So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505
- Easy to use, wide range of features
- Picture quality is below average, amateurish software included
The Exilim Pro EX-P505's combination of photo and video features sounds promising, but its image quality is mediocre on stills, and its video doesn't measure up.
Price$ 949.00 (AUD)
Though Casio's 5 megapixel Exilim Pro EX-P505 point-and shoot takes both still photos and video, it doesn't excel at either. In fact, its picture quality was mediocre. That's too bad, because this camera is easy to use and has a great in-camera help system.
The camera may be small, but it lacks both the slim shape of a point-and-shoot and the features - such as an optical viewfinder, a flash shoe, and support for external lenses - that justify the heft of more-advanced cameras. The Exilim does, however, have a swivelling 2" LCD of the type that would be found on a video camera, and it's easy to hold in one hand. I also liked the placement of its four-way joystick and ten-mode rotating dial.
This fully automatic camera comes with an informative in-camera graphic display, though the manual may need to be consulted to decipher some of the icons - particularly when using manual settings or manual exposure-metering modes. The display is particularly handy at revealing the secrets behind the 22 still-scene settings, most of which are useful. The Sunset setting, for example, combines infinity focus, the red filter, and daylight white balance - who knew? - to produce a pleasing image.
Other informative graphic displays appear in the aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes, which are located on the rotating dial as well. Pressing the Set button gives you sample pictures that illustrate the effects of high and low settings. We also liked the graphic bar at the bottom of the LCD, which indicates when you're moving beyond the camera's 5X optical zoom and switching to the 8X digital zoom.
The camera's hallmark feature is video, recorded in MPEG-4-encoded AVI files. The five primary video modes are Portrait, Scenery, Fireworks, NightScene and Silent. NightScene improved our video in a low-light indoor situation, and Silent took Charlie Chaplin-style black-and-white, speeded-up video. The camera's Short Movie mode takes a series of five-second video snapshots. Or there's the Past-Movie mode, which creepily takes video of the five seconds before the shutter is hit. Video can be shot in high, normal, and low-quality modes; the first two of these modes record at 30 frames per second, while last records at 15fps. The maximum possible length of the video is determined by the capacity of the SD card in the camera, which must be bought separately.
Unfortunately, the camera hiccupped during our performance tests. In our image quality testing, it produced fair results, but its exposure was poor, leaving test shots overexposed, and the colour accuracy also left a lot to be desired.
Considering the camera's advanced video features, its software is surprisingly amateurish. Casio bundled Photo Loader 2.3 and Photo Hands 1.0 with our test unit. Photo Loader, a browser-based photo organiser, didn't play nicely with Mozilla Firefox, opening multiple browser windows to view photos and slide shows. The Photo Hands 1.0 editing software provides contrast, brightness, saturation, sharpness, resizing and rotation functions in an interface reminiscent of an animated cartoon. On a more positive note, the bundled Ulead Movie Wizard SE VCD, though basic, was pretty easy to use.
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