Casio Exilim EX-FC100 Point-and-Shoot Camera
At a Glance
Casio Exilim EX-FC100
Unique high-speed features make this a great camera for action shooters, but it's not the best model for normal video.
Lots of point-and-shoot cameras are available these days, and while you have many very good camera choices, it's hard not to feel like they're all mostly the same. Occasionally, though, something unique comes along, and the Casio Exilim EX-FC100 definitely falls into that category.
As a point-and-shoot camera, the EX-FC100 is fairly typical: It has a 9-megapixel sensor (which allows you to extract large prints from your images), a 5X optical zoom for extra telephoto reach, a stabilized sensor for sharper handheld shooting, and all of the expected point-and-shoot features, such as scene modes, face detection, good metering, and autofocus.
What sets the EX-FC100 apart is its ability to shoot bursts of up to 30 full-resolution images per second, and video at up to 1000 frames per second. While those features may not seem immediately useful to the average snapshooter, the way Casio has implemented them will make them incredibly valuable to anyone who frequently photographs moving subjects--children, sporting events, wildlife, and artful "moment of impact" scenes.
Casio's Exilim cameras are renowned for their incredible thinness, and while the EX-FC100 is a very small camera, it's larger than most Exilim models. That said, the EX-FC100 is beautifully designed and has an extremely low profile. It lacks any kind of moldings or handgrips, but it's still easy to handle and comfortable to shoot with.
The 2.7-inch LCD is bright and clear with nice color and good detail, but its images appear a little soft. At first that might make you think the camera's autofocus isn't working, but you'll soon get used to it and learn to recognize what good focus looks like on the EX-FC100's screen.
Unlike most cameras, the EX-FC100 lacks manual shooting modes. Though the camera is always in auto mode, it allows for manual control of ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, and flash mode, and changing any of those parameters is easy. Whether you are a novice or you have a little more experience, you'll be able to pick up the camera and start shooting right away.
In place of manual modes, the EX-FC100 provides a huge assortment of scene modes, or what Casio refers to as Best Shot modes. The modes tailor the camera's settings to specific situations. While Casio has provided a Best Shot mode for seemingly every possible contingency, trying to figure out exactly when to use a mode labeled "Autumn Leaves," for example, can be tricky. One impressive Best Shot option is the Multi-Motion image mode, which quickly shoots a series of images and then composites them together. For instance, if you use it to shoot someone throwing a Frisbee, the result will be one image with multiple Frisbees in the air, creating a stuttered trail. It's a gimmick, but a lot of fun.
The camera's stabilization feature works well, and while the EX-FC100 lacks an optical viewfinder, the LCD screen is bright enough for use in direct sunlight. Autofocus and metering are both very good, and the camera provides several different focusing and metering modes. Fortunately, Casio has eschewed some more-gimmicky features (such as smile detection) and stuck with technologies that actually work.
To the left of the EX-FC100's shutter button is a button labeled "30," which toggles the camera in and out of high-speed burst mode. In this mode, you can press and hold the shutter button for up to 1 second, and the camera will shoot at up to 30 frames per second at full resolution. If you choose Fine quality (full resolution with the best-quality JPEG compression) you'll get only 21 frames per second, while Normal quality will yield a full 30 fps.
For capturing the precise moment when a baseball bat hits a ball, or when a bird lands on a tree, the high-speed burst mode is invaluable. Obviously, storing 30 full-resolution frames quickly fills up your storage, so after the camera has taken the shots, it presents a simple interface for you to choose the frames you want to save, allowing you to zero in on the right moment.
Near the left side of the top of the camera is the Slow button, which gives you another option for capturing a moment. When you press the Slow button, the EX-FC100 captures 1, 2, or 3 seconds' worth of full-resolution images at 30, 15, or 10 frames per second, respectively (you can choose which speeds via a menu item). It then plays the images back to you on screen, in slow motion. When you see the frame you want to keep, press the shutter button to instruct the camera to store it.
The burst mode and the Slow button provide two approaches to the same problem, and both work well. Which one is right for you depends on the situation and your reflexes. With the 30-fps burst, you should be able to easily capture the moment when a runner's foot hits home plate, while the Slow mode will be easier for capturing the precise moment of impact between ball and bat.
My only complaint about the burst features is that they're too fast for some situations. When shooting portraits, a burst mode can be handy for capturing subtle changes of expression, but expressions don't change 30 times per second; a burst speed of 3 fps is fine for that type of shooting. It would be nice if Casio had included a slower, more traditional burst capability in addition to the high-speed burst.
The EX-FC100's rechargeable lithium ion battery handles all those burst features well. In PC World Test Center battery evaluations, this Exilim shot 317 photos on a single charge, earning a battery-life rating of Very Good.
Like most point-and-shoots, the EX-FC100 can shoot video (standard- or high-definition) with sound. Video quality is very good, though you cannot use optical zoom while shooting video (typical for the video features on most cameras).
The EX-FC100's video features also exploit the camera's ability to record full frames at high speed. In addition to its normal video mode, a separate high-speed video mode lets you shoot 480 by 360 video at 210 fps, 224 by 168 video at 420 fps, or 224 by 64 video at 1000 fps. The video plays back at a normal 30-frames-per-second rate, meaning these high-speed modes allow you to record slow motion. You'll probably find the 210-fps mode the most useful, as it yields the frame size that's closest to normal SD video. While the 1000-fps mode is interesting, the extremely odd frame size and low-quality results make it only marginally useful.
Slow-motion video is a lot of fun, and Casio has wisely put a dedicated external control on the camera for switching between normal and high-speed video. The fact that you can so easily get to all of the camera's high-speed features makes you much more likely to take advantage of them, and I was pleased to see that these features didn't require a trip to the menus.
Unfortunately, two serious issues marred the EX-FC100's video features in our tests. First, when zoomed in all the way with the optical zoom, the camera was incapable of focusing accurately. Second, when shooting HD zoomed in all the way, the camera yielded a very weird, shaky, wobbly image. It was difficult to tell whether that was the result of the camera's stabilization or digital zoom; deactivating both had no impact. Of course, you can simply not zoom in all the way, as the camera worked fine for us when not zoomed fully. Note, too, that when shooting HD, you'll have only mono audio.
Plainly, Casio has not scrimped on the lens, as the FC100 delivers sharp images. In PC World Test Center jury evaluations, the EX-FC100 earned an overall image quality rating of Good, with its strong suits being low levels of distortion and accurate colors. Its flash uniformity rating, however, was near the middle of the pack compared with other point-and-shoots we tested alongside it; prints looked darker toward their edges and corners.
Its high-ISO performance was very good, but as you might expect from a point-and-shoot camera, once you get over ISO 400, the images become noticeably noisy. However, even at ISO 1600, the images were still quite usable, especially for small prints.
Except for the shaking problem mentioned earlier, video quality is very good; when shooting video at higher ISOs, however, the camera has a tendency to underexpose the footage dramatically.
The Exilim EX-FC100 is a very capable point-and-shoot still camera, offering all of the features you'd expect in a compact, pocketable model--but it's the high-speed shooting features that really set this camera apart. Whether the camera is right for you really depends on the type of shooting you do. For photographing sports and other fast-moving activities, the EX-FC100's features will definitely allow you to capture very specific moments, assuming that you can get close enough to frame a good shot. (Bear in mind that the camera does not have a superlong zoom lens.) The slow-motion video is fun, and a great way to jazz up your movie projects, especially when you're shooting action--be warned, though, that the camera does have some troublesome issues when shooting regular-speed video. For users who regularly shoot fast action, the EX-FC100 presents a great solution to difficult issues.