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Casio EXILIM EX-F1 digital camera reviewed

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When Casio first announced their new EXILIM EX-F1 digital camera at CES in January many people’s attention was captured. Why? Because it was a consumer level camera able to take 60fps of full-resolution photos or shoot video at up to 1,200fps.

David Pogue, tech writer for the New York Times, managed to get his hands on one and has posted a review.

What did he think?

He refers to it as a “time machine”, giving you the opportunity to “freeze time, slow time down and even capture photos of sudden events that you’ve already missed.”

What he’s referring to is the cameras pre-record mode–press the shutter buton half-way when you’re awaiting an event that isn’t staged (a sports play, a geyser erupting, etc.) and the camera will begin recording 60 shots per second and keep them as long as it can, then discarding the old ones to make room for the new ones. When you finally press the shutter down all the way the camera preserves the most recent shots, in effect photographing something you just missed.

The EX-F1 also contains a motion detector so you are able to set the camera down, press the shutter button and walk away. When the camera detects motion in the scene it will burst 60fps.

Another neat trick the EX-F1 can do is show you a show-motion version of what the camera sees through its lens, slowing down life to slow motion. As you see the shot you want, take it and you’ll catch back up with real-time.

Not quite impressed yet? Then lets talk about the EX-F1’s movie mode.

It has stereo microphones, a jack for an external mic, separate buttons for recording video and still frames so you’re able to snap a photo in the middle of recording video, and the video can even be recorded at 300, 600 or 1,200 frames a second giving you incredibly smooth, extremely slow motion. “No still camera has ever offered anything like this feature.”

Does it sound like the perfect camera? Time to talk down sides.

For starters, the video. The more frames per second you record, the smaller the video resolution is. As Pogue puts it, “at 1,200 frames a second, you’re dealing with a Triscuit-sized video in the center of your TV screen, surrounded by oceans of black margin.”

“Unfortunately, this highly unusual, almost experimental piece of equipment includes nearly as many downsides as breakthroughs.”

Even though its size is nearly that of a DSLR, it is “at its heart, an amateur camera. It contains a tiny light sensor (about half an inch diagonal, versus 1.1 inches in a beginner [SLR]. As a result, its light sensitivity is poor. Except in bright sunlight or studio lighting, those burst-model shots are often disappointingly dim or disappointingly blurry.”

To try and compensate, Casio included “one of the brightest and fastest flashes ever on a consumer camera: it can fire an amazing 7 times a second for up to 3 seconds. That superflash generally solves the light-sensitivity problem, but of course you might not want the characteristic harshness of flash photos.”

The EX-F1 even contains a second flash above the first flash, which is a very bright video-light LED.

A few other problems exist as well:

  • The eyepiece viewfinder is electronic, not optical.
  • Start-up is slow.
  • The 12x zoom is nice but slow to react. While capturing video, “when you turn the lens ring to zoom, it jerks spastically through the zoom range, effectively ruining your shot. The camera has great difficulty changing focus during filming, too.”
  • The camera is complicated.
  • You can’t us the lens ring zoom during high-definition filming.
  • The flash won’t operate in pre-record mode.
  • Face detection doesn’t work while capturing video.
  • No sound in high-speed videos.
  • Can’t change focus, zoom or exposure during high-speed filming.

“Now, it does seem ungrateful to criticize such an astonishing camera; it’s like complaining that your 7-year-old violin virtuoso is lousy at sports.

But make no mistake: no camera has ever offered anything like the F1’s high-speed stills, high-speed videos or high-speed flash for anywhere near its price. Everybody who sees this camera in action winds up slack-jawed with disbelief.

Casio deserves congratulations for innovating in so many big, bold, industry-defying ways. Instead of pushing misleading metrics like megapixels, the company went its own defiant way and came up with a camera with an extremely clearly defined identity.

Maybe it’s not the time machine of sci-fi movies. But in the world of consumer electronics, it’s an eye-opening first step.”

The camera is available now for $999. For more info, check out the product page here.

Curious to read David Pogue’s full review? You can find it here.

[Via Gizmodo]

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