iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail







May 8, 2003

Left to right: Casio EXILIM EX-Z3, Casio EXILIM EX-S3 and Minox

Recently Casio has launched two more miniature cameras. EX-S3 is a direct successor of the famous line of 1&2Mp cameras. A new model has 3Mp packed in a body of the same dimensions, and its lens can now blink, - it has protective shutters instead of the cap and cover. Finally, the new camera sports a gigantic 2" LCD screen. 


Left to right: Casio EXILIM EX-Z3, Casio EXILIM EX-S3

Model EX-Z3 hardly yields to the more functional solutions of the line: 3x lens zoom, manual focusing, 6 cm minimal shoot distance, tripod hole, a sturdy metallic body and a size less than a cigarette pack  - all this makes it a decent successor of "spy" 16mm cameras like Minox, Minolta-16, and Kiev-30. Sure, it's possible to make cameras even smaller but convenience of handling will suffer. Here we have a camera which you can easily take with you anywhere and comfortably use for registering any objects you like. You can make a shot of landscape, portrait, outside scene and documents in a library of your competitor's office :). Quality of the 3Mp camera allows recognizing images and making text files out of them. The camera is sensitive enough for shooting pages of a book right on your lap at the room lighting. On the large screen you can instantly estimate quality and even read the text right from the screen. The camera has no full manual control, but indicated exposure and aperture (when the release button is half pressed) and supported exposure correction can help you achieve the parameters you want. A brightness histogram and best shot mode are also provided. Try these modes in different combinations, and you can get almost any exposure and aperture values like in a manual mode. 

Casio EXILIM EX-Z3 menu

This is how the display looks like when you are shooting
Enlarged central area in manual focusing mode





Although both are 3Mp cameras, they have different matrices: EX-Z3 - 1/2.5", EX-S3 - 1/1.8". Today most cameras have focal length indicated as an equivalent (by visual angle) for a 35mm camera. Most cameras, like these ones, have minimal focal length equivalent to 35 mm for cameras working with 35mm films. In this case the actual focal length corresponds to the wide frame side. In our case it is 5.8 mm and 7.1 mm, i.e. almost twice lower than that of cameras using 16mm films. Kiev-30 shown on the first photo has a 13x17mm frame and Industar-M 3.5/23 lens. Lens resolution of today's digicams is higher than that of film counterparts. It can register almost 2048 pixels along the long side. Let's compare this resolution with the designed resolution of Industar M lens installed in Kiev 30 camera. The hyperfocal length of this camera is equal to 5 m - hence the designed resolution of 1100 pixels. 16mm cameras appeared in the late 30s of the last century when roll-film cameras quality of which outdoes even modern professional press cameras prevailed. But this class found its niche, and, therefore, a large resolution is not determining for it. That is why 3Mp cameras of such size and technical characteristics won't become obsolete. The only reason one would want to replace such camera will be its depreciation or change of fashion. In spite of the sturdy metallic body digital cameras live less than film ones, though only Time knows it for sure.

The camera uses an original compact lens from PENTAX. Its focal length changes from 5.8 mm to 17.4 mm, with the aperture varying from 1:2.6 to 1:4.8. Significant dependence of the aperture ratio on the focal length is the cost of a compact design. This lens is not simply compact. PENTAX' Sliding Lens system saves vital space by storing the lenses in two stages, allowing the central lens group to move to the side of the optical axis rather than within it. You can download MPEG clip (1 MB) from Pentax's site to see how the system works. The clip is beautiful but so fast that you'd better watch it frame by frame. Pentax produces also its own camera PENTAX OptioS with such lens. It's even smaller than Casio's baby by 4, 5 and 3 mm in dimensions, and lighter by 28 g. It is smaller due to a 1.6" LCD instead of a 2" one of Casio. But I think the game is not worth the candle. Casio's larger display makes its camera more functional. 

These two miniature cameras target those who want a camera always at hand and who don't shoot much. They are not for long trips as they need PC and power networks nearby. The cameras are equipped with docking stations for recharging and data transfer to PC. The stations have two buttons: one initiates data transfer to PC via USB, the other photo displaying. 

The docking stations are USB connected to PC and use an external power unit for charging batteries. EXILIM EX-S3 has a very compact unit with a little recessed plug. By an adapter which we have to use to comply with our local standard brings to zero the advantages of such solution. 

Power supply unit of Casio EXILIM EX-S3

The cameras incorporate a large chunk of memory, 10 MB, and supports SD memory cards. It's not a problem to provide enough memory for a long trip, though the battery may become an obstacle, especially if you will often admire photos on such a charming screen.



These cameras target different users. EX-S3 is ideal for foreground images. Due to the fixed focal length the camera gets ready in no time. EX-Z3 is much more universal and it can register objects of different sizes from stamps to skyscrapers. Thanks to the 3x zoom you will have to move less to choose an optimal frame, which actually makes up for a heavier weight in comparison with its counterpart. On the whole, its design looks logical, and it incorporates as many technical wonders as possible per a volume unit. EX-S3 is not less logical, but it would look much better if it had, like Kiev 30, mechanical control of aperture and focusing. It could be a perfect solution, given to the matrix linear size and the reliable lens with the fixed focal length. Two plain levers on the surface of the lens mount could provide for an aperture priority mode and ideal focusing with LCD. The engineers could also bring in here locks to fix an open aperture and hyperfocal length. Thus, Casio has to make a step forward from Kiev-Vega to Kiev 30.


Weight 72 g without battery 126 g without battery
Dimensions 90 x 57 x 12 mm 87 x 67 x 23 mm
Frame size (max)
2048 x 1536 
Record format
JPEG (EXIF 2.2) 
Matrix CCD 1/1.8" 3.14 M effective pixels CCD 1/2.5" 3.14 M effective pixels
Lens F=7.1 mm (35mm in 35mm equivalent), F:4.2 F= 5.8 - 17.4 mm (35 - 105 mm), F:2.6 - F:4.8
Aperture F:4,2 F:2.6, F:4.3 at F=5.8 mm
Exposure 1s - 1/6400 s 1 - 1/2000 s 
2.0", 84,960 pixels (354 x 240) 
Focusing fixed for hyperfocal length Auto and manual from 6 cm
10 MB built-in + SD/MMC card 
Power supply
NP-20 Li-Ion 3.7 v 680 mAh. Weight - 16 g 




F=15 mm; F:4.4; 1/400 s 

F=10 mm; F:3.5; 1/40 s 

F=7 mm; F:2.8; 1/80 s 



F=7.1 mm; F:4.2; 1/400 s 




F=6 mm; F:4.3; 1/640 s 
F=7.1 mm; F:4.2; 1/1000 s 
Click on a picture to see the original.


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