The Casio Exilim EX-S600, a versatile 6-megapixel ultracompact, puts the brains back into no-brainer snapshooting. With 35 scene modes that cover every picture-taking situation -- including a few you probably never thought of -- plus the ability to add 999 user-definable scenes of your own, this camera is reasonably prepared for just about anything you can throw at it.
That includes low-light scenes tamed by antishake technology and automatic ISO sensitivity up to ISO 1,600, an instant picture mode for snapshots with virtually no shutter lag, and stellar motion-capture capabilities. Unfortunately, these assets are outweighed by its limited 3x zoom range and mediocre photo quality. Still, it may be just the ticket for snapshooters looking for a friendly, stylish camera.
Although its 89 by 58 by 15mm stainless-steel body is scarcely larger than the stack of credit cards in your wallet, Casio still manages to include a 56mm (2.2-inch) LCD on the EX-S600's back surface. To do so, the company eschews an optical viewfinder and miniaturises the sparse array of buttons on the top and back panels. Those with large hands will find it a challenge to operate and adjust this camera.
The top of the camera -- it's more of an edge than a panel -- hosts a tiny sliver of a power button and the shutter release. The other controls reside on the back panel, which is dominated by the coarse 84,960-pixel LCD. Three small buttons are arrayed along the top rim of the viewfinder: playback, record and movie keys, flanked by a pair of zoom buttons that can be thumbed easily when an index finger is poised over the shutter release.
The Casio Exilim EX-S600's only other controls are a Menu button, a Best Shot key (for selecting scene modes), and a four-way cursor control pad with central OK button. Only two of the cursor keys have alternate functions: pressing up adjusts the type of status information displayed on the LCD, while down serves as both a delete key and a flash options button. Pressing the Best Shot button calls up an LCD of the 35 different modes, presented 12 to a screen with a sample picture representing that type of scene. Use the cursor keys to highlight a particular scene and press either the Wide or Tele buttons to pop up an info screen on the use of that mode. Scroll down to the Best Shot option and store your camera's current settings as a user-definable scene focus mode that preserves your EV, ISO, white balance, flash mode, sharpness, saturation, intensity and other settings in the menu with the canned modes. The custom scenes are stored in the 8.3MB of internal memory and are deleted when the built-in flash memory is formatted.
For other functions including, unfortunately, EV adjustments (which take a minimum of eight key presses), you'll need to visit the multilevel menu system, which includes three screens of options each for recording, image quality, playback and setup features. You can bypass the menus for one function by assigning it to the left/right cursor keys. Your options include self-timer, EV, white balance, focus or ISO adjustments.
Bounteous scene modes and movie-shooting versatility are the all-star features of the Casio Exilim EX-S600. Available options include all the usual suspects -- Auto, Fireworks, Night Scene, Portrait, Scenery, Sports and Sunset -- along with some less common choices, such as Autumn Leaves, Natural Green, Soft Flowing Water and Splashing Water. Several are intended for copying text or images, including Business Cards, Old Photo, Text and White Board (which can automatically straighten out images taken at a slight angle). Four of the Best Shot modes are motion-picture and voice-recording options, while antishake and high-sensitivity (both of which can boost ISO as high as ISO 1,600) get special scene modes of their own. There are also modes for shooting Backlight, Candlelight Portrait, Children, Collection, Flower, Food, Monochrome, Night Scene Portrait, Party, Pet, Retro, Silent, Sundown and Twilight pictures.