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Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1

Superfast camera with 12X zoom
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

The Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1, introduced in January of 2008, looks like no other Casio camera before, and it can do thing no other digital camera available to consumers can do. Casio's corporate slogan is "Expect the Unexpected," but even so, few would have expected the Pro EX-F1 from the company famous for its attractive little ultra-slim cameras. What is the EX-F1? A fairly large 6-megapixel camera with a 12X optical zoom and, according to Casio, the world's fastest burst shooting performance. How fast? Up to 60 frames per second in full resolution burst mode, and up to 1,200 frames per second in high-speed movies!

Tremendous speed

We'd love to know the thought process and story behind this camera. As is, the Exilim Pro EX-F1 incorporates a newly developed high-speed CMOS sensor and a high-speed processor. In such a high-end camera you'd expect 10 or 12 megapixel, but maximum resolution is not what the F1 is all about. This is all about speed, and somehow Casio found that 6.0 megapixel worked best for what they had in mind. And what they had in mind was achieving the fastest burst shooting speed capability possible and ultra-fast movie modes. The goal was to enable capturing of split-second movement in great detail so that no important moment would be lost. Another goal was to build a camera so fast that it could capture motion that the human eye cannot see or follow.

So what does that include? First, there is an ultra-high speed burst mode that offers full resolution photography at 60 images per second. A maximum of 60 shots per second can be taken and you can set the camera from one to 60 frames per second. So you can shoot all 60 in a second, or one per second for a full minute.

What's expecially interesting is that in the high speed burst mode Casio employed a technology it has been offering in its movie modes for a while. With the "past movie" mode available in many Exilim models, you can have the camera continuously record movie, but it will only be saved to permanent memory when you push the shutter. The camera will then save the several seconds it still has in its memory from before you pushed the shutter and and then keep recording. This way you can, for example, follow a soccer game, push the shutter when a goal happens, and the camera will also save the several seconds that led up to the goal. It is a brilliant idea. Well, with the F1 you can "prerecord" still images with the ultra-high speed burst function. Up to 60 images per second, and again a maximum of 60 images, are saved in the camera's buffer before the shutter is depressed. Once you press the shutter, all the images leading up to the event are saved. This is an incredible way to catch vital moments.

Amazingly, even the flash plays along. There are some limits, but you can take up to 20 continuous flash shots at up to seven frames per second! And there is also a (less powerful) internal LED light that allows high-speed burst shooting at between 10 and 60 frames per second.

Another cool feature is the Slow Motion View function that lets you view and capture critical moments in slow motion during still photography. It's like magic -- in the monitor the live action is displayed in slow motion. You can then review things and press the shutter to capture just the right moment.

The movie function, likewise, offers features and performance unheard of. There is a full high-definition mode where the camera records at 1920 x 1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. That is the highest currently available HDTV resolution at a frame rate speed not yet available even in the latest HDTV sets. And the F1 can directly connect to an HDTV set with a separately available HDMI cable. Oh, and sound recording is in stereo via two onboard microphones

Equally stunning are the frame rates the Pro F1 can achieve at lower resolutions. At 512 x 384 pixels you can shoot movies at 300 frames per second. At 432 x 192 at 600 frames per second. And at 336 by 96 pixels at a mind-blowing 1,200 frames per second. That means you can see things in ultra-slow motion. Oh, and there is a special "movie" button; no need to first go into an onscreen menu. For a terrific demonstration of the F1's various high speed movie modes, click here.

Unlike most consumer cameras, the Pro F1 offers full manual control. You can set the camera to automatic, of course, and there are Best Shot, YouTube, and Face Recognition modes and such, but for advanced shooting there are Program AE, aperture and shutter priority modes, and a full manual exposure control mode. Also handy are the camera's bracketing modes. You can record a specified number of images with adjustable incremental changes in the EV value, the white balance, or with focus.

The other wonderful thing of the Pro F1 is its 12X optical zoom. While 12X is not the absolute highest optical zoom you can find in prosumer cameras, it certainly lets you get very close, and it does that in conjunction with all of its blistering speed. The F1 has CMOS shift anti-shake, and that certainly comes in handy when using that long zoom.

In terms of controls, this is of course a much larger and more involved camera than your typical Casio ultra-slim. It looks more like a digital SLR, and its controls are similar to those of a digital SLR. There is a viewfinder in addition to the large and high-es 2.8-inch LCD, but it is an electronic one. There are mode and continuous shooting dials, and a variety of buttons. They are all clerly labeled, though, and it shouldn't take long to acquaint yourself with the Pro F1. In addition to buttons and onscreen menus, the camera also has a SLR-style function ring part of the big lens. Simply rotate it to adjust continuous shutter speed, zoom, or focus. Continuous shooting speed can be adjusted during continuous shutter shooting.

Bottomline

Casio loves to surprise people with the unexpected, and with the Exilim Pro EX-F1 they certainly delivered a camera that was both unexpected, and that can do totally unexpected things. Its blistering high speed burst mode, its equally stunning ultra-high speed movie modes, its ability to record full 1920 x 1080 pixel high definition video at 60 frames per second and with stereo sound, and then its 12X optical zoom with CMOS shift anti-shake -- it's just incredible. And all those amazing features do not live in a vacuum. Casio cleverly combined them with existing technologies, like their wonderful "past movie" and "pre-record" modes. The sole concern we have is that some people will look at the 6-megapixel resolution, then at the price, and move on, never realizing what a stunning camera this is.

We like:

  • Stunning speed both in movies and in still image burst mode
  • Slow motion movies and slow motion view
  • Full 1920 x 1080 HDTV recording at 60 fps, in stereo
  • Full manual modes
  • Strong flash that shoots at seven frames per second
  • 12X optical zoom
  • CMOS anti-shake
Not so much:
  • 8 or 10 megapixel would have been nice.
Specifications CASIO Exilim Pro EX-F1
Status Added 01/2008
Camera Type Standard long zoom
Size 5.0 x 3.15 x 5.12
Weight 1.5 pounds w/o battery and SD Card
Effective Pixels 6.0 mp
CCD Type 1/1.8
Blurr reduction CMOS shift anti-shake
Max pixel size 2816 x 2112
File formats Stills: RAW, JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies: MOV format, H.264/IMA-ADPCM (stereo)
Compression fine, normal, economy
Movie recording (best) til full, with audio @ 30 fps
Max movie pixels 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps; high-speed movies 512 384 (300 fps), 432 192 (600 fps), 336 96 (1,200 fps)
Voice recording unknown
Lens 12 lenses, 9 groups
Focal length 7.3-87.6mm (36-432mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 12X/4X
Aperture f/2.7 - f/4.6
Focus modes Auto, manual, macro, infinity
Focus minimum/macro 2 inches, 1.3 feet
Shutter speed 1/40,000 to 60 sec
Sensitivity (ISO) auto/100/200/400/800/1600
Autofocus system contrast type: spot/free/tracking; AF assist light
Metering multi-pattern, center-weight and spot by imaging element
White-balance modes auto, daylight, overcast, shade, day white FL, daylight FL, tungsten, manual
Shooting modes auto, program, manual, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, several special modes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type Electronic (201k pixel)
LCD size 2.8" LCD (230k) (960x240)
LCD type "super clear LCD"
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in pop-up
Flash range up to 34 feet
Flash modes 5 (auto, on, off, red-eye reduction, external)
Camera internal memory unknown
Storage Medium SD/MMC
I/O USB/AV port, HDMI Mini
Battery type NP100 Li-Ion (3.7V, 2000mAH)
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) unknown
"Estimated Price" US$999
Contact www.casio.com

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