Hands on With Casio's YouTube Digital Camera

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Casio Computer Co. Ltd. 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 Inc., 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 US$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 US$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.

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