The QV-R61 is the new flagship of Casio's QV-R series. This is a slightly bulkier, less expensive line running alongside its Exilim models. The QV-R61 takes over from the 5MP QV-R51, and Casio claims improved image quality and responsiveness for the new model.
Externally and functionally, it's essentially identical to the R51, but it's more expensive (we've seen the R51 for as little as £140).
New features in this model include Flash Assist, designed to compensate for underexposure in areas not reached by the flash, and an Auto Macro mode, where the camera automatically switches to macro with nearby subjects.
Give it your Best Shot
Casio's Best Shot modes are strong selling points, and these have been added to the QV-R61 with a new Business Shot mode. This automatically aligns photos taken at an angle, correcting perspective distortion to produce a perfect 'straight on' view.
It works particularly well - the camera displays crop marks around the shot you've just taken, and you can accept them or reject them if you want to crop the shot yourself. You won't often need to, though, because the Casio seems to work out the cropping/perspective adjustment with a high success rate.
A new Icon Help system uses pop-up balloons to guide beginners as they alter the settings, and these are in addition to the plainly written descriptions that accompany the camera's clever Best Shot modes.
There are 23 Best Shot modes, and they're essentially the same as Scene modes in other cameras. What you get here, though, is a sample thumbnail image together with a concise description of when to use the mode and how the camera settings are altered.
Shot of two halves
What's clever here is that you can take a shot using settings of your own choice, then configure a new user-defined Best Shot mode which uses imports and remembers these settings.
For example, you could set up a mode for mono photography at ISO 400 and infinity focus, and another for ISO 64 shooting with daylight white balance. With a little effort you can personalise this camera to suit your own style of photography.
The Coupling Shot and Pre Shot modes are also interesting. In Coupling Shot mode, you can take a shot in two halves, enabling you to get in the picture with your companion. In Pre Shot mode, you can frame a landscape shot, then hand the camera over to a passer-by, who will then see the shot previewed on the screen as a framing guide, ready for you to position yourself.
One problem with this camera is the lack of direct control over lens aperture. You wouldn't normally complain about this in a compact model, but the Casio is so well equipped in other areas that you start to miss it, especially when composing macro shots, where depth of field is shallow anyway.
The Casio's zooming range isn't brilliant, either. At 39-117mm equivalent, it's a bit lacking at the wide-angle end of the range. It displays a good deal of barrel distortion at its widest setting and this, combined with some pretty substantial fringing effects with some images, suggests that the lens isn't that hot, even though basic sharpness is okay.
This all means that performance is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the exposure system seems very good, and the colours and contrast are first rate, especially if you take advantage of the relevant Best Shot modes to suit the conditions you're shooting in.
But then the effect is often spoiled by barrel distortion manifested as bowed horizons, or by fringing in the branches of trees or other objects silhouetted against the sky.
Thankfully, the camera's handling and ergonomics are good. Admittedly, it takes a while to scroll through all the various Best Shot settings but, that aside, this is a quick camera to operate. On the back are two Direct-On buttons, one for Playback mode and one for Recording mode. If you press the Rec button, the camera's ready to shoot in around a second.
Battery life from the two AA cells is good. The Casio comes with two 2100MAh NiMH cells and a charger, which is pretty decent, and these will power the camera for up to 280 shots according to Casio, a figure which seems about right based on our experience with the camera.
You can use alkalines in an emergency, but you'll get far more reliable performance from Lithiumion photo batteries.
The Casio is good value, so despite its fringing it's well worth considering as a modest snapshot camera with unexpected depths. Fine, textured detail seems to be a little better with this camera than the QV-R51, but otherwise there's little to choose between them... Rod Lawton