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There's no doubt the high-speed photo and movie shooting features of the Casio Exilim EX-FC100 are remarkable given its size and price. Its features tackle one of the biggest problems with point-and-shoot cameras: missed shots because of slow performance. Even its regular shooting performance is reasonably quick. Look past the high-speed features, though, and the FC100 is considerably less attractive with a narrow lens, a control and menu design that takes some adjusting to, and photos that are simply OK for its class. Plus, the high-speed options come at the cost of resolution and battery life.
|Key specs||Casio Exilim EX-FC100|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9x2.3x0.9 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.2 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||9 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f3.6-4.5, 37-185mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||3,456x2,592 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Mechanical and digital|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 300 shots|
The FC100 is a hefty compact camera, but it's still easily pocketed and not nearly as large as Casio's forebearers of its speedy shooting options, the FH20 and F1. The all-metal casing adds to the solid feel as does the weighty 5x zoom lens. Unlike a lot of the compact competition, the FC100's lens is a narrow 37mm-equivalent with a maximum aperture of only f3.6. (After testing so many wide-angle point-and-shoots this year, the difference is really noticeable.) Also, the autofocus system is distractingly loud; leave it in Continuous AF and it'll never shut up.
Like the FH20 and F1, this camera has an above-average number of controls. On its top is a power button and shutter release with zoom ring. There is also a button for switching to continuous shooting--either high-speed or normal depending on what you've set it to in the main menu system--and a Slow button. Hitting Slow starts the camera prerecording images and playing them back in slow motion. When you see the shot you want to capture, say the moment a raindrop hits the surface of a puddle, you press the shutter release down and the camera will capture the shot.
On its back, to the right of the excellent-quality LCD, is a discrete movie record button with a selector for going between the high- and normal-speed capture modes. Below that are buttons for moving between playback and shooting modes, a circular directional pad centered with a Set button, and Menu and Best Shot (BS) buttons. Pressing up on the directional pad changes the amount of information on the display, down sets the flash, and left and right can be programmed to turn on and off face detection or the self-timer, or switch light metering. The Set button brings up mode-specific shooting options while the Menu brings up three tabs of recording, quality, and system settings. The BS button is for picking a shooting mode. Got all that? Probably not, and that's what using this camera is like; there's so much going on it can be disorienting.
One feature you'll find buried in the system menu is the option to activate support for Eye-Fi Wireless SD cards, which allow you to transfer photos off the card and onto a computer over a wireless network.
|General shooting options||Casio Exilim EX-FC100|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, Manual|
|Recording modes||Auto (program AE), Scene (Best Shot), User Scene, Movie, High-Speed Burst, High-Speed Movie|
|Focus modes||Spot, Free, Tracking, Manual, Macro, Pan, Infinity|
|Metering||Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Color effects||Sepia, Black & White, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, Purple|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Unlimited continuous|
Shooting options are based around picking a scene mode from the Best Shot menu (there are 20 to pick from) or putting it in Auto and deciding on the camera settings for yourself. Basically everything but shutter speed and aperture are at your disposal in Auto including adjustments for color saturation, sharpness, and contrast. If you compile a mix of settings you like for a particular subject or situation, you can easily establish a User Scene mode for them; you can create up to 999 of them, in fact.
With the FC100, Casio plays up the 30-frames-per-second continuous shooting and slow-motion movie modes, but barely touts two other features that make good use of its high-speed capabilities: High-Speed Night Scene and High-Speed Anti Shake. Both use the speed of the camera to quickly capture and combine multiple images to remove blur caused by shaky hands regardless of lighting conditions. The results are good enough that the modes deserve more recognition. However, like all of the high-speed shooting options, the photo resolution drops from 9 megapixels to 6MP.
Reduced resolutions are a problem for the high-speed movie modes, too. The mode can shoot at 210fps, 420fps, and 1,000fps at resolutions of 480x360, 224x168, and 224x64 pixels, respectively. There is, though, a variable 30-210fps option letting you toggle the movie recording speed between 30fps and 210fps, basically going from normal to slow motion when the moment's right. Regardless of what type of movie, though, there is no use of the optical zoom while recording.
Overall performance for the FC100 is very good. Aside from the 6-megapixel 30fps burst mode, there is a full-resolution continuous shooting option that is pretty fast at 0.9fps. The rest of this Casio's performance numbers are quick, too. Startup to first shot is 2.3 (though the camera seems to take much longer to shut down). In bright conditions, the shutter lag is fine at 0.4 second; it takes 0.8 second to focus and capture in dim lighting. Shot-to-shot times average just 1.5 seconds, while turning on the flash extends that to 3.4 seconds.
There are plenty of reasons to buy the FC100, but photo quality probably isn't one of them--especially if you're going to be printing or viewing them onscreen at 100 percent. Regardless of ISO, photos look too processed with visible noise/artifacts and are never very sharp. Basically, you're good to ISO 200 before noise and suppression cause color shifting and significant loss of sharpness and fine detail. If you're using them online or making smaller prints (5x7 inches and below), you'll get decent results.
Considering the lens on the FC100 is fairly narrow by current standards, it's surprising to see wide-angle distortion. There's some slight pincushioning at the long end, too, though I doubt either would ruin a photo. The chromatic aberration the camera produces, however, will ruin photos if you're not careful. Purple fringing is visible in prints at sizes of 8x10 inches and larger--something to be aware of if you're shooting any backlit subjects. Colors up to ISO 200 are pleasing and natural. Again, the camera has sliders for tweaking saturation, contrast, and sharpness, too, in case those aren't to your liking. Exposure is decent and the camera does have an effective image brightness option.
The regular 30fps HD movie capture is good as long as you're in bright conditions; low-light video, like still shots, is noisy. As for the high-speed video options, you probably won't be bowled over by the quality. The 210fps speed produces the best quality, highest resolution clips; they're still small, though, at 480x360 pixels. The 420fps clips are debatably useful at a resolution of 224x168 and the 224x64-resolution 1,000fps movies are so small and blocky I could barely tell what was going on. Something to keep in mind, too, is that just a 20-second high-speed movie produces a large file of about 100MB.
The Casio Exilim EX-FC100 is a remarkable camera for all that it can do at a price that's now less than $250 on the street. Photo quality and usability continue to come second to the high-speed features, though. At most, it's an average snapshot camera capable of capturing things the majority of other compact cameras can't.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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