Casio QV-4000

The QV-4000 greatly improves on the design and look of predecessors in Casio's QV series. The QV-4000 feels solid, and most of the buttons and dials work smoothly. This model also turned in impressive image quality scores in our lab tests: All shots were sharp and properly exposed. Enlargements of our test-pattern photos were especially good, with little or no color banding or moire distortion. In our outdoor shots, the Casio retained the details in deep shadows. We did notice some minor mottling in the blue sky, which also showed a very slight purple cast. Battery life was an impressive 389 shots--the second best of all the cameras we've tested--despite the camera's reliance on two simple AAs.

Like its forebears, the QV-4000 has a bumper crop of control buttons and dials, minimizing the need to work through menus. Its selector dials make the Casio relatively fast to operate: One dial, for example, lets you select between program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual exposure modes. Another dial, next to the shutter release, lets you rapidly choose your aperture or shutter setting if you're in program or manual mode. The menus are far simpler and cleaner than those found in earlier models. The QV-4000 retains the Best Shot mode of earlier Casio models; it's easier to use and far more flexible than what you find in most digital cameras.

The manual focus on this model is almost useless. You have to use the thumb-button and watch the image in the LCD viewfinder to focus nearer or farther away. Unfortunately, this process is extremely slow and gives you no icon or gauge to indicate whether you're going in the right direction. Though the camera records AVI movies, it can't capture audio.

The menu navigation button looks like a miniature joystick that you wiggle up, down, or sideways. Pressing straight down makes your selection. This generally works well, though the push-select was too sensitive on our test unit. When we tried to set the time, the unit kept booting us out of the day/date menu before we'd finished entering the current time and date.

The camera's zoom button, which is situated where your right thumb would naturally rest, felt a bit stiff, but zooming is quiet and smooth. Deleting unwanted shots while in shooting mode takes no time at all; just press the Preview button and select Yes or No. A small LED panel on top of the Casio offers a wealth of useful information, including exposure and aperture value settings and shutter speed (after you press the shutter release halfway down). The other benefit of this arrangement is that you don't have to turn the battery-sapping main LCD panel on to get the settings information. One odd quirk about the LED: When the camera is in aperture priority or shutter priority mode, you must turn the main LCD on to change the aperture or shutter speed. With the LCD off, the LED displays the last setting you selected for the aperture or shutter speed, but you can't change either with the selector dial.

Other useful features in the QV-4000 include a panorama mode, manual white-balance calibration, spot metering, bracketing, and both multiarea and spot-focusing options. For business documentation, you can add a time-and-date stamp right on the image.

The QV-4000 is a flexible, inexpensive camera for families or businesses, and it's easy for people with very different photographic interests and skill levels to use.

Casio QV-4000

4.1 megapixels, 2240 by 1680 maximum resolution, 34mm to 102mm focal range (35mm film equivalent), f2-f8 aperture range, shutter speeds from 60 seconds to 1/1000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, USB and video connections, 16MB CompactFlash card, two rechargeable AA batteries, 16.6 ounces with batteries, Photo Loader 2.0, Photohands 1.0, Panorama Editor 1.0.

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