|DCRP Review: Casio QV-8000SX
by Jeff Keller [DCRP Creator/Webmaster]
Notes: This is a prerelease camera and the actual production camera may vary. Also, this page takes a long time to load due to image loading, and the sample photos are large in size (500k+).
For this review, we're taking a break from the 2 Megapixel cameras, to look at something a little more "for the rest of us", rather for the die hard enthusiast.
Today, it's the Casio QV-8000SX, which features a 1.3Mpixel CCD (1280x960), an 8X zoom lens, USB support, the ability to record movies, and lots more. The camera, which will cost less than $700, will be available very soon.
What's in the Box
Casio includes all the necessities in the box, with the possible exception of rechargable batteries (4 Duracell Ultras were included instead). Here's what you get in addition to the camera:
As I mentioned, there is a wired remote control that comes with the camera. I found that it comes in handy for shots where you REALLY need to be steady.. like macro shots. As you can see at right, there are buttons for focus lock, shutter, zoom, the menu systems, flash, and the timer.
Now, onto the lens cap issue, which is one of my favorite things to rant about. So far, only Ricoh and Toshiba have figured it out, and have a built-in lens cover. Fuji had a snap on lens cap, and even included a strap to keep in close at hand.
Not so with Casio: You get the snap-on lens cap, with no strap included. To make matters worse, the lens cap doesn't like to stay on. I almost lost it on several occasions, including once where it almost fell down under the stairs at Laguna Seca, where it would've been on the race track!
While the manual is helpful, the organization is a bit strange. Things just seem out of order sometimes.
Look and Feel
The first two things I noticed surprised me: There's no optical viewfinder, and there's no LCD information display on the top of the camera. The latter never really bothered me... it just seemed weird without it.
As for the optical viewfinder... well, at first, I thought I could survive. Shots inside the house, and out of direct sunlight were fine. But as soon as I took it out for some real usage (plane watching at SFO and then the races at Laguna Seca), things went downhill. The LCD screen became unusable, and with no optical viewfinder, it was "aim and hope" that it would get what you wanted. To make matters worse, there is no brightness adjustment for the LCD!
The QV-8000SX may look like it will break into a thousand small pieces if you drop it, I found it to be pretty sturdy. The rotating lens reminds me of the Coolpix 950, and the cover on the CompactFlash does not (which is a good thing!).
The lens does indeed rotate all the way around, so you can take a picture of yourself. What you see on the LCD is actually the mirror image of what is saved, though.
The buttons are on the back are well placed, which is a rarity in the digital camera world. There's no "two handed" moves you have to pull to change settings. Instead, you have level after level of menus to go through, which I'll explain in the next section.
Looking at the back of the camera (above, sorry it's so yellow), there are four buttons below the large 2.5" screen (it's practically a camcorder!): Flash, Manual Focus/Focus to Infinity/Macro, Timer, Display (change what's on the LCD). I think everything here is pretty self-explanatory.
As soon as you go to the buttons on the top of the camera, things get worse.
Things don't look that bad at first. On the left are the input/output connectors, which normally are covered up. From left to right: Digital (serial), video out, USB, power.
To the right of that are the usual buttons, and mode dial. The menu brings up, well, the menu. The + and - are used for navigating the menus, and making changes. To the right of that is the usual mode dial, with lots of modes: from top to bottom, counterclockwise: Timer, Panorama, Video, Regular Picture, Nightshot, Portrait, and Landscape. I've got no complaints with this either. (There's a button to switch between Play and Record on the back of the camera as well, you just can't see it in my photos).
I don't have much formal training in Human Factors or usability: But I've used enough cameras to know when something is just wrong. The folks over in Japan obviously consulted with Olympus on this one: the power button is part of the shutter release, and it moves just like a zoom would on an SLR camera (or, an Olympus D-600L for that matter). Right in front of that (on the front of the camera actually, see the first photo on this page) is the zoom control. These two buttons felt identical to me, and since I'm used to having the zoom right where the shutter is (since I used the D-600L), I shut off the camera on many occasions when I wanted to zoom. This is the same thing that I did with the Olympus C-2000Z, and it drives me nuts.
I really liked the placement of the power button on the Fuji MX-2900, and I hope that more companies will put it somewhere harder to reach!
So most of my complaints about this camera are about usability... and not much else. As we'll see in the next section, the features and photo quality were surprising!
Using the Casio QV-8000SX
When I first got into digital cameras about 4 years ago, one of the first I ever used was a Casio QV-10. I had been scared away since then, and was kind of shocked when I found myself enjoying using the 8000!
I'm going to start with standard photo taking (the green square on the mode dial). Once the camera starts up (it takes about three seconds), you're ready for action. You can just point and shoot, and everything comes out pretty nicely. But if you want to tweak the settings, you can do that too. The Casio has many of the features of the 2Mpixel cameras, including aperture/shutter priority modes! You can choose between f3.2, f4.8, and f8 in aperture priority mode; in shutter priority mode, you can chose between 64 seconds (no joke) in bulb mode and 1/2000 sec for those real quick shots.
Switching into these modes isn't quite as easy as the other cameras I've tested. While the menus are the nicest looking I've seen, they have too many levels.
There are two choices for menus: Simple and Detailed. You switch between the two using the DISP button the back of the camera.
This is the Simple mode. After you choose one of these, it looks a bit less pretty. The major difference is that you can't choose nearly as many options as the Detailed mode.. but for most people that's probably okay. Above and below, you can see the Detailed mode. You can change lots of things here, but it's hard. For example, if you choose Shutter Speed (below left), you're then presented with another menu: Auto or Manual. If you choose Manual, you get another menu with speeds. I wish they could make this simpler.
This is the Simple mode. After you choose one of these, it looks a bit less pretty. The major difference is that you can't choose nearly as many options as the Detailed mode.. but for most people that's probably okay.
Above and below, you can see the Detailed mode. You can change lots of things here, but it's hard. For example, if you choose Shutter Speed (below left), you're then presented with another menu: Auto or Manual. If you choose Manual, you get another menu with speeds. I wish they could make this simpler.
The 8X zoom lens (plus 4X digital zoom, if you really want to use it) really helps you get those distant shots. In the photo below, you can see what I mean. While I'm pretty close to these planes, no 3X lens could do this. You can even read the tail number!
The macro mode was equally impressive. Casio claims that you can get as close as 1cm! They did a pretty good job at the "quick I need a macro shot, let's open the wallet" photo below.
Don't worry, the pepper shaker shots in in the gallery for you to discover! I wouldn't leave those out!
I found the colors to usually be very accurate in my testing. One thing that seemed a bit annoying was the tendency to get washed out photos in certain situations:
If you look above, you can see how washed out this got. I'm under a tent, and the sunlight is coming in from outside. I suppose that some clever work in aperture priority mode could fix this problem a bit. (That's an Audi A6 2.7T for those who are curious).
When it's time to view the photos, it's easy enough. Just flip the switch to Play, and you can flip through them sequentially, set up a slideshow, or view 9 of them at once (this is harder than it should be). I found the performance in Play mode to be excellent--as fast as the Toshiba PDR-M4--very nice.
Deleting is kind of a pain as well. There is no one button delete button, instead, you have to wander through the menus, which gets tedious. You can, however, zoom in to your photos, and scroll around in them, which is nice.
Moving onto the panorama mode now: This proved to be one of my favorite features, until I tried to get it onto my Mac. Like with other cameras, when you start your panorama, the camera locks the exposure settings. The QV-8000SX goes the extra mile though: Say you take the first frame of your panorama. The camera takes what was on the RIGHT of that photo, and puts a "ghost" image of it on the LEFT on the LCD, so you can match everything together when you pan to the right for the next shot! When you're all done taking your frames, you can go to Play mode and see it as a panorama. After some processing time, it stitches it together, and you can view it on the LCD! Very cool.
When it was time to put the panorama on the computer, things changed. Using the card reader or USB connection, I just got the JPEG files of the frames. There was no stitched photo or QuicktimeVR file. Instead, I had to take the frames and bring them to a Windows computer to use the Panorama software to do that. There was no Mac version that I could find. Kind of a disappointment after how cool it was to take the photos and view them on the camera.
I briefly tried the Nightshot mode, and wasn't overly impressed. While it did brighten things up a little bit, it's nothing to write home about. I didn't try the portrait or landscape modes.
The last mode I'll take about is the Movie mode. This was definitely my favorite part. You can record movies in AVI format, without sound, for up to 10 seconds. You can take as many as you want until you fill up your memory card. There are a number of samples in the gallery for you to see. It's just like a camcorder: Hit the shutter release, point, zoom, whatever. The movies came out very well! I wish sound was available, and that the movies were in MPEG format. I know it can be done, since Sony's cameras do this. You can watch the movies on the LCD in Play mode, of course.
There's one more really cool feature that doesn't fit into any of the modes: The camera creates Web pages automatically, everytime you shut it off. You can copy these right off the CompactFlash card, and upload them to your site, with no effort. In fact, that's what I did this time for the gallery. There, you can browse through the different days (which are in their own folder), see a slideshow, watch a movie, or see what settings the camera used for a certain picture.
How does it compare?
Despite some annoyances with the menus/button placement, and the lack of an optical viewfinder I found myself enjoying the QV-8000SX. The 8X zoom is excellent, the photo quality surprisingly good, and the movie feature lots of fun.
At just under $700, it's a bit expensive, but it does offer all the features of the 2Mpixel cameras, for less money -- and none of them have a zoom lens this nice. For most people, the 1.3Mpixel photos are more than adequete for web sites or printing, as well.
If you can't quite afford the 2Mpixel cameras, or want a better zoom or the movie feature, I'd highly recommend this camera.
Here, you'll see photos from around the house, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, near the San Francisco Airport, and at the Monterey Historic Auto Races.
Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to email@example.com.
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