The EX-S10 is so tiny it’s hard to take it seriously, but its metering and autofocus systems work very well and overall image quality proved pretty impressive for colour, tonal range and lack of noise. Sharpness could be a bit better and the small and fiddly controls can be annoying.
Impressive image quality
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Casio's original design brief for its Exilim 'card' range was that they should be pretty much the same height and width as a credit card.
The new EX-S10 follows these principles while, more remarkably, slimming down the overall package to just 15mm in depth, making it the world's smallest 10MP digital camera.
World's smallest 10MP camera
Despite this, it can produce relatively large images and sports a clear, bright and comparatively large 2.7-inch LCD.
That large LCD takes up almost the entire back panel of the camera, leaving only a 17mm sliver down the right-hand side for all the control buttons and a four-way thumb pad.
The resulting controls pose a challenge to anyone without the most delicate of digits. Suffice to say, if you find it hard to compose text messages on a mobile phone with tiny buttons, the EX-S10 could prove quite frustrating.
Surprisingly good pictures
Somehow Casio has managed to jam a new 1/2.3-inch sensor into the wafer-thin gap behind the 3x zoom lens. Our first thoughts were that the image quality would be noisy, even at low sensitivities.
Surprisingly, images recorded at ISO 50 are clean as a whistle, and remarkably noise-free up to ISO 200. Even at ISO 400 and 800, noise is kept well under control, without too much smoothing going on in the signal-processing path to mask its appearance. It's only at the top speed of ISO 1600 that noise becomes an issue.
In Auto mode, the colours are vibrant but natural, while the contrast is punchy without unduly washing-out highlights or submerging low-light detail into the gloom. Sharpness from the tiny lens and subsequent image-processing system is reasonable, although nowhere near a match for Casio's slightly fatter sibling, the 12MP EX-Z1200.
Softness creeps in to an even larger extent at the edges and corners of images, while barrel distortion is also very noticeable at the wide-angle end of the zoom range.
Casio improves some old favourites
Moving away from fully auto shooting, you don't get the luxury of Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes, let alone Metered Manual. However, Casio has taken its Best Shot offerings to new heights, with a wealth of scene modes.
Old favourites such as Portrait, Sports, Night and Scene are there, but, instead of just having one Scene mode, you get extras, including Autumn Leaves and Natural Green, which alter the colour curves to give spectacular results.
Natural Green mode is particularly good, producing results akin to Fujifilm's legendary Velvia film.
Other cunning new Best Shot modes include two self-portrait modes, where the camera waits until one or two subjects are comfortably in the frame before automatically taking the shot.
There's also a new take on anti-shake, with an Auto Shutter mode that waits for movement to stop on the part of the camera and the subject before shooting.
In our tests, this made for a higher percentage of sharp shots but it's no match for optical or even CCD-shift image stabilisation. A freakier option is Face Detection mode, which enables you to set the Auto Shutter to 'detect the moment of a smile' before taking the shot, although we had rather less success with this option.
Other novelty items are on hand in the video menu, with iTunes and YouTube capture modes.
Take your camera anywhere
All things considered, the EX-S10 is very much a snapshot camera and won't suit photographers who like to be in control of exposure settings.
However, the image quality is very good considering the minute size, and there are dozens of Scene modes to help get the best out of almost any shooting conditions. Best of all, the camera takes up so little pocket space that you can take it anywhere.
Who knows, you might never miss another priceless shot just because you left your camera at home.
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