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Casio's new ambition: Fast-frame rate camera

Casio generally emphasizes style for its point-and-shoot cameras, but its EX-F1, which the company says can shoot 60 6-megapixel shots in one second, is a radical high-end departure.

Casio says its $1,000 EX-F1 can shoot up to 60 6-megapixel images in one second. Casio

Casio is unveiling a radical departure from its basic point-and-shoot camera roots Sunday, the $1,000 Exilim Pro EX-F1 that the company says can shoot 60 still images per second or movies at 1,200 frames per second.

The camera has a 6-megapixel complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor and a 12x zoom range, the company plans to announce at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. When using the sensor at its full resolution, the camera can take up to 60 images in a high-speed burst, with different frame rates possible. For example, a photographer can set the camera to take 60 shots in 1 second or 5 shots per second for 12 seconds, Casio said.

Casio started touting the high-speed camera in September; it'll go on sale in March, the company said.

It remains to be seen how well the camera works or how many people will want to buy a compact camera that costs hundreds of dollars more than a good entry-level SLR. But if nothing else, Casio deserves credit for finding a feature that departs from the ordinary categories and stretches limits beyond just how many pixels can be squeezed onto a sensor, a trend that for the most part isn't helping people take better or more interesting photos.

The EX-F1 also has some flash abilities to help out the camera. The built-in flash can fire "up to" 20 times at shooting rates of "up to" 7 frames per second, though the company doesn't detail what circumstances are required to hit those peak speeds. In addition, an internal LED can help burst shots at shooting rates from 10 to 60 frames per second, Casio said. It's also got a hot shoe on the top for mounting external flashes.

In the movie department, the camera can record 512x384-pixel video at 300 frames per second, 432x192 at 600 frames per second, and 336x96 at 1,200 frames per second, Casio said. The camera also can record high-definition movies at 1920x1080 pixels at 60 frames per second, has a dedicated movie button like Canon's PowerShot S5 ultrazoom, and has an HDMI port to watch videos on an HDTV.

For still photos, the camera can record with either JPEG or the higher-end raw format with unprocessed image sensor data; for raw, the EX-F1 uses Adobe Systems' Digital Negative (DNG) format.

The lens aperture ranges from a maximum of f/2.7 at wide angle to f/4.6 at telephoto. The focal length ranges from the equivalent of 36mm to 432mm in terms of 35mm film cameras (that's 7.3mm to 87.6mm in real optical terms; the 1/1.8-inch sensor is significantly smaller than a full frame of 35mm film).

Compact line overhaul
Casio also plans to introduce four more ordinary cameras at CES:

• The $250 Exilim Card EX-S10, the latest "product of Casio's relentless pursuit of thinness," has a 10.1-megapixel sensor, a 3x optical zoom from the equivalent of 36mm to 108mm, and a 2.7-inch LCD. It can wait to take a photo until the photographer's hand starts shaking, an interesting alternative to image stabilization used by higher-end cameras.

• The $330 Exilim Zoom EX-Z200 and $280 EX-Z100 both are 10.1-megapixel models with 4x optical zoom ranging from the equivalent of 28mm to 112mm. The Z200 counteracts camera shake by shifting the sensor.

• The $200 Exilim Zoom EX-Z80 has an 8.1-megapixel sensor, a 3X zoom lens ranging from the equivalent of 38mm to 114mm, and face detection to help set focus and exposure.