The 6-megapixel Casio EX-F1 bridge camera features a 12x zoom and is able to shoot 60 images per second.
Casio EXILIM EX-F1 Review
Designed for Action
The Casio F1 is a camera designed for a single purpose – action. Its blistering 60 frames per second shooting speed (yes that’s a 60, not a six) is way ahead of anything else in the world. It also shoots video at a rate of up to 1200 frames per second – which means that when you play it back you get slow-motion.
To look at, the F1 seems just like any other superzoom bridge camera. A big one. It’s bigger and heavier than most entry-level DSLRs with their kit lens, though of course it does boast a 12x optical zoom, equivalent to 36mm to 432mm. It’s a complex beast though – we had to read the CD instructions (which, unlike the printed manual, is quite comprehensive) in order to figure it out.
As an example, the top-plate accommodates two mode dials. The first selects the exposure mode: Auto, Aperture and Shutter Priority, Manual and BestShot Selector – 26 subject-based modes, (including YouTube and eBay). The other dial selects one of six continuous shooting modes including, of course, single shot.
60 Frames Per Second
In High Speed mode the camera starts recording as you press the shutter, at up to 60 frames per second for one second. This is user selectable, so for example you can choose 30fps for up to two seconds, 10fps for up to six seconds and so forth. The bottom line is you’ve got a maximum burst of 60 frames, which you can get through in a second or longer, and you don’t have to shoot all 60. In Pre-recorded mode, a half press of the shutter starts recording to the buffer, and a full press stops the recording and saves the last (up to) 60 frames.
In Slow-Motion View mode the camera plays these shots back in slo-mo as you’re recording, so when you see the frame you want on the screen you can let go of the button. There’s a Flash CS mode which can do a strobe flash burst of up to seven frames in a second – though in order to achieve this the flash power is quite low so you need to be fairly close to your subject. Alternatively you can switch to the built-in continuous LED lamp for up to 20 fps.
Finally there’s a Bracketing burst mode in which you can adjust the exposure, white balance and focus between frames. In all of these modes you can adjust the speed and number of shots taken. Once shot, you can save them all, or have the option of viewing the sequence and saving only the ones you want to keep.
But the drive modes are not the whole story. The F1 has Face Detection, three metering modes, and can shoot in Raw, as well as JPEG, using the DNG format, though only at ISO 100 or 200. At the front of the lens a chunky rubber ring can be set to adjust the zoom, the focus or, when in High Speed mode, the frame rate. There’s also a collar around the shutter button for zooming. A Focus button on the lens lets you switch between manual focus, macro and infinity focus as well as AF, but it doesn’t operate when Face Detection is on (the manual doesn’t make this clear though). The F1 also has a hotshoe for external flash, and a remote shutter release that comes in the box.
Oddly, movies are shot using a different button, on the back. There’s a choice of three modes: standard (640 x 480 pixels), High Definition (in 16:9 ratio) and High Speed which, as mentioned, records at up to 1200fps to deliver slow motion playback. This is great fun, and would be great for, say, recording bees pollinating flowers, or for sports coaching, where you can examine each golf swing or kick of a football in minute detail.
Once you’ve figured out the buttons the F1 is straightforward to use, though sluggish at routine tasks (such as starting up, or switching between play and record). The key image settings (quality, ISO, etc) appear down the right side of the 2.8in LCD screen and the viewfinder, and are easily adjusted. The electronic viewfinder, however, is pokey, contrasty, and flickery – we found it easier to use the LCD. This does increase the risk of camera shake, but the F1 has an optical anti-shake system, Camera AS. It also offers Image AS, which raises the ISO to enable a faster shutter speed, and a Digital Anti-Shake mode that’s processing based.
Exposures are generally accurate in most lighting situations, and white balance does a fair job too. Autofocus performance, however, is slow and somewhat hit and miss, with rather too much miss and not enough hit. Zooming is slow whether using the collar around the button or around the lens, though the lens is smoother.
Considering this high level of specification it’s perhaps surprising that at the heart of the F1 is a sensor that’s only six megapixels. This is very low by current standards – probably to keep the file sizes as small as possible in order to achieve that amazing burst speed – but it’s more than enough for most people’s needs. Pictures from the F1, taken in good conditions, look pleasing under normal viewing, with good colour and sharpness, but critical users may find something a bit unnatural about them on closer inspection. They look ‘digital’– a symptom of over-enthusiastic image processing. Above ISO 400 the picture quality goes downhill somewhat and although it’s nice to see a Dynamic Range adjustment option, this only seems to add obtrusive noise to the shadow areas.
It is clear that the F1 was built for speed and in this area it truly excels. It’s terrific fun, and enables users to get pictures that would be impossible with any other camera. The F1 will make you laugh and make you gasp in a way that no other camera can. But at £700 you pay a high price for this. If you plan to buy the F1 for its speed-stopping capabilities and you’ll be using that feature a lot then you may consider it good value. If not, and you’re looking at the F1 as a bridge camera with a novelty feature that you may use occasionally then think twice, because you can get way better picture quality for half the cost by buying an entry-level DSLR or a more conventional bridge camera.