Casio Exilim EX-S2 Review

The EX-S2 camera is stylish looking with a sharp stainless steel case and is incredibly intuitive to use; perfect for any occasion
The EX-S2 camera is stylish looking with a sharp stainless steel case and is incredibly intuitive to use; perfect for any occasion
The EX-S2 camera is stylish looking with a sharp stainless steel case and is incredibly intuitive to use; perfect for any occasion

Highs

  • Extremely fun to use
  • feature rich

Lows

  • High price
  • average photo quality

Summary

The Casio EX-S2 is an extremely fun camera to use. There are a lot of features for the size of the EX-S2 but for $279 dollars we would like to have seen optical zoom and sound recording capabilities. We also would have liked to have seen USB 2.0 support. With SD memory cards now reaching up to 1 GB in size, transferring that much data over USB 1.1 connection can get incredibly time consuming. The EX-S2 would have received an editor’s choice award if it either had more features or a smaller price tag. Overall the EX-S2 is an extremely solid product and those looking for a slim digital camera in this price range should consider the EX-S2 a serious contender.

Introduction

In Japan, small and sleek is in. From laptops to video game consoles, if consumer electronics are too large in size they simply will not sell. While in the US the opposite may be true, times are changing and small is starting to look better each day. Americans are quickly jumping onto the small electronics band wagon as is the case with mobile phones, and digital cameras are no exception; size matters when you are on the run. Casio is not new to this concept; their first generation Exilim cameras were a big hit both in Japan and stateside. Casio has introduced the successor to the Exilim EX-S1 digital camera with the EX-S2. The EX-S2 camera is stylish looking with a sharp stainless steel case and is incredibly intuitive to use; perfect for any occasion. Did we mention the size of the Exilim EX-S2? The EX-S2 is only 11mm thick, and can fit behind a credit card; it is that small. The Exilim series digital cameras from Casio are some of the smallest camera’s in the world featuring a TFT color LCD display.

Features

The EX-S2 sports a higher 2.0 mega pixel CCD imager than the EX-S1 and can take still images in 1600×1200, 1280×960 and 640×480 resolutions; large enough to produce a native 8″1/2x 11 picture. The EX-S2 also can take up to 30 second AVI movie files (with no sound) at 320×240 and has a 4x digital zoom. Pictures are taken using the beautiful 1.6″ TFT/ 354×240 color LCD. If you currently have an Exilim EX-S1 you will probably find little reason to upgrade since the only noticeable difference is a higher resolution CCD imager. To those critical enough, the difference in resolutions between the two models may be enough reason to justify upgrading; if not then you should probably wait until next year’s model before upgrading.

The Exilim EX-S2 uses a 1/1.8-inch progressive CCD which is larger than the ½.7-inch CCD found in most mainstream cameras allowing for the largest cell (4.4 micron pitch) in its class. What is truly unique about the Exilim camera’s is that they use a multi-chip module which includes the CPU, ASIC, SDRAM and flash memory integrated on the same circuit board module. This allows the Exilim camera to be small and feature rich. Included with the Exilim camera is a 3.7V 360mAh Lithium-Ion battery smaller than most cell phone batteries. The EX-S2 is charged via the included USB docking station and AC adapter.

Performance

This first picture is under indoor normal lighting positions and using the Sepia image filter. Image was taken on “fine” setting and at 1600×1200 resolution.

A picture of Rosco with the Sepia filter turned on
Click on the picture for a larger sample (warning: file is large)

This picture is taken using the monochrome filter giving a black and white image look. Image was taken on “fine” setting and at 1600×1200 resolution. Quality is superb.

A picture of Roscoe with the Monochrome filter turned on
Click on the picture for a larger sample (warning: file is large)

This picture was taken with the “scenery” Best Shot option. Notice the vibrant colors.

Casio sample #1
Click on the picture for a larger sample (warning: file is large)

This image is the same shot taken above but using the digital zoom at 4X. Notice the heavy Pixelation.

Casio Sample #2
Click on the picture for a larger sample (warning: file is large)

This image is used to illustrate a low-level lighting shot and using the “scenery” Best Shot option.

Casio Sample #3
Click on the picture for a larger sample (warning: file is large)

This is a sample picture provided by Casio and used to show a portrait style shot.

Portrait Picture by Casio
Click on the picture for a larger sample (warning: file is large)

Setup and Use

There are two main setup elements to the Exilim EX-S2 camera. The first is the computer software side and the second is on the camera side. The Photo Loader program loads image data saved in JPEG and AVI format from your digital camera to your computer. The Photohands program is used for retouching and printing image files. Both programs work with Windows 98, Me, 2000, and XP operating systems as well as Macintosh’s OS 7-8.5, 8.6,9, OSX operating systems. We tested our EX-S2 camera using Microsoft Windows XP. If you have an older operating system, the Photo Loader and Photohands program will be perfect for you, however with Windows XP we recommend using the native drivers and application support built into Windows XP as it is much more intuitive to use and installing a similar program is redundant. Windows XP recognized our EX-S2 as a removable hard drive when the camera was docked and viewing images was as easy as clicking on the drive in “my computer” and viewing the slide show.

On the camera side of things, the EX-S2 is one of the most intuitive camera’s we have seen. The joystick is short enough that you do not have to worry about accidentally choosing a wrong option while using it. The TFT LCD display is absolutely stunning in all lighting conditions and the menu system is extremely easy to navigate in. Casio’s award winning “Best Shot Mode” allows you to easily change picture settings in a couple small steps.

There are several options to choose from when taking a picture. You can choose the quality of the picture, picture size and whether you want the automatic or manual picture preferences. You can also decide whether or not to use the “white balancer” or not while taking pictures. We found the white balancer worked well in low lighting situations, but was not ideal for scenery pictures.

There are six different “best shot” preset image selections to use should you choose to:

     

  • Portrait – Uses color enhancement to enhance flesh tones
  • Scenery – Uses hard sharpness combined with high color saturation
  • Retro – Uses low contrast and the sepia color filter
  • Night Scene – Uses a low shutter speed and daylight white balance
  • Twilight – Uses high color saturation and the magenta color filter
  • Monochrome – Uses the monochrome filter

The Best Shot choices are great if you want quick presets for different lighting and surrounding conditions. The Best Shot option really makes the Exilim camera’s a lot of fun and easy to use.

We found that image quality varied depending on the lighting conditions as they do with most cameras. Pictures taken with the EX-S2 tended to be a little washed out in most conditions. Portraits looked sharer and more color balanced over scenery pictures. You can click on the “performance” tab located above and below this review for sample pictures taken with the Casio EX-S2 camera.

We recommend purchasing an SD memory card right away. With 1600×1200 resolutions, the 12 MB of internal memory will go extremely fast. Battery life on the EX-S2 is relatively good considering the size of the battery. Turning off the LCD display should double your battery but be forewarned, there is no aiming guide in the view finder.

If you are an experienced photographer, the EX-S2 is not for you. There is no optical zoom and while there is a digital zoom, basically it is just blowing up the picture’s size and a lot of pixilation occurs. We feel that any digital zoom whether it is in a digital camera or a camcorder is more of a marketing gimmick than a useful tool.

Recording video with the EX-S2 is fun and easy to do. Simply choose the microphone icon in the menu and record away. There is no reason why Casio should have taken the sound recording function out of recording video, the EX-S2 features 12 MB if internal memory while the other Exilim cameras feature 10 MB. The memory storage is there, add a microphone and reward the consumer with another extra feature. Firmware updates can be downloaded directly to the EX-S2 camera via the USB docking station and your personal computer allowing for the possibility for future features.

Conclusion

The Casio EX-S2 is an extremely fun camera to use. There are a lot of features for the size of the EX-S2 but for $279 dollars we would like to have seen optical zoom and sound recording capabilities. We also would have liked to have seen USB 2.0 support. With SD memory cards now reaching up to 1 GB in size, transferring that much data over USB 1.1 connection can get incredibly time consuming. The EX-S2 would have received an editor’s choice award if it either had more features or a smaller price tag. Overall the EX-S2 is an extremely solid product and those looking for a slim digital camera in this price range should consider the EX-S2 a serious contender.

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