If this camera were any slimmer, it'd be invisible. Casio's 12-megapixel Exilim EX-S12 looks fantastic, but, at around £210, it ought to. The S12 has only a 3x optical zoom, but you do get Casio's new high-speed shutter technology, high-definition movie capability and a 'dynamic photo' mode to play with.
It might be tiny, but the S12 is very easy to handle. It starts up fast and the autofocus speed is good too. If you want to take over, you can swap to manual focus, 'pan focus' and 'infinity'. In fact, for a glitzy super-slim, the S12 is pretty hands-on.
As with other Casio cameras, the main settings are displayed on a kind of sidebar at the right-hand edge of the LCD. To change them, you just press the 'set' button in the middle of the navigational controller and the menus open out sideways, ready for you to make changes.
There are more goodies lurking in the menus proper, including Casio's interesting 'auto shutter' option, which has blur, panning and smile modes. In blur mode, the shutter doesn't fire until the subject is steady, which could be handy for low-light shots. In smile mode, the camera won't take a shot until your partner's sullen pout changes to a cheesy grin.
The dynamic photo mode could be a laugh, too. It cuts your subject out so you can place him, her or it against a new background. You have to take one shot of your subject against a plain wall, for example, and then get them to move away. You then take another shot so that the camera knows what to extract. You can shoot single stills or rapid sequences.
Never mind the gadgets, though -- what about the pictures? Whether it's the S12's new Exilim Engine 4.0 that's doing the business or the latest raft of 12-megapixel sensors now hitting the market, the S12 produces good, crisp pictures. It does well at high ISOs, too, and the image quality is tolerable even at ISO 3,200.
It's the lens that's the weak point, though. It's sharp enough at the wideangle end, but, even though the zoom range is small, it still drops off considerably at maximum focal length. That's a drag when the sensor itself seems to work so well.
It's not the only letdown, either. Casio's recently launched a number of high-speed 'continuous shutter' models, and you apparently get the same technology with the S12. But, while the S12 can shoot at 4 frames per second or 10fps, it's at a piddling resolution of 2 megapixels. If you try to shoot continuously at full resolution, the camera wheezes along at around 2 seconds per frame.
You might find the S12's YouTube mode handy, but Google's own upload tools are hardly rocket science. And there could be some fun to be had with the dynamic photo mode, but, in our test, it managed to recognise a still subject but kept failing to recognise the backgrounds in sequences. It clearly works, as Casio's online demos show, but it might not be as easy as it looks.
The Casio Exilim EX-S12's a real looker. The finish is great, it's easy to use and it's packed with more gadgets than you'll probably ever try. But that 3x zoom is weak, both in terms of range and performance at full zoom. When you strip away all the fancy tech, you're not getting much of a camera for your cash.
Edited by Charles Kloet