The Casio Exilim EX-G1 costs about £230. It's clear that most of that cost is down to its ruggedised body, which allows you to take photos and video in situations that you can't with a standard camera. This ultra-compact, 12.1-megapixel snapper can withstand a 2.13m drop because of its two-layer construction, with a stainless steel outer casing, a resin ring protecting the lens, and a polycarbonate cover on its right side, among several other protective measures. It's waterproof down to a depth of approximately 3m for up to an hour, and it's freezeproof to about -10C.
Available in red and black versions, the EX-G1 certainly looks different from your average pocket camera. It's very small, which is what you want in a rugged compact camera, and you won't hesitate to take it with you, no matter what the conditions are.
That said, the camera seems over-designed. For starters, there's a dial on its right side for opening the cover on the memory card and mini-USB/AV compartment, located directly below the dial. It takes less than a quarter turn to unlock the door and it turns easily. Other than adding to the rugged mystique, the dial's rather pointless.
The battery compartment on the bottom of the camera requires a special tool, or a very long fingernail, to open. Even with the tool, opening it requires plenty of dexterity. The battery doesn't charge in the camera, so you have to remove it from the compartment whenever it runs out of power. Casio includes two types of detachable shock-absorbing protectors, attached by small screws. Also, Casio has gone to the trouble of reinforcing the wrist-strap holder by making it out of die-cast zinc. But the wrist strap is made of the typical braided nylon you get with a normal compact camera -- not so tough.
The camera takes microSD and microSDHC cards, which need to be handled with nimble fingers. This isn't much of an issue, though, since you can always use the USB port to transfer files from the camera, rather than removing the card, and it means you can use the card in a variety of other mobile devices. If you plan to use an SD card from another camera, then the type of card will be an issue.
In our informal durability tests, the camera proved tough. The compartment doors stayed shut after drops, and there were never any malfunctions because of shock, underwater use or the cold. The instruction manual, a PDF file on the included software disc, goes into detail about what the camera will survive and what you need to do to ensure its survival.
Fat-fingered folk beware
The sizes of the EX-G1's various controls are acceptable, but people with larger hands may have some trouble. On top are Casio's 'best shot' button for accessing shooting modes, a power button and the shutter release. The remaining controls are angled down the back right-hand side, just as the camera body itself is angled.