First Look
Casio's EXILIM Pro
6Mp, Creative Bracketing & Cool In Camera Controls

The mode dial on the Casio EX-P600 (Pro) makes switching between recording, Best Shot (see text), playback, aperture- and shutter-priority, manual, and movie modes simple. Other controls, such as the Ex button, allow for fine-tuning settings.

At first glance the Casio EXILIM Pro seems rather unassuming, much like many compact digicams that fill store shelves these days. But the Pro moniker catches the eye, and you wonder what's so Pro about it. Well, there are any number of features of higher caliber inside, including the ability to bracket not only exposure, but white balance and focus setting as well. There's an RGB histogram that lets you know whether you have to try again or if the exposure and color are where you want it. There's continuous autofocus, which is activated with slight pressure on the shutter release button. And, my favorite, there's what Casio calls "Best Shot," a menu that includes a number of picture scenarios, such as Soft Focus, that shows you the typical picture on the LCD, tells you what the camera settings will be, and then sets them for you when you push the "Set" key on the camera body. Small enough to fit in coat jacket or evening bag, the 6-megapixel Pro (or properly, model EX-P600) also allows you to shoot in JPEG or TIFF through a Canon 7.1-28.4mm (equivalent to 33-132mm) zoom lens.

Straight Macro mode allows you to get in very close to subjects (a bit less than 4"). Interestingly, when you use flash with macro there's little or no shadow cast, even when you're right at the closest focusing setting. The autofocus works great at every distance, but really nails the close-up shots.
Photos © 2004, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

To extend the Pro metaphor further, the camera allows you to choose aperture- or shutter-priority in 10 f/stop steps (including f/2.8-f/8 at the wide setting and f/4-f/11 in tele) and in a shutter speed range of 60 to 1/200 sec (in manual). You can shoot three shots per second in a burst of six shots and when you bracket any of the above-mentioned setups you just hold down the shutter release for a very quick three-shot sequence. Making adjustments is easy--you can work with the menu for size and quality or push the Ex key on the left side of the camera body to evoke preset white balance, ISO values (50-400), metering areas (evaluative to spot), and focusing areas. You can view through the LCD and get an amazing array of information with a clever setup that looks like a flight simulator control panel. We put this on for fun but the two other options (partial info or none but the focus point area) made for easier composing and viewing. The LCD screen is large in comparison to the body and clear in all but the harshest light.

Soft Focus puts what you might call a jitter rather than a straight Gaussian blur on shots, which for florals can be just the thing. The effect is high key, accentuated by a burst of flash.

The Pro overcomes any previous concerns about start up and shutter lag. Start up is almost unnoticeable at or under 2 seconds, and the picture gets made when you press the shutter release with what Casio states is an 0.01 lag time (again, unnoticeable). In a week's worth of shooting we had a bunch of fun with the camera, tempted in many cases by the Best Shot mode and the instant setups this yielded.

Any snipes? Well, for one there's no information in the optical finder, and you have to always look at the LCD to make settings. The other is that there's a very small bump on the right side for camera gripping, which means you have to cradle rather than grasp the body when you're walking around seeking images. But moving through the image options is made easy by a simple and well-marked mode dial, and playback review and delete functions were rapid and easy to access.

Not every shot need be done using the Best Shot mode, fun as it is. This photo was made in aperture-priority setting at an ISO of 200, which allowed dialing in of f/11 at 1/125 sec using the tele range on the 4x zoom lens.

With an MSRP of $649.99, this 6-megapixel digicam (which, at the highest resolution, delivers files just under 18MB) is both fun and simple to use. It must contain an amazing image processor, as it offers many image options that can be created right in camera that ordinarily would take some computer time with most other digicam files. A decided plus for us was the inclusion of a charger for the lithium ion battery that lasted well through the week and up to 300 images, many with flash.

For more information, visit Casio's website at: www.casio.com.

In the "Best Shot" setups you can quickly make creative decisions which are carried out by the impressive Casio image processor. These shots were made with "monochrome" and "sepia," respectively. All you need do is switch to Best Shot mode and then dial up your effect.

One of the Best Shot settings is called "food," which like the Best Shot macro sets "high" on the color saturation. That's what was used for this juiced up image of an iris.

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