DCRP Review: Casio QV-R4
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Friday, November 8, 2002
Last Updated: Sunday, December 1, 2002

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The QV-R4 ($499) is Casio's entry into the high resolution ultra-small camera market. This market didn't get popular until about 6 months ago, when Sony, Pentax, and Kyocera introduced their 4 Megapixel micro-cameras.

Casio appears to have done their homework with the QV-R4 (along with the 3 Megapixel QV-R3), putting features like an AF illuminator and diopter correction that are rarely seen on these small cameras.

How well does it work? Find out in our review!

What's in the Box?

The QV-R4 has a good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 (effective) Mpixel Casio QV-R4 camera
  • NP-30 rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring Casio Photo Loader
  • 143 page camera manual (printed)

Casio has joined the "no bundled memory card club". What they've done instead is hardwire a tiny 11MB of memory into the camera. What that means for you is that you'll want to buy a memory card as soon as possible. The QV-R4 supports both Secure Digital (SD) and MultiMedia (MMC) cards. I suggest buying a 64MB card at the very minimum.

The NP-30 Li-ion battery used by the QV-R4 is very familiar. The NP-30 has 3.7 Watt/hours of power. Many other manufacturers use this battery in their cameras -- I knew it looked familiar. Casio estimates that the battery will last for about 110 minutes in the R4, which is about average for a small camera. As longtime readers of this site know, I don't like these proprietary batteries (another one will cost you $30), but there's not much you can do to avoid them on these tiny cameras.

Charging the battery is very easy, thanks to the handy included charger. You just pop the battery in the charger, and plug the charger directly into the wall -- no cords necessary. It takes two hours to recharge the battery.

The QV-R4 has a built-in lens cover. You can see that it's pretty tiny!

There aren't many accessories to talk about. I could only find an AC adapter and soft case.

Casio's Photo Loader software has never been a favorite of mine. Their manuals, however, are pretty good and are much easier to read than most.

Look and Feel

The QV-R3 is an attractive, small camera with an all-metal body. The metal body means its durable, but it also scratches quite easily. The build quality of this camera is excellent.

The camera is easy to hold, with controls placed so you can quickly reach them. The R4 fits in any pocket with ease. Here's a look at the size and weight of the camera, compared with the competition:

Camera Dimensions Weight
Casio QV-R4 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.2 200 g
Kyocera Finecam S4 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.2 175 g
Sony DSC-P9 4.5 x 2.0 x 1.4 206 g
Canon PowerShot S40 4.4 x 2.3 x 1.7 260 g
Konica KD-400Z 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.2 198 g
Olympus D-40Z 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 190 g
Pentax Optio 430 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.2 205 g

Let's start our tour of the QV-R4 now!

The QV-R4 has an F2.6, 3X optical zoom lens made by Pentax. The lens has a focal range of 7.6 - 22.8 mm, which is equivalent to 37.5 - 112.5 mm. The lens is not threaded.

At the top right of the photo, you can see the built-in flash. This flash has a working range of 0.4 - 2.8 m. No external flash options are available.

Just below the flash is a great feature: an AF-assist lamp! This lamp puts out a bright white light, which the camera uses to focus in lower light levels. I wish all cameras had these.

The QV-R4 has a nice 1.6" LCD display. The resolution isn't super high but it's still very good. Images on the LCD are bright and motion is fluid. Nose smudges on the LCD may be a problem if you use your left eye with the optical viewfinder.

Speaking of which, the viewfinder is just above the LCD. As I alluded to earlier in the review, there's a diopter correct slider, which focuses the image on the viewfinder. Most small cameras don't have one. The viewfinder is also good-sized for such a small camera.

To the right of the LCD, there are several buttons plus the four-way switch. The four-way switch is used for menu navigation, as well as for adjusting the exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments). The buttons surrounding it are for Preview/Album, Display (turns LCD on/off), and Menu. Pressing Preview in record mode shows the last image taken. I'll have more about the Album functions later in the review.

The three buttons up at the top of the photo have various functions. These include:

Record Mode Playback Mode

Self-timer (10, 2, x3)

Continuous shooting

DPOF print marking

Flash setting (Auto, off, fill, auto w/redeye)

Delete photo

Macro focus

Infinite focus

Manual focus

Protect photo

The R4 has a unique Triple Self-timer feature. This takes one shot after 10 seconds, another after 3 seconds, and one more after 3 seconds.

The continuous shooting mode is somewhat of a joke. I think it shot at a rate 0.3 frames/second or something awful like that.

The R4's manual focus feature is well implemented. When it's turned on, the camera shows a distance meter on the LCD, showing you the current focus distance. It also enlarges the center of the frame, so you can make sure the subject is properly focused.

The mode wheel on the camera has some unusual options, plus some old favorites:

  • Playback mode
  • Record mode
  • Best Shot mode
  • Coupling Shot mode
  • Night Scene
  • Manual mode
  • Movie mode
  • Interval mode

Best Shot mode is a feature that Casio invented, and they still do it the best. Using the LCD, you choose from various situations, such as fireworks, portraits, pets, etc. The camera then chooses the best settings for the situation. It's easy! There are over 30 scenes to choose from, and you can even make your own.

Four of the scene modes on the QV-R4

The coupling shot mode is a little strange. It basically lets you combine two consecutive pictures into one. Casio uses the example of taking a picture of one person, then switching positions so you'll be in the picture too. Of course you could find someone else to take the picture, but I digress. There is a similar feature in Best Shot mode called Pre-shot, which lets you shoot the background, then combine it with another shot (presumably with you in it).

The Night Scene feature lets you use slower shutter speeds, without being in manual mode. Just remember to use a tripod.

Manual exposure mode allows you to set the shutter speed and aperture. The shutter speed range is 2 - 1/2000 sec, while the available apertures range from F2.6 - F9.2. This kind of manual control is rare on a very small camera like this.

I'll have more on the movie mode later in the review. The interval, or time lapse mode lets you take pictures at a certain interval, such as every hour. You can also set the timer to take a shot at a specific time. The optional AC adapter is required to use this feature (well, not required, but you'll really really want it).

There isn't a whole lot on the top of the camera. The on/off switch is nice, because you have to hold it down for a second before the camera turns on. I like this since it's easy to accidentally turn on some cameras I've looked at.

Just to the right of that is the shutter release button, with the zoom control wrapped around it. The controller smoothly moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about two seconds.

On this side of the camera, you'll find ports for DC in (and optional AC adapter) and USB. There is no video out on this camera!

Over on the other side, behind a sturdy plastic door, is the SD/MMC card slot.

Finally, here's the bottom of the QV-R4. You can see the battery compartment (and battery) plus a metal tripod mount over on the left.

Using the Casio QV-R4

Record Mode

It takes the QV-R4 three seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. Press the shutter release halfway, and the camera locks focus in a second or so. If the AF illuminator is used, it may take slightly longer. The R4 had more trouble with low light focusing than I expected from a camera with an AF illuminator. Press the shutter release fully and the picture is taken without delay.


Look, a histogram in record mode!

Shot-to-shot speed is very good -- you can take another picture in about 2.5 seconds.

The R4 is somewhat unusual in that it offers two 4 Megapixel image resolutions. Of course I didn't realize this until after I'd taken the sample photos at the lower of the two. Interestingly enough, they have the same file size at two different resolutions (1.8MB at fine quality setting). Here's a look at the resolution and quality choices available on this camera:

Resolution Compression # shots on 11MB built-in memory # shots on 64MB SD/MMC card (optional)
2304 x 1712 Fine 5 30
Normal 7 40
Economy 9 54
2240 x 1680 Fine 5 30
Normal 7 40
Economy 8 54
1600 x 1200 Fine 9 53
Normal 14 79
Economy 27 154
1280 x 960 Fine 14 82
Normal 22 126
Economy 39 220
640 x 480 Fine 52 294
Normal 68 386
Economy 110 618

There's no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera. The camera names files as CIMG_yyyy.JPG, where y = 0001 - 9900. The camera maintains the numbering even if you erase the card.

The QV-R4 has an easy-to-navigate menu system, with quite a few interesting controls. Let's have a look:

  • Image size (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, shade, incandescent, fluorescent, manual)
  • ISO (Auto, 100, 200)
  • Metering (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • Filter (Off, B&W, sepia, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, purple)
  • Enhance (Off, red, green, blue, flesh tones)
  • Sharpness (Hard, normal, soft)
  • Saturation (High, normal, low)
  • Contrast (High, normal, low)
  • Flash intensity (Strong, normal, weak)
  • Grid (on/off) - shows a 9x9 grid on the LCD
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - using this will lower photo quality

As you can see, there is manual control over white balance. There are also filter and color enhancement functions that let you get a little more creative that on most cameras. Many of the best shot modes work by manipulating these filters.

In addition to that menu, there is also a memory menu. This lets you choose which settings are remembered when the camera is turned off -- a handy feature. There is also a setup menu with all the traditional choices normally found there.

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

The QV-R4 did a pretty good job with the macro test. The colors look good, though I wish the subject was a bit sharper. The R4 is one of those cameras that locks the lens at the wide-angle position in macro mode. The focal range is 14 - 50 cm in macro mode.

The QV-R4 did a pretty good job with the night shot test, and it would've been better if it allowed shutter speeds slower than 2 seconds. Noise levels are low, though I can see some jaggies in various parts of the image. Even with that issue, the R4 turned in a good performance for an ultra-small camera.

The above shot looks a bit psycho, so I apologize for that. One thing you won't see in it is any redeye. The R4 did a surprisingly good job for a camera the flash located close to the lens. As always, I've enlarged the crop a bit so you can see the details.

Overall, the photo quality on the QV-R4 was very good. Images were sharp, and colors were accurate. At the same time, the quality isn't as good as the class-leading 4 Megapixel cameras from Canon and Nikon. Images are a bit noisy at times, and things seem a little over-processed at times (check out the Crissy Field house in the gallery for an example). For an ultra-small camera, though, the quality is good. Take a look at the photo gallery to decide for yourself!

Movie Mode

The QV-R4 can record movies clips for up to 30 seconds, at 320 x 240. Sound is not recorded, since the camera has no microphone.

That means you can use the zoom during filming.

Movies are saved in AVI format using the M-JPEG codec.


Click to play movie (1.3MB, 320 x 240, AVI format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The R4 has a nice playback with a few extras that set it apart from the competition. Basic features include DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll. Notably absent is any slide show feature (then again, the camera lacks video out, so it doesn't really matter).

The zoom and scroll feature works well, but it's kind of slow. You can zoom in as much as 4X into your image and then scroll around in it.

Two of the more advanced features include image resizing cropping. There's no image rotation feature though.

Strangely, playback mode allows you to turn the QV-R4 into an alarm clock. You can set up to three alarms, and choose a picture to show when the alarm sounds. Seems like a weird combination to me: camera and alarm clock?

Another nice and needed feature gives you the ability to copy images between internal memory and the SD/MMC card, and vice versa.

The biggest feature in playback mode has to be the album creation system. At the press of a few buttons, the QV-R4 can create an HTML photo album that you can copy straight to your website. You just pick one of 10 layouts, adjust some settings if you desire, and hit "create". Cool! Here's a little example. The downside is that you can't seem to choose which images end up in the album. It's all or none.

The camera moves through photos at an amazing clip. There's no wait between photos at all. If you want to see more info about a photo, just hit the Display button and you'll get it, including a histogram.

How Does it Compare?

For those who want an ultra-small camera with a lot of pixels, the Casio QV-R4 is worth looking at. The 4 million pixels it produces will allow you to print very nice 8x10 images, and larger if you desire. The camera has some nice features, such as an AF-assist lamp, diopter correction, robust performance, and the cool album creation software. The best shot mode and filters are a nice touch as well. Don't expect PowerShot G3 image quality in a small body though -- it's not that good. But for a small camera, it's definitely competitive. My main complaints are the lack of sound recording and the tiny 11MB of built-in memory.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Small, elegant metal body
  • Manual control over shutter speed, aperture, focus, and white balance
  • Fast performance
  • Cool album, best shot features
  • Has an AF illuminator lamp
  • Impressive redeye test performance

What I didn't care for:

  • Images kind of noisy/over-processed
  • No sound in movie mode
  • 11MB of memory on a 4 Megapixel camera? Come on!
  • No video out

Here are some other lower cost 4 Megapixel cameras to check out: Canon PowerShot S40, Kodak EasyShare LS443, Konica KD-400Z, Kyocera Finecam S4, Minolta DiMAGE F100, Olympus D-40Z, Pentax Optio 430RS, Sony DSC-P9 and the Toshiba PDR-M81.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the QV-R4 and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photo quality stacks up in our photo gallery!

Want another opinion?

Read a review of the QV-R4 at Steve's Digicams.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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