The Casio Exilim EX-V7 is a lightweight 7.2-megapixel compact camera that retails for around £140. Although it's not the most innovative camera in the world, it packs a respectable number of features into a small package and attempts to combine compact form with superzoom function.
The EX-V7 is very light, despite being mostly metal. It switches on with a nifty sliding faceplate similar to those found on the Sony T series, which is unfortunately somewhat prone to opening by accident when kept in a pocket. The faceplate conceals a non-protruding lens and flash, and adds to the size of the camera, which is nonetheless very slim at 25mm. This is another impressively slim camera to include mechanical image stabilisation.
The back of the camera is dominated by the standard 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen. Next to the screen is a spring-loaded zoom slider control. This is far more intuitive and subtle than the usual rocker switches, with the speed of the zoom controlled by the amount you push the slider. There are 14 steps to the zoom. You can assign certain functions to the four-way clickpad, allowing you to customise the controls to access whichever controls you use most.
Like most Casio Exilim cameras, the EX-V7 comes with a docking station, into which the camera must be placed to recharge or transfer pictures. How you feel about this is a matter of personal taste, but we would have preferred a standard USB connection so USB leads could be used when away from home. The dock does at least provide an attractive home for your camera when not in use.
The importance of the subtle zoom control becomes clear when you start to zoom in and discover the EX-V7's 7x optical zoom lens. That's high for a compact, especially with a non-protruding lens. We can't help but be disappointed by the wide-end equivalent of 38mm, however. We'd prefer 28mm or at least 35mm.
There are plenty of features packed into this diminutive package, including flexible shooting options. Shutter and aperture control are available, giving you some control over depth of field and shutter speed. Flash intensity can also be adjusted, while the trusty focus assist lamp is less harsh than the flash and allows eyes to adjust, preferable to the appalling level of red-eye the EX-V7 produces, and useful when filming video.
Other adjustment options include in-camera editing of pictures already taken. You can increase dynamic range, and alter brightness and colour. Images can be re-sized, cropped and straightened. Sharpness and saturation can also be adjusted. There are a number of video options, including a widescreen setting. We liked the one-frame snapshot function, which records a 640x480-pixel (VGA) image of a given frame in a video.
The only downside of all these options is they're accessed through menus rather than more intuitive controls, leading to lots of button pushing and menu-sifting. Also, the macro function for photographing close-up subjects is rather poor, keeping you 10cm away.
The chief advantage of the sliding faceplate is near-instantaneous power on. The flipside is that a non-protruding lens placed on the extreme edge of the camera's body leads to the occasional fingertip blocking the lens. Red-eye is also a problem, thanks to a flash that squats directly on top of the lens. This is a surefire way to set eyes glowing red and makes a mockery of the red-eye reduction flash setting.