Review: Casio Exilim EX-S3
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: July 26, 2003
July 27, 2003
EX-S3 ($349) is the latest in Casio's line of ultra-thin
digital cameras. With 3.2 Megapixels, its the highest resolution
model yet. The EX-S3 has been overshadowed lately by its big
brother, the EX-Z3, which has a real 3X zoom lens (which the
S3 lacks). The Z3 model is a little thicker, but is still very
this latest generation of Exilims, there's no longer an "M" model
that plays MP3s.
the EX-S3 the ultimate portable camera? Find out now...
in the Box?
Exilim has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel Exilim EX-S3 camera
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
featuring PhotoLoader software and drivers
page basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD
does not include a memory card with the EX-S3. Rather, you get
10MB of on-board memory, plus a slot for a Secure Digital (SD)
or MultiMedia (MMC) card that you can buy separately. I recommend
picking one up right away, as 10MB doesn't hold many 3 Megapixel
photos. (And didn't the older Exilim models have 12MB of memory?)
you have a camera this small, you've gotta have a proprietary
battery. The EX-S3 uses the same NP-20 Li-ion battery as its
predecessor. This 2.5 Watt/hour battery will get you about 80
minutes in record more, or two hours in playback mode, according
to Casio. Charging the battery (in the USB cradle) takes two
EX-S3 in dock
of the USB cradle, this is a dock similar to those found on other
cameras. It's nice to see that Casio includes it with the camera,
rather than trying to get another $80 out of you after your initial
purchase. You can use the dock to transfer photos as well as
recharge the battery. The dock does not have to be powered to
use the USB connection, which usually isn't the case with docking
Exilim actually has a tiny lens cover, which the older models
didn't have. This is a nice addition. Above you can also see
just how small this camera is.
terms of accessories, don't expect a lot. You can buy a spare
battery ($30), a leather carrying case ($20), and a belt holster
Exilim includes Casio's PhotoLoader and Photohands software.
PhotoLoader is used to download and view stills and movies from
your camera. It's not Mac OS X native, but works in Classic mode.
Photohands is for Windows only, and is used for retouching and
has "pulled an Olympus" and is now including the full
manual only on CD. This is a bad move, in my opinion. Once you
actually load up the manual, expect its quality to be about average.
the operative word when discussing the EX-S3. This is a camera
that you can stuff in a pocket and have with you at any time.
The body is all metal, which means that it's both sturdy and
attractive. One thing that you have to watch out for with these
metal cameras is their amazing ability to get smudged and scratched
(as you'll see in the frontal shot below).
Exilim's dimension are 3.5 x 2.2 x 0.5 inches (W x H x D, excluding
protrusions), and it weighs a paltry 72 grams empty.
begin our tour of the EX-S3 now, starting with the front.
revision of the Exilim seems to bring a slower lens with it.
The one here is now F4.2, where it was F3.2 and F2.5 on earlier
models. This is a fixed focal length lens, which means is that
it's always focused, so there's no need to "half press" the
shutter release button in order to lock focus. In fact, it won't
even let you half press it. Anyhow, the Exilim's 7.1 mm lens
is equivalent to 35 mm.
the lower-left of the lens is the microphone, with the self-timer
lamp next to it.
other major item on the front of the camera is the flash, which
is at the top-center. The flash has a relatively short range
of 0.8 - 2 meters.
of the biggest features on the EX-S3 is its 2.0" LCD display
(no pun intended). This is quite a step up from the 1.6" screen
on the older models. But don't get too excited -- the resolution
of this screen is quite low, and you'll notice. It is bright
and fluid, though.
above the LCD is the optical viewfinder which, as you'd expect,
is pretty small. There's no diopter correction feature available,
to the right of the LCD, you'll find two buttons, a switch, and
the four way controller. The menu button does what it sounds
like -- it activates the menu system. The display button toggles
the LCD on and off, as well as what's displayed on it. The play/rec
switch moves between playback and record mode.
that is the four-way controller, used for menu navigation, operating
the digital zoom, deleting photos, and using the "zoom and
scroll" feature in playback mode. The digital zoom will
enlarge your image, but please note that the photo quality will
drop rapidly when you use it.
all for the back of the camera -- sounds like this is going to
be a short review!
the top of the camera, you will find the shutter release button
and the rather small power button. As I mentioned earlier, the
shutter release button is one step only -- no pre-focusing is
added a little dimple as well as a little plastic notch around the
power button. On the older models, it was too easy to accidentally
turn off the camera, when all you wanted
to do was take a picture.
not much to see on this side of the camera, other than how thin
the other side, you'll find the battery compartment, with the
NP-20 battery shown. The door covering the compartment is pretty
average in terms of durability.
but not least, here's the bottom of the Exilim EX-S3. At the
lower left, you can see the SD/MMC card slot, which has a "dummy
card" installed in this shot. The dummy card prevents dust
and dirt from entering the slot. Over to the right is the dock
connector, which doesn't seem to have something to cover it.
the Casio Exilim EX-S3
startup times don't get much better than this: it takes under
two seconds for the EX-S3 to turn on. Do note that you must turn
off the startup screen in order to get this fast startup time.
there's no focusing needed on the camera, there's no AF lag to
worry about. There's also no real shutter lag, which is a rarity.
A live histogram is displayed in record
speed is pretty good too. You will wait about 2.5 seconds before
you can take another shot, at the fine quality setting.
no way to delete a photo right after it is taken; you must enter
let's take a look at the image size/quality choices on the EX-S3:
photos on 10MB built-in memory
no TIFF or RAW mode on the Exilim cameras. The file numbering
is simple: CIMG####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. File numbering
is maintained as you switch and erase memory cards.
take a look at the menus now.
Exilim has an attractive and easy-to-use menu system. Here's
what you'll find in the record menu:
mode (Snapshot, best shot, movie)
(Auto, off, on, red-eye reduction)
(Off, 10 sec, 2 sec, x3)
Shift [exposure compensation] (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, light bulb, fluorescent, manual)
(Auto, 80, 160, 320, 640)
(on/off) - whether picture is shown on LCD after it is taken
key (REC mode, flash, EV shift, white balance, ISO, off) -
define what left/right on the four-way controller does
key (REC mode, digital zoom, flash, white balance, self-timer,
off) - define the up/down buttons
you can see, the EX-S3 has manual white balance -- the only manual
control on the camera.
Exilim has a rather unique "x3" feature that uses the
self-timer. The camera takes three shots in a row, with a 10
second delay for the first shot, and a 1 second delay for each
EX-S3 has the same "Best Shot" modes that have been
on Casio cameras for years. Here's how it works: you select a
scenario on the LCD, and the camera picks the best settings for
it! The choices are:
shot - combine two shots into one
- Shoot the background first, then have someone shoot you in
front of it
- low contrast + sepia filter
- high contrast + magenta filter
favorites - create your own Best Shot using a photo you've
memory tab in the menu lets you choose what settings are stored
when the camera is turned off. The choices include REC mode,
flash, white balance, ISO, and digital zoom.
is also the standard-issue setup menu for setting the date and
all that fun stuff. Interesting items here include:
[screen] (on/off) - turn off for faster bootup time
no. (continue, reset) - file numbering
time - choose your home city and another one abroad
(Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese,
power off (2, 5 mins)
- go back to default settings
photos tests in this review are going to be very limited. Since
there's no tripod mount, I can't do my night shot or distortion
tests. And with a minimum focus distance of 80 cm, I can't do
a macro test shot either. So that leaves us with a rather hard
to see redeye test shot:
first thing you'll see is some noticeable redeye; that's not
surprising, consider how close the flash is to the lens. Another
thing to notice is the amount of noise, even at ISO 80. Do note
that I enlarged this shot a bit, and adjusted the levels, so
you can see it a little better.
Exilim EX-S3's photo quality isn't great. There's a lot of noise
in my test photos, giving them an "over-processed" look
to them. There's noticeable vignetting (dark corners) as well,
and some softness at the edges. Purple fringing was not a problem.
The S3's photos don't match up to those from a "regular" 3
Megapixel camera... then again, those cameras can't slide into
your back pocket this easily. Have a look at our photo
gallery and judge for yourself.
EX-S3 has as very basic movie mode. You can record up to 30 seconds
of video, with sound. The resolution is 320 x 240.
are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
use the digital zoom during filming.
is a sample movie for you to check out. The quality is lacking.
Click to play movie (924KB, AVI format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
Exilim has a pretty full-featured playback mode. The basic features
like slide shows, DPOF print marking, zoom and scroll, and image
protection are all here.
zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom up to 4X into your photo
and then move around in it. The scrolling was quite slow.
can also resize images to 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480, and you can
rotate them as well.
there's more -- the Exilim has three very unique playback features.
first is favorites, which lets you "tag" your best
photos for easy retrieval later.
feature number two is the "create album" item, which
will make an HTML photo gallery automatically! You can then copy
over the album folder to your website, and that's it! You can
choose from 10 different album layouts, or make your own. This
is a useful feature that is still unique to Casio cameras.
last interesting playback feature is the calendar. This shows
a calendar of the current month, with a tiny thumbnail picture
shown on the day it was taken. This is a nice way to jump through
your photos by date!
you can see above, the Exilim can display exposure information
about your photos, including a histogram. The camera moves through
photos almost instantly.
Does it Compare?
same things that I said about the Sony
DSC-U60 apply here. The Exilim EX-S3 is a nice secondary
camera that you can take anywhere. If this is your first camera,
I'd probably skip it -- the photo quality isn't that great, and
you're really find yourself missing a zoom lens. With tiny cameras
like the Casio
Exilim EX-Z3 and Pentax
Optio S available with 3X zooms, the non-zoom Exilims aren't
that appealing anymore. Still, you get a ultra-thin camera with
great performance, a good amount of features, and a top-notch
playback mode. Downsides include very mediocre photo quality,
no optical zoom, the tiny 10MB of on-board memory, and the average
movie mode. And although I like the large 2" LCD, I don't
care for its low resolution. If you're looking for a go-anywhere
camera to complement your larger digicam, then this latest Casio
may be worth a look.
(though low resolution) LCD
controls, even manual white balance
dock for photo transfer / battery charging
of useful "best shot" (scene) modes
calendar, favorites, album features in playback mode
I didn't care for:
of noise in photos, plus some blurriness and vignetting
of on-board RAM is not much
software not Mac OS X native
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the Exilim EX-S3 before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample
photos in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
out Steve's Digicams for another
review of this camera!
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.