Design & Usability
The glossy finish comes in a variety of colors (black, red, pink, white, and baby blue), but that’s not enough to excuse the lack of creative control and subpar image quality. It’s certainly a compact camera, capable of fitting into almost any pocket, but its unique range of colors is really the only design element it has going for it. The controls don’t really mesh well with the body, but the buttons are few enough to make for a fairly intuitive experience.
In fact, if there’s one thing the EX-N1 has going for it, it’s intuitiveness. Perhaps it’s the limited buttons and lack of manual control, but the menus were dead easy to navigate. Shooting involved considerable shutter lag and shot-to-shot time, but was otherwise straightforward.
There are very few bells and whistles. In theory, that could be either a good or a bad thing; in practice, it's not very good any way you look at it. If you want some control over the quality, sharpness, and tone of your images, you should probably look elsewhere. But even if you want a camera that will intelligently automate the exposure process, you still may be in the wrong place. Sure, it’s a cheap, simple, lightweight device with a cute shell, but the image quality is subpar to say the least.
Problems and shortcomings are myriad. We noticed considerable lag when testing the shutter response, and the sensitivity maxes out at a mere ISO 1600. The lens offers a run-of-the-mill 5x zoom, although it did move pretty quickly. The aperture was also unimpressive, ranging from f/3.2 to f/8.0 across the zoom range. Worse yet, none of these variables can be manually controlled—not really a concern for novices, but a serious weakness for capturing moving subjects or shooting in extreme lighting conditions.
The EX-N1 offers HD video, but with some pretty unimpressive specs: it maxes out at just 720/30p. Other notable hardware highlights include an anti-shake mode, a 26mm equivalent wide-angle, and autofocus tracking. On the software side, the camera's “Best Shot” feature affords an array of scene modes (self-portrait, pet, flower, and so on) tuned to reflect specific shooting conditions.
As smartphone cameras continue to improve, compact cameras—particularly low-end models such as the EX-N1—are being nudged out. The result is an ultimatum for the industry: innovate… or die! Unfortunately, the EX-N1 really doesn't do anything in the way of innovation, and we have to predict it will indeed die on store shelves, despite its bargain-basement price. With image quality comparable to a high-end smartphone, but lacking the smartphone's all-important network connectivity, ultra-low-end compact digital cameras like this one are looking at a bleak future.
Some people—and let us emphasize, some people—believe that the color of their camera should complement their outfit. These people also carry Pomeranians around in their arms and take duckface photos. Said another way, the craft of photography isn't their primary concern. For these individuals, the Casio Exilim EX-N1 might be a perfect camera.
Our first impression of the EX-N1 was that it is cheap, and indeed it is. As of now it’s only available in Europe, but a Casio representative told us it sells for roughly 100 Euro. This is certainly low for a 16.1-megapixel point-and-shoot with video capabilities, but when it comes to image quality, versatility, and control, we think there are plenty of better options out there—like your phone, for instance.