Casio’s EXILIM Pro EX-F1; Digital Still Or Video Camera? Page 2

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The EXILIM Pro EX-F1's shiftable Anti-Shake CMOS makes it possible to shoot blur-free images even when shooting at slower shutter speeds and the longest 432mm (equivalent) end of the non-interchangeable lens. BS mode offers something called Digital Anti-Shake that automatically captures multiple images and combines them into a single file to correct shaken not stirred photographs. This cool feature works surprisingly well. The big 2.8" monitor makes it easy to see captured images and you can use the oh-so-point-and-shoot zoom control located around the shutter release control to zoom into images displayed on the screen. Sadly, the 959x240 LCD screen's resolution, while adequate, doesn't deliver the kind of crisp images that other similarly priced cameras deliver.

The Pro EX-F1 is one of the few cameras that captures raw files using Adobe's DNG (Digital Negative) format. Since Casio only provides Windows-based software, Mac OS users should use Adobe Camera Raw that's part of Adobe's Photoshop as well as the inexpensive Photoshop Elements and free (with your computer) iPhoto to read these files.

Image quality is acceptable for a 6-megapixel camera and far superior to the .25-megapixel QV-10 I tested so long ago, but the Pro EX-F1's small chip (less than a 1/2" wide) means noise can become an issue even at ISO 400, although not objectionably so. It's still there, though, and if you plan to shoot under low light at ISO 1600 be prepared for fine, multicolored noise in the image file. Under static low-light conditions a better choice would be to use BS mode's Digital Anti-Shake that automatically sets the ISO to 400 but creates sharper, less noisy images. Clearly the Pro EX-F1 is a sunny day camera.

This digital IR image was made with a Cokin 007 filter held in front of the Pro EX-F1's lens, producing an exposure of 8 seconds at f/7.9 at ISO 400. Because of the small sensor size and extended exposure there is more noise than you might otherwise expect. In this case I applied the Neat Image (www.neatimage.com) Photoshop compatible plug-in to a duplicate layer and then changed the opacity to 50 percent before flattening. Then I toned it with the Platinum toning effect that's part of PhotoKit (www.pixelgenius.com).

In addition to JPEG, the Pro EX-F1 is one of the few cameras that captures raw files using Adobe's DNG (Digital Negative) format. Since Casio only includes Windows software with the camera, Mac OS users will have to use Adobe Camera Raw that's part of Adobe's Photoshop as well as the inexpensive Photoshop Elements to deal with these image files. ArcSoft's cross-platform PhotoStudio Darkroom is another $99 alternative, but thrifty Mac users will be glad to know that the free iPhoto bundled with your computer reads these files, too.

Shooting action with the Pro EX-F1 can be a challenge. Casio claims a lag time of "approx. 0.01 second" and I guess the keyword here is "approx." because it feels much, much longer, especially when the action is fast and furious. The best way to shoot any kind of moving subject is with the camera's ultrahigh-speed Burst Shooting mode of 60 still images per second.

While I'm guessing that nobody at Casio checked to see if the Pro EX-F1 had infrared capture capabilities, you know that your friends at Shutterbug would do it and you'll be further gratified (if you care about this stuff) to learn that it has some IR capabilities when used with the appropriate filter. The front of the lens accepts 62mm filters and, for the example that appears here, I used a Cokin 007, holding the filter in front of the lens with my fingers. Because you'll need to remove the lens hood to hold the filter, there's a possibility of flare and reflections, but I experienced few of those problems that couldn't be solved with Photoshop's Clone Stamp tool.

(Left) Back in the late 1970s I was tremendously influenced by the photography of Eva Rubinstein and when visiting this house and seeing this stairway I felt an irresistible urge to shift the camera in the B/W mode that's found under the Color Filter menu (that also includes Sepia, Red, Green, and Blue) to create this homage to her artistry.
(Right) This image was captured at Barr Lake State Park in Colorado under the shade of a picnic shelter, which acted like a big lens hood to block reflections and flare from the Cokin 007 filter I held in front of the Pro EX-F1's lens. Exposure was 8 seconds at f/7.9 at ISO 400 in Manual mode and was just a bit underexposed.

According to my postal scale, the 6-megapixel Pro EX-F1 weighs 17/8 lbs (including battery and strap) and a 10-megapixel Olympus E-420 weighs 15/8 lbs with battery, strap, and a 40-150mm (80-300mm equivalent) lens attached. The Pro EX-F1 costs almost $1000 and the Olympus is only $600 with a 14-42mm lens. The 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 zoom lens adds $199. But will the E-420 capture 60 shots in a second? Nope. The 11-megapixel Fuji FinePix S100FS, an EVF camera I tested recently for a forthcoming review in these pages, costs $799.95 and produces higher quality images than the Pro EX-F1. But will it capture 60 frames in a second?

Fat chance.

Unlike some other EVF cameras, the Pro EX-F1 performed well in wet and cold weather such as this spring storm on May Day. It was cold, I was cold, and the camera was cold but never failed to operate. Exposure was 1/200 sec at f/6.7 and ISO 400 in Aperture Priority mode.

And therein lies the tale. The Pro EX-F1 is a niche camera that does what it does better than anything else. It can capture that decisive moment at 60 fps and can record high-quality HD video clips. If that's what you want--or need--nobody does it better.

Technical Specifications
Lens: 12 elements in nine groups, including aspherical element
Focal Length: 7.3-87.6mm (approx. 36-432mm equivalent); 12x optical zoom, 4x digital zoom
Autofocus: Approx. 15.75" to infinity (W)
Macro: Approx. 1.97" to 19.69" (W)
Metering: Multi-pattern, center-weighted, spot by imaging element
Control: Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Speed Priority AE, Manual Exposure
Exposure Compensation: -2EV to +2EV by 1/3 EV step
Recording Media: SDHC, SD, MMC (MultiMediaCard), MMCplus
Sensitivity: Still Images--Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600; Movies--Auto (Hi-Speed Movie when Manual Exposure Mode: ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
Input/Output: USB/AV port, HDMI output (Mini), hot shoe, external microphone jack
Dimensions: 5.03x3.13x5.12"
Weight: 23.67 oz (excluding battery and accessories)
Price: $999.95

For more information, contact Casio America, Inc., 570 Mount Pleasant Ave., Dover, NJ 07801; (800) 706-2534; www.casio.com.

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