Casio Exilim EX-M1

Into the ever-shrinking world of digital cameras comes a new breed of slim and practical supermodels from Casio. The $699 Exilim EX-M1 weighs 125 grams; it measures about 6cm high by 9cm wide by 1.3cm thick. The EX-M1's 1.2-megapixel image resolution, low by today's exacting standards, is good enough to handle Internet-bound photos or 3x5-inch prints.

My indoor and outdoor shots appeared bright and colourful on both the camera's LCD and my desktop monitor. But as you might expect with a 1.2-megapixel model, some edges weren't as sharp and smooth as they could have been, and some blues and reds looked drab. Unlike the similarly sized $329.95 Logitech Pocket Digital (which has a 0.3-megapixel resolution), the EX-M1 has a built-in flash, LCD, 4X digital zoom, video-capture mode, and Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard slot (though media isn't included).

The unit even doubles as an MP3 player; earphones and an audio control strip are bundled. Unfortunately, the memory card reader couldn't read the MP3s on a couple of my SanDisk SD cards. (Casio has created a downloadable firmware patch to correct this problem.) The EX-M1 does pack 12MB of internal memory -- scant space for an MP3 collection, but enough to store 24 photos in 1280x960 mode, 75 photos in 640x480 mode, or 15 in 1600x200 mode at the normal compression setting.

Another snag: the power button and the shutter button are situated too close together on the EX-M1's top right edge; as a result, instead of pressing the shutter button to take a picture, you might inadvertently turn the camera off.

You can transfer photos from the Exilim to a PC via the included USB cradle (which doubles as a battery charger) or by using a memory card and reader. If you don't need this model's MP3 player and audio recording capability, opt for the less expensive ($579) version, the Exilim EX-S1.Shutterbugs who can settle for average-looking snapshots will appreciate the EX-M1's sleek and portable size, along with its handy imaging and audio features.

Casio Exilim EX-M1

3.5 stars.

Fashionably thin but pricey this mini camera comes with some useful perks, including an LCD and a memory card slot.

Price: TBA.

Phone: (02) 9415 5555.

URL: www.casio.com.au.

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