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Testing / Performance
**Color ***(6.7)*We began our round of testing by analyzing the color reproduction of the Casio Exilim EX-S600, shooting pictures of the GretagMacbeth color chart, which the imaging industry uses as a standardized testing tool for measuring color reproduction. After taking the pictures, we uploaded them into Imatest imaging software. This program did the analyzing for us and output a few helpful charts to show just how accurate the S600’s colors are. Below is a chart modified by Imatest, which shows the original color of the GretagMacbeth chart in the inner vertical rectangle and the camera’s version of that color in the outer square. The inner square shows the computer-corrected ideal.
Imatest also output a chart for those of us who have a hard time telling the quantitative difference between the colors in the rectangles and the squares. In the graph below, the ideal colors of the vertical rectangles are depicted as circles. Colors from the Casio S600 are squares. A line connecting a circle and a square represents the amount of error the camera made when reproducing that tone.
The Casio Exilim EX-S600 had a lot of trouble with the cooler tones, although many of the colors are just a bit off. These results earned the camera a 6.7 overall color score and an 8.96 mean color error. The S600 over-saturated colors by 8 percent, which is common in, and expected of, compact digital cameras.
**Still Life Scene **
Below is a shot of our compellingly lush still life scene as captured by the Casio Exilim EX-S600, enjoy.
Click on the above image to view a full resolution version (CAUTION: the linked file is very large!)](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=S600_still_life.JPG )
**Resolution/ Sharpness ***(3.99)*This digital camera is equipped with a 1/2.5-inch CCD that accommodates 6 megapixels. To test the sensor’s effectiveness, we took several pictures of an industry standard 12233 resolution chart at various focal lengths and apertures. We uploaded the pictures into Imatest imaging software, which determined the optimal focal length and aperture for getting the sharpest results, along with the line widths per picture height (lw/ph) that the camera can read horizontally and vertically across the frame. Other common tests for analog cameras express the results as line pairs per picture height (lp/ph). Because this measurement doesn’t allow us to standardize scores for the various sizes of digital imaging sensors, we use the lw/ph unit.
Click on the image above to view full size file](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=CasioS600-ResCH-LG.jpg)
The Casio Exilim EX-S600’s best results came from a shot taken with a xx focal length and an aperture of f/xx. Vertically, the S600 resolved 1203 lw/ph and under-sharpened by 2.01 percent. Horizontally, the camera read 1730 lw/ph and under sharpened by 1.59 percent. These numbers are a little below average for a 6 megapixel model, giving the S600 an overall resolution score of 3.99. **Noise – Auto ISO *(2.1)*The Casio EX-S600 is one of those ultra slim compact cameras that will attract an automatically-oriented audience. With such a following, this camera should theoretically have accurate and solid automatic features. We tested its noise levels in the automatic ISO setting, and were a bit disappointed. The camera produced the same relatively high amount of noise that it produces around ISO 300 in manual mode, giving the S600 an unsatisfactory 2.1 overall automatic ISO noise score. Noise – Manual ISO ***(5.18)*We tested the noise levels at each manual ISO setting of this compact Casio Exilim. Noise levels at even the ISO 50 setting were higher than those on comparable cameras. The noise increased slightly for the ISO 100 setting and a touch more for ISO 200, then jumped significantly at ISO 400. Below is a chart showing these results, with the ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the noise levels on the vertical.
These results averaged out to a decent manual ISO noise score of 5.18. Users should avoid the automatic ISO setting on the Casio S600 and opt for the less noisy manual setting. **Low Light Performance ***(4.0)*As the Casio Exilim EX S600 lacks a manual mode with which to slow the shutter speed, we tested it in both auto and night scene modes by photographing the GretagMacbeth color chart in diminishing light levels: 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. The light from 2 soft lamps produces about 60 lux. A single 40-watt bulb makes about 30 lux. 15 and 5 lux are very dark and hardly used in photography, but testing at these levels lets us know the limits of an image sensor. Results from both the auto and night scene modes were disappointing. The auto mode only slows the shutter speed to an eighth of a second, so its pictures were very dark and unusable. While the night scene mode slows shutter speed to 4 seconds, the anti-shake is disabled in this mode, so, while the shutter is open longer, the image is blurrier. The following images are from the S600’s night scene mode. These results are almost unusable as well. Even when the self-timer was used, the Casio S600 had a hard time focusing in low light, but overall illumination was better in images taken with the camera’s night scene mode. The illumination decreases with dimmer lighting, of course, but that is to be expected. What is surprising is the terribly blurry look. The abundance of noise and lackluster illumination doesn’t help either. Basically, don’t use the Casio Exilim EX-S600 in low light: you’ll get shots that are either blurry or very dark.
**Speed/ Timing***Start-up to First Shot (6.31)*The Casio Exilim EX-S600 took a while to get up and go. It took 3.7 seconds to start up and take an unfocused first shot; focusing adds another half second to the start-up time. Beware of awakening the S600, and have it ready long before any action begins. *Shot to Shot (8.13)*We used a SanDisk 128MB SD card, not a high-speed model, for testing. Without a designated burst mode, the S600 took a pedestrian 1.85 seconds in between shots. However, it kept up its slow pace for 21 shots and could have gone longer with a larger memory card. *Shutter to Shot (8.74)*There is some shutter lag with this model, but it’s not nearly as long as the lag on other ultra slim digital cameras. The Casio S600 took 0.13 seconds, from the moment the shutter release button was pressed, to capture the shot. When the flash was enabled, it took a longer 0.4 seconds.
The EX-S600's lens dominates the front of the camera, with a brushed-metal flange surrounding the telescoping mount. The lens is at the far right of the camera, with a thin brushed metal bar projecting to the left. Our sample camera is orange, and the plain metal tone of the bar pops from the orange colored-metal.
The front has a very small microphone hole to the lower left of the lens and an autofocus assist light to the upper left of the lens. The flash is a small, stylishly-shaped slot to the left of the AF light. The Casio logo is printed in the upper left corner of the front, and an Exilim logo is raised at lower left.
****The 2.2-inch LCD takes up most of the back of the EX-S600. The back isn't crowded, though, because there are only a few buttons, and they're small. Casio shoehorned a status light and three buttons into the narrow space above the LCD. From left to right, the items there are the status light, the Playback mode button, the Camera mode button, and, set a bit away from the others, the video shooting button.
The zoom buttons, one for wide and one for telephoto, are integrated into the wrist strap lug on the right side of the camera.
The four-way controller is a square pad with bumps for up, down, left and right navigation, and a center square "OK" button. Between the controller and the LCD, there are a Menu button and a "Best Shot" button, which is infelicitously labeled, "BS." These controls are low on the right side, leaving room for the user's thumb in the upper half of the back. The only feature between the controllers and the zoom buttons are three small holes for the speaker.
Left Side **(8.5)**
The left side of the camera has a single screw head and the seam between the front and back of the camera. As thin as the EX-S600 is, there isn't room on the side for jacks or other features.
Right Side **(8.5)**
The wrist strap lug pokes out from the otherwise plain right side of the EX-S600. The sides of the EX-S600 are completely rounded, and meet in a seam between the stainless steel front and back panels of the camera.
The top of the camera shows one of the racier design decisions made on the EX-S600, the subtly inclined top edge of the camera. A chrome strip rises from left to right, peaking at the shutter release. The power button is a small, nearly-flush bar just to the left of the shutter release.
The bottom of the EX-S600 features a chrome metal tripod bushing that looks sturdy and well made. Unfortunately, it's set nearly all the way to the left of the camera. The footprint of the EX-S600 is well less than half an inch wide, so it's going to be less stable on a tripod than other cameras.
The EX-S600's docking port is a bit to the left of center, and it provides USB connectivity, analog A/V connectivity, and power to recharge the battery. The right half of the bottom is taken up by a door that covers the battery and SD card slot.
The EX-S600 doesn't have an optical viewfinder. Users compose pictures on the LCD instead. On a camera as small as the EX-S600, there's no room for a useful viewfinder. The viewfinders we see on small compact cameras are invariably small, inaccurate and inconvenient to use, so we don't consider its absence a big loss.
LCD Screen (4.0)
The EX-S600 has 2.2-inch TFT LCD, which acts as the viewfinder, displays menus, and plays back images. Though the size is pretty good, the resolution – 84,960 pixels – is really awful. It's not good enough to evaluate video, let alone still shots. The LCD has a narrow angle of view: from an angle, the colors fade, and black tones go gray in a phenomenon called solarization. Casio says the LCD is twice as bright as last year's, for better outdoor performance. Admittedly, it is at least a bright LCD.
Casio reports the EX-S600's flash range is about 9 feet in wide angle and less than 5 feet in telephoto. Our wide shots at 9 feet looked a little dark, but usable. The telephoto shots at 5 feet looked about right. In general, this range is short of most competing cameras and will force the user to get closer to their subject for proper illumination.
The EX-S600's 6.2mm – 18.6mm, 3x zoom lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.7 to 5.2, and is equivalent to a 38 to 114mm in 35mm terms. We saw significant barrel distortion at the wide angle setting and color fringing throughout the zoom range. We would notice both problems in snapshot-sized prints. Casio notes that the lens includes an aspheric element.
The EX-S600 has 4x digital zoom, which digitally magnifies the center of the lens's image, but reduces quality at about the same rate that it increases size.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance(8.5)
The sample EX-S600 we received is a snappy persimmon orange, a few shades darker than my first Schwinn bicycle. It's very slim, and it seems that its appearance was as important in its design as its function. It's very shiny, which means that it's slick easy to drop.
The top of the camera is on an incline, so that the shutter-release end is about 1/8 of an inch taller than the lens end. The curves of the two ends of the body echo the curving "E" of the Exilim brand. The labeling and buttons are small, so that the camera doesn't look crowded.
Size / Portability (9.0)
The Exilim EX-S600 is very small, small enough to fit in some pretty small pockets and small purses and bags. Casio supplies dimensions of 3.54 x 2.32 x 0.63 inches, but can't resist adding that at its thinnest, the S600 is only 0.54 inches thick. Without the battery – which doesn't weigh much -- the S600 is barely more than 4 ounces. It isn't going to be a burden in many circumstances.
Part of portability is durability, though. We see a few signs that the EX-S600 may leave a pocket or purse less functional than it was going in. It is not well sealed against dirt or moisture. The power button is prone to turning the camera on accidentally if it's bumped, which would expose the front of the lens, and stress its collapsible barrel. The pretty orange finish is vulnerable to scratches, and they'll show up brilliantly. On the other hand, the camera is primarily metal, so it may survive drops better than some of its competition.
Handling Ability (6.75)
The stylists' choices on the EX-S600 are both good and bad for the user who plans to take pictures. First, the camera is slippery and small. A camera that's hard to hold onto is hard to use, and the EX-S600 will present some frustrations this way. However, the sparseness of the EX-S600's controls offer an advantage. Though there is no textured grip on the back of the S600 for the user's thumb, there is plenty of space, in the right spot, for the thumb to rest. On the left side, the top and bottom of the camera are adequate spots for holding the camera as well.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size (5.0)
The designers did a good job placing the buttons on the EX-S600. They're small, which many mean trouble for users with very large hands, but for many others, the controls are large enough, and placed well enough that it's fairly easy to avoid hitting the wrong one accidentally. The OK button in the center of the 4-way controller is the least well placed button, but we had relatively little trouble with it.
The EX-S600's menus are displayed over a live preview. The text is large and readable, and has a subtle drop-shadow that makes it readable against all sorts of backgrounds.
The EX-S600's Set Up menus are available in either shooting or playback modes. A separate menu comes up in Playback mode.
Ease of Use (7.0)
The EX-S600's fully automated shooting mode isn't hard to use, but it can be confusing to set the camera's options. The button that accesses custom image presets, which Casio calls "Best Shot" modes, is labeled simply, "BS." Setting aside the scatological reference, "BS" isn't likely to ring a bell for most users. Other touted technologies, such as the Anti Shake system, appear as both a Best Shot mode, and as an item in the shooting menu. It might be more flexible that way, but more likely, it's just confusing.
Auto Mode (6.5)
The EX-S600 is an automatic camera. It offers a fully automated mode and more than 30 scene modes. Exposure, ISO, White Balance, and focus can all be automated.
The EX-S600's exposures were generally usable, though we found that they were not entirely consistent – some of our outdoor shots were overexposed – too bright – and many of our shots in low light were too dark. Many point-and-shoot cameras tend to be sloppy in this regard. However, for many snapshooters, this may suffice.
Movie Mode (7.25)
The EX-S600 saves movies as MPEG-4 files. It offers two quality levels at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second, and one quality level at 320 x 240 pixels and 30 frames per second. The Anti Shake option is available in movie mode. The Past Movie function saves buffered video from the 5 seconds before the user starts making a movie. The EX-S600 allows the user to takes still snapshots while making a movie, though our effort at that interrupted the video. The video component of the EX-S600 may be the strongest imaging attribute on the camera.
Casio notes that a 1GB SD card will hold an hour of video, and that the EX-S600's battery will shoot about 1 hour and 50 minutes of video.
For users considering how they might enjoy their EX-S600 videos, "Motion Print" will convert a movie into a series of 9 still shots – or just one – for printing.
Drive / Burst Mode (4.0)
The EX-S600 has a burst mode. Casio says its performance depends on the memory media in the camera. we found its performance slow in all mode, taking over a second and a half between successive shots.
Playback Mode (7.75)
The EX-S600 offers a range of display features including a calendar view to find images based on the date shot, a 9-shot thumbnail mode, and a full-screen mode, with image data, shooting data, or without data. The screen will enlarge images up to 8x, though the poor quality of the screen limits its usefulness for evaluating images.
Casio incorporated a range of options into the EX-S600's slide show. The user can choose to show all images, just stills, just movies, or just favorites. It also offers three transitions: cross fade, fade to white, and shutters. The user can set a length of time for the whole show, and a length of time for each still image.
Custom Image Presets (9.0)
The EX-S600 has 34 custom image presets. They aren't all useful, but it's remarkable how many Casio thought of.
There are standard ones, such as Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with Scenery, Sports, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Backlight, High Sensitivity, Monochrome and Twilight. These modes adjust exposure, ISO, color, sharpening and so on to match common conditions for each type of photo.
The EX-S600 also has an "Anti Shake," mode, which increases the ISO setting to allow faster shutter speeds. Its "Old photo" mode boosts colors, squares up right angles and allows cropping, for copying old snapshots.
The EX-S600 allows custom scene modes. By selecting an image in memory, the user can create a mode that matches the settings in place when the selected image was taken. In an example of customization unlikely to be matched soon, and unlikely to ever be used, the EX-S600 can record up to 999 such modes.
The EX-S600's other modes are broadly similar to the basic ones. They are: Children, Candlelight Portrait, Party, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Autumn Leaves, Soft Flowing Water, Splashing Water, Sundown, Food, Text, Collection, Retro, Business cards and documents, White board, etc.
The EX-S600 also has four Best Shot Movie modes: Silent, Short Movie, Past Movie, and Voice Recording. "Past Movie" takes advantage of the camera's video buffer. When the movie button is pressed, it saves the previous 5 seconds of video, which are in the camera's buffer, to memory, and then continues to record. It's also possible to save custom Best Shot modes for video.
**Manual Control Options **
The EX-S600 does not offer direct control of aperture or shutter speed. It offers manual focus, ISO, and white balance, as well as exposure compensation. The EX-S600 also offers manual control of sharpness, saturation, and contrast via menu controls.
Auto Focus (5.0)
The EX-S600 uses a contrast detection system for autofocus. Its near-focus limit in macro mode is under 6 inches. The user can select either center-spot focusing, or a 9-zone mode, in which the camera chooses a contrasty object near the middle of the frame, and focuses on it. The LCD displays the zone that is in focus. An autofocus assist light lights up the center of the frame for focusing in low light.
Manual Focus (1.5)
The EX-S600's manual focus mode is cumbersome and inaccurate. When it's active, the user must press the center button in the four-way controller, and then use the side buttons to adjust focus. The center of the frame is enlarged to show sharpness a little better, but the enlarged view is even worse than the typical display – it doesn't ever get sharp, and significant color fringing further confuses the view.
There are two other options. Pan Focus focuses at 6 or 7 feet, which should cover many common subjects. Infinity focus is useful for landscapes.
The EX-S600 has an exposure compensation control that allows the user to set the exposure 2 stops above or below the meter reading, in 1/3-stop increments. That's a typical range of adjustment, and ought to be enough to compensate for backlighting and other very dark or bright backgrounds.
The EX-S600 offers three metering patterns: Multi-zone, which evaluates exposure in several areas of the frame, and sets the camera after comparing the readings; Spot, which takes a single reading at the center of the frame; and Center-weighted, which takes a single reading of the entire frame, with greater sensitivity at the center. Multi-zone is the most useful setting for highly automated cameras like the EX-S600.
White Balance (7.75)
The EX-S600 offers automatic white balance and six white balance presets, which the user can select manually. The presets are: Daylight, Overcast, Shade, two fluorescent types and tungsten. The EX-S600 also allows the user to create a custom white balance, by shooting a white surface.
The EX-S600 offers ISO settings from 50 through 400, plus Automatic. The camera will set itself to ISO 800 or 1600 when using the Anti Shake or High Sensitivity modes, which provides a bit more flexibility than most ultra slim cameras in low light situations.
Shutter Speed (0.0)
The EX-S600's electronic and mechanical shutter will take exposures from 1/2000 to 4 seconds, depending on the shooting mode. The full range is available in Night Scene mode, but most of the scene modes limit exposure to a range from 1/2000 to 1/8. The Fireworks mode sets exposure to 2 seconds.
The EX-S600 sets the aperture to either f/2.7 or f/4.3 when the lens is set to wide angle. The aperture value changes as the lens is zoomed but the values are not displayed on the screen.
**Picture Quality / Size Options **(7.0)
The EX-S600 offers six image sizes: 6 megapixel, 6 megapixel in 3:2 ratio, 4 megapixel, 3 megapixel, 2 megapixel, and VGA, which is about 0.6 megapixels. It also offers three compression settings, which are labeled Fine, Normal, and Economy.
Smaller image sizes make more compact files on memory cards and hard disks, but they show less detail. Likewise, "Economy" files are smaller, but are much lower quality than "Fine" images.
Picture Effects Mode **(7.5)**
The EX-S600 has a range of shooting effects, from the pedestrian black-and-white and sepia to a series of color effects. Called "filters" the effects add red, green, blue, yellow, pink, or purple casts to images as they are shot. Any of the effects are easy to duplicate with digital editing software on a computer.
Connectivity / Extras
The EX-S600 ships with Photo Loader and Photo Hands. The software allows the user to download images, organize them, edit, and print them, as well as prep images to send via email. Both programs are clumsy and difficult to use. Photo Hands uses an animal metaphor for its interface (clicking on different animals activates different functions), which wastes a lot of screen space. It's annoying for experienced users, and probably confusing for beginners. Ulead movie Wizard is also included, with an inducement to upgrade to VideoStudio for video editing.
*Jacks, Ports, Plugs *(6.0)
The EX-S600's dock has USB, analog video out, and DC power in for charging the battery. The camera's connection to the dock handles all those connections.
*Direct Print Options *(7.0)
The EX-S600 is both PictBridge and DPOF compatible. It can print directly to PictBridge printers, or save a DPOF print order to download at a lab or printer kiosk.
*Casio says the rechargeable lithium-ion battery will take 300 stills on a charge, or shoot 1 hour 50 minutes of video. That's an impressive battery life for a camera as small as the EX-S600. We did not precisely test those claims, but we did not need to recharge the battery to complete our routine testing.
The EX-S600 has 8.3 megabytes of internal memory and accepts SD memory cards. SD memory cards have become the most popular media format for compact cameras. They are available in a wide variety of sizes, and are often less expensive than less-popular formats.
Other Features (8.0)
*Anti-Shake Mode *- Casio touts an anti-shake mode, rather than optical image stabilization in its lens. Instead, the camera boosts ISO to allow higher shutter speeds to limit motion blur. Casio also claims the S600 employs a new noise reduction algorithm to reduce noise at higher ISO speeds.
Playback Roulette - The EX-S600 does a fast, random slide show through the images in memory if the user starts it up by pressing and holding the Playback and Left buttons simultaneously. The show stops on a random image.
*Three-shot self-timer *- The EX-S600's self-timer can be set to shoot three images after a 10-second delay.
World time settings - Perhaps an echo of Casio's dominance in the digital watch market, the EX-S600 knows the time in 162 cities in 32 time zones.
Pentax Optio S6 - The Pentax Optio S6 is a bit thicker than the EX-S600, but it packs in a much better LCD. At 2.5 inches and 232,000 pixels, it's a bit bigger, but has nearly three times the resolution of the EX-S600's display. Both cameras sport 3x zooms that run from slightly wide angle to moderately telephoto, and both use 1/2.5-inch CCDs. The S6 has 23 megabytes of internal memory, considerably more than the EX-S600's 8.3. Pentax lists the S6 at "under $350," while Casio's suggested retail for the EX-S600 is $399.
Fuji FinePix Z1 - The Fuji FinePix Z1 is another attempt at a flashy super-compact camera. With a metal body and a sliding cover, it's slick and pared-down. Fuji apparently is going for elegance, offering the Z1 in black or silver, while Casio's party colors are on the playful side. The Z1 is only a 5 megapixel camera, but it offers ISOs up to 800 in its normal mode, and the images captured at these settings look significantly better than Casio's low-light mode. The Z1's lens does not telescope out of the body, which should make it a much sturdier camera mechanically than the EX-S600. The Z1 is selling for as low as $250 online, though it listed for nearly $450 when it was introduced.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 *- The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 is, like the EX-S600, a flat, super compact, 6 megapixel point-and-shoot with a 3x optical zoom. Sony takes things up a couple notches, with optical image stabilization, 58 megabytes of internal storage, a 2.5-inch LCD with 230,000 pixels, and an all-internal lens. Sony's web site offers "pre-orders" for the T9 at $449.95, so it will be at least $50 more than the EX-S600, but that's not much to pay for stabilization, a good LCD, and 50 extra megabytes of storage.
Given the performance of the EX-S600 and the colors in which it is offered, the camera would just about have to be an impulse buy. For people who have to have an orange camera, the EX-S600 is the best game in town.
It is great though that the camera is made of stainless steel. The camera generally seems to be assembled well, too – parts fit together well, and the screws are seated precisely and centered in their holes. Attributes like those usually indicate durability, and Casio deserves credit. But when we see that sort of construction in a super compact camera, we expect to see internal focusing – like the Fuji Z1 or the Sony T9. The telescoping lens on the EX-S600, and many other cameras, is the most vulnerable mechanical assembly, and we expect problems with them.
On top of that, its poor image quality and slippery shape make it too impractical to recommend.
**Who It’s For **
*Point-and-Shooters *- The EX-S600 is targeted at point-and-shooters who want a tiny, cute camera. It's adapted for them. It would almost be fair to say that this very specific market segment was Casio designers' single-minded goal. Oddly, though, it's possible to save 999 custom picture modes on the EX-S600. Who knows who they were thinking of when they added that feature, but it wasn't point-and-shooters.
Budget Consumers - The EX-S600 is not cheap for what you get. Budget consumers should look for something bigger and cheaper, with more manual controls.
Gadget Freaks - Casio might have been hoping for gadgety types with the tiny size and stainless steel, but we think they missed. The video mode is too limited, and the technology is too far from the cutting edge.
Manual Control Freaks - The EX-S600 lacks the fundamental manual controls – aperture and shutter speed. Manual control freaks are usually interested in image quality, and the EX-S600 doesn't deliver that, either.
*Pros / Serious Hobbyists *- We don't think the EX-S600 has the image quality this market demands, even for a take-everywhere camera.
The EX-S600 isn't our style. It's very small and the design is bold, but the sad fact is that these are the most appealing things about the camera, and they won't help anyone take pictures. We appreciate that the camera is made of metal, but that's only a good start at making a durable imager. A camera is only as tough as its most vulnerable part, and the EX-S600'slens assembly and unsealed battery and memory compartment are pretty vulnerable. If the color and size were wrapped around a good imaging system, if the camera were tough enough to go where it can fit, and if it were easy to hold securely, we'd be enthusiastic. As it stands, there is clearly a market for tiny cameras; however, they generally come with some compromises. Unfortunately, for the S600, one of them is image quality.
Specs / Ratings