The Casio Exilim EX-P505 ($499) isn't just another digital camera. Rather, it's Casio's attempt at making a convergence device, putting a camera and camcorder into one compact device. On the camera side there's a 5 Megapixel CCD, 5X optical zoom lens, rotating LCD display, manual controls, and plenty of scene modes. On the camcorder side you'll find a high quality VGA movie mode, a zoom lens that can be used during filming, and stereo sound recording.
The last device like this that I reviewed was the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M1, and I wasn't thrilled with it. Has Casio done a better job? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Exilim EX-P505 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 5.0 effective Megapixel Casio Exilim EX-P505 digital camera
- NP-40 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Lens hood
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Casio PhotoLoader and PhotoHands, Ulead Movie Wizard SE VCD, and drivers
- Printed basic manual plus full manual on CD-ROM
Casio is one of those camera manufacturers who doesn't include a memory card with their camera. Instead, they build some memory right into the camera. Unfortunately Casio gives you an absurdly low amount of built-in memory -- just 7.5MB. Yes, you read that right. That holds just THREE photos at the highest quality setting. So consider a larger memory card to be a required purchase. I'd recommend a 256MB or larger Secure Digital (SD) memory card to start with. Casio doesn't say that a high speed memory card is required for the fancy movie mode, so it looks like you can save your money on this.
Battery life on the P505 is above average. The camera uses the same NP-40 lithium ion rechargeable battery as several other Casio cameras. This battery has 4.6 Wh of energy, which is decent. That translates in to 220 shots per charge using the CIPA battery life standard. Compare that with 500 shots per charge on the upcoming Canon PowerShot S2 and 160 shots on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M1.
My usual complaints about proprietary batteries like the one used by the EX-P505 apply here. They're expensive ($45 a pop), and you can't put in a set of alkalines to get you through the rest of the day like you could with an AA-based camera.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included external charger. This is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall with no power cable (remember that cameras sold outside of the U.S. may have a different charger). It takes about two hours to fully charge the battery.
Casio includes a lens cap and retaining strap with the EX-P505.
Something else you'll find in the box is a lens hood, which is useful for shooting outdoors.
The only accessories I could find for the EX-P505 were an AC adapter ($30) and a carrying case.
The P505 includes Casio's PhotoLoader and Photohands software. PhotoLoader is used to download and view stills and movies from your camera. The Mac version is not OS X native, but works in Classic mode. Photohands is for Windows only, and is used for retouching and printing images.
Ulead Movie Wizard SE VCD (say that three times fast) is a Windows-only product for editing the videos produced by the P505 and then burning them to a VideoCD (VCD). Mac users are left out in the cold in this department. In fact I don't even think it's possible to edit these videos on a Mac... at least as far as I can tell. More on this subject later.
Casio has been imitating Olympus in the manual area in recent years. They include a skimpy "'basic manual" in the box, leaving the full manual on CD-ROM. My question is: if you're going to print a basic manual, why not print the whole thing and do the right thing for your customers? The quality of the manuals themselves is about average for a digital camera (read: not great).
Look and Feel
First impressions are important when reviewing products. My impression when I picked up the EX-P505 was "wow, this thing feels really cheap". And I still feel that way. This is one of the most plastic-feeling cameras I've seen in some time. Maybe it's just because the camera is made of plastic and is therefore light, but I wasn't filled with confidence in the P505's build quality after using it.
The camera is small but easy to hold thanks to a decent-sized right hand grip. The important controls are all easy to reach and operate. The official dimensions of the camera are 98.5 x 55.5 x 73.5 mm / 3.9 x 2.2 x 2.9 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) and it weighs 215 grams / 7.6 ounces empty. That's a heck of a lot smaller and lighter than both the Canon PowerShot S2 and especially the Sony DSC-M1.
That's enough of that, let's move on to the tour portion of the review now!
The Exilim EX-P505 features an F3.3-3.6, 5X optical zoom lens. That's a pretty slow maximum aperture range, which may be a problem when there's not enough light in the room (since the camera will have to use a slower shutter speed). The focal range of this lens is 6.3 - 31.5 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 190 mm. While the lens barrel is threaded, I don't know the measurements and Casio doesn't mention any support for conversion lenses or filters.
One thing worth mentioning is that the lens is completely self-contained. That means that it never extends out of the body, which will make a difference when we talk about the movie mode later in the review.
Directly above the lens is the camera's pop-up flash. This flash has a working range of 0.4 - 3.0 meters (about average), though Casio doesn't say whether that's at wide-angle or telephoto or both. You cannot attach an external flash to the P505.
The only other thing to see on the front of the camera is the self-timer lamp. There is no AF-assist lamp to be found here.
The EX-P505 features a 2.0" LCD display that can flip to the side and rotate, as you can see. Once flipped out, the screen can be rotating 270 degrees, from pointing at your subject all the way around to pointing at the floor. When the LCD is aimed toward the subject, the view on the screen is flipped as well so it's right side up. The screen can also be put in the more traditional position (shown below) or it can be closed altogether. The action of opening or closing the LCD will also turn the camera on or off.
The screen's resolution could certainly be higher -- it has just under 85,000 pixels. For the sake of comparison, the 2-inch LCD on the Canon PowerShot SD500 has 115,000 pixels. Anyhow, the screen is bright and motion is fluid, though I found outdoor visibility to be just so-so. In low light the screen does not "gain up" which makes it awfully hard to see your subject. Since there's no optical viewfinder either, this makes low light shooting very difficult.
Here's a direct look at the back of the P505 with the screen in a more traditional position. As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the P505. That's a bit frustrating since I found the LCD difficult to see at times in bright outdoor light and in dim light as well.
The only other things to see here include the Menu and Display / Delete Photo buttons and the four-way controller. The Display button toggles what information is shown on the LCD. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation and adjusting the exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments).
There's much more to see on the top of the P505. On top of the flash is the stereo microphone, something you won't see every day on a digital camera. Both of the main competitors (the S2 and the M1) also have this.
Below the microphone is the flash setting button, with options of automatic, flash off, flash on, and auto with redeye reduction. To the right of that button is the speaker, followed by the power button (yes this camera has had a rough life).
To the right of the power button is a very cheap-feeling plastic mode dial, which has the following options:
||Auto mode, full menu access
|Best Shot mode
||Scene mode. You pick the situation, the camera does the rest. Choose from portrait, scenery, portrait w/scenery, children, sports, candlelight portrait, party, pet, flower, natural green, soft flowing water, splashing water, sundown, night scene, night scene portrait, fireworks, food, text, collection, monochrome, retro, and twilight. You can also create your own Best Shot mode if you desired.
|Aperture priority mode
||You choose aperture, camera picks appropriate shutter speed. Choose from a range of F3.3 - F7.4.
|Shutter priority mode
||You choose the shutter speed, the camera chooses the aperture. Shutter speed range is 60 - 1/2000 sec.
|Full manual (M) mode
||You choose both the shutter speed and the aperture. Same ranges as above.
|Past movie mode
||I'll discuss all these later in the review
|Short movie mode
|Movie Best Shot mode
||More on this later too
Okay! As you can see, the EX-P505 has both a ton of scene modes and three manual modes as well. A neutral density (ND) filter can also be activated in the aperture priority and manual modes. The ND filter will reduce the amount of light entering the lens by 2EV. This lets you use a slower shutter speed or a wider aperture than you could without it. This is a very rare feature that I think I've only seen before on a few Canon cameras.
The last thing to see on the top of the camera is the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.7 seconds. I counted ten steps throughout the 5X zoom range.
On this side of the camera you'll find two buttons: one for the focus mode (Auto, macro, pan focus, infinite focus, manual), the other for the shortcut (EX) menu.
Manual focus lets you use the four-way controller to set the focus distance yourself. The focus distance is shown on the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarge so you can make sure that your subject is in focus.
Shortcut (EX) Menu
The shortcut menu gives you quick access to the most commonly used camera settings, including white balance, ISO, metering mode, and autofocus area. You can also adjust these settings in the main recording menu.
On this side of the camera you'll find the P505's I/O ports which are kept behind a rubber cover. The ports include USB + A/V out (one port for both) and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The P505 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol.
In case you missed it, the lens never extends out of the body -- this is what the camera looks like at the full telephoto position!
On the bottom of the P505 is a plastic tripod mount (hidden in photo) and the battery / memory card compartment. This compartment is covered by a pretty flimsy plastic door. The EZ-P505 uses Secure Digital or MultiMedia (MMC) memory cards, though the former is recommended.
As you can probably guess, you cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.
The included NP-40 battery is shown at right.
Using the Casio Exilim EX-P505
With no lens to extend, it's not surprising that the P505 starts up in just one second. Nice! You can turn the camera on with the power button or by opening up the LCD.
|There are two different record mode overlays available on the P505. The one on the left features a nice histogram, while the bizarre "EX Finder" on the right goes a little overboard.
Autofocus speeds on the P505 were good, with typical focus times of 0.3 - 0.5 seconds at wide-angle, and slightly longer at the telephoto end. Unfortunately, low light focusing was poor, due mostly to the missing AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was not a problem, even at slower shutter speeds.
Shot-to-shot speed was about average, with a two second delay before you can another photo (this is with the post-shot review turned off).
There's no way to delete a photo immediately after taking it -- you must enter playback mode.
Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the EX-P505:
||Approx. file size
||# images on 7.5MB built-in memory
||# images on 256MB SD card (optional)
|2560 x 1920
|2560 x 1712
|2048 x 1536
|1600 x 1200
|1280 x 960
|640 x 480
To say that a larger memory card is needed is an understatement. Why did they even bother putting the 7.5MB in the camera?
Images are named CIMG####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.
Now, onto the menus!
The EX-P505's menu system is easy-to-use and responsive. The options in the full recording menu include:
- Self-timer (Off, X3, 2 sec, 10 sec) - X3 takes three shots in a row
- Size (see chart)
- Still quality (see chart)
- Movie quality (HQ, normal, LP) - more on this later
- EV shift (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) - also known as exposure compensation
- White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, fluorescent 1/2, tungsten, flash, manual) - see below
- ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
- AF Area (Spot, multi, free) - see below
- Metering (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
- Audio snap (on/off) - add 30 second voice clips to your photos
- Filter (Off, black & white, sepia, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, purple)
- Sharpness (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Saturation (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Contrast (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Flash intensity (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Flash assist (Auto, off) - compensates for an underexposed flash shot
- Grid (on/off) - helps you compose your photos
- Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best to keep this off
- Review (on/off) - post-shot review feature
- Icon help (on/off) - shows "guidance text" on the LCD when you change certain settings
- L/R key (EV shift, white balance, ISO, metering, self-timer, off) - customize what the left/right directions on the four-way controller do
Two quick things to mention. First, that manual white balance option lets you use a white or gray card to achieve perfect color even under the most unusual lighting. Every camera should have this -- unfortunately there are many which still don't.
The "free" AF area feature lets you use the four-way controller to choose one of 222 focusing points almost anywhere on the LCD (excluding a margin around the edge of the frame).
The EX-P505 also has a "memory menu". This lets you choose what settings are remembered when you turn off the camera.
And finally, there's a setup menu. Here's what you'll find in this menu:
- Sounds (Startup, half-shutter, shutter, operation, operation volume, playback volume) - adjust all the blips and bleeps plus the volume
- File numbering (Continue, reset)
- World time
- Home/world - choose the current time zone
- Home time setup
- World time setup
- Date style (YY/MM/DD, DD/MM/YY, MM/DD/YY)
- Adjust (time setting)
- Language (Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean)
- Sleep (30 sec, 1, 2 mins, off)
- Auto power off (2, 5 mins)
- USB (Mass Storage, PTP/PictBridge)
- Reset camera
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
The P505 did an okay job with our usual macro test. The colors aren't perfect, with the red being too orange and the "skin tones" seeming a little green to me. This could be due to white balance, though (I used the custom WB feature here). The subject is a little on the soft side, though not too horrible.
The camera lets you get up close and personal with your subjects. At the wide-angle end you can be just 1 cm away, while that number jumps to 40 cm at the telephoto end. I like how the camera shows you the available focus distances on the LCD -- more cameras should tell you this.
If noise levels were more reasonable this would've been one heck of a night shot. Unfortunately they're not. Everything is really grainy, looking more like a painting than a photograph at times. That graininess does make the buildings look sharp, but I'd rather have it be softer and less noisy. Thanks to the full manual controls, you can easily get the camera to take in enough light for shots like this. Purple fringing levels were low.
Now let's use that same scene and see how the noise levels increase as we raise the ISO sensitivity:
Since the P505 starts out noisy, it's not surprising that things get bad quickly. ISO 100 isn't too far off from ISO 50, but after that, look out.
Our distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the P505's lens. While there's no vignetting (dark corners) to be found, you may encounter some blurring around the edges of your photos (example).
Despite having a pop-up flash, the EX-P505 has quite a bit of redeye. While your results may vary, you will most likely deal with this annoyance at least some of the time.
Overall the photo quality on the P505 was good, but not great. Photos were generally well-exposed with accurate color and not too much purple fringing. I guess what bothers me the most is the noise in the photos. It gives things a fuzzy, grainy appearance -- especially fine details like leaves and roof tiles. This won't really matter if you're making smaller-sized prints, but for large prints and on-screen viewing it may bother you.
There was one strange that happened in one of my photos. I found strange horizontal lines throughout the picture, as you can see above. Since it didn't happen again I assume this was a one-time problem.
With that out of the way, I invite you to have a look at the photo gallery for the EX-P505. Look over the images and print them if you'd like, and then decide if the photo quality meets your expectations!
One of the biggest selling points for the EX-P505 is its movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 / 30 frames/second with stereo sound until the memory card is full. That takes just 14 seconds when you're recording to the built-in memory, so you'll want a memory card for serious video recording (a 256MB card holds about 8 minutes worth). Believe it or not, Casio doesn't say anything about needing a high speed memory card to use this mode.
To record longer movies you'll have to lower the movie quality. The "normal quality" mode still records at 640 x 480 / 30 fps, just at a lower quality. A "long play" mode cuts the resolution to 320 x 240 and the frame rate to 15 frames/second.
There are three other movie modes as well. Best Shot movie lets you choose one of five scenes (portrait, landscape, night scene, fireworks, silent) and the camera uses the best settings for the situation (much like it does in normal Best Shot mode). The Past Movie takes a bit of explaining. In this mode the camera is always saving video to the buffer memory. When you press the shutter release button, the last five seconds of video buffered are saved. The Short Movie function is similar to the "hybrid" movie mode on the Sony DSC-M1. The camera records a total of 8 seconds of video -- up to 5 seconds before the shutter release is pressed and up to 6 seconds after. A still image is also saved when you press the shutter release button. Hopefully this all makes sense.
In case that wasn't enough, did I mention that you can use the optical zoom during filming? That's because the lens is self-contained and it makes no noise while moving.
The EX-P505 saves movies in the AVI format using the MPEG-4 codec. The MPEG-4 codec allows for high quality movies that take up much less disk space than other (older) codecs. That's why the nice looking movie below only takes up 8.2MB on your memory card!
Mac users take note: you cannot play these movies using QuickTime, and you cannot bring them into your favorite video editor. The only thing I found that could play them was VLC. I did find this strange since QuickTime supports MPEG-4... so if you figure out a way to get it to work, let me know.
Update 5/3/05: A reader pointed me to this page with some hints on working with the videos on a Mac.
Here's a sample movie for you:
Click to play movie (8.2 MB, 640 x 480, HQ quality, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Exilim EX-P505 has a full-featured playback mode. The basic features like slide shows, DPOF print marking, zoom and scroll, voice annotations (30 secs), and image protection are all here. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to compatible photo printers.
The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom up to 8X into your photo and then move around in it. This feature was nice and snappy.
You can also rotate, crop, or resize your images right on the camera.
A nine-frame collage created using Motion Print
A movie editing feature lets you cut unwanted footage from what you've recorded. You can also create a still image from a movie frame using something that Casio calls Motion Print. In fact, you have two choices: you can just grab a single frame (which will be saved at 640 x 480) or you can create a nine-image collage of sorts which has one big image in front with eight other frame grabs behind it (see above).
By default, the camera doesn't show much information about your photos. But press the display button and the P505 displays exposure information and a histogram too (see above). The camera moves through photos instantly -- very nice.
How Does it Compare?
Like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M1, the Casio Exilim EX-P505 is a good concept that needs more refinement. Casio has tried to combine a digital still camera and a digital video camera, and they did a better job than Sony. However, the P505 has quite a few flaws and is overpriced at $500.
The P505 is a fairly compact camera with a 5X zoom lens. The build quality leaves much to be desired, though. The body is made almost entirely of plastic and it feels very "cheap" in your hands. The mode dial and the battery/memory card slot cover are especially flimsy. Still, the camera is very light and it can be used easily with just one hand. The lens is self-contained so it never extends out of the body. That means that you can use it while recording movies! The camera has a 2-inch LCD display that can flip out to the side and rotate -- which is handy -- though there's no optical viewfinder to be found.
Camera performance is above average in almost all areas, except in low light. The camera had a horrible time focusing, and you couldn't see anything on the LCD either. The camera has a very nice 1 cm macro mode and the movie mode is truly top notch. Video quality is excellent, sound is recorded in stereo, and there are several different ways in which you can record movies. Mac users be warned: you'll have to work a little in order to playback the videos. And I'll be damned if I know how to get them into iMovie or Final Cut Pro. One thing that surprised me about the P505 is that Casio left out a burst mode. You will, however, find manual controls plus tons and tons of scene modes (even in movie mode).
Photo quality is decent, but it could be a lot better. My biggest gripe is the noisy/grainy look to the images, which you'll notice in all of the shots in the gallery. Redeye was also a problem. I have two final complaints about the camera. One, Casio builds an embarrassing amount of memory into the camera: just 7.5MB. Who are they kidding? And second, they really need to stop with the whole "full manual on CD" thing.
While an intriguing concept, I think there are better cameras out there than the Exilim EX-P505. With a little work, Casio could have a real winner on their hands, but for now I think you could spend $500 on something better.
What I liked:
- Nice combination of still + video recording features
- 5X zoom in a compact body
- Flip-out, rotating 2" LCD display
- Robust performance
- Full manual controls
- Excellent movie mode; stereo sound, optical zoom can be used, numerous ways to record
- Great macro mode
- Tons of scene modes
- Built-in ND filter
What I didn't care for:
- Cheap plastic body
- Images are too noisy/grainy; some corner/edge softness
- Redeye a problem
- LCD doesn't "gain up" in low light
- Poor low light focusing / no AF-assist lamp
- Can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
- Poor Mac compatibility (for moving viewing/editing)
- No memory card included; just 7.5MB of on-board memory
- Full camera manual only on CD-ROM
The cameras which are closest to the Exilim EX-P505 include the Canon PowerShot S2 IS, Pentax Optio MX4, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M1. There are many other cameras out there, some with very nice movie modes, so use our Reviews & Info database to find them.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the EX-P505 and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photos turned out in our gallery!
Want another opinion?
Read more reviews at Steve's Digicams and dcviews.
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail
me asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other
DCRP readers, please visit our forums.