Ruggedness Personified: Casio Exilim EX-G1 - Reviewed

Written by Martin Regtien on . Posted in Digital Cameras

Casio G1 Ever since the G1 was announced my adventurous side stirred: here’s a Point & Shoot camera that will go the rugged distance with you. Over land or under water. And it will give you some very memorable images if you remember to give the lens a wipe every now and then to clear the dust. Or just rinse it.

Yes, the shock resistant G1 is yet another ‘funtographic’ device from the Casio stable and as we’ve observed in previous reviews, Casio puts a lot of fun features into their compact cameras. Last time we reviewed the super high speed member of the Exilim tribe and today we have a quick look at the G1.

Strangely enough the G1 moniker does not appear on the outside of the camera except in a label on the bottom. There is however a dark letter G next to the shock resistant description, indicating that G forces have something to do with giving the G1 its name.

This camera has a fantastic design: curved, angled and with a deep red gracing the front. Top mark for the design team! And somehow they also needed to make this camera weather, dust, water and shockproof... So expect sealing of all the important bits: lens, screen, buttons and card & battery compartments. Quite a challenge and very well done.
The G1 feels like a piece of jewellery in your hand, rather than something ruggedized to the hilt and looking like a tank. And that’s the problem.

There is a great reluctance on my part to really test this beauty in the environment it is meant for. Do I want to drop it from just about my head to see if it survives the claimed 7 feet fall without any damage to its vital parts? How deep underwater will I dare go to find out where its limits are? With 10 feet it’s just in a very comfortable snorkelling range.
So, dear readers, I’m going to drive this camera mainly as most SUVs are driven: in suburbia on hardened roads. They are seldom taken off road in the rugged outback unless you happen to live there.

This camera is rather like the very civilised Subaru Forrester, it has the all-weather, all-wheel drive capability and it can handle most of the tough stuff that you drive it through, but it is not a LandCruiser. So, the G1 is quite happy to capture your holiday shots even when you drop it on the trail or when your vacation destination is experiencing an unseasonal deluge. And it will shoot the ones that got away in your snorkelling safari.

So, let’s explore the camera itself first.
The way the camera is angled on the right makes it feel very comfortable in your right hand. Just make sure you don’t obscure the lens with the left hand... Button placement is fairly consistent for the Exilim range with the dedicated Movie button a real plus. The unit comes with a couple of protectors (bumpers) to further minimise impact damage. They look cool and give a bit more bulk to an otherwise fairly slippery device. First thing to fit would be the wrist strap! Particularly when you go swimming as the camera might not come up for air if you lose it...

Charging the unit is standard Casio. Yet, I had hoped for once a camera maker would allow USB charging so that you can leave the bulky charger at home when trekking around. The sealed battery compartment is also rather difficult to open and a two-handed affair. Be prepared to lose a fingernail in the process... Having said that, the charge is good for some 300 shots so you can take a chance there with short trips.

Casio Exilim EX-G1The other compartment for the miniSDHC card and USB/AV port on the other hand is almost too easy to open. It’s opened by a rotating button just above it with a protecting strip across. Internal memory is about 35MB, by the way, so you can test out the camera without any cards. I might add that I’m not a real fan of the tiny eenie, mini, micro type cards. The SD format suits my hands better...

Very wisely, the makers left off the Manual mode. You really do want everything Auto when things are tough. And it gets too fiddly if you have to mess around with shutter speed and apertures. Other than that the G1 has everything a modern P&S camera should have. Yes, the zoom is very modest at 3x because it had to be built in. I quite like these internal zooms as an extended zoom barrel is unlikely to survive a fall and impossible to waterproof. But the downside is limited zoom travel.

The back is graced by a 2.5 inch LCD monitor with 230,400 pixels and adjustable for 6 levels of brightness. In some outdoor situations even the highest brightness is not really sufficient for easy viewing but that problem plagues most cameras we’ve tested.

Casio Exilim EX-G1Other Features
I’ve talked about the Best Shot modes in earlier reviews. There are a couple of new BestShot modes (accessed via the BS button on top): Interval Snapshot and Interval Movie. In both these modes the camera takes an image, say, every ten seconds for a 30 minute duration.  Also included is Dynamic photo, eBay and YouTube recording, multi-motion image, prerecord (movie) and voice recording. Again, these things add some interesting experiments to using the camera in a more creative way.

Testing

Powering up the G1 is just over 2 seconds and it’s good to see there’s hardly any shutter lag. I think that it is officially around the 0.01 sec mark. Shutter lag has been the bane of small cameras up until now and the G1 scores very nicely here. Of course, you also need a fast Auto Focus acquisition and, again, the G1 doesn’t do too badly at around 0.2 sec. On the other hand it takes a good 4 seconds in between shots, with or without flash and that’s too long in my books. (and that’s writing straight to its internal memory too!). Fortunately, the Continuous High Speed Shooting mode delivers at 3.7 frames per second. But the resolution goes down to just 2MP, just good enough for a 4x6-inch print. And: only 8 images can be taken at a time in this mode.

When it comes to needing a boost from the stabilisation department we discover that the way this Casio handles it is by increasing the ISO sensitivity. That creates a faster shutter speed, accomplishing more or less the same but at a cost to image quality. No wonder they have it disabled by default... Optical or mechanical stabilisation might not have been an option, given the need for making this camera shockproof.

We took the obligatory test photos, similar to our many previous Casio reviews and there were no real surprises there. The real difference with all the others is of course the ruggedness of the camera itself so that’s what getting the main focus in this short write-up.

Conclusion
Whilst image quality is not the greatest in the highly competitive compact P&S range, what price do you put on the ability to get that unique shot in a challenging environment where most cameras would have left you in the lurch? Right. Better a mediocre shot than none at all. Which is not to say that the G1 produces mediocre quality, far from that, but there are better cameras out there if that’s what you’re after.

Pros
•    Waterproof
•    Weather resistant
•    Shock-proof
•    Good shutter lag
•    Competitively priced
•    Great, slim design
•    Lots of creative shooting modes

Cons
•    It is slow from shot to shot
•    The battery compartment is difficult to open
•    No true stabilization

The official price of the Casio EX-G1 is US$299.99, and is available in black, or red with black accents. Street price is much lower of course and will give you great value for money.

Casio Exilim EX-G1 Key Features:
•    12-Megapixel, 1/2.3-inch imaging sensor
•    3x optical zoom: 35mm equivalent of 35-105mm
•    2.5-inch, TFT color LCD
•    Video Resolutions: WIDE 848x480, STD 640x480,LP 320x240, YouTube 640x480
•    Waterproof to 10ft.
•    Freezeproof to 14 degrees
•    Dustproof (to EIC/JIS protection class 6 dustproofing)
•    Shock resistance from up to 7ft.
•    Dynamic Photo
•    Interval Snapshot
•    Interval Movie
•    BestShot Scene Selection
•    Intelligent AF
•    REC Light
•    AF Area: Intelligent, Spot, Multi, Tracking
•    35.7MB internal Memory
•    Li-Ion rechargeable Battery

Included with the EX-G1:
•    G1 Camera
•    Li-Ion Battery
•    Battery Charger
•    AC Power Cord
•    USB Cable
•    Strap
•    AV Cable
•    CD-ROM
•    Protectors (2)
•    Extra screws
•    Quick Start Guide

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