|DCRP Review: Casio QV-2000UX
by Jeff Keller [DCRP Creator/Webmaster]
I must admit that I was pretty shocked to see how far Casio has come, when I reviewed their QV-8000SX a few months ago. After many bad experiences a few years ago with models such as the QV-10, I wasn't expecting much, but ended up being more than happy with the 8000SX. The new QV-2000UX is Casio's first 2 megapixel model, and has quite an impressive feature list, including USB support, movie mode, and aperture/shutter priority modes. Of course, there's more to a camera than what it says on the box, so let's take a closer look.
What's in the Box
Casio has an OK selection of items, mostly on the hardware side. Most of the software was lackluster (more below). Here's what you'll find when you open the box:
The camera reminds me of the Olympus D-450Z [see our review]: To put the camera in record mode, you slide the built-in lens cover to the side, and on it comes. Like the D-450Z, there are two "hot spots" that the cover "catches" on. You have to pull it all the way open to extend the lens, and when you want to power down, you have to move to that first notch, wait for the lens to retract, then close it the rest of the way.
Casio is one of those stubborn companies still including alkaline batteries with their cameras. (What a bad way to make a first impression about battery life). Thankfully, a trip to Radio Shack usually takes care of that problem -- I've found NiMH batteries to work very well in this camera.
Another low point for this camera is the software. My eval unit didn't come with any Mac software, so I installed it on the PC. The main program you use to access photos is called PhotoLoader.. and that's about all it does. I had some photos that needed to be rotated (nobody likes skyscrapers laying on their sides): you cannot do this in the camera, nor in PhotoLoader. So I opened them up in Adobe ActiveShare (an interesting basic photo editing/sharing program, included), rotated them, and saved them back onto the camera. The camera couldn't tell that I had rotated them, and so I ended up having to edit it's output files (HTML format, more later) to fix everything.
Update 11/22: Apparently PhotoLoader WILL rotate your images when it imports them... but it doesn't rotate them on the camera.
Look and Feel
I already mentioned that this camera reminds me of the Olympus D-4xx series, not only in the way it looks and powers on, but also in the quality finish of the case. It feels durable, and solid. One little annoyance is that every time you open the lens cover, the flash pops open. There's no way to shut it either, unless you close the lens cover again. The strange thing is, they could've easily fit it into the camera itself, but they didn't.
Another thing that reminded me of the D-450Z is that it's hard for folks wearing glasses to get their eye close to the optical viewfinder. This viewfinder has diopter correction, by the way.
Perhaps they modeled the 2000UX after that Olympus camera, because the tripod mount is off to one side on both of them, which seems kind of awkward.
The camera has good places to grip it, and nose smudges on the LCD is not a problem (for a change).
Now, onto our usual tour of the camera:
On the left side, we have the Menu button, the four-way switch, and the "set" (OK) button. The four way switch seemed a little too sensitive. Quite often it went left when I wanted to go up.
The LCD display is good sized, bright, and not too grainy. Unfortunately, there is no way to adjust the brightness, so it becomes unusable outdoors.
To the right of the LCD are the Play and Display buttons. The former is self-explanatory, and the latter switches between showing the preview, adding photo info over the preview, and shutting it off completely. Just to the northeast of these two is the zoom switch, which I wish had a little more "play" between the two choices. [DCRP veterans will remember that I also complained about this in the Kodak DC280 review]
Moving onto the top of the camera, you see the usual culprits: Flash mode, manual focus/infinite focus/macro, timer/folder jump buttons are there, and so is the LCD info display and shutter release. The timer can be set for 2 or 10 seconds, which is nice.
But what's this? No mode wheel?
In a most interesting design decision, Casio chose to have a software mode wheel instead. I'm guessing that they didn't have enough room on the camera to put in a traditional mode wheel. By pushing the mode button, you are presented with the above image on your LCD display. You can then use the 4 way switch to choose between modes. One nice thing about this is that you can see how many pictures you can take in the various modes.
Under a plastic door on the side of the camera, we have the above ports: Digital out, USB, video out, and DC power in. The perfect thing to hook into that digital port would be a serial cable, but strangely, none was included with this camera (though Casio sent me one in a separate package). If you look in the back of the manual, it discusses hooking the camera up to a PC with a serial cable. Who knows?
The USB connection puts the camera on the desktop, just like another disk -- on both Macs and Windows PCs.
On the opposite side, behind yet another door, lies the Type II CompactFlash slot. Yes, folks, that means the IBM Microdrive can fit in here. Too bad they don't include one of those instead of a measly 8Mb card!
Using the Casio QV-2000UX
Once I actually started using the QV-2000UX, I realized that it has pretty much everything I look for in a camera: Blazing speed, manual controls, and decent night shots. There are a lot of modes to cover:
When you open the camera, the lens extends, and the camera is ready to go. As I'd learn, this thing was a speed demon, right up there with the PowerShot S10 and Toshiba's recent cameras.
Program mode is the most automatic mode there is, but even then, you have a lot of control. Want to manually focus? Just hit the MF button and you can do that. If you want to focus out to infinity, or up close for macro shots, that's a button push away. Setting the exposure compensation involves moving the 4 way switch left or right, and you can see the effect on the LCD display in real-time.
In "quick mode", you can take up to 5 photos at the highest resolution (1600x1200), 1.5 seconds apart. If you want to shoot continuously, you can do that too -- you can take up to 6 photos .5 seconds apart. There's also a single shot mode, though I don't know why you'd want to use that, when quick mode does the job so well. Shutter lag is minimal, and you can delete a photo before it's written to the card, if you're quick.
There are also full aperture and shutter priority modes. In aperture priority mode, you can choose between F2 and F11, with varying increments (e.g. you can do F2, F2.2, F2.4, F2.5, F2.8, F3.2, but only F8, F9, F10, and F11). In shutter priority mode, you can go as slow as 1/2 sec, or as fast as 1/800 sec. The cool thing about both of these modes is that the LCD accurately displays the effect of your settings, so you can see what you're going to get before you take the picture. Very cool.
Update 11/22: Here's a feature on the 2000UX that is strangely undocumented. You can set exposure times as long as 16 seconds, and also set the aperture setting as well! That's full manual control -- I wonder why they don't market this feature? Here's how to do this, courtesy of DCRP reader Mark Peskin:
Put the camera in Shutter-priority mode and set the exposure for 1/2 second. Now hold down the set button while you press the down arrow on the 4-way switch. You can now access extended shutter speeds out to 16 seconds.
Now hold the set button and hit the left or right arrow on the 4-way switch. Now the left/right buttons allow you to set the aperture manually (you can access manual shutter speed settings the same way in the aperture-priority mode).
Movie mode is always kind of fun on any camera. Here, you can record up to 30 seconds of AVI video (320x240 resolution) on an 8Mb card. There are two modes: the traditional normal mode, where you just hit the shutter and record, or the strange "past" mode, where you hold down the shutter release, and it saves the last 10 seconds. You can see a sample movie below (it's about 1Mb).
Panorama mode is the same as on the QV-8000SX, and is the best of any camera I've tested. You take the first picture, and then the camera takes a slice of the right side of the image, shifts it to the left, you move the camera to the right, and try to match up the "ghost image" with the real image. It's hard to explain, but easy to do. In play mode, the camera stitches the image together, though it doesn't save it to output to your computer. You have to use the included Panorama Editor software to do it. But it did a good job for a handheld shot:
The last mode I tried was Night Scene mode. Though a lot "noisier" than my Coolpix 950, it took pretty nice night shots:
If you look at the 2000UX's photo closely, especially in the black sky, you can see what I mean. There's quite a few artifacts, but it's a clear, realistic photo -- probably the sharpest of the four above. The only caveat about night shot mode is that you need a tripod, as you'd expect from a longer exposure.
Before I continue onto play mode, a few notes about the menus on the QV-2000UX. Like the 8000SX, there are two different styles of menu: an icon-based, simplified menu, and a hierarchical menu with more choices.
Some of the other choices that more camera-savvy users will enjoy include:
Play mode has it's good and bad points. On the good side, all the usual features are available: Zooming with real-time scrolling, slide shows, 9 thumbnails at once, and very fast movement between photos. The downside is that there's a little too much button pushing to get to some of these modes. For example, to delete a single photo, I counted 8 button pushes before it was done. Luckily, you can delete one, several, or all photos easily.
The 2000UX supports DPOF mode, for easier printing of your photos.
The last nifty feature that the QV-2000UX has (and the 8000 had as well) is the ability to output HTML files with the images. In fact, that's how our gallery is setup (again). It's something you have to see for yourself to appreciate. If you just want your photos, you'll have to fish through the folders to gather them, though.
How does it compare?
Casio has produced another winner of a camera in the QV-2000UX. It's got a lot of what I look for in a camera, and not much of what I don't.
What I liked:
And what needs improvement:
Overall, the 2000UX is an excellent choice, and one that any buyer should consider very seriously. At $799, it offers the same features as the more expensive Coolpix 950 and Olympus C-2000Z, but for less moolah. As always, we encourage you to head out to your local Best Buy or CompUSA and try them out first before making a purchase!
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