The 36-102mm 2.8x zoom lens owes its small size to what Casio touts as the world's first transparent ceramic lens. Macro focus is no closer than 170mm, which is adequate, although some other ultracompacts focus as close as 25-50mm from the lens. There's also a manual focus option; the centre of the image enlarges, making it easy to focus manually on the LCD.
It's common for ultracompacts to have underpowered electronic flash units that place less demand on their tiny batteries, but the EX-S100's speed light is even punier than most. It's good only out to a maximum of 2.6m in wide-angle mode and no more than 1.5m at the telephoto zoom position. The camera has a flash-assist option that provides some exposure compensation.
This little shooter offered good to excellent performance in most categories, including shutter lag times of 0.3 second under high-contrast lighting and a mere 0.4 second under low-contrast illumination, even though there is no autofocus-assist lamp. The optional Pan Focus setting turns off the autofocus completely and allows you to take photos with almost no shutter lag -- about 0.1 second in our tests.
First-shot times averaged about 2.6 seconds. Thereafter, the Casio was able to snap off shots every 1.3 seconds for long sequences. If you have a limber trigger finger, the fast shot-to-shot times almost make up for the camera's complete lack of a burst mode. With flash activated, though, shooting slowed down to about 3.4 seconds between snaps.
The 680mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery was good for just 342 shots on a single charge, during a workout that included 50 percent shots with flash, plus card reformatting, zooming, picture review, and other power-sapping tasks.
Image quality was fair to good. Most of our test shots weren't extraordinarily sharp, and there was visible noise even at ISO 50, rising to abundant at ISO 400. Chromatic aberration also reared its ugly head, with purple fringing quite evident around backlit subjects. Colours were good, if a little muted, although highlights were easily washed out. The red-eye-prevention preflash seemed to have little effect.
Edited by: Aimee Baldridge
Additional editing by: Mary Lojkine