DCRP Review: Casio QV-3000EX
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, March 20, 2000
Last Updated: Saturday, August 12, 2000

 

Casio has come a long way from the days of the QV-10. This was probably the first digital camera I ever used (perhaps I used an Apple Quicktake first), and by current standards, it was terrible. I admit to warning people away from Casio's cameras for several years, until the QV-2000 and 8000 models came out. Suddenly, they had cameras with the features people wanted, for less money than the more famous names in digital photography. Now there's the QV-3000EX -- which was the first 3.34 Megapixel camera on the market!

The QV-3000EX comes in three packages: A plain old 3000EX will cost $799, and include a 16MB CompactFlash card. Then there's the QV-3000EX Plus package, which costs $999: that "plus" is none other than a 340Mb IBM Microdrive! Forget fitting just a few photos onto that measly 16Mb card -- with the Microdrive, you can fit 245 2048x1536 photos, or over 1000 1024x768s in the highest quality mode! The best value is probably the $1050 Pro package - which includes everything that the Plus pack has, and adds an AC adapter and a NiMH battery kit! [Updated 8/12/00]

What's in the Box

The QV-3000EX Plus that I tested comes in a huge box packed with all kinds of goodies.

Inside the box for the camera, you'll find:

  • The 3.34 Mpixel QV-3000EX camera
  • A 340Mb IBM Microdrive (or a 16Mb CompactFlash card, if you didn't get the Plus/Pro version)
  • Four alkaline batteries
  • Four NiMH rechargeable batteries and charger (Pro package only) [Updated 8/12/00]
  • AC adapter (Pro package only) [Updated 8/12/00]
  • Neck strap
  • Lens cover with strap
  • Video-out cable
  • PC serial cable, with Mac adapter
  • USB cable
  • Soft case
  • Software package including Casio's PhotoLoader software
  • Owners manuals for camera and software

Where to begin... well, for one, two big thumbs down to Casio for not including rechargeable batteries with a $1000 camera! [Update 8/10/00: Apparently Casio is bundling rechargeable batteries, a fast charger, AND an AC adapter now]

On another sad note, Casio is still ignoring Mac users, although not as much as they were a few months ago. Yes, there's a Mac version of PhotoLoader included with the camera. It's not great, but it works. There is NOT a version of the Panorama software for the Mac! If you want to use this feature and only have a Mac, you are currently out of luck!

Now, the good news. The lens cap fits snugly over the lens, and isn't going anywhere. In fact, be sure you take off the lens cap before you turn the camera on, because sometimes the lens cannot push the cover off (oops)!

The best news has to do with the IBM Microdrive. These things normally cost $400, but it's only $200 extra if you buy the Plus model.

The Microdrive is a true engineering marvel. It's an honest-to-goodness 4500rpm hard drive that's the size of a CompactFlash card! If you listen hard enough, it even sounds like one! Naturally, I had to show everyone at the office this little guy, and everyone was amazed. Even better, look at how many photos you can store:

Image size Quality Number of
images
2048 x 1536 Fine 245
Normal 342
Economy 562
1024 x 768 Fine 943
Normal 1292
Economy 2054

Wow, that's a lot of rolls of film!

Finally, the manuals. Casio's camera manual is pretty good, with handy quick reference guides at the front that cover things like recording, playing back, and deleting images. The separate, skimpy software manual is disappointing.

Look and Feel

The QV-3000EX is a solid-feeling, slightly heavy camera, that fits well in your hand. Both hands have a place to rest, without blocking anything important. Nose smudges on the LCD are only a problem for those who are left-eye dominant. The lens is actually a f2.0 Canon lens (see the top photo for proof).

The back of the camera is pretty easy to figure out. First, note the big optical viewfinder, with diopter correction. Below that are buttons for navigating the menu system, as well as adjusting exposure compensation (left and right on the 4-way switch). To the right of that is the LCD (1.8"), which is fluid and bright (except when you're outside, of course). The preview button lets you view the last photo you just took, and it also deletes a single photo in playback mode. Below that is the usual Display button for turning the LCD on or off. Just above those is the zoom control, which I did not care for. There's little range in movement which just feels awkward when you use it. To top it off, the power switch around the shutter release button is reminiscent of the zoom controls on other cameras (see photo below), so I turned the camera off more than once, while trying to zoom.

Now, to the top of the camera. The LCD info display is standard-issue. To the right is the shutter release (with confusing power controls), buttons for flash, focus (manual, infinity, macro), self-timer (2 or 10sec--nice to have a choice for a change), and mode.

Yes, I must confess-- this is the same image that I used in the QV-2000UX review -- but it's the same on this camera, I promise. This is what you get when you push "mode" -- it's like the mode wheel on most cameras, but electronic! Cool! Modes on the 3000EX include Program, Movie, Panorama, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority, Landscape, Portrait, and Night Scene. I'll have more on these in the next section.

[Updated 3/28/00] Looking now at the I/O section of the camera, we have ports for the AC adapter (which was included with my camera, but shipping models will not have one), "digital" out for serial cables, USB, and video out. Everything is stored behind a sturdy plastic door.

While I don't have a picture of it, the CompactFlash door is very secure -- almost too secure. Also, getting the card out takes a few tries on my camera for some reason.

Using the Casio QV-3000EX

The 3000EX is a camera that does the fun and easy stuff, like movies and point-and-shoot photos, but it can also do the kinds of things that hardcore photographers want, such as full manual control. There are lots of different modes on this camera, and I haven't had a chance to try them all yet, but I think you'll get the gist of it from what follows.

In record mode, you have three choices: Program (auto), aperture-priority, or shutter-priority. Well, that's what Casio tells you, at least. In reality, you have a full manual mode, that isn't mentioned anywhere (as on the 2000UX). More on that in a second.

The 3000EX isn't a huge speed demon when starting up, taking about five seconds before you can start shooting. But don't worry, it's plenty fast after that -- it can take up to 3 photos in a row at the highest quality settings with only about a second between shots. A continuous shooting mode is also available.

If you want more manual control than Program mode offers, put it into shutter or aperture-priority mode.

In shutter-priority mode, you can go as slow as 2 sec, or as fast as 1/1000sec. Or can you? Try this: Set the shutter speed as slow as possible (2 sec). Then, hold down "set" and keep pushing down. You'll pass through many slower speeds (up to 60sec!) and then hit "bulb" mode! This is never mentioned in the manual!

In aperture-priority mode, you can select from: f2, f2.3, f2.8, f4, f5.6, and f8.

But what if you want FULL manual control of both shutter and aperture simultaneously? First, go back to shutter-priority mode. Then, hold down the set button, and push to the right! Voila! You can adjust both the shutter and aperture settings at the same time! Why Casio doesn't mention this is beyond me.

[Updated 3/28/00] Here's one pro feature missing from the 3000 though: There's no hot shoe for a flash, nor is there a external flash sync connector. There is a uncompressed TIFF mode available through yet another backdoor. Check out Steve's Digicams review for the details.

Panoramic mode is great on the Casio cameras: You take the first frame, and it then provides you with some help in where to point the camera for the second frame by showing you what was on the right-side of the first frame. Hard to explain, but easy when you use it.

I haven't tried out the portrait, night scene, or landscape modes, so I'm going to skip to movie mode next. The good news is that like the other Casio cameras I've tested, the 3000 takes AVI video -- in 30 second segments. The bad news is that there is still no sound, and that the codec these use seems weird, because a lot of people have trouble viewing it on their computers. You'll find some samples in the gallery to view (if you have trouble, try the Quicktime versions I posted).

[Updated 3/28/00] Steve's Digicams mentions a possible solution for Windows users who cannot view the AVI videos (which uses the M-JPEG code). You can go here and download them, and install them (check out the read me for instructions), and you should be able to view the videos!

In play mode, things are just like the 2000UX. You've got slide shows, "zoom and scroll", and quick removal of photos. You can delete one, a few, or all photos. You can view your movies if you want, or even the panoramas. Again, note that you can only stitch them on Windows PCs, since there is no Mac version.


Basic

Detail

Casio has two versions of their menus: a "basic" and "detail" version. Yeah, I also ripped off this image from a previous review, but it's almost identical on this camera.

In record mode, there are lots of items in the menu for you to change:

  • Quality: Fine, Normal, Economy
  • Size: 2048 x 1536, 1024 x 768
  • Sharpness: Soft, Normal, Hard
  • Saturation: Low, Normal, High
  • Contrast: Low, Normal, High
  • "Drive mode": Single, Continuous
  • Metering: Multi, center-weighted, spot
  • White balance (with cool real-time preview): Auto, daylight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, manual
  • Flash intensity: Weak, Normal, Strong
  • Sensitivity: Normal, +1.0, +2.0, +3.0 (I'm not sure what the ISO equivalents are)
  • Movie Mode: Normal (30 seconds after button pressed), Past (10 seconds prior to button press)
  • Digital zoom (2X): Off, On
  • Color: Color, B&W, Sepia
  • Grid: Off, On
  • Time Stamp: Off, On

Plus all the usual setup stuff that we're familiar with.

Last, but not least, is the cool feature which lets the camera output everything as HTML and images, so you just open it up in your web browser. While I'm not going to do it for the gallery this time, check out a previous example to see what I mean. If you don't like it doing this, you can turn it off, of course.

How does it compare?

The QV-3000EX is a worthy follow-up to the already excellent QV-2000UX. When you add up all the features, it's a good buy -- but with the IBM Microdrive, it's a great one. I should mention that my usual macro test shots came out very dark. If you do a lot of macro shots, be sure you have very strong lighting (or use exposure compensation).

The Good:

  • Full manual controls
  • IBM Microdrive means virtually unlimited storage capacity
  • Cool panorama mode
  • Fast processing
  • HTML output feature
  • Movie mode!
  • Excellent bundle (assuming you get the Plus or Pro version)

The Bad:

  • Lousy Mac software (what little there is)
  • Zoom control could be better
  • Movie mode doesn't record audio, uses weird codec

Overall, I recommend the QV-3000EX highly! While it's only the second three megapixel camera we've tested, it's right up there with the PowerShot S20. The camera is full-featured, and everyone loves the Microdrive! Mac users may want to consider something else if the lack of panorama software really bothers you -- perhaps Casio will offer it one of these days.

There are tons of other cameras to consider: Nikon Coolpix 990, Olympus C-3030Z, Canon PowerShot S20, and the Fuji FinePix 4700, to name a few. But only this one and the Canon are close to shipping, so if you want to buy now, your choices are limited! My advice, if you can wait another month or two, is to do just that, to see what how the other offerings fare.

Photo Gallery

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

Want a second opinion? Or maybe a third?

Check out Steve's Digicams review of the QV-3000EX. If you still yearn for more, the Imaging Resource Page has one too.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com.

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