Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505
At a Glance
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 offers a great in-camera help system.
The first obvious compromise relates to its semibulky form. 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 swiveling 2-inch LCD of the type you would find 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 you'll need to consult the manual to decipher some of the icons--particularly when you're 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.
One quibble: When you rotate the dial to the scene (called BestShot) mode, it's hard to tell which setting is active because the description flashes on the display so briefly (only a few seconds).
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 5-second video snapshots. Or you can choose to shoot in Past-Movie mode, which creepily takes video of the five seconds before you hit the shutter. You can shoot video in high-, normal-, and low-quality modes; the first two of these modes record at 30 frames per second, while last records at 15 fps. The maximum possible length of the video is determined by the capacity of the SD Card, which you must buy separately.
Unfortunately, the camera hiccupped during our performance tests and earned only a Fair score. In our image quality tests, it received the third lowest overall score among currently tested point-and-shoot cameras. Our test unit also tied for worst in our exposure tests, leaving test shots overexposed, and it brought up the rear in our color accuracy tests.
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 organizer, 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.
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.