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Design and Handling

Casio has firmly established itself at the 'style' end of the market with the Exilim range; with its super-slim all-metal body the EX-V7 is no exception (it is currently the world's slimmest 7x zoom camera). The materials, build and finish are excellent and like all the Exilims, the camera has quite a luxurious feel. The EX-V7 is something of a departure for Casio from a design point of view; though the rear is very similar to most of the other (past and present) models in the range the front sports a rather Sony-like sliding lens cover (which also acts as the main on/off switch). This is the first Exllim zoom with a non-extending lens, and the first we're aware of to use folding optics (the key to fitting such a big zoom range into such a slim body).

Handling

As with all these slim cameras there's a touch of the 'form over function' to the EX-V7; there is little to grip and little to stop the camera slipping from your fingers if not supported with both hands. The front of the lens being so near to the corner of the camera also means that it's not unusual to see a finger appearing in the corner of the frame when shooting quickly. The shutter release is well positioned, but using the zoom when holding the camera with one hand is tricky. Once you're used to it the handing isn't terrible, but it isn't great either.

Key body elements

The ubiquitous four-way controller is used to navigate menus (along with the 'SET' button in the middle) The left and right keys can be customized to control a variety of functions (including AE compensation, white balance or ISO). The up key is used to cycle through the various display mode options, the down key switches flash mode. To the left are buttons for play mode and menu activation.
As we've come to expect from Casio the screen is excellent; bright, responsive and fairly resistant to glare even in direct sunlight. To the right you can see the unusual zoom slider (up for tele, down for wide).
In this section of the review we would normally be discussing the various connectors dotted around the camera. However the EX-V7 (like most Casios) has no standard connectors on the camera itself, all are provided by the cradle. The only connector on the camera itself is the cradle terminal, beside the tripod mount on the base of the camera.
The supplied cradle performs four functions. Firstly it acts as a charging station for the battery; drop the camera into the dock and the battery begins charging. Secondly it can be used to turn the camera into a 'Photo Stand' which runs a slide show of images on the LCD monitor. Thirdly it provides USB connectivity to a computer or direct-printer. Finally it adds audio/video output (for viewing images/movies on a television).
The EX-V7 has two Exilim firsts: a folded optics lens (which runs up the side of the body) - essential for keeping the camera slim - and a sliding lens cover. The lens cover is lightly sprung and acts as an on-off switch. One minor niggle is that it is a little too easy for the camera to accidentally turn on if you slide it into a bag or pocket, but using a case would solve this.
The top of the EX-V7 is very plain - all you'll find here is the chrome shutter release.
The SD card slot and slim battery slot share a compartment under a hinged door on the side of the body. Battery life isn't bad for a camera in this class, at 240 shots per charge (CIPA standard testing). Cameras this slim have to use small batteries, so rarely offer more than a few hundred shots from a single charge (and many offer far fewer).

Display and menus

Whereas most cameras in this class offer point and shoot simplicity, the EX-V7 is full of unexpected surprises, including a full manual mode, aperture and shutter priority and an almost overwhelming range of shooting and playback features. Inevitably this means that a lot of the more advanced functionality can only be accessed via menus, but Casio has done a pretty good job of putting a friendly face on the extensive feature set.

Apologies for the low quality of these screen shots, the EX-V7 does not support video out in record mode, so the screen was photographed directly.

Although you can switch to a more conventional view (with icons scattered around the edge of the frame) the panel layout is cleaner and a lot easier to use. The screen above shows the highest level of information you can have on-screen; you can reduce it if you prefer less clutter. Half-press the shutter and the display changes to indicate the focus area(s) selected, and the exposure (aperture and shutter speed) chosen (the screen shown is in basic display mode). A nice touch is that the ISO is also displayed - even in auto ISO mode.
Pressing the DISP button cycles through the various overlay options, including - as shown here - a live RGB histogram. Casio likes to cover every conceivable shooting scenario with its extensive scene modes (known as 'Best Shot' modes), so the EX-V7 has no less than 33, covering everything from the usual portraits, landscapes and night scenes to pets, fireworks and food to special effects and modes for copying documents and text that remove perspective distortion. It is also here where you'll find the modes that offer higher than ISO 800 sensitivity. In each case a brief description is shown on-screen to explain how and when to use it (example) .
If you find the complexity of the EX-V7's various manual and auto modes overwhelming there is an 'Easy' mode that offers a simplified cut-down interface. Unusually for a camera of this type the EX-V7 offers aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure. There are, however, some slightly odd ISO limitations (which kind of make sense, but are infuriating for the more advanced user). In Shutter Priority mode you cannot select a manual ISO (it defaults to Auto). This is presumably because there are only 3 possible aperture settings; wide open, closed and closed with an ND filter. Less explicable is that in manual exposure mode you are stuck with ISO 64.
Pressing the 'Menu' button brings up three tabbed menus. The Quality tab is where you'll find menu options for image size, quality, AE-compensation, white balance, ISO, metering mode, sharpness/saturation/ contrast and flash level, plus some of the more unusual options mentioned later in the review, such as Dynamic Range and Portrait Refiner. The REC tab is where you make more fundamental changes; focus mode, anti-shake, self-timer and so on.
The EX-V7 allows you to choose to use CCD-shift ('Camera Shake') or ISO boost ('Image Blur') Anti Shake, or let the camera decide. You can assign the left and right arrow keys (on the body) to allow quick access to metering, AE compensation, White Balance, ISO or self timer mode.
Movie mode, with 'time remaining' display. As in record mode you can choose from three levels of information overlaid on your images when in playback. You can also view your images by the date they were taken using the calendar mode.
The play menu has all the usual options, plus Casio's range of in-camera editing functions. These include changing white balance, brightness, color and - as here - lifting the shadows using the Dynamic range expander. In all cases the edited image is saved as a new file.
Although designed primarily for copying artwork we had some fun using keystone correction for straightening out verticals in landscape shots. You also get Casio's Color Correction option for auto correction of copies of old photos (not sure I'll be using that one too often). Finally print options; as well as the usual DPOF ordering you can combine several pictures into a single layout (this option is also available when shooting).
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