Casio EX-FS10 Review
By Mike Flacy
Rounding out Casio's Exilim "F" series is the ultra-compact EX-FS10. Featuring a 30fps burst mode, 1000fps high-speed video capture, 9.1-megapixel imaging sensor, 720p HD movie mode and a high quality 2.5-inch LCD screen, this is one of the best equipped ultra-compact cameras you will find on the market. It also includes an internal 3x optical zoom lens and Casio's Best Shot (BS) selection of scene modes, including YouTube movie mode.
Holding and operating this very thin camera can be done easily with just one hand by bracing it with two fingers in the front, just be careful not to block the flash. This will even allow you to search the cameras menus and playback images while keeping your other hand free. There are 4 buttons or switches that make the major features of the camera instantly accessible. On top of the camera are the Slow and 30fps buttons, the latter of which allows you to instantly put the camera into burst mode. On the back you will find a dedicated button for video recording and next to that is a switch to toggle between normal and high-speed video capture modes. As for the rest of the controls, they have the same layout as most other compact Exilim models.
Viewing and framing your images is done via the 2.5-inch, 230,400 dot, Super Clear LCD screen. With 3 levels of brightness and 2 auto adjusting options, you should not have any trouble seeing the screen, even in direct sunlight. The 230,400 dots provide a high quality, detailed view of your stored or soon to be captured images. It also displays the easy to read and navigate menu system.
Performance from the FS10 is very good for an ultra-compact model. It takes the camera just 2 seconds to capture its first image after being turned on. Shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and just 1/10 - 3/10 of a second when you allow the autofocus to work. In single shot mode, it captured 5 images in 4.9 seconds, just over 1fps, while shooting with the flash it took 10.6 seconds to capture 5 images. This camera also features 2 burst modes. High speed mode captures a 6-Megapixel image at 30fps for one second. Normal continuous was able to capture 20, 9-Megapixel images in 11 seconds (1.8fps) without filling the buffer. All of our tests were completed using a SanDisk Extreme III, 1GB SD memory card, ISO auto, Flash off, Auto record mode and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The quality of our outdoor images does not live up to the quality that we have seen from the larger "F" series models. While the exposure are good, the colors are slightly washed out and the images are not as clear we have seen on the F1 and the FH20. There is noise throughout the image which is very noticeable when viewing it at 100%, especially in darker areas. When using the 3x optical zoom lens, you will see a little barrel distortion on the wide end of the 38 - 114mm (35mm equivalent) range. Throughout the whole range you will see some aberrations and ghosting in high contrast areas, as the bright colors spill into the darker ones.
We see the same issues with the image quality in our indoor sample shots. Even at ISO 100, it is not clear enough to see the stitching in the flag and it softens some of the fine lines throughout the image. The small built-in flash has a range of 8.5-feet (w) or 6.2-feet (t) at ISO auto, which is not a very powerful flash at all. It was not nearly enough to light our M&M man shot at mid-telephoto from only 6 feet away. The flash does not completely cover the macro range either, as you can see in the Macro Flash shot, the left side of the image was not properly lit.
With the camera in Portrait mode, it will quickly pick up and track any faces that are in front of it. With the faces as the target, the exposure is good and the colors are natural looking, however, the lack of sharpness really takes away from the overall image.
Like all of the other "F" series models, the FS10 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. 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 more frames per second you use equals less resolution you have to work with and slower playback. 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.
Supplying the power to the FS10 is a 3.7V, 720mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Casio claims that the (CIPA) tested battery is capable of capturing up to 160 images on a single charge. During our tests we were able to capture 150 images and videos, including several sets of burst images, on a single charge with plenty of power to spare. This more than exceeds Casio's claims. They also include an external battery charger that allows you to easily charge your battery anywhere you have an outlet and keep a spare battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - Casio's ultra-compact addition to the Exilim "F" series, the FS10 is an outstanding performer and is packed full of fun and useful features. It does however, lack a little in the image quality department. With a MSRP of US$349.99, you can get the same performance and better image quality with the Casio Exilim FC100. The only major differences are the camera is a little bigger and features a larger 5x optical zoom.
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