Casio Exilim S100 review

After a day or two of playing with the 3MP Casio S-100. This is mostly a comparison with the champion of compact cameras, the 2MP Casio M-20 (recently deceased).

Capsule review: the S100 is a fantastic camera, and noticeably the result of careful refinement over previous Exilims. Both hardware and software show loving attention to detail.

Size comparison (S100 left, M20 right):
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Screen/layout comparison:
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Good points:
• it’s effectively exactly the same size as the M20, if fractionally thicker.
• the screen is astonishingly large.
• the M20 was a solid smooth metal. The S3 was a plasticky, brushed metal. This S100 is an appealing combination of both. Solid metal forms the zoom at front and bands the sides. The S3 material forms the rest.
• the woolly-feeling slide switches are gone. Play and record modes have their own buttons (which also power-on). Macro/distance setting is now part of the general focus setup.
• the power switch has been made more discreet, preventing people switching off when trying to take a picture (how many times…).
• the battery and the SD card disappear together inside the body – no more open SD slots. The battery cover feels sturdy and doesn’t come open when you catch it.
• the mic is on the front, the speaker on the back, as it should be (an issue with M20).
• has a screw point for a tripod mount.
• movie length is limited only by card size.
• flicking through pics is instant, and various thumbnail/calendar views are available to traverse large collections.
• carefully positioned braille pads to help keep your fingers off the buttons.

The Not So Good:

• power-on (in record mode) takes around 1 second, for the zoom apparatus to deploy. Flash charge can take a second or two beyond that.
• you have to start thinking about focus in your shots.
• manual focus seems near impossible given the resolution of the screen.

General points:
The zoom is the major difference here, and the difference is substantial. It seriously opens up potential for shots that you would abandon immediately with the wide-angle M20.

The S100 gives full control over focus, so the shutter control now has a half-press mode to wake up the distance-sensing software. Auto focussing can be done on the centre spot or intelligently using spots sampled over the scene, and works very well in both cases. Alternatively a direct shutter press uses fixed focus (a la M20) for quick shots.

General configurability is up – pretty much everything is tweakable in the menus, including most useful things like flash intensity.

The Exilim white balance controls are essential for capturing warmth. The S100 adds two more flavours – cloudy and a second fluorescent mode. A fancy new Bestshot mode called “Business” will correct the perspective when you take skewed shots of business cards or posters. This is extremely impressive in action.

Summary: superlative performance from a camera the size of your credit card and runs for ever on a rechargeable battery. They’re not expensive – if someone you know needs a camera, get this one.

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