Casio EX-F1: Modes and features
I'm going to hold off the obvious feature of the EX-F1 for a moment to allow you to get to know what else the camera has to offer.
The large lens barrel has a manual zoom which is operated by rotating the rubber grip, but at best I can only describe this as unusual. In general use it seems as though you're having to twist the barrel countless times to zoom in even a fraction of the way, yet a single revolution of it will move the zoom from wide-angle to full telephoto. If you can't be bothered to do this, Casio have included an electronic zoom on a small rocker found wrapped around the shutter release.
A side profile of the camera shows the squat flash hunched over the lens barrel which reminds me of the front end of a Formula One car and I wonder if that was the idea. On the left side are three buttons dedicated to Focus, Backlight and AE-L/AF-L. The words '60fps continuous shooting' are painted above the buttons as a reminder of the capability of the camera.
The top plate houses the hotshoe for external flash. Casio don't produce flash guns so the shoe is non-dedicated meaning any TTL capabilities of your existing flash won't work. To the right is the drive dial with six separate options which are Bracketing, Slow Motion View, Single Shot, Continuous Shooting, Pre-Record Shooting and Continuous Shooting with Flash.
The Slow Motion View works by pressing the shutter release halfway and the camera will pre-record images from the previous two seconds and play them back on the screen until you press the button fully. The images in the buffer will then store the selected images and you can choose what you want to keep or delete.
The Pre-Record Shooting works in the same way as Slow Motion View. When the shutter is pressed fully, the images in the buffer are stored along with the shots taken when pressing. This is to help with your reactions ensuring that you get the shot you're after.
The Casio EX-F1 also has a high speed flash and can work in continuous shooting up to a maximum of 7fps which is when the LED light reserved for video takes over.
A second dial next to this has only five choices of Best Shot (scenes), Auto, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual. In front of this is the small, unassuming power button with the shutter release at the front sat on the edge of the grip.
Moving our attention to the back the Casio EX-F1 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) to compliment the 2.8in LCD screen that sits just below. Next to the EVF are two buttons for accessing playback mode and recording mode. These buttons are similar to the ones found on the Casio Exilim EX-S10 and are for switching between the two. Initially I was unsure if I liked it because other manufacturers allow a quick press of the shutter release to pass over to recording mode from playback. In time, you get used to it, so it's not something I'd mark the camera down on. Scanning right and a small thumb pad breaks up the design before a direct video button is found hanging around in the top right corner.
The Casio EX-F1 is full HD compatible and the video mode allows for three different settings for your filming: HS (High Speed), HD (Hi Definition) and STD (Standard). HS shoots at a higher frames per second and this can be changed from the standard 30fps to a maximum of 1200fps.
The EVF/LCD button allows you to switch between the viewfinder and the screen while the display button adds or removes information from the screen including a histogram. The menu button gives access to the full main menu of the camera allowing you to change core features such as the Image Stabiliser, Face Detection, Dynamic Range, World Time and File No.
The navigation pad is a three-fold tool with a wheel on the outer rim, a normal pad just inside and a confirmation button in the centre. To delete images, the Delete function is opened up by pressing down on the pad. For some odd reason this also doubles up as options for flash, which is not altogether unusual, but they've left the other three directional buttons empty.
Looking at the screen, Casio have retained their usual right-side column of basic information to give quick access to the user. This menu can be accessed by pressing the set button on the navigation pad as well as pressing down on the navigation pad. The latter is the flash function button and will take you straight to that option in the menu or the closest to it if the flash is down.
There are nine options in the on-screen menu: Resolution, Flash, ISO, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Metering, AF area, Record Light and Date & Time. The Casio EX-F1 is capped at 6Mp resolution to help with the main feature as a higher resolution would've impaired the performance. 6Mp will still allow for images blown up to A3 size. You know this because the menu tells you what size paper you can print onto with the resolution you're selecting which is a handy tip. The Record Light is for video use and pops the flash up to emit a bright constant stream of light for low light recording.
Three tabs are available in the menu. Different options can be changed here including Anti-Shake, Continuous AF, Face Detection (notably absent of the auto trigger features found on the S10), Bracketing options and a feature for dedicating the ring on the lens barrel. It can be set to adjust the zoom, focus, fps or nothing at all and I think this is a great idea.
In the Quality tab, the Video, Speed, Dynamic Range and Flash Intensity can all be altered along with Sharpness, Saturation and Contrast. These last three include a useful feature of showing you the screen in a small window so you can see if you're overcooking the settings before taking a shot.
Casio EX-F1: Build and handling
Casio have aimed the EX-F1 at the professional so everything must be top notch quality to shift any units to this market. The casing is plastic and has that splattered paint effect that looks like someone has blown some black paint through a straw onto it.
The body feels strong and ergonomics work well with buttons falling gently to the fingers and thumb. The grip is large and makes the camera easy to hold, but I will recommend not shooting one handed as the lens is weighty making the camera unbalanced.
Under the camera is a metal tripod bush which is a welcome relief and the battery door is sturdy with no flex in it. It also has a metal plate on the inside.
The function ring on the lens barrel is smooth and my only gripe with it was mentioned previously while the flash sits up on a high platform ensuring a lack of Red-Eye in all but the most difficult of images.
The screen isn't the best I've seen. A slight flickering is present continuously and I initially thought the ISO was set too high, but the problem persists in low ISO settings. The EVF is small and not very nice to look through.
Casio EX-F1: Flash options
The built-in flash has four different choices of Auto, Off, On and Red-Eye. In the flash menu, a fifth option for External is present to be chosen when using the hotshoe.
The flash range is approximately 0.49-6.6m at wide-angle and approximately 1.1-3.9m at telephoto which is just above a decent performance.
Casio EX-F1: Performance
It's time we stopped beating about the bush and examined the frames per second (fps) on this camera.
Heading back into the on-screen menu and scrolling down to the bottom, you'll come to the fps counter when your drive dial is placed on the 1-60 setting. This can be changed from auto settings to manual where you can choose the frame rate the camera will perform at.
Once you've lined up the image and are ready to shoot, this is where the clever part of the Casio kicks in. The Continuous Drive won't show you the pictures and instead opts to save them in a buffer. The camera will then ask you whether you want to save all the images, selected images or discard them all. This is great if you're running out of space on your card, but you won't know as the EX-F1 has no counter to illustrate the memory available. This feature of asking what you wish to do with your pictures can be disabled in the main menu if you desire.
The video capability of the EX-F1 is also pretty startling as well. Not only does it record at full 1920x1080 HD but also records at 300, 600 and 1200fps. For the uninitiated in the ways of film, the perfect running speed for motion is 30fps and can't be changed in playback.
Theoretically, 1200 frames being pushed through at 30fps gives a total running time of 40seconds so if you've not already worked out what effect that will give, perhaps the opening sequence to Baywatch could help. A high frame rate being played back at regular speed slows the video down.
This makes great video and shows you how certain things work when they normally happen so quickly. The video that I tried shows a party popper being let off at 1200fps and a glass being filled with water at 600fps. The video clip has been posted on ePHOTOzine.tv for you to see and can be viewed by clicking here.
The downfall is that the high video rates are very low quality. The 1200fps setting gives a letterbox effect and is very pixelated. The amount of light passing through is also very low so bright areas should be used in this situation.
This kind of performance is unheard of in any other camera and Casio have had to make some compromises such as the 6Mp resolution and other areas of the performance. The start up time of the EX-F1 is just over four seconds which is appalling, though the camera can be switched on using the power button on the top of the camera or by pressing the camera button on the back.
Sometimes the camera is just plain unresponsive. I took the camera to Chester Zoo on a day out as an opportunity to test it in different scenarios. What I discovered was that when flicking between playback and record or the menu before trying to zoom, the camera either ignored or couldn't cope with my requests. For a camera that has such a high performance rate, it seems that you have to use it quite slowly.
The landscape image was taken on a bleak day, but the high contrast area is showing a mild amount of fringing when enlarged to full size. The grass in the foreground shows a decent amount of detail but that quickly dissipates as it gets into the distance.
The colour chart gives a result similar to any other camera using JPEG. Blue is boosted the most with the other primaries close behind. The black & white tones look nicely balanced and I like the result of the skin tone.
I took the picture of the monkey through glass putting the lens flat against the pane and lifting the camera to the same level. Unfortunately the head of the monkey is over-exposed but the camera hasn't been fooled by any other distraction and the shallow depth of field has worked well sending the background out of focus.
By the time I'd reached the Flamingos, it was afternoon and the day had become overcast and windy. I had to raise the speed to ISO400 and because of this, noise is showing in darker areas of the pond. That being said, there is lovely detail on the feathers and the colours are realistic to the day.
The portrait in Aperture-Priority shows a balanced skin tone with decent detail getting lost in the shaded areas. Portrait mode adds a mild amount of warmth to the skin area but doesn't add any detail to the shade. Using the flash in Portrait mode has completely removed any warmth that was put in and given the skin tone a ghastly pallid appearance.
I assume that this is related in some way to the light that's used for the video recording when in dark areas as it uses an LED light and my review of the DoctorsEyes ringlight gave similar results although not as harsh.
Primaries are boosted, led by blue and the black & white tones are nice. I like the result of the skin tone too.
The macro mode only gets in as close as 5cm, but is an improvement on other Casio models. Not a professional result, though.
The wide-angle of the Casio EX-F1 is 36mm in 35mm format.
A huge 12x optical zoom crops in to 432mm in 35mm terms.
This miniature monkey was behind glass and the camera has avoided reflections well. The top of its head is over exposed though.
Despite the good detail in the feathers and lifelike colours, noise is showing at ISO400.
The 6Mp can show a reasonable degree of detail regardless of what we're used to.
Portrait mode adds a warmer tone to skin.
The same setting but with flash bleaches out any warmth and gives the skin a pallid blue tone.
Nicely balanced but lacking the warmth of Portrait mode. Detail is also lost in the shaded areas.
One of the Best Shot modes is Pets which chooses a faster shutter speed for in case they run off suddenly. Or in this case waddle.
Minimal fringing on the bars is a good result, but the day is bleak with low contrast. Reasonable detail in the foreground grass, but this peters out into the distance.
Casio EX-F1: Noise test
Matching my comments from the shot of the Flamingo in the Performance area, noise is present at ISO400 and it's not until this setting that it becomes a problem. ISO800 sees an increase in sharpening of the noise and some slight purple blotching in the black square while ISO1600 decays a lot more with bright spells of purple all over and red pixels sporadically scatter the grey card.
Detail in the petals is present throughout, so if you can see past the noise, it shouldn't worry you too much.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Casio EX-F1: Verdict
For the fastest camera in the world, it certainly has its slow points. Power on time and focusing is slow to the point where you could miss your fast moving object because the camera isn't ready.
The Casio EX-F1 does have manual focus to overcome this problem and the function ring on the lens can be assigned to focus, but should this really be necessary? Maybe, but not to the degree of the EX-F1.
With the cameras that Casio are now producing I think they're on their way to being a major contender in the hardware circuit sooner than we think.
If you're looking for a backup prosumer with stupidly fast fps and want to mess around with slow motion film, take a look at the Casio EX-F1.
Now take a look at the video review on ePHOTOzine.tv here.
Casio EX-F1: Plus points
Fastest fps in the world
Brilliant video options
Loads of pre-set modes
Casio EX-F1: Minus points
Noise at low levels
Slow start up time
Flash is over the top
Along with the Exilim EX-S10, Casio achieves another cutting edge award for the 60fps continuous shooting.
The Casio EX-F1 costs around £533 and is available from Warehouse Express here: