DCRP Review: Casio QV-R51
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: February 1, 2004
Last Updated: February 27, 2004

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The Casio QV-R51 ($399) is a 5 Megapixel version of the QV-R40 that I just reviewed. Both are compact cameras with a 3X optical zoom lens, tons of "Best Shot" (scene) modes, and ultra-fast performance. The R51 also adds a 2.0" LCD display, much larger than the 1.6" on the R40.

Small 5 Megapixel cameras are all the rage now. How does this one stack up? Find out now!

Since the two cameras are so similar, this review will have much in common with the QV-R40 review.

What's in the Box?

The QV-R51 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 5.0 effective Megapixel QV-R51 camera
  • Two AA NIMH rechargeable batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring PhotoLoader, PhotoHands, and drivers
  • 13 page basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD

Casio does not include a memory card with the QV-R51. Rather, you get a paltry 9.7MB of on-board memory, plus a slot for a Secure Digital (SD) or MultiMedia (MMC) card that you'll have to buy separately. I recommend picking one up right away, as 10MB doesn't hold many 5 Megapixel photos. I think a 128MB SD card would be a good starting point. Note that SD cards are faster than MMC cards. They're also available in higher capacities (up to 512MB).

As they did with the QV-R40, Casio includes two 2100 mAh NIMH rechargeables in the box, so you're set to go (I recommend buying more, though). These batteries have around 5.0 Wh of energy, and that translates into about 240 photos (120 minutes) in record mode, or 250 minutes in playback mode, according to Casio. Those numbers are an improvement over the QV-R40.

When it's time to recharge the battery, just pop them into the included charger. It takes around four hours to fully recharge the two batteries. This is my favorite kind of charger, too -- just plug it right into the wall (no cables needed).

The QV-R51 has a built-in lens cover, so there is no lens cap to worry about. As you can see, this is one small camera.

Tiny cameras like this don't have a lot of accessories. The only ones I could dig up include an AC adapter ($30) and carrying case ($20).

The R51 includes Casio's PhotoLoader and Photohands software. PhotoLoader is used to download and view stills and movies from your camera. It's not Mac OS X native, but works in Classic mode. Photohands is for Windows only, and is used for retouching and printing images.

I've been giving Olympus a bad time for years about putting the camera manual only on CD-ROM, but now Casio is doing it too. They already have a printed "basic manual" in the box, so why not just print the whole thing? Once you actually load up the manual, expect its quality to be about average.

Look and Feel

The QV-R51 is an ultra-compact camera made almost completely of metal. It feels well-constructed for the most part, but watch out -- these metal cameras scratch easily. The R51's small size lets you slip it into your pocket with ease. The important controls are easy to reach.

The QV-R51's dimensions are 88.0 x 60.5 x 32.7 mm / 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs a measly 160 grams / 5.6 ounces empty. A lot of folks will be comparing this camera to the Canon S400 and Minolta G500, so here are their numbers: 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches / 185 grams and 3.7 x 2.2 x 1.2 inches / 200 grams, respectively.

Let's begin our tour of the QV-R51 now, beginning with the front.

The QV-R51 has the exact same lens as the R40. And that is an F2.8 - F4.9, 3X optical zoom model. The focal range is 8 - 24 mm, which is equivalent to 39 - 117 mm. The lens is not threaded.

Just to the upper-left of the lens is the R51's built-in flash. The flash has a relatively small working range of 0.6 - 3.2 m at wide-angle, and 0.6 - 1.8 m at telephoto (slightly better than the R40). The flash did have a rather lengthy recharge time of nine seconds. Not surprisingly, you cannot attach an external flash to this camera.
(Paragraph updated 2/2/04)

Just below the flash is the self-timer lamp.

As was the case on the QV-R40, the R51 doesn't have the AF-assist lamp that previous cameras in this series had. I'm not sure why Casio would eliminate such a useful feature.

The QV-R51 is a great example of why bigger LCDs aren't always better. The R40 had a 1.6" screen with a relatively low resolution (84,960 pixels). The R51's 2" screen is 25% larger, but has the same resolution -- just 84,960 pixels. What's funny, though, is that the resolution didn't seem that bad. The screen brightness is not adjustable.

Directly above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is average-sized. One of the other puzzling changes on the R40 and R51 is the removal of the diopter correction knob, which is used to focus what you're looking at. Something else to note: at wide-angle, you can see part of the lens barrel. It's not as bad as on the Canon G3/G5, though.

To the right of the optical viewfinder are two buttons, used to switch between playback and record mode. Either of those buttons can also be used to turn the camera on and off.

Below those are two buttons, with the four-way controller in between. The buttons are menu and display (toggles the LCD, and what is shown on it, on and off). The four-way controller is used for menu navigation, and also for:

  • Up - Focus (Auto, macro, infinity, manual) {record mode} / Calendar (described later) {playback mode}
  • Down - Flash (Auto, flash off, flash on, redeye reduction) {record} / Delete photo {playback}
  • Left/right - Custom function; choose what these do in the menu

Manual focus

A quick note about the manual focus feature. With this turned on, you use the four-way controller to focus. The center of the image is enlarged so you can make sure the subject is sharp. A guide is shown on the LCD showing the (very approximate) focus distance.

On top of the R51, you'll find the power button as well as the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller around it. The zoom controller moves the lens very quickly -- the full trip from wide-angle to telephoto takes just one second. There are only seven zoom positions, so you can't be terribly precise.

Over on this side of the camera, you will find the USB (1.1) port, which is kept under a rubber cover.

Over here is the DC-in port, for the optional AC adapter, which also has a protective cover.

Last, but not least, here's the bottom of the QV-R51. You can see the SD/MMC card slot (card not included), the battery compartment, and the metal tripod mount. The door covering all this seems like it could bust off if forced. Also note that you cannot remove the memory card (or the batteries for that matter) while the camera is on a tripod).

The R51 uses just two AA-size batteries.

Using the Casio QV-R51

Record Mode

A live histogram is shown in record mode

One of the major selling points of the QV-R51 (and the R40 as well) is its fast startup speed. Casio isn't lying: it took about 1.4 seconds for the lens to extend and the camera to "boot up" before you can start shooting.

Focusing speeds were about average. A half-press of the shutter release button resulted in locked focus in about 1/2 second at wide-angle, and one second at telephoto. Low light focusing seemed to be better than on the QV-R40, though I'm not sure why that would be.

One problem with focusing that I did notice on my camera was that sometimes, when going from the half-pressed (focus lock) position to the fully-pressed (take the picture) position, the camera didn't take the picture, and went back to the "unpressed" mode. This happened several times.

As was the case on the R40, shutter lag on the R51 is not an issue, even at slower shutter speeds.

Shot-to-shot speed is good, with a wait of around two seconds before you can take another picture (assuming you've turned off the post-shot review feature).

There's no way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken. You must use playback mode.

Now, let's take a look at the image size/quality choices on the QV-R51:

Quality Resolution Approx. File Size # images on 9.7MB built-in memory
Fine 2560 x 1920 2.3 MB 4
2560 x 1712 (3:2) 2.0 MB 4
2048 x 1536 1.6 MB 5
1600 x 1200 1.1 MB 8
1280 x 960 680 KB 13
640 x 480 190 KB 46
Normal 2560 x 1920 1.8 MB 5
2560 x 1712 (3:2) 1.6 MB 5
2048 x 1536 1.2 MB 7
1600 x 1200 710 KB 12
1280 x 960 460 KB 20
640 x 480 140 KB 61
Economy 2560 x 1920 1.3 MB 7
2560 x 1712 (3:2) 1.1 MB 8
2048 x 1536 630 KB 14
1600 x 1200 370 KB 24
1280 x 960 250 KB 35
640 x 480 90 KB 98

See why I recommended getting that larger memory card?

There's no TIFF or RAW mode on the QV-R51. The file numbering system is simple: CIMG####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. File numbering is maintained as you switch and erase memory cards.

Let's take a look at the menus now.

Like all of Casio's cameras, the QV-R51 has an attractive and easy-to-use menu system (it looks better in person than it does in my screen shots). Here's what you'll find in the record menu:

  • REC mode (Snapshot, best shot, movie)
  • Self-timer (Off, 10 sec, 2 sec, x3)
  • Size (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • EV Shift [exposure compensation] (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, light bulb, fluorescent, manual)
  • ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
  • AF area (Spot, multi)
  • Metering (Multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • Filter (Off, black & white, sepia, red, green, blue, yellow, pink, purple) - see below
  • Sharpness (Soft, normal, hard)
  • Saturation (Low, normal, high)
  • Contrast (Low, normal, high)
  • Flash intensity (Weak, normal, strong)
  • Grid (on/off) - displays a "rule of thirds" grid on the LCD
  • Digital zoom (on/off)
  • Review (on/off) - whether picture is shown on LCD after it is taken
  • L/R key (REC mode, EV shift, white balance, ISO, self-timer, off) - define what left/right on the four-way controller does

The QV-R51 has the same "Best Shot" modes that have been on Casio cameras for years. Here's how it works: you select a scenario on the LCD, and the camera picks the best settings for it! The choices are:

  • Portrait
  • Scenery
  • Portrait w/scenery
  • Coupling shot - combine two shots into one
  • Pre-shot - Shoot the background first, then have someone shoot you in front of it
  • Children
  • Candlelight portrait
  • Party
  • Pet
  • Flower
  • Natural green
  • Sundown
  • Night scene
  • Night scene portrait
  • Fireworks
  • Food
  • Text
  • Collection - a bizarre one: macro mode + displays a "composition outline" (basically a fancy grid)
  • Monochrome
  • Retro - low contrast + sepia filter
  • Twilight - high contrast + magenta filter
  • Register favorites - create your own Best Shot using a photo you've taken

In normal mode, the camera will not go any slower than 1/8 sec. Night scene will shoot as slow as 4 sec, while fireworks will do 2 secs. This a big improvement over the R40, where night scene exposures were limited to just 1 second.

Recent Casio cameras also have a unique "x3" self-timer feature. The camera takes three shots in a row, with a 10 second delay for the first shot, and a 1 second delay for each subsequent shot.

As you can see, the QV-R51 has manual white balance, the only manual control on the camera. You can shoot a white or gray card to get perfect color in any lighting.

The filter feature is one that you don't see very often. It lets you do some creative things with your photos, though you could do the same things in Photoshop. This is also where you'll find the black & white mode.

The memory tab in the menu lets you choose what settings are stored when the camera is turned off. Very handy!

There is also the standard-issue setup menu for setting the date and all that fun stuff. The items found here include:

  • Beep (on/off)
  • Startup screen (on/off) - you can select your own image if you want
  • File no. (continue, reset) - file numbering
  • World time - choose your home city and another one abroad
  • Date style (YY/MM/DD, DD/MM/YY, MM/DD/YY)
  • Date set
  • Language (Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, plus 3 Asian languages that I can't read)
  • Sleep (Off, 30 sec, 1, 2 min)
  • Auto power off (2, 5 mins)
  • Rec/Play (Power on, power on/off, disable) - whether these buttons can turn the camera on and off
  • Card format
  • Reset - go back to default settings

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

The QV-R51 took a much nicer macro shot than the R40 did -- much smoother and less noisy. Colors mostly look good, though the red seems a little orange to me.

The focal range in macro mode is 10 - 70 cm -- same as on the R40. Do note that the optical zoom range is limited to 1.0X - 1.2X while in macro mode.

The night test shot came out pretty nicely, though it looks a little overprocessed. Once again, you'll want to use the night landscape Best Shot mode to get the long exposure (4 sec) needed for shots like this.

I did not see any purple fringing (often seen in this photo), which is a good thing.

Now, here's a look at how raising the ISO sensitivity affects image noise:

ISO 50
View original image

ISO 100
View original image

ISO 200
View original image

ISO 400
View original image

As you can see, noise levels are low until you get to ISO 200, at which point they start to go up rapidly.

Small cameras mean lots of redeye. The R40 had it, and so does the R51. There's not much you can do about it aside from removing it later in software.

The distortion test shots moderate barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the lens.

My biggest issue with the QV-R40's image quality was noise: there was just too much of it. Thankfully, Casio has done a great job of addressing this issue on the R51. Have a look:

View original image

View original image

As you can see, noise has been drastically reduced, giving images a much smoother look. There are plenty more photos to compare in the QV-R40 and QV-R51 galleries, as well.

Otherwise, exposure and color were good, and purple fringing was not an issue. I did notice a little fuzziness around the edges of the image a few time, probably a limitation of that compact lens. But overall, a much better performance than the R40, and impressive for a low-cost, compact camera.

Don't just take my word for all this -- have a look at the gallery and judge for yourself!

Movie Mode

The QV-R51's movie mode is slightly better than the one on the QV-R40, but it's still rather outdated. You can record up to 60 seconds (versus 30 on the R40) of 320 x 240 video, without sound.

Since the camera does not record sound, you can use the zoom lens during filming.

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

Here is a sample movie for you to check out:

Click to play movie (1.4MB, AVI format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The R51 has a pretty full-featured playback mode. The basic features like slide shows, DPOF print marking, zoom and scroll, and image protection are all here.

The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom up to 4X into your photo and then move around in it. This feature was surprisingly sluggish on an otherwise super-fast camera (as it was on the R40).

You can also rotate images, or resize them to 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480.

But there's more -- the R51 has four very unique playback features.

The first is favorites, which lets you "tag" your best photos for easy retrieval later (kind of like bookmarks in your web browser).

Cool feature number two is the "create album" item, which will make an HTML photo gallery automatically! You can then copy over the album folder to your website, and that's it! You can choose from 10 different album layouts, or make your own. This is a useful feature that is (surprisingly) still unique to Casio cameras.

Interesting playback feature three is the calendar. This shows a calendar of the current month, with a tiny thumbnail picture shown on the day it was taken. This is a nice (and different) way to jump through your photos by date!

And finally, the last, umm, unique playback feature is image roulette -- the one feature you never knew that you needed. Turn on the camera while holding left on the four-way controller, and the LCD flips through pictures at an amazing clip. Then it slowly reduces its speed, until it stops -- kind of like a slot machine. I don't know about you, but I could name many other things I'd rather see on this camera (AF-assist lamp anyone?) than this.

By pressing the display button, the QV-R51 can display exposure information for your photos, including a histogram. The camera moves through photos instantly -- very nice.

How Does it Compare?

While I doubt the review I wrote two weeks before this one had anything to do with it, Casio's QV-R51 addressed many of complaints I had with their QV-R40. First and foremost is noise. It was pretty bad on the R40, and now it's gone -- images have a nice smooth look to them. I also didn't like the R40's slow shutter speed limitations; now you can shoot for up to 4 seconds. As added bonuses, Casio upped the LCD size to 2 inches (though the resolution didn't go up as well), and the longest movie you can record is up to 60 seconds (though still without sound).

Everything else is the same as the R40. You get super-fast performance, especially in startup time, and a sleek, compact body. I had some problems with focusing, but I think my particular camera was at fault. The R51 is point-and-shoot camera, with white balance and focus being the only manual controls. The extensive Best Shot modes are a boon for beginners, and the calendar and HTML album features are nice as well. The most annoying carryover from the R40 is the lack of an AF-assist lamp -- which previous models used to have. I also think the 9.7MB of included memory is inexcusable on a 5 Megapixel camera, along with putting the manual on CD.

Overall, I'm much more enthusiastic about the R51 than I was the R40, mainly due to the improved image quality. It's far from perfect but for $399 it's an impressive "go anywhere" camera.

What I liked:

  • Excellent image quality
  • Compact, mostly-metal body
  • Large (but low resolution) 2.0" LCD display
  • Robust performance, especially startup speed
  • Manual white balance, focus
  • Lots of useful "best shot" (scene) modes
  • Cool calendar, favorites, album features in playback mode
  • Uses AA batteries; nice rechargeables included
  • Good value

What I didn't care for:

  • No AF illuminator (but we have a image slot machine?)
  • Redeye
  • Even with improvements, movie mode still very outdated
  • Sluggish zoom and scroll feature in playback mode
  • 9.7MB of onboard memory isn't much
  • No video out port
  • Bundled software not Mac OS X native
  • Manual on CD

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the QV-R51 before you buy!

Other cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot S400, Casio Exilim EX-Z4, Kyocera Finecam S5R, Minolta DiMAGE F300 and G500, Nikon Coolpix 4300, Olympus Stylus 400, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC43, Pentax Optio 555 and S4, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P92, DSC-P10, and DSC-T1.

Photo Gallery

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

Want a second opinion?

Get another view of the QV-R51 over at Steve's Digicams.

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.

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