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For a high-end camera, the P712 is physically quite small, measuring 108 x 84.2 x 72mm and tipping the scales at 440g, slightly smaller and lighter than the S5600. However the P712 is quite complex, and its exterior is festooned with buttons and other controls. There are 13 small and virtually identical buttons scattered across its surface, as well as a mode dial, menu joystick, zoom control, data dial, eyepiece adjustment control and an on/off switch. That’s a lot of controls. By comparison, my digital SLR has only seven buttons, two dials and two switches. I’m all for making cameras intuitive to use, and restricting the amount of menu-delving that needs to be done, but in my opinion the P712 takes it too far in the other direction. There are so many controls that you spend too long searching for the right one.
There seems to be no logic to the placement of controls either; flash mode is on one side of the camera, while metering mode is on the other. The drive mode button is crammed in next to the mode dial, while the AE/AF lock button is very awkwardly positioned on the thumb rest. The delete button is placed right next to the menu button, and is quite easy to press by accident.
The annoying thing is that the camera actually has the rudiments of the perfect alternative to this clutter. In Program or Manual modes, it has a small and easy-to-use on-screen menu for setting exposure values, flash and exposure compensation and ISO setting. Why not add a few of the other commonly used options, such as drive, metering or focus mode to this menu? Casio uses a system like this on its new Z1000 compact, and it is very quick and simple to use.
Apart from the unnecessary complexity, the handling is generally good, although I personally found the zoom control to be slow and awkward to use, and the fact that the viewfinder blanks for a couple of seconds after taking a shot is also irritating, although not that unusual.
In terms of overall performance it also does quite well. It starts up in about 3.5 seconds, which isn’t bad considering the size of the lens it has to roll out. Shot to shot times aren’t bad either, although it doesn’t have a conventional continuous mode. Instead it has “last burst” and “first burst” modes, which save a series of pictures either when the shutter is pressed or when it is released - the actual number of shots depends on the file type selected. In first burst mode it shoots 10 frames in about eight seconds.
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