If you need a rugged camera or rugged phone, there are better options. But if you need a hybrid that can do both fairly well, the Casio Exilim won’t disappoint.
Pros: Small for a camera and phone combo; 5.1 megapixel
Cons: A bit awkward aiming and shooting photos; flash is actually a solid light that does not work well in darkness
Ease of use: C
Price: $279 with $50 rebate and a two-year Verizon service contract
When you first handle the Casio Exilim, you will think you are holding a typical digital camera. Only it looks a little unusual because there’s no optical view-finder window behind the unit, so you can’t look through and take a shot. That’s because there’s a flip phone built onto the back of the camera. When you pop it open, it stops looking like a camera and starts looking like a cell phone, though with a slightly thicker base behind the dial pad to accommodate the 5.1 megapixel camera.
You aim and shoot photos using the 2.3-inch, 240 x 320 screen, which is how a lot of cell phone cameras work. The main difference here is that it’s a 5.1 megapixel camera so the resolution of your photos will be good -- in optimal circumstances. And the Exilim has a flash, although it’s more of a flashlight. A bright LED that sits above the lens is activated when you turn on the flash. The light stays on while you are aiming and shooting, kind of like the light on a video camera. Although the light is bright for its size, we found that it’s not powerful enough to take pictures in a darkened room if your subject is more than about three feet from the camera. So although having a light makes picture-taking possible in darker conditions, it’s nowhere near the power of a typical flash.
The photos look good, better than they do on the camera’s screen, though perfect lighting conditions help.
In terms of ruggedness, the Exilim can resist blowing water, shock and dust. The water and dust protection comes from the fact that all of the ports are protected by watertight seals. We blew water across it for more than 30 minutes, and none got inside. However, the seals are not designed to go underwater. They might work for a while but would eventually fail if totally submerged. So keep your Exilim on your boat and not beneath it.
For shock, the phone/camera passed all our Mil-Std 810G testing without a scratch. It’s not as difficult to make smaller devices rugged against shock, but still, protecting a camera against 36-inch drops onto plywood over concrete is impressive.
The truth is that if you want a truly rugged digital camera, you should pick up the Olympus Tough-8000. And if you need a rugged phone, the Motorola Adventure v750 is a good choice. The Exilim is more difficult to use as a camera than a dedicated model, and it is bigger and more unwieldy than a rugged cell phone. But if you would like a hybrid that can do both fairly well or need better photos than most cell phone cameras can manage, then this jack-of-all-trades won’t disappoint.
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