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DCRP Review: Casio Exilim EX-V8
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: December 27, 2007
Last Updated: October 10, 2008

Front view of the Casio Exilim EX-V8

For a long time, if you wanted a "big zoom" camera, you had to buy a bulky ultra zoom model. Things have started to change though, with ultra-compact, high zoom cameras from Canon, Casio, Pentax, and Sharp now available.

In this review I'm taking a look at Casio's Exilim EX-V8 digital camera ($279). It packs an 8.1 Megapixel CCD, 7X optical zoom lens, image stabilization, and 2.5" LCD display into a slim metal body. Other features include a widescreen H.264 movie mode with stereo sound recording, face detection and subject tracking AF, a unique continuous flash shooting mode, and more scene modes than you could possibly need.

A lot of the compact, big zoom cameras I've tested have some serious compromises that come along with them. Sometimes its related to ergonomics, other times image quality, and a few times, both. Will the Exilim EX-V8 break the mold? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Exilim EX-V8 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

Like most cameras these days, the EX-V8 comes with built-in memory in lieu of a bundled memory card. Casio has put a paltry 11.8 MB of memory into the EX-V8, which holds just two photos at the highest image quality setting (why do they even bother?). With that in mind, you'll want to buy a larger memory card, and fast. The camera supports SD, SDHC, MMC, and MMCplus memory cards, and I'd suggest starting with a 1GB card. While it's worth spending the extra bucks for a high speed card, you don't need to go overboard.

The EX-V8 uses the NP-50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which resembles a pack of gum. The battery holds 3.5 Wh of energy, which seems kind of low considering the size of the battery. How does that translate into battery life? Have a look at this:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot TX1 * 160 shots
Casio Exilim EX-V7 * 240 shots
Casio Exilim EX-V8 * 240 shots
GE E850 210 shots
Olympus Stylus 830 * 200 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 * 270 shots
Pentax Optio Z10 180 shots
Samsung L77 150 shots
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2 180 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200 * 250 shots

* Has image stabilization

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

Casio's engineers did a good job at getting nice battery life out of relatively low power battery. While it's not quite the best in the group, the V8's battery life number (which is the same as on its predecessor) is still 15% above average.

Two quick notes about the proprietary lithium-ion battery used by the EX-V8 and cameras like it. Spare batteries are expensive (about $40 a pop), and you can't use an "off-the-shelf" battery when your rechargeable dies. That said, you won't find cameras this small with anything else.

Casio Exilim EX-V8 on its cradle

Casil Exilim EX-V8 on its cradle

You'll use the included camera cradle for charging the battery, transferring photos to your computer, or connection to a television. In fact, you can only use the dock for the TV and computer connections, which I'm none too pleased about. At least the camera and dock support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so transferring images to your computer will be quick.

As far as battery charging goes, it takes around 2.5 for the battery to charge (inside the camera) via the dock. You can also purchase a standalone charger, which I'll mention in the accessories section below.

The Exilim EX-V8 has a sliding lens cover that not only serves as protection for the lens -- it's also the camera's power switch. If you've read my reviews of Sony's T-series cameras, then you already know that I don't like these sliding lens covers. That's because they're way too easy to bump (like when you're putting the camera into your pocket), which can turn the camera on when you don't want to.

The EX-V8 is fairly light in the accessories department. Probably the most interesting item is the EWC-110 underwater case ($190), which lets you take the camera up to 40 meters beneath the sea. There's also the BC-40L external charger ($40), which you can use instead of the dock for charging the battery. Lastly, Casio offers a ton of different camera cases, in a variety of materials and colors.


PhotoLoader with HOT ALBUM in Windows Vista

Casio's bundled software was never very good, and I'd argue that this all-new version (known as "Photo Loader with HOT ALBUM" is even worse. It's still totally basic, with only image viewing, printing, and e-mailing functions. The software appears to be Flash-based, and it's awkward and slow to use. It's also for Windows only, so my fellow Mac users will want to use iPhoto.

Features on the main screen include slideshows, variable thumbnail sizes, calendar view, and print ordering -- well, sort of -- the camera just puts the photos you want to print on a memory card or CD. There's also an album feature ("HOT ALBUM") that lets you create a CD-ROM containing a slideshow, complete with the music of your choosing. If you pony up for the "premium version" ($3 for two years), you can burn the images onto CDs and DVDs as well.


Editing in PhotoLoader

Want to edit your photos? Well, you won't be doing it with this product. You can rotate photos, and that's it. In the year 2007. Get with it, Casio!


YouTube Uploader in Windows Vista

Something else included with the EX-V8 is Casio's YouTube Uploader. As you've probably figured out by now, this too is for Windows only. The software scans for movies on your memory card (regardless of whether you took them in YouTube mode) and will upload them to your YouTube account. The interface a bit primitive, and it can't actually show you the movie you're looking at in the software itself (though it'll launch QuickTime or WMP for you), but it does work.


The V8's basic manual, with three languages per paragraph. Are you kidding me?

Casio includes documentation in a variety of forms with the Exilim EX-V8. First up we have a fold-out quick start guide to get you up and running. Easily the worst piece of documentation is the printed basic manual, which attempts to cover every language in the world in one book. The English section has French and Spanish in it too, so finding what you're looking for is way too challenging. The full camera manual -- the most useful of the bunch -- is found only on the included CD-ROM disc, which I'm not happy about. The quality of the manual is fine (and at least it's only in one language), but I don't believe that users should have to load up a PDF to get help with their camera.

Look and Feel

The Exilim EX-V8 looks exactly like its predecessor, the EX-V7. It's a compact (but not super-tiny) camera made mostly of metal, and everything feels well put together. The camera is easy to hold and operate with just one hand, though the unconventional zoom controller takes some getting used to. Casio has kept buttons to a minimum on the V8, so you don't need a Ph.D. to figure it out.

Images courtesy of Casio

It seems like all compact cameras have to come in more than one color, and the EX-V8 is no exception: you can get it in silver and black. From what I can tell, the black one is exclusive to BestBuy stores.

Now let's take a look at how the EX-V8 compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size of weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot TX1 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 9.2 cu in. 221 g
Casio Exilim EX-V7 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 150 g
Casio Exilim EX-V8 3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.1 cu in. 149 g
GE E850 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.4 cu in. 155 g
Olympus Stylus 830 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 125 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 15.1 cu in. 232 g
Pentax Optio Z10 3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.5 cu in. 125 g
Samsung L77 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.5 cu in. 135 g
Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2 3.1 x 4.7 x 1.4 in. 20.4 cu in. 210 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.8 cu in. 160 g

The EX-V8 is one of the larger cameras in the group, though it pales in comparison to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 and Sanyo Xacti VPC-H2, which are much larger cameras (but still considered "compact" by ultra zoom standards). The V8 is small enough to fit into your jeans pocket, though watch out for that sliding lens cover.

Enough chit chat, let's start our tour of the camera now, shall we?

Front of the Casio Exilim EX-V8

Here's the front of the camera, with its sliding lens cover opened. The V8 packs a big 7X zoom into its slender body by using a folded optics design. Light enters the front of the lens, hits a prism, and continues its way to the left (in this view), eventually hitting the CCD. There are usually some compromises that come with this lens design, and I'll get to most of those later. One of them I will mention now is that the V8's lens is on the slow side, with a maximum aperture range of F3.4 - F5.3. The focal length of the lens is 6.3 - 44.1 mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 266 mm. Not bad for a small camera, eh? The EX-V8 doesn't support conversion lenses, so you're "stuck" with that range.

Somewhere in the middle of the camera is its CCD sensor, which is mounted on a movable platform. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands that can blur your photos, especially at the telephoto end of the lens. The EX-V8 can shift the CCD to compensate for this movement, allowing for a sharp photo at slow shutter speeds. By itself, image stabilization can't stop a moving subject (though Casio tries to address that by boosting the ISO sensitivity), and it won't allow for handheld, multi-second exposures, but it definitely helps. Want an example? Have a look at these:


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

Both of the examples above were taken at 1/5 second -- pretty slow. As you can see, the image stabilizer produced a much sharper photograph. While an image stabilization option is available in movie mode, it's just a digital effect. This isn't the first time that I've seen a camera with CCD-shift IS that is unavailable in movie mode.

Getting back to the tour, now -- to the upper-left of the lens is the EX-V8's built-in flash. The flash is quite weak, with a working range of just 0.4 - 2.6 m at wide-angle and 1.0 - 1.7 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). You cannot attach an external flash to the camera.

Directly below the lens is the AF-assist / REC / self-timer lamp. Yep, this lamp is used in three different ways. In low light situations, the camera will use it to illuminate the subject for focusing purposes. You can also turn it on as sort of a video lamp (in either still or video recording mode). Finally, the lamp serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

The last thing to see on the front of the Exilim EX-V8 are the stereo microphones, which are just to the left of the aforementioned lamp. That's a feature you don't see very often, so I'm pleased that Casio included it here.

Back of the Casio Exilim EX-V8

On the back of the Exilim EX-V8 you'll find a large 2.5" LCD display. While some Casio cameras have low resolution LCDs, the EX-V8 isn't one of them -- it has 230,400 pixels. As you'd expect, items on the screen are nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility is about average, and is at its best when the screen brightness is turned all the way up. Low light visibility was good, but not great -- the screen brightens automatically, just not that much. You can turn on the LED lamp to brighten things in low light, though your subject may not appreciate the bright light in their face.

Something you won't find on the back of the camera is an optical viewfinder. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to you: some people love'em, others could care less.

Jumping now to the upper-right of the photo, we find the EX-V8's mode dial. The items here include:

Option Function
Snapshot mode Point-and-shoot, with full menu access
Best Shot mode You select the situation, and the camera picks the appropriate settings. Choose from portrait, scenery, portrait w/scenery, children, sports, candlelight portrait, party, pet, flower, natural green, autumn leaves, soft flowing water, splashing water, sundown, night scene, night scene portrait, fireworks, food, text, collection, eBay, backlight, high sensitivity, underwater, monochrome, retro, twilight, layout, auto framing, ID photo, old photo, business cards & documents, white board, register user scene. See below for more.
Manual mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
Aperture priority mode You select the aperture and the camera uses the appropriate shutter speed. Aperture range is F3.4 - F13, though you can only select from three choices at any one time.
Shutter priority mode You choose the shutter speed and the camera picks the correct aperture. Shutter speed range is 60 - 1/800 sec. ISO is fixed at the Auto setting in this mode.
Full manual (M) mode You select both the aperture and the shutter speed. Same ranges as above, though the ISO is adjustable.
Easy mode A dumbed-down point-and-shoot mode with a very basic menu
Movie Best Shot mode Similar to the still photo Best Shot mode. Select from portrait, landscape, night scene, fireworks, backlight, high sensitivity, silent, short movie, past movie, YouTube, voice recording, and register user scene. I'll cover these in the movie mode discussion later in the review.
Movie mode Regular movie mode; more on this later

Lots to talk about before we move on. While the Exilim EX-V8 has a lot of manual controls, they're all crippled in one way or another. For example, you can only select from three apertures at any one time (e.g. F3.4, F4.6, and F9.2 at wide-angle). In shutter priority mode, the ISO is fixed at "auto" for some unknown reason (shoot in M mode to avoid that).

The V8 has what seems like a million Best Shot (scene) modes, covering virtually every situation you could ever encounter (or not encounter). I'll tell you about some of the more interesting ones. The "For eBay" mode simply lowers the resolution to 2 Megapixel, and that's it, as far as I can tell. The high sensitivity mode will boost the ISO as high as 1600, in order to get a sharp photo. The problem is, the resulting photo is often very noisy, so you're better off skipping this mode, and adjusting the ISO manually instead. The layout scene lets you take two or three photos and put them into a collage.

But wait, there's more. The Auto Framing Best Shot mode is a bit odd. It will track a moving subject for you, though it cuts the resolution down to 3MP for some reason. The LCD shows a "cropping boundary", which is the area that will be captured. Lastly, we have the business card and white board modes, which automatically corrects distortion for you. The resolution is locked at 2MP for this mode.


Easy menu

The EX-V8 is the first Casio camera I've seen with an "easy mode", which borrows considerably from the "simple mode" on Panasonic's cameras. In this mode there are just three menu options, covering flash, self-timer, and image size.

Getting back to the tour now, the next item of note is the zoom controller, which is located just to the left of the mode dial. The controller feels a bit different than what you may be used to, though I didn't have any trouble using it. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.4 seconds. The camera displays the current focus distance on the LCD, which is handy. I counted around thirty steps in the camera's 7X zoom range -- nice.

Below the zoom controller are the Playback and Menu buttons. To the right of those is the four-way controller, used for menu navigation, adjusting manual settings, and also:

And that's it for the back of the EX-V8!

Side of the Casio Exilim EX-V8

The only thing to see on the top of the EX-V8 is its shutter release button.

Side of the Casio Exilim EX-V8

Nothing here...

Side of the Casio Exilim EX-V8

On the other side of the EX-V8, you'll find the battery and memory card compartment. Casio deserves a standing ovation for putting these on the side of the camera, instead of on the bottom like everyone else (where you frequently can't get at the memory card when using a tripod). The compartment is protected by a reinforced plastic door of decent quality.

The included NP-50 "stick of gum" battery can be seen at right.

Since the V8's lens is internal, it never protrudes out of the camera.

Bottom of the Casio Exilim EX-V8

On the bottom of the V8 are a metal tripod mount as well as the dock connector. Unfortunately, Casio doesn't sell a USB or video out cable that uses the dock connector -- you're stuck using the dock for both of those.

Using the Casio Exilim EX-V8

Record Mode

Flip the lens cover to the side, and the EX-V8 is ready to take pictures about 1.2 seconds later. That's pretty fast.


A live histogram is available in record mode

The EX-V8 is pretty responsive in the focusing department. In the best case scenarios, you'll wait between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds for the camera to lock focus. You won't wait for much longer at the telephoto end either, with focus times staying under one second most of the time. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the camera's very bright AF-assist lamp.

I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it often occurs.

Shot-to-shot delays were brief, with a wait of about 1.5 seconds without the flash, and around 3 seconds with it.

There's no way to delete a photo while it's being saved to the memory card. You must enter playback mode and delete it from there.

There are quite a few image quality options available on the EX-V8. They include:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # Images on 11.8MB onboard memory # images on 1GB card (optional)
8M
3264 x 2448
Fine 4.6 MB 2 210
Normal 2.5 MB 4 393
Economy 1.7 MB 7 579
3:2 ratio
3264 x 2176
Fine 4.3 MB 2 224
Normal 2.3 MB 5 418
Economy 1.6 MB 7 616
6M
2816 x 2112
Fine 3.5 MB 3 277
Normal 1.9 MB 6 511
Economy 1.3 MB 9 743
4M
2304 x 1728
Fine 2.5 MB 4 386
Normal 1.4 MB 8 690
Economy 900 KB 13 1074
2M
1600 x 1200
Fine 1.3 MB 9 767
Normal 790 KB 15 1224
Economy 470 KB 25 2057
VGA
640 x 480
Fine 330 KB 36 2930
Normal 190 KB 62 5090
Economy 140 KB 85 6908

As I said at the start of the review: why did Casio even bother putting in built-in memory if they were going to give you so little?

The EX-V8 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats, which is not surprising.

Images are named CIMG####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now let's talk about the EX-V8's menu system. It's attractive, responsive, and packed full of options. I don't like how Casio split the record options into two parts (Rec and Quality), but what can you do. And with that, here's what you'll find in the menu:

Rec Tab
  • Focus (Auto, macro, infinity, manual) - see below
  • Continuous (Off, normal speed, high speed, flash continuous) - see below
  • Self-timer (Off, X3, 2 sec, 10 sec) - X3 takes three shots in a row
  • Face recognition (Off, normal, family first, priority, record family, edit family) - see below
  • Anti shake (Auto, camera shake, image blur, demo, off) - see below
  • REC light (on/off) - turns the LED lamp on
  • AF Area (Spot, multi, tracking) - this last item is for following a moving subject
  • AF-assist light (on/off)
  • Digital zoom (on/off)
  • L/R key (Off, self-timer, ISO, white balance, EV shift, continuous) - define what the left/right directions on the four-way controller do
  • Quick shutter (on/off) - lets you mash the shutter release all the way down without stopping halfway; doesn't work at the telephoto end of the lens
  • Audio snap (on/off) - add a short voice caption to photos
  • Grid (on/off) - composition grid
  • Review (on/off) - post-shot review
  • Icon help (on/off) - whether a little help window opens when you change options
  • Memory - whether the camera remembers the settings for flash, focus, white balance, ISO, AF area, metering, self-timer, flash intensity, digital zoom, MF position, and zoom position
Quality tab
  • Image size (see above chart)
  • Image quality (see above chart)
  • Movie quality (UHQ, UHQ wide, HQ, HQ wide, normal, LP) - discussed later
  • EV shift [exposure compensation] (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, overcast, shade, day white fluorescent, daylight fluorescent, tungsten, manual) - see below
  • ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800)
  • Metering (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • Dynamic range (Off, expand +1, expand +2) - see below
  • Portrait refiner (Off, noise filter +1, noise filter +2) - see below
  • Color filter (Off, B&W, sepia, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, purple) - virtual color filters
  • Sharpness (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Saturation (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Contrast (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Flash intensity (-2 to +2 in 1-step increments)
  • Flash assist (Auto, off) - automatically brightens underexposed flash photos
Setup tab
  • Screen brightness (0, +1, +2, Auto 1, Auto 2) - let the camera adjust the screen brightness automatically or do it yourself
  • Sounds (Startup, half-shutter, shutter, operation, operation volume, playback volume) - adjust all the blips and bleeps as well as the volume
  • Startup (on/off) - you can use your own startup image if you'd like
  • File numbering (Continue, reset)
  • World time
    • Home/world - choose the current time zone
    • Home time setup
    • World time setup
  • Timestamp (Off, date & time, date) - print the date on your photos
  • Adjust (time setting)
  • Date style (YY/MM/DD, DD/MM/YY, MM/DD/YY)
  • Language
  • Sleep (Off, 30 sec, 1, 2 mins)
  • Auto power off (1, 2, 5 mins)
  • Play power on (Power on, hold: on, disable) - what the playback button does when the camera is off
  • USB (Mass Storage, PTP/PictBridge)
  • Video out (NTSC 4:3, NTSC 16:9, PAL 4:3, PAL 16:9)
  • Format
  • Reset


Manual focus

The EX-V8 has full manual controls, for exposure (described earlier), white balance, and focus. The custom white balance feature lets you use a white or gray card to get accurate lighting in unusual lighting conditions. In manual focus mode, you'll use the four-way controller to set the focus distance yourself. A guide showing the current focus distance is shown on the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged as well.

There are three continuous shooting modes to choose from on the EX-V8. In normal mode, the camera can keep shooting until the memory card is full, though the frame rate is a sluggish 0.8 frames/second. I found that to be way too slow for action shots in the real world. For faster shooting you can use high speed continuous mode, though the camera drops the resolution down to 2 Megapixel. Here, the camera keeps shooting at 3.7 frames/second, until the memory card is filled up (do note that you'll need a high speed card for best results here). Finally, there's the V8's one-of-a-kind flash continuous mode, which takes three flash photos in a row at 3.7 fps, at full resolution.

The EX-V8 has the most elaborate face detection system I've ever seen. It can't detect the most faces, or detect faces in profile. It does, however, let you "register" family members, and give them (focus and exposure) priority over the other subjects in the frame. Seems a little over-the-top, if you ask me. When shooting, you can give priority to speed (up to 5 faces are recognized) or quantity (up to ten faces). So how well does it work? Just fair, based on my tests. The V8 could detect faces, but usually no more than 2 or 3 in a group. In our usual test scene (which I can't show you, since the camera won't output video in record mode), the camera never found more than three of the six faces in the frame.

The Exilim EX-V8 also has several anti-shake modes to choose from. The camera shake option uses the CCD-shift image stabilizer to reduce blur in your photos. The image blur option boosts the ISO in order to freeze a moving subject -- though you need the ISO set to "auto" in order for this to work. Speaking of auto, the auto stabilization option uses both CCD-shift IS and ISO boosting. You can turn the whole thing off as well, which is a good idea when the camera is on a tripod.

The camera has a "dynamic range" enhancement feature, which can be set before a photo is taken, or applied later in playback mode (I'd suggest sticking to the latter). I'll show you what it can do in the playback section of the review. There's also a "portrait refiner" feature available (though only in record mode), which lets you increase noise reduction, which is supposed to improve skin texture.

Enough about menus -- let's talk photo quality now, shall we?

The Exilim EX-V8 did a good job with our macro test subject. The figurine is tack sharp, with plenty of detail captured. Color is generally good, though the cloak is more orange than red.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 10 cm at wide-angle and 1 m at telephoto, both of which are pretty average numbers.

The night scene turned out beautifully. Since the ISO is fixed to "auto" in shutter priority mode (why, I do not know), I had to switch over to full manual (M) mode in order to fix the sensitivity to 50. The camera took in plenty of light, as you'd expect on a camera with manual shutter speed control. The buildings are sharp, and purple fringing is minimal. While I don't see much in the line of noise here, there is some artifacting caused by noise reduction (but it's not bad).

Now, let's take a look at how the V8 performs at high sensitivities in low light. This example uses the night scene you see above. Here we go:


ISO 50

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

The ISO 100 shot has more noise reduction artifacting than the one at ISO 50, and it's a bit softer as well. Small and midsize prints shouldn't be a problem here. Things start to go downhill at ISO 200, with very muddy details at that setting. I made a 4 x 6 inch print of that photo, and the mottled sky and water are easy to spot. Obviously, everything above that won't be any better -- image quality goes downhill quickly.

We'll find out if the V8 does a better job in normal lighting in a bit.

There's fairly mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the EX-V8's lens. I didn't find corner blurriness or vignetting (dark corners) to be problems, which surprised me, as folded optics lenses usually have one or both!

Now here's a BIG surprise -- the EX-V8 turned in a redeye-free photo in our flash test. Bad redeye is almost a guarantee with ultra-compact cameras... so way to go, Casio!

Here's the second of the ISO tests in this review. Since it's taken under our studio lamps, you can compare the results between cameras we've reviewed. While the crops below give you a quick idea about image quality at the various ISO settings, I recommend looking at the full-size images so you can get the whole picture (no pun intended).


ISO 50

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

There's not much of a difference between the first two shots, with the ISO 100 photo having a tiny amount of noise reduction artifacting visible. At ISO 200 there's a noticeable drop in color saturation, though noise and artifacts are still fairly low. Noise reduction starts to smudge away details even more at ISO 400, though a small print is still very possible. The ISO 800 shot is really lacking in detail, so I'd avoid using that setting unless you're absolutely desperate.

Overall, the Exilim EX-V8 produced very good quality photos, especially considering the big lens Casio crammed into that small body (which usually means lots of compromises). Exposure was generally accurate, though the V8 did blow out the highlights a few times. Colors were nice and saturated, without being over-the-top. Everything was nice and sharp straight out of the camera. While noise was never really a problem, noise reduction artifacting is present, even at the lowest sensitivity (ISO 50). NR artifacting smudges details, as you can see here and here, especially on things like grass and hair, as well as in shadow areas. While this won't affect your small prints, you will notice it in larger prints, or if the ISO strays too far from 50. Another issue is purple fringing -- there's a decent amount of it here.

Don't just take my word for it, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing a few photos if you can. Then you should be able to decide if the EX-V8's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The Exilim EX-V8 has an excellent movie mode. You can record 30 frame/second video and stereo sound at either 848 x 480 (16:9) or 640 x 480 (4:3) until the file size reaches 4GB. Since the camera uses the efficient H.264 (AVC) codec, that takes a long time -- 74 minutes at 848 x 480 and almost 90 minutes at 640 x 480, to be exact. Since the bit rate at the ultra high quality setting is pretty high, you'll want a fast memory card for best results.

For longer movies, you can drop down to the high quality (HQ) setting, which doubles recording times (both resolutions are still available). There's also a normal 640 x 480 setting which allows for a whopping 6 hours of continuous recording. If you want a small file size (for e-mailing), you can use the long play (LP) mode, which records at 320 x 240 (15 fps) with monaural sound.

Since the zoom is internal and silent, Casio lets you use it while you're recording a movie. One thing that you cannot use is the CCD-shift image stabilization (probably because it makes too much noise), though a digital IS feature is available.

There are three Best Shot movies modes that I want to mention. First up is the much-advertised YouTube mode, which does three things: 1) Sets the resolution to Normal, 2) Limits recording times to 9 minutes, and 3) puts the movies into a special folder. You can shoot at the other resolutions and still put the videos on YouTube, of course.

The other two Best Shot movie modes are Short Movie and Past Movie. In Short Movie mode, the camera is always buffering video. When you press the shutter release button, it saves the four seconds before that moment, and the four seconds after. Past Movie movie mode is just like a regular video, except that five seconds of video buffered before you hit the shutter release button are also saved.

Below is a sample movie, taken at the UHQ wide setting. Enjoy!


Click to play movie (6.9 MB, 848 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The Exilim EX-V8 has an elaborate playback mode. The basic features like slideshows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, voice annotations (30 secs), image protection, and zoom and scroll are all here. This last feature lets you enlarge a photo by as much as eight times, after which you can scroll around in the zoomed-in area.

Not only can photos be viewed one-at-a-time or in thumbnail view, you can also browse by date using a calendar.

You can brighten up dark areas of your photos with the Dynamic Range function Layout Print lets you create collages of two or three photos

Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped quickly. But wait, there's more: you can adjust the white balance, dynamic range, and brightness of your photos, though don't expect miracles from any of those. The Layout Print feature (also found in the Best Shot menu) to combine two or three photos into a collage. If that's still not enough, you can restore color to photos of old photos, or correct distortion of business cards, white boards, etc.

If you're viewing a movie, you can turn on digital image stabilization, and trim unwanted footage from your clip. You can also create a still image from a movie frame using something that Casio calls Motion Print. In fact, you have two choices: you can just grab a single frame (which will be saved at 640 x 480) or you can create a nine-image collage of sorts which has one big image in front with eight other frame grabs behind it. The collage is saved at the 1600 x 1200 resolution.

By default, the camera doesn't show much information about your photos. But press the up on the four-way controller, and the EX-V8 displays exposure information as well as a fancy histogram.

The camera moves through photos instantly -- very nice.

How Does it Compare?

Going into this review, I didn't have terribly high hopes for the Casio Exilim EX-V8. How could Casio possibly stuff a 7X lens into a compact body without major compromises in return? After spending literally months with the camera, I came away with a favorable impression of the V8. Sure, it has its compromises (some of which are rather annoying), but Casio has done a very good job of putting a big lens into a small package. If you don't mind the anemic flash, mediocre high ISO performance, and reliance on its dock, then the Exilim EX-V8 is worth a look.

The Exilim EX-V8 is a compact camera made mostly of metal. It's not the thinnest camera out there, but it packs a lot more zoom than the competition. The camera's build quality is very good, with the important controls in the right places (though the zoom controller is a bit unconventional). I'm not a fan of the sliding lens cover (which doubles as the power switch), which makes it too easily to accidentally turn the camera on (like when you're putting it in a pocket or case). The V8 packs a whopping 7X zoom lens into a body that would normally house a 3X lens. The lens isn't terribly fast (F3.4 - F5.3), which is one of the tradeoffs that comes from having a 38 - 266 mm lens in a 1" thick body. The V8 also has sensor-shift image stabilization, which lets you take photos at slower shutter speeds than you could otherwise. Do note that you cannot use mechanical IS in movie mode. On the back of the camera is a sharp 2.5" LCD with good (but not great) outdoor and low light visibility. The EX-V8 lacks an optical viewfinder.

Casio has put nearly every conceivable feature into the Exilim EX-V8. If you just want to "set it and forget it", then you'll love this camera: there are 35 Best Shot (scene) modes available. Some of them are more useful than others (cough, eBay mode), and the high sensitivity mode in particular should be avoided. There are even Best Shot modes for recording movies, including the overly hyped YouTube mode, which merely fixes the movie quality and recording length for you. If you want manual controls, the EX-V8 has those too, including focus, exposure, and white balance. Strangely enough, the ISO is locked at Auto in shutter priority mode, and you can only select from three aperture settings at any time in A and M mode. The EX-V8's movie mode is top notch, with the ability to record well over an hour of ultra high quality widescreen video, with stereo sound. While you can't use the IS system in movie mode (a digital version is available), you can use the zoom lens to your heart's content. The V8 has a fancy face recognition system (you can load your family members into its memory), though I wasn't terribly impressed with its performance. The camera's playback mode is even more elaborate, with numerous features for editing photos and movies.

The Exilim EX-V8's overall performance is very good. The camera is ready to shoot 1.2 seconds after you slide the lens cover open. Focusing was snappy (even in low light), and shutter lag wasn't a problem. Shot-to-shot delays were brief -- 1.5 seconds without the flash and 3 seconds with it. The camera's continuous shooting mode was a weak spot. While you can shoot until your memory card fills up, the full resolution burst rate is just 0.8 frames/second. If you want faster, you have to drop the resolution down to 2 Megapixel. I do, however, like the V8's ability to take three flash shots in rapid succession. The camera's battery life was about 15% above average for the group. While the camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, you'll have to use the included dock to connect to a computer or a television.

Photo quality on the EX-V8 is quite good, especially considering its big zoom / small body combination. While exposure was generally spot on, I did notice that the camera blew out the highlights on several occasions. Colors were vivid, sharpness was pleasing, and noise levels were low. Noise reduction artifacting is visible on fine details, even at ISO 50, and it gets worse quickly once you hit ISO 200. This isn't a great low light camera by any means, with its slow lens and not-so-great high ISO performance. Purple fringing popped up here and there, but it wasn't too bad. One thing that wasn't a problem (much to my amazement) is redeye.

There are a bunch of other issues that I wanted to mention before I wrap things up. First, I'll reiterate the fact that the EX-V8 requires its camera dock for USB and video output. You'll need it for battery charging too, though Casio sells an external charger as an accessory. The camera's flash is very weak, so it may not be the best camera if you do a lot of flash shooting. The EX-V8 comes with just 11.8MB of onboard memory, which holds just 2 photos at the highest quality setting (sigh). My last complaints related to what you'll find in the box. The bundled software is Windows-only, and pretty clunky. The documentation situation is a real mess: the "basic manual" has multiple languages in each paragraph (super confusing), and the full manual (which is thankfully in just one language) is only available in digital format on the included CD-ROM.

The Casio Exilim EX-V8 is a unique camera, packing a 7X zoom lens into a body no larger than your typical Digital ELPH. It has more than its share of flaws, but if you can live with them, it's a pretty good travel camera. While I'm not jumping up and down about it, I definitely think the EX-V8 is worth a look.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot TX1, GE E850, Olympus Stylus 830, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3, Pentax Optio Z10, Samsung L77, Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T200.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Exilim EX-V8 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

Want another opinion?

You'll find another review of this camera at Steve's Digicams.

 

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