Casio's Exilim G EX-G1 camera made a solid enough first impression with us when we got our hands on it in January, but we've now had a chance to use it a fair bit more both indoors and out, and reach some firmer conclusions about it. The short verdict is that the camera, like any other rugged device, comes with its fair share of compromises. If you value ruggedness over everything else, the Exilim G definitely deserves some serious consideration (especially in this price range). On the other hand, if you're looking for an all-around, everyday point-and-shoot that just so happens to be a bit more durable than the rest, you may well find yourself disappointed. Read on for our full review.%Gallery-81346%
Design and ruggedness
Unlike some other rugged cameras, the Exilim G doesn't exactly look like a rugged camera, but it is definitely distinctive. Available in your choice of red or black, the camera's angular design is accented with some hints of metal, and a pair of rubber protectors that can optionally be attached to one side of the camera for a bit more shock protection. What's noticeably lacking, however, is any sort of lens cover, which isn't really a problem in terms of protection (the lens has a hard plastic shield), but it does mean you'll have to be careful to clear any snow or dirt away from the lens before you take your pictures -- which will likely happen quite a bit with a camera designed for use in the great outdoors.
Another minor annoyance is the battery compartment, which is well protected from the elements (as is the memory card and micro USB port area), but can be a bit of a pain to open. Casio even provides a special tool for opening it (designed to be attached to the wrist strap), but you can also use anything small and pointy (even your fingers, if you're nimble enough) to open the compartment if you happen to lose the tool.
Those minor issues aside, we're actually quite taken with the look of the camera, and there's little question about its durability when you hold it in your hand. We didn't go all out in trying to destroy the camera, but it did hold up to some dunks in the snow and some cold, Canadian winter temperatures, and it should be equally adept in less wintery conditions that unfortunately weren't available to us. Of course, it's not indestructible, and there are more rugged cameras out there for especially demanding folks, but you can rest easy that you'll be able to toss the camera around with the rest of your gear and leave any pesky camera cases at home.
Image and video quality
Again, trade-offs are to be expected with a rugged camera, but we have to confess to being a bit disappointed with the Exlim G's image quality. For a point-and-shoot, the images aren't terrible, but in one condition after the next (even a clear, sunny day) our photographs just seemed a bit dull and unimpressive, and certainly not on par with many other non-rugged $300 cameras. Video quality is much the same story, but you do get a somewhat unique 848 x 480 widescreen shooting mode, and a dedicated YouTube mode to make uploads a bit easier.
Like other Casio point-and-shoots, you'll also get a generous supply of automatic "Best Shot" modes (even including an eBay mode), although manual controls are expectedly quite a bit more limited, and some of them (like the higher ISO settings) are probably best left untouched. Check out the gallery below to get a general idea of how the camera performs.%Gallery-87816%
So, the Exilim G likely won't win over any professionals or would-be professionals looking for a compact camera to complement their DSLR, but we can't help but be a bit charmed by it. Its combination of slimness and ruggedness makes it more "grabbable" than most cameras and, in the old sense that the best camera is the one you have with you, that's not an insignificant consideration. Then again, it is something of a tough sell at $300 (considering some more capable cameras like the Canon SD980 IS in the same price range), but some retailers are already selling it for upwards of $50 off the list price, and if it ever dips down to the magical $200 mark, it'd be a downright bargain. One thing's for sure, we'll be looking forward to Casio's follow-up to the camera, and hoping all the while that it comes with a sensor that's a better match for the camera's rugged good looks.