If you’re thinking of buying a new camera, the chances are that you’re considering one of the big brands you’ve often heard of, such as Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus or Fujifilm. Maybe you’ll consider a Sony, a Panasonic or a Samsung, since you’ve heard they’re pretty good. However the chances are you’ll overlook the longest-established consumer digital camera brands of them all: Casio.
Unfortunately for Casio its name is associated in the public consciousness with cheap pocket calculators and digital watches, and for some reason this seems to have negative connotations, despite the fact that Casio calculators and watches have always been very good.
The fact is that it was Casio that produced the world’s first consumer digital camera way back in 1996, was the first to include an LCD monitor, was the first to launch a 10MP compact, and has always been one of the leading innovators in the field. The Exilim series of high-quality pocket compacts are among the smallest, most advanced and best value for money on the market, but hardly anyone ever considers them.
The latest model in the ultra-slim Exilim S-series, the EX-S770, is a good case in point. It is a high-spec 7.2-megapixel ultra-compact with an f/2.7 – f/5.2, 3x optical zoom lens and a 2.8-in wide-format LCD monitor which with 230,400 pixels is one of the sharpest on the market. It has a strong all-metal body available in three different colours, and in terms of build quality and design it is a match for anything from the more popular brands. At just 17.3mm thick it is the slimmest digital camera you can buy, and by a fair margin at that. At 127g it is also one of the lightest.
Launched in August 2006 at a list price of £279.99, which has now dropped to £249.99, the S770 is widely available both online and on the high street for under £200. This is toward the higher end of the price band for 7-megapixel compacts, but you get a hell of a lot of camera for your money.
Apart from its ultra-skinny profile and stylish appearance, the first thing that strikes you about the S770 is its blistering performance. It starts up in just over a second, which is admirably quick, but the stand-out feature is the autofocus. It has the fastest AF system I’ve ever seen in a compact camera, focusing in well under half a second even in very low light. It has a good AF illuminator that enables it to focus in total darkness at a range of at least four metres.