Casio EX-FC100 Review
By Mike Flacy
Casio has expanded their High-Speed Exilim series line with the addition of a new ultra-compact model. The EX-FC100 has apoted some very similar features from the EX-F1 and EX-FH20. Just slightly slower than the two cameras above, it has the ability to capture images at an astounding 30fps. Also carried over is the ability to record video at up to 1000fps, a 720p HD movie mode, slow motion view and a 9.1-Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor (same imager that's found in the FH20). Other features you will find on this model are a 5x optical zoom lens, 2.7-inch LCD, Eye-Fi compatibility and CMOS image stabilization.
The EX-FC100 has a very similar design and layout to past compact Exilim models; it is just slightly larger and heavier. One handed operation is manageable, but you will have better control using the "pinch" technique with both hands. You will also need both hands in order to change the camera's settings or navigate the menus. A movie record button on the back of the camera allows you to capture HD movies without changing the camera's shooting mode. There are also buttons on the camera to quickly change to burst shooting mode, High-Speed movie capture and slow motion playback.
Framing and viewing your images is done with the 2.7-inch, 230,400 dot LCD screen, offering excellent resolution. While shooting in direct sunlight, you will see some glare, but the LCD is bright enough that you will still be able to frame your images without any trouble. When viewing stored images, the burst mode shots are grouped together into single thumbnails that allow you to select that group of images for single frame viewing or playing them back like a movie file.
Performance from the FC100 is very good. It takes the camera just 2.2 seconds to capture its first image after being turned on. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag is well under 1/10 of a second and between 1/10 and 4/10 of a second when allowing the autofocus to work. In single shot mode I was able to capture 5 images in just 4.5 seconds (1.1fps) without the flash. With the flash I was able to capture 5 images in 9.1 seconds (.55fps). The camera also features a burst shooting mode with either High-Speed or Normal-Speed capture rates. The High-Speed rate is set to 30fps while the Normal continuous was able to capture at a rate of 1.7fps (20 images in 12.1 seconds). The major difference in these two modes (other than speed) is the High-Speed mode captures 6-Megapixel images while the Normal continuous is at full 9-Megapixel resolution. All of our tests were completed using a 2GB RiDATA Pro 120x SD memory card, Auto shooting mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality from our outdoor images is very good. The exposures are excellent and the color is vivid and realistic, however, there is a little noise that is noticeable in the dark areas and shadows when viewing the images at 100%. With a 5x optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent of 37-185mm), you will have no difficulty getting closer to your distant subjects, while the wide end is good for landscape and indoor photography. At the wide end you will see a little barrel distortion, while chromatic aberrations are controlled very well throughout the zoom range.
As seen in the M&M man shots, the images captured by the FC100 are very sharp from edge to edge. There is a slight difference in the color tone, as the flash shot is cooler than those without. This flash range is average for an ultra-compact model, with a maximum range of up to 10.5-feet (wide angle) at ISO auto. This will shrink drastically when setting a low ISO and/or using the telephoto end of the zoom. While using the flash in macro mode, you have to be careful how close to the object you get. Our macro flash image shows that the bottom left of the image is not fully lit by the flash. In the portion of the frame that is lit properly, the camera controlled flash output quite well, and did not blow out the image.
Portrait mode picks up faces well, but can have a little difficulty following the faces of younger subjects. When the camera detects a face, it does an excellent job of adjusting for that subject, providing us with good exposures and accurate skin tones. We did not have any problems with red-eye in our sample photos when using the regular flash, however the EX-FC100 does also include a red-eye reduction flash mode just in case.
The FC100 offers more movie options than most digicams, with very good quality. Not only can you capture 720p HD video, but there are also several high-speed capture modes that range from 210fps to 1000fps. This allows you to capture videos that will playback in slow motion, great for creativity or analysis purposes. The more frames per second you use equals less resolution you have to work with and slower playback. This is not like playing slow motion on a VHS or DVD, the high frame rates allow for a smooth slow motion playback. The only problem is that these modes all record at different resolutions, making it harder to combine them with regular movies. The built-in microphone is very sensitive and picks up all of the noises around the camera. To help cut down on background and wind noise, be careful where you position yourself and the camera to stay out of the wind and away from air conditioners and heaters.
Powering the FC100 is a 3.7v, 1300mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Casio claims that the camera can capture up to 300 images (CIPA) with a fully charged pack. Over the course of our testing I was able to capture just over 200 images without the battery dying. This does include several burst shot sequences and movies. Overall, this is a good battery life, but what is even more convenient is the included external battery charger that allows you to charge the battery wherever you can find an outlet; which also makes it incredibly easy to keep a spare battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - one of several compact additions to Casio's Exilim "F" series, the EX-FC100 is an impressive ultra-compact digicam. As with the other High-Speed cameras in this series, there are several great shooting modes for capturing burst shots and slow-motion movies that are not found on other digicams. To go along with these creative features, the EX-FC100 provides you with speedy standard shooting performance, and very good image and HD video quality. With a MSRP of US $349.99, this camera is well worth the money, especially if you have kids in sports or you are a fan of slow motion or HD video.
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