Hands on with Casio’s YouTube digital camera

Martyn
Williams, IDGNS

Casio
Computer has developed its first digital cameras with a video mode optimized
for YouTube. They come with software that can upload clips to the popular
video-sharing Web site with a single click.

Called the
Exilim EX-S880 and EX-Z77, the cameras are the result of a deal between Casio
and Google, which owns YouTube, that gives Casio exclusive rights to the
YouTube features until the end of this year.

The
cameras will be released worldwide, starting in the
U.S.
in August, followed by Europe and
Asia soon
after. We had a chance to try out the higher-end of the two, the EX-S880, which
will be priced at $300, in

Tokyo
on Wednesday. They are both digital still cameras that also shoot video, rather
than dedicated video cameras.

Like many
other Exilim models, the EX-S880 is thin and fits into a shirt pocket. At 94
millimeters by 60 mm by 17 mm, it’s not much larger than a cell phone and
weighs about the same, at 128 grams.

Behind the
3X optical zoom lens is an 8.1 megapixel image sensor that delivers pictures at
up to 3,264 pixels by 2,448 pixels resolution. There are seven still image
modes, including 16:9 and 3:2 aspect ratio settings, and six video modes, which
range from a 320 pixel by 240 pixel low-quality mode to an 848 pixel by 480
pixel wide-screen, high quality mode at 30 frames per second. Video is recorded
in MPEG4 H.264 as a Quicktime .mov file.

The camera
doesn’t need to be switched between its still and video modes thanks to two
shooting buttons. One, on the top of the camera, takes still images and
another, in the upper right corner at the rear, is for video. The lack of a
still/video mode confused me initially and I couldn’t figure out how to shoot a
movie until someone explained the buttons to me. After getting the secret it
proved very easy to use.

So how do
you get a clip onto YouTube? First, you switch to YouTube-optimized mode in the
shooting mode selection screen, which sets the capture to 640 pixels by 480
pixels at 30 frames per second. Then you shoot as many videos as you like.

You then
slip the camera into a dock, which comes with the device and plugs into your PC
(Windows XP SP2, 2000 SP4 and
Vista only).
This automatically starts a video management application on the computer and
grabs the movie files. The application can be set up with a YouTube account,
default title name and other settings, so getting the video online involves
simply clicking the upload button. Alternatively, you can enter information
specific to the clips and then upload them.

Once the
upload was complete it took about 10 minutes for the clips to appear on
YouTube. While it’s not particularly difficult to upload clips manually to
YouTube, the software certainly makes it much easier, especially if you have
several clips to put online.

In
addition to the YouTube features, the camera is packed with optimized modes for
still images such as fireworks, twilight, parties, sports, candlelight
portrait, and others.

Casio
plans to sell both cameras worldwide. In the

U.S. the EX-S880 will be priced at
$300 and the EX-Z77 at $230. They’ll also be launched in Europe from August and
be available at about the same time in
Asia.