The trouble with wearing a crown is that there’s always someone else ready to take it from you. Barely a month had gone by from Casio’s announcement of the slimmest ever cam with 7x zoom, than up popped Samsung to announce the ever so slightly thinner L77, swiftly followed by Ricoh with its ‘wide-angle’ slim zoomer, the R6.
Such is the life of a gadget, but little EX-V7 isn’t ready for the scrapheap just yet. It’s still got more than enough tricks left up its brushed-metal sleeves to pull in the punters. Take the impressive manual mode, the two flavours of anti-shake and the stonking 848x480 widescreen video mode with stereo recording.
The slide-open lens cover is nicely sprung and powers up the camera instantly. We timed a solitary second to switch on, focus and fire off a shot – as speedy as Canon’s whippet-like Ixus 75.
The controls are reasonably well laid-out next to the 2.5in display. Not everything is immediately accessible. Lesser-used settings such as the white balance and ISO level are buried in the menus – but you can assign one of them to the left and right keys for speedier access.
Most users will stay in auto or ‘snapshot’ mode, which this camera does well, but if you fancy getting more creative then aperture and shutter priority are easily accessible from the main mode dial, as well as a full manual option. Dip into the menu and there’s even manual focus. Nice.
Zoom, zoom, zoom
The 7x zoom performed admirably. Not surprisingly there was a fair bit of distortion at either end of the range but our snaps generally proved razor-sharp. Colour was a little flat, but it can be given a boost by upping the saturation. Features like the live histogram help with getting the exposure right or just leave it up to the camera – it’s usually spot-on.
There are two modes of anti-shake; one that shifts the sensor to compensate for shaky hands (a must with such a big zoom) and a second one that increases the ISO to quicken the shutter speed when things get too dark. The first works excellently but the second only serves to increase the chances of unwanted noise so best leave it turned off.
In the dock
The bundled docking station makes it easy to hook up to a PC or TV. It also charges the camera, but not while pictures are being transferred. The V7’s higher-than-normal resolution movies look great on a TV and the stereo mic is surprisingly good. Video really shows up the lens’s barrel-like distortion, though, so be prepared for a few unwanted comedy mirror effects.
We were seriously impressed with the versatility of this cam. There’s an awful lot that’s been packed in, including options for those that want to take their photography further. It could do with being a touch more user-friendly, but otherwise we can’t fault it.