Casio EX-P505Most of Casio’s Exilim cameras have been trim, low-profile units that fit easily into a pocket. Not so with the Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505, which is about as slim and elegant as a sock full of golf balls.

In fact, it’s hard to know what name to give this oddly shaped camera, which looks like nothing we’ve ever seen. A stocky lens barrel, about the width of a can of Red Bull and half as long, is grafted on to the left side of a compact body. A bulging hand grip swells on the front right side, while a foldout screen takes up most of the back. The whole thing is asymmetrical and lumpy, yet also somehow vaguely cool-looking — but maybe that’s just because it’s black.

Unfortunately, the EX-P505 is not small enough to fit into a pocket, which leads us to wonder: If you’re going to carry a camera that requires a bag, shouldn’t you get one that takes decent pictures?

The promise of that elongated lens barrel is a quite good 5x optical zoom. Combine that with 5 megapixels of resolution, and you’d think the EX-P505 would be able to take some great shots. You’d be wrong: Although it’s a reasonably fast shooter, with shutter lag of 0.5 seconds, pictures are frequently out of focus, indoor shots with the flash off are consistently underexposed, and our clarity score of 1.9 is appallingly low for a 5-mexapixel camera. About the only situation in which the EX-P505 produces good-looking shots is outdoors on a sunny day.

The EX-P505 does a bit better as a compact video camera. Its ability to zoom while recording video — something that very few still cameras can do — means that you’ll have an easier time zeroing in on that really cute individual you just noticed in the beach scene you’re filming. Because of its small size and swiveling screen, it’s easy to hold the camera in unusual locations, such as near the ground or over your head. And it delivers good 640 x 480-pixel video with 30 frames per second.

The only real limitation is that the camera’s small mass means that video will be much shakier than with a full-size camcorder, unless you use a tripod or brace your arms against something.

The EX-P505 has a few other tricks up its sleeve. A “past movie” mode lets you capture past time (up to eight seconds before you press the shutter button) by continuously buffering video until you’re ready to shoot, but this is mostly a gimmick and not useful for much more than running the batteries down. For still photographers, the camera offers a variety of options for shooting manually, and its Best Shot mode lets you pick from among 22 different preprogrammed settings, for shooting fireworks, sunsets, flowers, documents, and more.

Overall, the Casio Exilim EX-P505 is an easy-to-use camera with a novel design and substandard still-image quality. It might make a good addition to the movie kit of a well-heeled digital journalist, but otherwise it’s a little hard to know what to do with it. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Decent video in a compact package
Worst Feature: Disappointing, fuzzy still image quality

Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505
Price: $485
Weight: 8.4 ounces
Size: 3.9 x 3 x 2.1 inches
Specs: 5 megapixels; 5x optical zoom; 640 x 480-pixel, 30-fps AVI video recording; 2-inch LCD; SD card slot; 7.5MB of internal memory

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Link: Casio Exilim Pro EX-P505

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