DCRP Review: Casio QV-2900UX
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, July 16, 2001
Last Updated: Monday, July 16, 2001

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A camera that arrived recently without much fanfare is Casio's QV-2900UX. This little camera looks a lot like a Nikon Coolpix 990, but the similarities end there. The 2900 has an 8X optical zoom lens which allows you to get a lot closer to your images than normal 3X zoom lenses!

Keeping with Casio's traditional "bang for the buck", the QV-2900UX has a list price of only $499. Not bad for a Microdrive-capable, 2.1 Megapixel camera with a big zoom! Is the 2900 worth your attention? Find out now...

What's in the Box?

Note: My QV-2900 came in a white (non-retail) box. Your bundle may differ.

The QV-2900UX has a decent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 2.1 Mpixel Casio QV-2900UX camera
  • 16MB CompactFlash card
  • 4 AA alkaline batteries
  • Lens cap w/strap and holder
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Photoloader software and drivers
  • Manual for camera and software

It's nice that Casio includes a 16MB CF card with the camera, considering it's only 2 Megapixel. I wish we could get all manufacturers to be so generous!

They also kindly include a lens cap with strap, to protect the 8X optical zoom lens.

On the negative side, the inclusion of alkaline (non-rechargeable) batteries was not welcomed. You'll want to go purchase a pack or two of NiMH rechargeables, which will last much (MUCH) longer.

My other complaint is about the PhotoLoader software. It's ... not great ... and that's being polite. It will get your photos off the camera but don't expect miracles.

My camera did not include a manual, so I'm not going to comment on it in this review.

As far as accessories go, the lens is threaded (43 mm), so you can use any lens/filter that fits. Casio sells a Tiffen wide-angle lens for the 2900.

Look and Feel

The QV-2900UX, I hate to say it, feels a bit cheap. There are solid-feeling plastic cameras, then there are not-so-solid plastic cameras. This one falls into the latter category - I guess that's one way to keep the price down. The swiveling lens seems better built than the rest of the body.

That said, the camera is light and easy to hold. Just make sure you don't plant your thumb on the LCD when taking pictures.

The dimensions of the 2900 are 4.7 x 3.2 x 2.6 inches (W x H x D), and it weighs 295 grams empty.

Starting our tour with the front of the camera, you can see the big attraction of the 2900, that 8X swiveling zoom lens. The camera has a "mirror" effect, so if you turn the lens around to face you, your image will appear correct on the LCD display. While some may think the swiveling lens is a gimmick, I think it's great. Shooting over people in front of you (or fences) is much easier. I think the popularity of the Coolpix 900 series also confirms my belief.

The F3.2 lens has a focal range of 6 - 48 mm, which is equivalent to 40 - 320 mm. The lens is entirely self-contained and never pops out of its enclosure. As I mentioned, the lens is threaded for 43 mm attachments.

The flash just above the lens has a working range of 0.5 - 2.5 m. The strength of the flash can be adjusted in the menu system.

Here's the back of the QV-2900. The 1.8" LCD is grainy, especially in low-light situations. The video itself is fluid and not choppy. I found it pretty easy to smudge the LCD, since there's not a lot of room for your fingers on the back of the camera.

As you may have noticed, unlike with the Coolpix series, there's no optical viewfinder to be found here. If I was in the market for a digital camera myself, that would eliminate the QV-2900 from my list.

Below the LCD are four buttons which do various things depending on which mode the camera is in (record or playback). That includes:

  • Shift (for quickly changing camera settings) [record] / Info (get info about picture) [playback]
  • Flash [rec] / Change folder [play]
  • Macro, Infinity, Manual Focus [rec] / Resize photo [play]
  • Self-timer (2 or 10 sec) [rec] / Delete photo [play]

On the far right of the photo, you can see the switch which puts the camera into record or playback mode.

Above that are the zoom controls, with the power switch just left of that.

Now looking at the top of the camera. Up here you'll find the shutter release, +/-, and Menu buttons. It seemed a bit weird to have these menu navigating buttons (+/-) up on top - I'm used to having them on the back.

In the middle of the camera, where it says "2.1 Mega Pixels", you'll find a plastic door covering the I/O ports. Let's take a look...

And here they are: USB, Video Out, Digital, and DC in. While my camera didn't come with a serial cable, it appears to be supported (via the digital port).

Here's one side of the camera, with not much going on. You can see the nice rubber grip on the lens which makes it easy to hold.

And here's the other side. After you finally open the plastic door, you'll reach the CompactFlash Type II slot. The QV-2900, with all of Casio's cameras, fully supports the IBM Microdrive. The slot is spring-loaded and the card easy to remove.

Lastly, the bottom of the QV-2900, propped up by a lens cap. You can see the battery compartment, as well as a metal tripod mount.

Using the Casio QV-2900UX

Record Mode

The QV-2900 takes just 2 seconds to start up before you can start taking pictures. It may take a few more if the flash has to charge. The camera shoots exceptionally quickly. Locking focus takes a second or less, and the shutter lag is minimal. Shot-to-shot is also very fast - just one second, even in fine mode. The zoom mechanism is quite fast as well, and precise too.

Here's a look at the resolution and quality options available on the QV-2900:

Image Size Quality # images on 16MB CF card # images on 340MB Microdrive
1600 x 1200 Fine 32 401
Normal 44 562
Basic 76 943
800 x 600 Fine 132 1587
Normal 192 2054
Basic 212 2494

After that chart, I don't think I really need to sing the praises of the IBM Microdrive. And that doesn't even show the 1gb version. If you take a lot of photos, you want the Microdrive.

What you'll see when taking a photo

The QV-2900 also has an uncompressed TIFF mode. The 1600 x 1200 TIFF takes up 5.5MB, so I figure you can get 2 or 3 on the 16MB card, and perhaps 60 on the Microdrive. Do note that recording a TIFF takes 40 seconds, and the camera is locked up until it's done writing. You can abort the TIFF recording process, however.

The BestShot mode is one of the newest and coolest features of the QV-2900 (and all new Casio cameras). You can pick one of 64 "scenes" and the camera will pick the best settings for you! You can even make your own scenes if you are so inclined.

There are 28 scenes built into the camera, and there are 36 more on the CD-ROM that you can put on the CompactFlash card and then use. Be sure to lock those scene files first so they don't get erased if you erase the memory card!

Below are a selection of scenes available on the QV-2900UX:

Let's take a look at some more options on the QV-2900.

Now, let's take a look at the menu options available on the QV-2900. Casio has fancy, animated menus on the surface, and more traditional menus underneath. The top level choices are:

  • Normal
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Night Scene
  • Best Shot
  • Function - goes to more menus
  • Movie
  • Movie (Past) - more on these later
  • Panorama - assists you in taking panoramic shots
  • Interval - time lapse photography. you pick how many shots are taken, and how often. AC adapter recommended for this trick.

Selecting Function brings up the more traditional menu, with the following options:

  • Size/Quality - see chart above
  • TIFF mode (on/off)
  • Sensitivity (ISO 80, 160, 320)
  • Filter (Black & White, Sepia, Red, Green, Blue)
  • Exposure Mode (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Full Manual) - more below
  • Metering (Multi, Center, Spot)
  • White Balance (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual)
  • Enhancement (Off, Red, Green, Blue, Flesh Tones)
  • Grid (on/off)
  • Flash Intensity (Strong, Normal, Weak)
  • Sharpness (Hard, Normal, Soft)
  • Saturation (High, Normal, Low)
  • Contrast (High, Normal, Low)
  • Time Stamp
  • Digital Zoom (Off, Auto, 2X, 4X)
  • and various basic camera settings (date, etc.)

What is this world coming to? Custom white balance and full manual controls on a camera for under $500? I'm impressed that all of the features from Casio's high end cameras have trickled down to the lower end model.

There are four exposure modes, as I mentioned above. Here's a rundown:

  • Program Mode: camera picks best exposure settings
  • Aperture Priority: you pick aperture (F3.2, F4.8, F8), camera picks shutter speed
  • Shutter Priority: you pick shutter speed (60 sec - 1/2000 sec), camera picks aperture
  • Manual: you pick both the shutter speed and aperture

The camera also has a bulb mode, which keeps the shutter open for as long as you hold down the button. A tripod is a must for things like that.

The first test is, as always, the macro test. It took me a few tries to get this one right, using manual white balance and shutter priority mode. The colors are accurate, but the image (as with most on the QV-2900) is suffering from a case of the "jaggies". Check out the edges of the figure to see what I mean. You can get as close as 1 cm from the subject in macro mode on the QV-2900.

The 2900 did a decent job at my nightshot test, as well. There's quite a bit of noise in the picture and the colors are a bit off, but it did take in enough light.

Overall, the photo quality on the QV-2900 was average, or perhaps a bit lower than that. I couldn't help but notice the jagged edges on the subjects in my test photos, even at the "Fine" quality. It seems like the camera is over-sharpening the images. I noticed this same phenomenon on Steve's Digicams photos as well, so it's not just my camera. Have a look at my QV-2900 Photo Gallery to see what I'm talking about.

Movie Mode

Casio made some of the first cameras with a movie mode, and sadly, it hasn't improved much since. There's no sound recorded with the movies... which some may consider useless, but I think it's a nice bonus.

One nice thing is that you can use the optical zoom while filming -- now this is a rarity!

There are two movie modes: regular, and past. Regular is the traditional movie mode we all know, where you depress the shutter release and film for 16 seconds. Past is kind of the opposite: you hit the shutter release button to start filming, and it will keep going until you hit it again. When you do, it will save the previous 16 seconds. See the difference?

The file format for these movies is AVI, using the M-JPEG codec. The resolution is fixed at 320 x 240.

Here's a somewhat exciting sample movie for you, looking towards Marina Blvd.

Click to play movie (1.6MB, AVI format, M-JPEG codec)

Playback Mode

Casio's playback mode has always been very good, and that continues here. The basic features such as slide shows, DPOF print marking, and image protection are all here.

So is the "zoom and scroll" feature, which lets you zoom into your photos 2X or 4X, and then "scroll" around in them. The scrolling speed is the fastest out there, but it's hard to move around without the usual four-way switch found on many other cameras.

One feature that most camera makes skip over is the ability to delete a group of photos, as opposed to all or one. I was pleased to see that the QV-2900 has this feature.

You can resize your photos to 640 x 480 easily, by just hitting the "Resize" button on the back of the camera. The original image is preserved.

You can get a decent amount of information about your photos as well, including exposure settings, resolution/quality settings, and even a histogram!

One neat trick that Casio cameras can do is create HTML pages containing your photos and their specs. Here's a sample, from our classic QV-2000UX review.

How Does it Compare?

From the specification sheet, the Casio QV-2900UX sounds like a sure-fire winner: 2.1 Megapixel, 8X optical zoom, full manual controls, Microdrive support, and BestShot mode for under $500. While I appreciate all those very nice features, there are two negatives that are deal breakers for me: the lack of an optical viewfinder, and the less than stellar photo quality. Obviously if you like the feature set and are pleased with the photo quality, then you should ignore my recommendation. But if you're looking for a "big zoom" camera, I'd pay a little more for something better.

What I liked:

  • Microdrive support
  • Full manual controls for under $500
  • Cool swiveling lens
  • Handy BestShot mode
  • Fast processing speeds
  • Optical zoom works in movie mode

What I didn't care for:

  • No optical viewfinder
  • Below average photo quality
  • LCD grainy
  • No sound in movie mode

If you're looking for a big zoom camera, I recommend you check out the Canon PowerShot Pro90, Fuji FinePix 4900 and 6900 Zooms, Olympus C-2100 and C-700 Ultra Zooms, and the Sony MVC-CD1000.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the QV-2900UX and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the Casio QV-2900UX.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for personal recommendations.


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