smooth appearance has produced buttons and controllers that are way too small for the human hand to access quickly. I tested this camera during a blisteringly cold week in New York City, and it was impossible to use with my gloves on. Taking them off didn’t help much either. Though I’ve never done a comparison test, the Casio S770 also seemed to have the smallest zoom rocker I’ve tried, making it very difficult to adjust. While much of this miniaturization has to do with the huge screen that eats up most of the real estate on back, there’s still enough room on the right side of the rear panel for larger controls.
Along with being difficult to operate, the descriptions beside each button are written in an opaque white font that’s difficult to read. While Casio’s designers should get kudos for creating a very lovely looking ultraslim camera, they need to make greater efforts toward building buttons usable by humans.
Nice Display. But then there’s that big LCD that fills most of the back of the camera. It’s great to see that Casio not only made the display huge, they pumped it up with 230,400 pixels, which is great for playback and live preview. To speed up playback, however, the Casio S770’s screen takes a second to res up, so it briefly looks out of focus. The same is true on immediate playback after capture which made me initially think a lot of my shots weren’t sharp.
Otherwise, though, the camera takes full advantage of all that space on the wide screen. Along with being able to see your images clearly, the Casio S770 offers one of the best info displays I’ve seen on a compact camera. Pressing the (tiny!) DISP button on top lets you choose between a Panel layout which shows all your current settings — including image size, flash status, ISO, white balance, etc. — in a grey bar along the right side. You can also choose a Normal layout which letterboxes the sides of the wide screen and overlays current settings in the corners. Half pressing the shutter will instantly give you live settings, including f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO the camera is choosing.
While, alas, you cannot select aperture or shutter speed manually, it’s nice that the display at least shows you what will be used before you shoot. You also have the option to add a live histogram in the preview; choose among five brightness settings; and pick the type of preview. Preview types were curious though, including Dynamic, Vivid, Real, Night, and Power Saving. I went with “Dynamic,” though I didn’t notice a world of difference from some of the other options.
Speed Freak. Like its predecessor, the Casio S770 is a speedy little camera which you can depend on for quick, candid shots. The Quick Shutter setting — which is the default — lets you immediately shoot a picture without having to wait for the S770’s autofocus to engage. This is a great feature though the autofocus is actually quite fast on this camera. The Casio S770 powers on and is ready for first shot in just 1.7 seconds — pretty good considering that the camera doesn’t use folded optics and actually has a lens to deploy. At the full autofocus wide setting the S770 takes 0.63 second to capture a shot, according to our tests. When prefocused, though, the Casio S770 is one of the fastest compact cameras we’ve tested, taking just 0.009 second to capture a shot when you half press and hold the shutter button.
The Casio S770 wasn’t bad shot-to-shot either, with the camera able to take a Large Fine JPEG image every 2.55 seconds in Single Shot mode, as averaged over 20 shots. On the downside, the S770 suffers from “early shutter penalty,” which is when a camera refuses to snap another shot if you press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode.
One disadvantage to the EX-S770 is that it freezes the frame as it focuses. This can be a real problem when taking action photographs, regardless of the camera’s shutter lag, so take note.
Overall though, I was impressed with the Casio S770’s speed and I never felt it was struggling to keep up with my picture-taking. The camera’s flash recycling time — a nightmare on some compact cameras — was also fairly decent, averaging 4.6 seconds with the flash at maximum output. Even better is the “Rapid Flash” function, which is labeled “Flash Continuous” under the Continuous shooting tab in the menu. Rapid Flash allows you take three flash shots in quick succession so you don’t miss those important moments. Flash output is roughly halved allowing recycling time to be virtually instantaneous. Unfortunately, the ISO is most often raised to 800, which produces soft images