Ever since I read about the Casio high speed camera, I was fascinated by its features. The camera promised 1000 frames per second (fps) photography at incredible 1/40,000 sec. speed! I weighed the pros and cons of getting the normal 20x optical zoom model or the pocket version. The pocket version had a lower optical zoom of 5x but there could be more fun carrying it innocuously to parties and social functions. So I ordered the Casio Exilim Ex-FC100 camera from a shop in New York and received it by UPS within a few days.
I opened the box and looked at the small 156g camera which was about the size of a normal cell phone, just a little wider and thicker. But on closer look, there seem to be many buttons on it which looked unfamiliar to me.
The first remarkable difference is that the movie mode has its own dedicated ON-OFF record button separate from the normal shutter button for taking pictures. This facilitates the taking of snapshots even when the movie clip is being shot!
Just below the movie record button is a rotary toggle to change from standard to high definition HD mode. The camera is capable of taking a HD movie at 1280x720 pixels at 30 fps. The STD mode supports high speed movies at 210 fps, 420 fps and 1000 fps. As you climb higher on the fps scale, the size of the image reduces proportionately. The size of the image at 480x360 pixels at 210 fps is acceptable format for YouTube.
I tried shooting the flight of pigeon at different speeds, and was surprised at the 1000 fps movie clip. The recorded slow movement of the wings was a pleasure to watch. It displayed how nature has perfected its flying machine; you can see it at YouTube: 7RC2W97_yz0. I recorded a man walking at 210 fps and it unfolded the walking movements which were not evident at normal speed. The movie of a bird flying in the sky at 420 fps was also fun to see.
But I soon discovered the limitation of the high speed function. The built-in flash did not support high speed and therefore shooting HS indoors or at night does not give the desired results. The clips are grainy due to high ISO and don’t look that great. The high speed function is therefore useful in shooting sports and interesting movements at outdoor settings preferable in sunlight or really bright light. I shot a movie of the flight of a butterfly in my garden at 420 fps. The movie turned out to be an art film! My jerky hand movements were smoothened by the high speed into a smooth flowing composition! See it on YouTube at 7Q_wZVawYMA
After exploring the movie mode, I went on to see what the camera does for the snapshots. I searched for the normal aperture and speed priority settings, but did not find any. The exposure therefore is completely automatic and the camera selects the best exposure by setting the aperture, speed and ISO (in auto mode) on its own. There is nothing manual setting about it.
What requires manual settings are a host of options related to speed. Looking at these features you know that it is a versatile high speed camera with potential ability to give you the perfect shot every time. When an event is happening at a fast pace, it is very difficult to capture the right moment. By the time you press the shutter button, you may have missed the exact moment. There are 3 ways by which the camera helps you overcome this hurdle: (1) by offering you a selection from a series of 6M images taken at upto 30 fps just before and after clicking the button; it does that in high speed continuous shooting CS mode or (2) by getting the camera to show you the action in slow motion for you to click at the right moment. When you point and shoot at an object by pressing the button “Slow” located at the top left, the camera begins to record images for the time period chosen by you which can be 1, 2 or 3 seconds. The camera then plays out the stored images slowly at speed chosen by you within the scale of 1 to 8. As the images are played on the screen you have plenty of time to click the right moment of the event by pressing the shutter button. Only the frame which you click is saved on the camera. And finally (3), by capturing and saving multiple pictures at 1 fps in the normal speed continuous mode. The camera takes and saves the 9M sized images as long as the shutter button remains pressed. You can then select the shots that you like. All these three modes give you ways to capture images over the duration of the event so that you do not miss out the precise moment. I found that this was the unique and most useful ability of the camera.
On the mundane duty of the camera to take 9M single frame shots, the quality of the pictures at normal settings was not satisfactory. I found that I needed to set Quality at Fine, Sharpness at +2, Saturation at -1 and Contrast at +1 to obtain good shots comparable with my Panasonic camera. The other picture parameters are easy set quickly. Press the button on the bottom right labeled BS which stands for Best Shot. Thumbnail images showing different scenes like outdoor, shade, portrait, high contrast etc. open up on the screen. Just match the scene you are going to shoot with corresponding one and viola; all the settings are automatically done.
Overall, I find that the camera can be used to capture a series of pictures covering the time-span of the event from which selection could be made. This is a unique solution to capture the right moments which makes our chosen photographs more eye-catching and free of mis-timed shots. I really do not know whether there is any practical value in everyday photography for its ability to make slow motion movies with high speed recording, though it’s an interesting gimmick. It may have some specific applications in analyzing the movements of sportsmen and actors. The ability of the camera to do HD movies is positively a welcome feature. The EX-FC 100 is undoubtedly a significant step forward in camera innovation. Casio merits applause for launching such a creative camera in the market. As for me, it’s the camera that I would be carrying in my pocket wherever I go.