Casio Exilim Card EX-S600 digital camera

This, the latest edition to the company's range and without a doubt strengthens Casio's Exilim Card camera collection. The EX-S600 combines ultra-compact design with stylish looks and high-resolution 6 million pixel snaps.

The 600 also plays host to a few neat technologies such as image stabilisation in both still and video recording the latter providing 640 x 480-pixel movies at 30fps and with audio.

Movies with sound are not the only things you'll hear when using the 600, most of my mates where audibly impressed by the camera's pocketable lines, with many an "ohh" and "ahh" being uttered as they turned the svelte little all-metal camera over in their hands. In addition, the 600 really is very small, its "Card" moniker very fitting as it is only 13.7mm wide at it's thinnest point.

Such a small camera can conversely become a bit of a handful to use however, as anyone with larger hands will become all fingers and thumbs if they're not careful. A tiny on/off button partners a shutter release on the sliver-like top plate. The cameras large 2.2-inch colour screen on the back plays host to the other controls. This screen lacks resolution for my liking at a course 84.6K-pixel screen but is bright, colourful, and easy to use in all but the brightest of conditions.

The 3x optical zoom lens control is integrated nicely with the camera's wrist strap lug while above the screen are the playback, still image mode, and the separate video recording release button. Menu activation is via a button adjacent the square four-way jog style control with a central "Set" button for confirming options. At the bottom is the Bestshot button. This is the entry point for the massive array of subject (or scene) modes, which range from the usual portrait, landscape and night scene modes to a few more esoteric offerings.

These include both Food and Text modes, a Collection setting optimised for Macro photography, a high sensitivity setting that boosts ISO sensitivity to 1600, as does the additional Anti Shake mode; the "usual" sensitivity settings run from 50 to 400 for example. There's even an Old Photo mode, which can restore the colours in faded photographs if you use the 600 to copy them. There are also a couple of neat movie tricks you can perform with the 600.

One, Past Movie mode, allows you to start recording a movie just before the record button is pressed, yep that's right, before the button's pressed. Another called the Silent mode bumps up the frame rate slightly and shoots in black and white to give any movies you make look like an old-time silent movie. And there are plenty of others to numerous to go into detail here.

The downside of all these automatic scene modes however is the complete lack of manual control and what manual adjustments you do get, such as the exposure compensation, saturation, contrast or sharpness adjustments all must be done within menus and require time to make them. One function can be assigned to the left/right jog buttons however, allowing a modicum of usability to return to proceedings.

Nevertheless, this camera is not aimed at the enthusiast requiring control of every element of the camera, it's designed for the snappers among us, and as such, it fills that niche well. So what of the results?

Image quality is generally very good indeed, focusing and metering are reliable enough and the amount of detail the lens can capture is more than adequate for the tasks presented. However, there are couple of niggles. The most problematic is the very soft periphery to images, edge sharpness is quite poor, particularly the bottom left on the camera used for this test. The other niggle is the distracting lens flare I got in shots where I would not have expected it, it has reduced contrast and thrown unwanted colour flaring across many of my shots even where the sun, while in front of the camera is still well out of the frame.

Verdict

The Casio Exilim Card EX-S600 provides a very satisfying feeling if photo-gadgetry is your thing. It comes in three colours too; silver, orange and blue satisfying the fashionistas among you. And while snaps printed at 6x4-inches will not show some of the image related issues mentioned to any degree, anyone wanting to make larger prints, particularly A3 or above; which it is capable of producing, might have problems.

The EX-S600 is therefore a little gem - to have and to hold - but one flawed because it does not quite cut the mustard when you actually get down to snapping.