DCRP Review: Casio
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Believe it or not, Casio has been an innovator of consumer digital cameras for longer than almost anyone. Back in the days when the DCRP site was just getting started, they were shipping VGA resolution cameras with swiveling lenses and LCD displays. Casio was the first to introduce a 3 Megapixel camera, and was one of the first to ship a 4MP camera. That camera is the QV-4000 ($699), the current top-of-the-line camera in Casio's lineup. Though it shares the same lens as the QV-3500 (see our review), it has received a lot more than just a CCD upgrade, as you'll see in this review!
What's in the Box?
The QV-4000 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Everything you need is right in the box with this camera. Unfortunately, the 16MB CompactFlash card is way too small for a camera with this many pixels. I will remind our readers that Canon includes a 32MB card with their 4MP camera. I recommend at least a 64MB card for "real use" of a 4MP camera.
Casio includes 4 rechargeable (AA size, 1600mAh) NiMH batteries with the QV-4000. I like this for two reasons. The first is that these standard sized batteries are inexpensive compared with proprietary batteries. The second is that if you should run out of juice in these, you can buy regular alkaline batteries to keep you alive until you can recharge.
There's also a "rapid charger" included in the box, though I'm not sure just how rapid it really is. The batteries themselves should last for about 100 minutes of recording photos, according to Casio.
Casio includes a lens cap and strap, to protect the camera's lens.
The lens is threaded, and can use lens accessories sold by Canon (since it's the same lens). First, you'll need to buy the LU-35A conversion lens adapter, which Casio sells for about $18. Once you've got that, you can buy close-up, telephoto, and wide-angle lenses, and more. The camera also supports external flashes (more on this in a bit) and a remote shutter release is available.
The QV-4000 is sort of compatible with Mac OS X (I'm running v 10.1.1). The first time I connected it, the camera mounted as a disk on the desktop. After formatting the card and taking some more pictures, the next time I used it, Image Capture did start. Who knows? The PhotoLoader v 1.1 software runs in the Classic environment in OS X.
The PhotoLoader software is very mediocre... it's good enough for photo transfer and not much else.
A neat trick that Casio cameras can do is create HTML photo albums in the camera. You just copy the folder to your computer and upload it to the web! While this is a little dated, you should get an idea as to what it looks like.
The manual included with the camera is about average.
Look and Feel
At first glance, the QV-4000 reminds me of the Sony DSC-S85 (see our review). This mid-sized camera has more buttons and switches than any Casio camera I've tested thus far. The body itself is made of both metal and plastic, both of which feel "high grade". The camera can be used one-handed, as it's easy to hold. It's a little too large to fit in most pockets.
The dimensions of the camera are 4.6 x 2.9 x 2.5 inches, and it weighs 355 grams empty. Let's start our 360 degree tour of the QV-4000 now.
And we'll start off, like we always do, with the front of the camera. The camera has the now familiar F2.0 Canon lens that we've seen on many other cameras. The lens is a 3X optical zoom with a focal range of 7 - 21mm, which is equivalent to 34 - 102mm. If you desire, a 3.2X digital zoom is also available, but keep in mind that it reduces the quality of your photos.
As I mentioned earlier, the lens is threaded.
Just northeast of that lens is an AF illuminator, for focusing in low-light situations. This is a new feature on the QV-4000 and is most appreciated.
The flash on the camera has a working range of about 0.5 - 3.5 meters. The QV-4000 is the first Casio camera that allows the use of an external flash. Since there is no hot shoe, you'll need to buy a flash bracket, which uses the tripod mount. Any external flash can be used, as long as it meets the following requirements:
Here now is the back of the QV-4000, which is packed with buttons.
The 1.8" LCD is average size, and is bright and fluid. I couldn't find a way to adjust the brightness, however.
Just above the LCD is the optical viewfinder. It has diopter correction for those of you with glasses, and is good-sized. Nose smudges on the LCD will be a problem if you use your left eye here.
To the right of the optical viewfinder is the menu button, which invokes the menu system.
The four buttons to the left of the LCD work in a "SLR sort of way". In other words, you hold down these buttons while turning the command dial to change settings, rather than just pressing them once to change a setting. I say that it's "SLR style" since most "real" SLR cameras do it the same way. These buttons are:
That last buttons also doubles as the delete photo button in playback mode. I actually like how Casio resisted having each button do two or three other functions, which most other cameras do.
As you can see, the QV-4000 has a wealth of manual controls. With manual white balance, you can shoot a white or gray card/paper to use that as "white" for your photos. Multi-area AF is your normal, everyday auto focus mode. If you want more control, try Spot AF, which lets you choose one of nine areas on the LCD for the camera to focus on. If you want real manual focus, you can do that too. Unfortunately, there is no guide telling you the current focus distance -- you have to eyeball-it on the LCD. If you turn on Focus Expansion in the menu, the area the camera is focusing on will be "blown up" so you can check the focus.
Over on the other side of the LCD, you'll find the zoom control, four-way switch (or should I say, stick), preview button (shows the last photo taken), and display button (toggles LCD on/off). The display button also toggles what information is shown on the LCD, including a histogram.
Though you open it from the side, the CompactFlash slot is actually on the back of the camera. This is a CompactFlash Type II slot, which means it's fully compatible with the IBM Microdrive (shown at left, not included).
Here is the top of the QV-4000, which is quite busy. There are two layered dials on the left, which control mode and "drive".
The top dial controls which mode the camera is in. These include:
The Best Shot mode has more scenes than ever before on the QV-4000. There are a total of 100 scenes available (on the CD-ROM) that you can use. The deal with scene mode is that after you pick a "scene", the camera will use the appropriate settings for that situation. Experienced photographers will probably skip over this feature, but it's great for beginners. You can create your own scenes as well, if you want.
Below are a selection of scenes available on the QV-4000:
In aperture priority mode, you can choose from F2.0, F2.3, F2.8, F4.0, F5.6, and F8.0. In shutter priority mode, the range is 60 to 1/1000 sec. There is also a bulb mode which keeps the shutter open for as long as the shutter release button is held down.
The lower dial chooses from one of these drive modes:
AE bracketing will shoot 3 or 5 images in a row, each with a different exposure compensation value. This is a good way to make sure you get the perfect photo. Continuous shooting mode will record one image about every second (or so) which is pretty slow. Panorama mode is a tool to assist in making panoramic images -- just remember to use a tripod for best results.
Getting back to the top of the camera now -- the LCD info display on the top of the camera shows not only the number of photos remaining and flash setting, but also focus mode, shutter speed, and aperture.
Over to the right of the LCD info display are buttons for flash and self-timer. Just right of that is the mode dial (off, playback, record) and shutter release button. Finally, below that is the command dial, which you rotate to change various manual settings.
On this side of the camera, you'll find the I/O ports. The four you see in the center of the picture are normally protected by the plastic cover you can see at the bottom. The four ports here are:
Over at the lower right, you'll find the external flash sync terminal.
On the other side, you'll find the latch for the CompactFlash slot door.
Finally, here is the bottom of the QV-4000. Down here, you'll find a metal tripod mount, as well as the battery compartment, which holds four AA batteries.
Using the Casio QV-4000
The QV-4000 takes just under five seconds to extend the lens and "boot up" before you can start taking pictures. The LCD is on by default. When you depress the shutter release halfway, the camera locks focus in about one second. When you press the button all the way down, the photo is taken after a short, but noticeable shutter lag. Shot-to-shot speed is excellent -- the camera can take another photo in under two seconds. Writing an uncompressed TIFF files will, however, lock up the camera for 30 seconds.
The zoom mechanism is smooth and responsive, though a little slower than I like.
In record mode, the LCD shows all kinds of info -- including a histogram
There are a few resolution and quality options available on the QV-4000. The chart below shows you how many photos you can store on the included memory card, or the highly recommend 1gb Microdrive.
|Image Size||Quality||Approx. File Size||# images on 16MB CF card||# images on 1GB Microdrive|
|2240 x 1680||TIFF||11MB||1||87|
|1600 x 1200||TIFF||5.6MB||2||171|
|1280 x 960||TIFF||3.6MB||3||269|
|1024 x 768||TIFF||900KB||15||1026|
If you needed any justification for buying the 1gb Microdrive, that chart should do it.
The QV-4000 has a new menu system that uses the traditional hierarchical system found on most digital cameras. It's easy to use, though I'll miss the cute animated menus on the older Casio models.
The menu choices are:
There are a few setup options as well, but I'll leave those to the manual.
Let's take a look at our test photos now.
The QV-4000 did a fine job with our macro test. The red color is a bit over-saturated, but otherwise it looks great. At full wide-angle you can get as close as 6cm in macro mode. At full telephoto, the minimum is 20cm. The maximum distance in macro mode is 50cm.
The camera also did a great job at the night shot test -- one of the best I've seen in a sub-$1000 camera. Obviously it was a good night for the photo, but the fast lens and manual controls really helped out here.
Overall, the photo quality was very good on the QV-4000. Colors seem accurate and the images correctly exposed (without the flash). I noticed two issues: First, flash pictures seemed a bit underexposed (see gallery, #11 vs. #12). Second, I found some chromatic aberrations (see gallery, #10) in one photo. Take a look at the photo gallery and see if you like the photo quality too.
The movie mode feature has changed on the QV-4000. Gone is the ability to use "past" mode, which recorded the 10-15 seconds prior to the shutter release being pressed. Now it's just a regular, silent movie mode.
Movies are recorded at 320 x 240, using the M-JPEG codec. Files are saved in the AVI format. Movies can be as long as 30 seconds.
Since audio is not recorded, you can use the optical zoom while filming.
Here's a very boring sample movie for you:
The QV-4000 has as full-featured playback mode. Basic features such as DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and slide show are here.
Some other features include zoom & scroll (as I call it) and resize. Zoom and scroll lets you zoom, in steps, up to 3.2X times. Along the way you can use the four-way switch the scroll around in the image. This scrolling is a lot choppier than on older Casio cameras but it's still better than most.
Resize lets you easily create a 640 x 480 image from a larger one. The old, large image is saved.
The camera moves between images quickly -- it instantly shows a low res version (still good quality) and about two seconds later, the high resolution version covers it.
If you want more info about your photos, the QV-4000 delivers. You can see the various settings used, plus a histogram and the file size.
How Does it Compare?
Back in the old days of digital photography (and this site), I told people to steer clear of Casio cameras. The opposite is true now: they are getting better and better. While the QV-4000 isn't as good as, say, the Canon PowerShot G2, it's still a superb 4 Megapixel camera, and for $200 less too. That money could be spent on a Microdrive instead, which gives virtually unlimited storage capacity. The camera has a good amount of manual controls, very good photo quality (in most cases), Microdrive support, and a low price. The negatives are the before mentioned flash underexposure and occasional chromatic aberrations, and the silent movie mode. Even with those issues, the QV-4000 is still highly recommended.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for
Other 4 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot G2 and S40, Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom (I guess), Minolta DiMAGE 7 (actually 5MP), Nikon Coolpix 5000 (also 5MP), Olympus C-4040Z, D-40, and E-10, Pentax Optio 430, Sony DSC-F707 (5MP) and DSC-S85, and the Toshiba PDR-M81.
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the QV-4000 and its competitors before you buy, assuming you can find them!
Check out the QV-4000 photo gallery!
Want a second opinion? How about a third?Steves Digicams has a review of the Casio QV-4000 that you'll want to read. If that's not enough, DP Review has one as well.
Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.