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  • Physical Tour

  • Related content

  • Components

  • Design / Layout

  • Modes

  • Control Options

  • Image Parameters

  • Connectivity / Extras

  • Overall Impressions

  • Conclusion

Physical Tour

We can see why so many thought the Casio F1 was an DSLR: it looks like one from the front. The lens is large and doesn’t have a flimsy plastic cover, like most compacts. The lens has a nice blue rim around it along with some specs: "Exilim Optical 12x, f7.3-87.6mm, 1:2.7-4.6, 62mm." Above the lens, the Casio logo can be seen on the flash – similar to Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony, and about every DSLR on the market. The hot shoe can be seen at the top, too, making the F1 look even more like a DSLR. The hand grip has a nice textured rubber on it, a shutter release button, and a zoom ring. Near the top of the valley between the hand grip and the zoom lens is an autofocus assist lamp.

Back

The back of the Casio EX-F1 is typical of a compact. The 2.8-inch LCD screen is on the left side and buttons occupy the right side. The LCD is flush with the camera body, and the Exilim label is printed at the bottom of the LCD. Just above the LCD is the electronic viewfinder, which protrudes slightly. There is a diopter adjustment dial to the left of the viewfinder and a hot shoe on top.

To the right of the viewfinder is a small indicator light, and two oval buttons sit in the same neighborhood. The playback button sits on the left and the movie shooting button, marked with a red camera icon, sits on the right. These buttons look borrowed from Casio’s more compact Exilim digital cameras. The thick drive dial’s grooved edge is visible above the buttons. Another grooved dial for exposure modes sits at the top of the right side. In the upper right corner of the Casio F1’s back is a designated movie button, similar to the MovieSnap button on the Canon PowerShot S5 IS. This allows you to record movies at any time – no matter what mode the dial is turned to. Surrounding the movie button is a switch that moves through the different Movie modes: HS (high speed), HD (high definition), and STD (standard).

To the left of the F1’s movie button are a series of plastic bumps meant to add some handling support. To the right of the LCD are several more buttons: EVF/LCD, display, and menu. There is also a traditional multi-selector with a set button in the middle. The selector is a single ring that can be pushed in four directions. Around the edge of the multi-selector is a rotary dial with tiny grooves so it can be rotated easily. This is a nice feature that allows users to scroll through menu items and, more importantly, the enormous amount of images taken with the 60fps burst rate. 

Left Side

There are several buttons on the left side of the Casio F1’s lengthy lens. The grooved rubber zoom ring and metal rim of the lens can be seen. Behind it, on the main part of the body, are three buttons for Focus mode, backlight compensation, and exposure and focus lock. The camera is branded below the buttons: "Digital Camera EX-F1." Above the buttons, Casio printed a plug for the camera’s best feature: "60 fps continuous shooting." On the wider portion of the camera body is a neck strap eyelet at the top and a rubber flap on the bottom that covers jacks and ports. There are several ports beneath the flap: USB/AV, HDMI, AC, and a port for an external microphone.

Right Side

The right side isn’t very glamorous. It’s divided in the center, with a smoother black plastic surface near the back and a textured rubber that wraps around onto the front. This surface makes for better handling on the grip. Near the back is a small memory card door. At the top of this side is the neck strap eyelet.

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Top

From a bird’s-eye view, the Casio Exilim EX-F1 shows its L-shape. The 12x optical zoom lens is quite long. The end of the lens has a rubber grooved surface that rotates and can be used to zoom, focus, or choose the burst speed – whichever you choose in the Setup menu. Behind the lens is the flash unit, which looks long and allows it to pop up high and cover a decent area.

The Exilim label graces the flash unit. Directly behind the built-in flash is the hot shoe. On the left shoulder of the camera is a neck strap eyelet. There is also a small flash button, perhaps for changing the Flash mode, but it didn’t work on the pre-production model. The right portion of the L-shape has two dials on it: a black plastic drive dial has positions for the following Burst modes: Bracketing, Prerecord, Single, High Speed, Continuous, and Flash Continuous. Directly to the right of this dial is a slightly smaller chrome exposure mode dial. Positions on the mode dial are Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, Auto (in actuality, it’s more of a Program mode), and Best Shot.

On the right shoulder of the camera is a matching neck strap eyelet. Above the mode dial is the chrome power button, and the shutter release button sits at the apex of the hand grip. The chrome shutter release button is surrounded by a black zoom ring.

Bottom

The bottom of the EX-F1 shows just how long the lens is. The rubber grooved surface wraps around the entire lens, and the base of the camera seems to bow forward under the lens for added support. Directly beneath the lens is a metal tripod socket. Under the hand grip is a compartment for the battery.

Components

Viewfinder

The Casio EX-F1 comes with an electronic viewfinder. It has 201,000 pixels of resolution, so it provides a fairly smooth view. Trouble comes when the camera or subject moves, though: the refresh rate isn’t very good, so motion looks choppy. This is a funny problem with such a high-speed camera.

At 0.2 inches, the viewfinder isn’t very large, but is a fairly standard size for ultra-zoom electronic viewfinders. The Casio EX-F1’s viewfinder protrudes slightly and is surrounded by a cushy rubber eyecup for more comfortable viewing.

The brightness of the images in the viewfinder can be adjusted through the Setup menu from 0 (normal) to +1 and +2. This is a good feature for failing eyes. Another feature made for failing eyes is the diopter adjustment on the left side of the viewfinder, meant for photographers who wear glasses. The dial moves in eight steps. The dial is a pain to move, but it isn’t likely this control will be accessed very often.

The electronic viewfinder has a 100 percent accurate view of the recorded image, an advantage over optical viewfinders that usually have 95 percent accuracy on DSLRs and about 80 percent accuracy on compact digital cameras. Almost all ultra-zoom digital cameras come with electronic viewfinders.

The display on the viewfinder and LCD screen can be changed with the display button. It can hide the file information, show basic info, and show full info with a histogram. Grid lines can be added through the Setup menu.

The Casio EX-F1’s electronic viewfinder is accurate and bright and is a great viewing option when shooting in bright lighting, but the slow refresh rate is worrisome. Once again, the EX-F1 is still considered "pre-production," so this flaw could disappear by production time.

LCD Screen

A 2.8-inch Super Clear LCD screen graces the back of the Casio F1. It has 230,160 pixels, which is the industry standard. Its contrast isn’t excellent – although I was sitting in a poorly-lit room while checking the EX-F1 out – but the brightness adjustment helps. That feature has Auto 2, Auto 1, +2, +1, 0, -1, and -2 options in the Setup menu. The "Auto 2" is the default and is the brighter adjustment. The "Auto 1" saves the battery a bit and holds back on the brightness.

The LCD is easier on the eyes than the much smaller 0.2-inch viewfinder. The view from the viewfinder can be switched to the LCD and vice versa by pushing the EVF/LCD button on the back of the camera. There is also a display button that rotates the information on the screens.

The EX-F1’s LCD can be viewed from very wide angles and doesn’t seem to collect fingerprints easily, both nice perks. The LCD itself seems to have a wider format than most, and uses a small vertical strip on the right as a sort of always-on-screen Function menu.

Flash

The Casio EX-F1 has a tall pop-up flash that covers 1.64 to 34.12 feet with the lens zoomed wide or 3.61 to 20.67 feet with the lens zoomed in. Its coverage couldn’t be fully evaluated on the show floor, but it illuminated subjects within the 10-foot confines of the room I was in. The flash automatically pops up before taking an image: there is no button to manually open it. It pops open quickly, separating itself from some sluggish pop-up flashes on the market.

Many people thought the EX-F1 was a DSLR, and one of the reasons why is the hot shoe on top. It makes it look more serious. A similar camera is the Canon PowerShot S5 IS: it has a similarly shaped body, a 12x optical zoom lens, separate movie and still image buttons, and a hot shoe on top. The Casio’s hot shoe accepts any standard flash unit, though, whereas the Canon only accepts its own branded flashes. Casio representatives said it will not market its own Casio-branded flash accessories at this time, but don’t rule it out for the future.

Flash modes include Auto, Off, On, Red-Eye Reduction, and External Flash; they are available from the on-screen Function menu or by pushing the bottom of the multi-selector. This list doesn’t include any extras, like slow sync, which is included in many cameras.

The flash coverage looks decent, and there are a few ways to adjust the power of the flash. There is a flash exposure compensation option in the menu with a full +/- 2 scale in 1/3 steps. There is also a Rapid Flash mode that dims the power slightly but enables you to photograph a 7 fps burst using the flash for up to 20 shots. This is unprecedented. Most digital cameras disable the flash when the Burst mode is enabled, and the few that do include a Rapid Flash mode certainly don’t go this fast or long. The EX-F1 uses the flash for those shots, but if users want to speed up the burst they can use the internal LED light.

The internal LED allows High-Speed burst between 7 and 60 fps in low light. It remains on like a video light, but isn’t as powerful (Casio reps didn’t have specs on this, but say it covers at least 10 feet). I can’t imagine this would be very useful in many situations. The High-Speed burst seems like a dream for parents who want the perfect football shot and always seem to miss it, but if it’s a night game, the internal LED isn’t going to reach the field and your favorite football player.

Overall, the Casio Exilim F1’s built-in flash unit looks decent. It pops up really high, so red eyes shouldn’t be seen in images. And the hot shoe’s universal acceptance makes it a hot camera for photographers who have the equipment – no matter what brand.

Zoom Lens

There was a misunderstanding when Casio announced the EX-F1’s technology and showed off a prototype months ago, and the camera was deemed a DSLR. The prototype was not a DSLR then, and it is not a DSLR now. It was and is an ultra-zoom digital camera – albeit with some really cool features that seem to transcend into other categories. The Casio EX-F1’s 12x optical zoom lens is fixed onto the front; lenses cannot be interchanged. And there’s no way a DSLR’s mechanical shutter could flip 60 or 300 times in a second.

The 7.3 to 87.6mm zoom range is equivalent to 36 to 432mm in the 35mm format. The lens has wide max apertures of f/2.7-f/4.6. You can move throughout the zoom range in two ways. The default is to use the zoom control that surrounds the shutter release button. The other is to use the rubber ring surrounding the long lens. In the Setup menu, you can choose it to be a zoom ring, focus ring, or burst speed control. As a zoom ring, it isn’t very good. You have to rotate it several times around to move through the 12x range. This isn’t very efficient. It is much easier to push the zoom control by the shutter release button. It moves smoothly and allows you to stop at 25 different focal lengths in the range without backfiring. 

There is 4x digital zoom available, but this will only kill the image quality. This is shown on the same horizontal digital display as the optical zoom on the LCD, but is separated with a vertical line. It takes an extra push of the zoom control to get through the digital barrier, but who would want to?

The proprietary Exilim optical lens has 12 lenses in 9 groups and includes an aspherical lens among the bunch. The Casio EX-F1 uses a CMOS-shift image stabilization system to reduce blur caused by camera shake. 

The lens comes with a hood, but the cap may not be included. Some press materials say it comes with a cap, and others say it doesn’t. Casio reps say it does not. The length of the lens will necessitate some type of lens cap, though: it protrudes and will invite scratches if not covered properly while transporting. Casio’s lens can accept any brand of conversion lenses and filters as long as they fit on the 62mm threading. 

Design / Layout

 

Model Design / Appearance

The Casio EX-F1 looks so much like a DSLR that it fooled just about everyone. Months of Internet buzz have loomed over Casio’s supposed DSLR, but the camera is really an ultra-zoom compact. It has the serious and sophisticated look of a DSLR. It comes in black and is built from a durable magnesium alloy; the same material used to build most DSLRs. The EX-F1 looks and feels serious, a change from previous Exilim Pros. Other models, like the Casio P505, were just too small and had too many chintzy features to be taken seriously.

Size / Portability

The Casio EX-F1’s measurements are ample. It has an ultra-zoom body type, but has the weight and size of most DSLRs. Its official measurements are 5.03 x 3.13 x 5.12 inches (127.7 x 79.6 x 130.1mm), which includes the incredibly long lens. Casio’s press release states the EX-F1 is "surprisingly light," but it didn’t surprise me. On the contrary, I think its 23.67-ounce weight is heavier than it looks. That weight is without the card and battery, too.

A neck strap is included with the EX-F1, but it isn’t anything glamorous. It’s mainly fabric and has a little leather where the neck actually rests. The neck strap will definitely be necessary to carry this little beast around. To really transport it, the EX-F1 will require a camera bag because of its size and heft.

Handling Ability

The Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 is built for big hands. The camera has a huge hand grip that protrudes out nicely. My fingers wrapped around the front, but didn’t quite reach the valley between the grip and the lens. The hand grip is covered in a textured rubber that feels more smooth than sticky but still grips just as well as anything.

There are a few handling features on the back. There are a few plastic bumps and a small curvy nub where the thumb rests. And on the bottom, the wide base makes a great place for the left hand to support that hefty lens. The lens does seem heavier than the hand grip, so this imbalance could cause some discomfort. This is definitely a camera to be handled with both hands.

Overall, the handling is good. The large hand grip is comfortable and the big base makes a good home for the left hand. Fingers don’t get in the way of components, and most buttons and controls are placed intuitively.

**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size

**The controls on the Casio EX-F1 are similar to those on previous Pro models, although there are a few nice updates. The best update is the rotary dial that surrounds the traditional multi-selector; this is perfect for scrolling through those large batches of burst photos and slow motion videos. It also scrolls through options in menus, which can be useful in the incredibly lengthy Setup menu.

The size, placement, and labels on the buttons are just as they should be. Fingers won’t be stumbling over several buttons to find them. Most of the buttons are typical of those on most compact digital cameras.

The Casio EX-F1 offers manual controls, but doesn’t provide an easy jog dial to access them. Everything is done with the multi-selector or rotary dial. There isn’t a jog dial, but there is a dial for the camera’s highly-marketed Burst modes.

Another interesting button on the F1 is the movie button. It is located on the upper right corner of the camera’s back – separate from the shutter release button on top that captures still images. This allows you to take still pictures while recording video – without stopping the video – and record video at a moment’s notice (as opposed to rotating a mode dial or even pushing a Movie mode button before pushing the button again to actually record). This control has the same concept as the MovieSnap button found on the Canon PowerShot S5 IS.

Menu

The menu layout is similar to other Casio Exilim digital cameras – compact and Pro series alike. The LCD screen is nice and large, but the font is small and there are scores of menus to go through. Just about everything on the Casio EX-F1 can be customized. That’s fabulous, but makes for pages of menus that will only be accessed very occasionally. The menus can be navigated through with the rotary dial and the multi-selector.

There is a small Function menu that appears on the right side of the LCD screen.

The Function menu provides a few live views of the exposure compensation and the white balance, and is easily accessible on the LCD. The other menus are available from the menu button. It sounds easy, but there are so many pages of them that it’s almost overwhelming. But if you’ve used Casio Exilim digital cameras before, this isn’t anything new.

 

There are tabs to jump from the Recording to the Quality and Setup menus, but no way to easily jump through the pages in those individual menus. The menus are easy to find, but the options in them aren’t.

Ease of Use

This isn’t the kind of digital camera a beginner would buy. With that in mind, Casio didn’t include exceptional ease of use features. There isn’t a fully automated mode, there isn’t a help guide to explain functions, and the length of the menus aren’t encouraging for newbies. That said, the Casio EX-F1 still packs in all the Best Shot modes from its compacts, and its menus are the same as other Exilims, so loyal Casio customers will probably find this camera easier to use than most consumers.

Modes

Auto Mode

Technically, there isn’t a truly automatic mode. The exposure mode still allows full access to the on-screen Function menu. Exposure compensation, white balance, and ISO can be changed, along with color filters, typical image size, etc. This mode is easily found on the mode dial with its red square icon: the rest of the icons are printed in black, making this one stand out. It isn’t an Auto mode, but there are plenty of Best Shot scene modes to serve that purpose. And if users want a true Auto mode, they can create one (just select automatic everything when customizing a Best Shot mode). Manually creating an Auto mode kind of ruins the point, though.

**Movie Mode

**More proof this digital camera is not a DSLR: it has a Movie mode, which requires a fully exposed image sensor. This isn’t just any Movie mode, either. It includes high-definition quality, ultra high speed, and a standard Movie mode. It is accessible from its very own movie button, which makes it easier and faster to take movies on a moment’s notice.

The separate movie button allows you to take full-resolution still images while recording video. Canon has this same setup on its PowerShot S5 and calls it MovieSnap. The Canon S5 has a definite blip and jump in the video, though: you can hear the shutter click, and the video blacks out for a second while the image is being captured. The function didn’t work on the pre-production Casio EX-F1, but Casio reps say there won’t be a disturbance in the video or audio.

The EX-F1 can record 1920 x 1080 pixels at 60 fps and 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 fps. It can be recorded at high or normal quality. This high-definition video can be output to a high-definition TV with an HDMI cable that is sold separately.

The High-Speed Movie mode records more action than human eyes can actually see. The Casio F1 can record 300, 600, or 1200 fps for up to 1,200 frames. The speed depends on the resolution. The 300 fps video can be recorded at 512 x 384 pixels, which is a bit smaller than standard 640 x 480-pixel television screens, so resolution won’t look flawless. The motion of the subject, however, will look flawless. The 600 fps video records at 432 x 192 pixels, while the 1200 fps video records at 336 x 96 pixels. At the 512 x 384-pixel resolution, the frame rate is adjustable from 60 to 300 fps. Specs indicate that the video can play back in slow motion, but this function didn’t work on the pre-production model I looked at.

There is a pre-record function, too. This is something that has been included on previous Casio digital cameras, but has never been so useful. The high-speed videos can only record a few seconds of action, so timing is key to get just the right point of action. Imagine life as a photographer out in the African jungle. Your assignment is to get a shot of monkeys calling to each other. You can’t pose the monkeys or tell them to call; you have to wait hours for that shot. And when the opportunity comes, will you miss it? Probably not with the Casio EX-F1. It records a continuous feed of video, and when the shutter release button is pushed, it saves a selectable number of frames before the button was pushed. The default is set to record half of the frames before and half after (if set to 60 fps, then it will record 30 frames prior to your pushing the shutter release button).

The standard Movie mode includes 640 x 480-pixel video at 30 fps, which is what most digital cameras have on tap. The EX-F1 may very well rival hybrid cameras such as the Canon PowerShot S5 IS, which has standard video resolution but exceptional performance and perks, such as optical zoom and stereo audio.

Indeed, the Casio Exilim EX-F1 has a stereo microphone (although only a mono speaker onboard) and 12x optical zoom available during movie capture. A fresh addition is the external microphone jack: no other comparable cameras have this feature, although it’s standard on most camcorders. The in-camera audio was hard to assess in the conference center because of the constant noise. The presence of the microphone jack and stereo audio makes a statement, though: the EX-F1 can be used as a serious camcorder, as well as a serious digital camera. Is this the Holy Grail hybrid everyone has been looking for? We’ll have to wait until production time to find out.

The Casio EX-F1 has a sensor-shift image stabilization system, but it isn’t fully functional in the Movie mode. Only the electronic image stabilization is functional while recording movies – a disadvantage compared to the Canon S5, which uses optical image stabilization to keep movies steady while using the 12x zoom.

You can play back movies on the camera and perform some very simple editing. The beginning, middle, and end can be cut.

For Casio users who still lust after the simple life every once in awhile, the EX-F1 keeps the YouTube movie mode made popular on its other compact models. This is listed among the Scene modes and preps videos for instant upload to the popular online video sharing site.

The Casio EX-F1’s videos are recorded in H.264 compression, which is typically better than the Motion JPEG videos most digital cameras record. It is more efficient, uses less space on the memory card, and its quality is still excellent.

The Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 has a monster of a Movie mode. It’s big. It’s bold. It’s packed full of features. It combines the Canon TX1’s high definition videos (although hopefully they’re of better quality) with the Canon S5’s accessibility, and adds all new technology that allows high speed videos and slow-motion playback. The Casio EX-F1 seems to combine the best of every digital camera’s Movie modes. It may come close to camcorder quality. We look forward to getting this camera for a full review and taking a closer look at the video footage.

**Drive / Burst Mode

**Casio announced the EX-F1 as having the world’s fastest Burst mode with its 60 fps rate – yes, at full 6-megapixel resolution. It earns this designation and then some. The next fastest is the Canon EOS-1D Mark III, a 10.1-megapixel DSLR that can shoot 10 fps.

The Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 has an entire dial on top of the camera dedicated to the drive modes. It has Single, Continuous, High-Speed, Prerecord, Bracketing, and Flash Continuous. The most marketed Burst mode is its fastest, of course. The Burst mode on the pre-production model wasn’t working properly, but it is reported to capture 60 fps. For those who don’t want that kind of speed, the burst rate can be varied anywhere from 1 to 60 fps. The burst stops after 60 frames though, whether it goes at 5 fps for 12 seconds or 12 fps for 5 seconds.

The Prerecord feature’s default is to record half of the images before the shutter release button was pushed and half after. This can be adjusted, though. This seems to be a pretty incredible leap in technology. Casio has come out with all new stuff, though: a new CMOS image sensor paired with an LSI image processor. This is new ground for the manufacturer.

The technology can’t be stopped – even in low light. The Continuous Flash mode functions up to 7 fps, and beyond that the LED turns on continuously to record up to 60 fps.

The Burst modes can be saved in folders that can be easily scrolled through in the Playback mode. 

The self-timer comes with 2 and 10-second delay options, as well as a triple self-timer that delays for 10 seconds before snapping three consecutive shots.

Playback Mode

The Playback mode is accessible with a button on the back of the camera. This button can be set to power the camera on; this is customizable in the Setup menu.

Images can be viewed one by one by pushing the sides of the multi-selector or rotating the rotary dial. Rotating the dial is much easier and much more comfortable on the thumbs. Moving the zoom ring in and out changes the size of the images. It can show 12 thumbnails per page or it can magnify the images. The specs on magnification aren’t available, but by the looks of it, it appears to be at least 10x.

Many of the Playback mode’s functions are available in the Playback menu.

 

Images can be deleted by pushing the bottom of the multi-selector. Overall, the Casio EX-F1’s Playback mode seems thorough. It has to cover a lot of different recording features, though: editing for videos and still images. The rotary dial navigation makes it easy to scroll through the loads of images photographers using this camera will likely rack up due to the extensive Burst mode.

Custom Image Presets

Casio Exilim digital cameras are notorious for their excessive number of Best Shot Scene modes. The EX-F1 doesn’t have 30-something modes like on the newer compact cameras, but comes close with 27 Best Shot Scene modes.

The modes weren’t finalized on the pre-production model. Some of them had Japanese characters in place of sample photos. It does seem that all of the modes come with a sample photo and a brief explanation of what the mode does.

The list of Scene modes includes the basics, like Portrait and Scenery, and assuredly there will be more interesting scenes with the new features on the EX-F1. Perhaps a hummingbird shooting mode to use the high-speed burst? Hmmm.

Like less expensive, more compact Exilims, the Casio EX-F1 comes with a YouTube Capture mode that records movies optimized in format to load quickly to the online video sharing site.

Like most Casio cameras, the EX-F1 has a "Register User Scene" mode that allows users to save up to 999 custom modes with combinations of the hundreds of features on the camera.

Control Options

Manual Control Options

There are a full range of exposure modes paired with hosts of manual controls. Parameters such as white balance and ISO can be adjusted, along with the manual exposure controls of shutter speed and aperture. Have a preference on the burst speed? That can be adjusted, too.

Focus

Autofocus – The Casio Exilim EX-F1 has a contrast detection autofocus system that can focus as close as 1.97 inches (5 centimeters) and as far as 19.69 inches in the Macro mode. Normally, it focuses from 15.75 inches (40 centimeters). These specs aren’t just a product of the autofocus system; the Exilim 12x optical zoom lens is involved, too.

The autofocus system can be set to Macro, Normal, or Infinity with the focus button on the left side of the camera. The focus button is in nice reach of the left thumb. The autofocus area can be set to Spot, Free, and Tracking. The Free setting is a spot focus system that allows you to move the spot around the frame freely. It can move to 8,576 points around the frame using the multi-selector.

There is an autofocus assist lamp on the front of the camera that makes it easier to shoot in low light. It can be turned to auto or off in the Setup menu. Continuous autofocus can be set to on and off in the Recording menu.

The Casio EX-F1 has a face recognition system, but its specs are still under wraps. No word on how many faces it can detect, but it detected the two women at the Casio booth. The camera quickly recognized their faces, even though one of them wasn’t looking directly at the camera.

Overall, the autofocus system seems to work well – even though it is pre-production status and could change. It quickly focuses, even when the 12x lens is zoomed in on faraway subjects, and even in the dim and uneven lighting of the convention center.

Manual Focus – The Manual focus can be activated by pushing the focus button on the left side of the long lens. It allows you to focus as close as 5 centimeters. When the manual focus is activated, a box appears in the center third of the LCD screen’s image. When the focus is adjusted, that central box is magnified so the focus can be better judged. The resolution on the LCD screen is conducive to manual focusing. The Manual focus can be adjusted with the multi-selector or the ring surrounding the lens. That ring can be customized to change the focus, zoom, or burst rate. In the Recording menu, there is a focus bracketing option that allows users to shoot three or five images with different focal points.

ISO

The Casio Exilim EX-F1 has a decent ISO range. It has an automatic setting, along with 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600 manual ISO options. Most digital cameras offer an ISO setting lower than 100: 50, 64, or 80, for example. The EX-F1 starts out at ISO 100, so let’s hope its noise is incredibly low. This isn’t something we’ll find out at CES: check back in a few months when we get a production-ready Casio EX-F1 we can put through our full review process.

The manual ISO adjustment is effective in movies because the videos are activated with a separate movie button. The manual ISO options are all available at the full 6-megapixel resolution.

**White Balance

**The Casio EX-F1 has a healthy selection of white balance settings. They come with a live view in the on-screen Function menu: Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Day Light Fluorescent, Tungsten, and Manual. The Manual white balance is easy to set: there is an on-screen prompt that tells you to push the shutter to set the white balance. All you need to do is frame something white. The white balance bracketing allows you to photograph three or five images that can lean toward blue or red.

Exposure

The Casio Exilim EX-F1 has exposure modes to suit any photographer’s needs. There is a host of Best Shot Scene modes for those who don’t want to fuss about details like shutter speed and aperture. For those who want complete control over said parameters, there are Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual modes.

Exposure compensation is available on a +/- 2 scale in increments of a third, and there is auto exposure bracketing available. A live histogram can be viewed, complete with red, green, and blue channels to help photographers judge the exposure.

Metering

The Function menu houses the metering options that include Multi, Center-Weighted, and Spot modes. There is also a backlight compensation button on the left side of the camera that is a one-touch solution for photographing subjects in front of bright lights. This is just a quick way to activate the spot metering.

Shutter Speed

When I first saw the specs for the Casio EX-F1, I thought the shutter speed was a typo. I thought they must have typed an extra zero. But the truth showed up even on the pre-production model: the top speed is 1/40,000 of a second. This is available in the Manual and Shutter Speed Priority modes. The Aperture Priority and automated modes use a much shorter 1-1/2000 of a second range. The EX-F1 uses a mechanical and electronic shutter. The shutter speed can be manually selected using the set button and the sides of the multi-selector. This isn’t as flawless or quick as having a jog dial, but is what most manually-controlled ultra-zoom digital cameras offer anyway.

Aperture

The Exilim zoom lens has a wide f/2.7 max aperture when zoomed out. When the lens is zoomed in, the max shrinks to f/4.6, which is typical of a lens this size. When the lens is automatically controlled, the minimum is f/15. The manual aperture options include f/2.7, 3.0, 3.3, 3.8, 4.2, 4.7, 5.3, 6.0, 6.7, and 7.5. These can be selected with the set button and the sides of the multi-selector, like the shutter speed.

Image Parameters

Picture Quality / Size Options

The Casio EX-F1 has a 6-megapixel CMOS sensor that measures 1/1.8 inches. The sensor has 6.6 total megapixels.

The EX-F1 proves it’s a serious camera with its 2816 x 2112-pixel RAW file format. It uses the Digital Negative Format (DNG) that Adobe Systems endorses and recommends as a standard image file format.

There are also JPEG files in various image sizes: 2816 x 1872 (3:2), 2816 x 1586 (16:9), 2304 x 1728, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, and 640 x 480 pixels. In the Playback mode, the images can be resized to any size smaller than what it was recorded in.

Picture Effects Mode

Deep in the Recording menu are the picture effects, including Black & White, Sepia, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, and Purple. There are also full-step +/- 2 adjustments for contrast, saturation, and sharpness in the same menu. Live views help users choose the color effects, but the other parameters are a shot in the dark. In the Playback mode, the white balance and brightness can be adjusted in images.

Connectivity / Extras

Connectivity

Software

Casio reps say all-new software will be introduced with the EX-F1. It won’t come with the run-of-the-mill beginner’s editing software that comes with most Exilim digital cameras. According to Casio reps, the software will have video editing software that will be able to handle the huge batches of photos and videos.

Jacks, ports, plugs

The Casio EX-F1 has plenty of interesting jacks, ports, and plugs. It has a hot shoe for external flash systems and accepts any flash brand. It has a rubber flap on the left side of the camera that covers four ports: USB/AV, HDMI, DC-in, and an external microphone jack. The USB is high-speed 2.0. The AV-out can be set to NTSC or PAL in 4:3 or 16:9 format. The USB and AV cables are included with the camera, but the HDMI mini cable does not come with the EX-F1. The HDMI allows high-definition video to be output to HDTVs. The DC-in power adapter comes with the camera. As a first for digital cameras, the Casio EX-F1 comes with an external microphone jack, in hopes this will make the EX-F1 a more attractive choice to serve consumers as a camcorder/camera hybrid.

*Direct Print Options

*The Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 is PictBridge-compatible and comes with a USB cable to hook up to printers. The camera is DPOF compliant and can create print orders in the Playback menu. Prints can be made from videos – called Motion Print in the Playback menu – that are more like filmstrips. Still images can be selected, 0 to 99 prints chosen, and date stamps added. This can all be done in the Playback menu.

Battery

There is a rechargeable NP-100 lithium-ion battery that comes with the Casio EX-F1. Its lifetime is still to be determined. The battery is substantially sized: it’s about as big as a business card and at least a half-inch thick. The Casio EX-F1 comes with a battery charger, as well as a power adapter that fits into a port on the left side.

Memory

The Casio EX-F1 can snap 60 fps at full-resolution – but that scoops up an enormous amount of memory. The amount of internal memory is to be determined and still very much in flux right now, according to Casio reps. The software is still in development, so the internal memory will get the "leftovers" of memory space. Right now, that is enough to hold 17 full-resolution images. But that could very well change by production time. Stay tuned.

Most professionally-minded digital cameras, including most DSLRs, require CompactFlash memory cards. The EX-F1 uses smaller media, though: SDHC, SD, MMC, and MMCplus. Currently, most of these cards are available at up to 8 GB. Even this will go quickly when snapping slow-motion sequences. Most high-resolution slow-motion digital cameras record to ample hard drives – then again, those cost more than luxury sedans.

In the Playback menu, users can move files from the internal memory to the card and vice versa.

Other features

Slow Motion View – This feature takes a little movie and then plays it back in slow motion, allowing the user to hit the shutter at the desired moment.

Dynamic Range Expansion – In the Quality menu, the dynamic range can be expanded to +1 and +2 options. This is used to bring subjects out of shadows in starkly lit photographs.

Remote Shutter Release – Images and video can be taken remotely with the extra purchase of a remote control.

Overall Impressions

Value

The value of the F1 depends on what you use it for. If you are only going to shoot portraits and objects to sell on eBay, this is way too much. It is much more valuable for someone who needs to photograph action in slow motion: wildlife photographers trying to snap the perfect shot of a big cat leaping, for instance. In that case, the Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 is far less expensive than its direct competition. The F1 retails for $999. That’s a hefty price for an ultra-zoom compact. But the Fastec SportsCam, which shoots 640 x 480 pixels at 250 fps, costs just under $9,000. The Photron FastCam-X 1024 PCI snaps 1,500 fps at 1024 x 768-pixel resolution and can snap up to 100,000 fps with reduced resolution. There’s a catch; it costs as much as a luxury car with its $70,000 price tag. That dwarfs the $999 tag on the Casio F1, although I’m sure there are differences in quality, too.

Who It’s For

Point-and-Shooters – No way. This camera does so much more than point and shoot. It points and shoots and shoots and shoots and will overwhelm the simpleton who wants an automated experience.

Budget Consumers – Casual photographers looking for an ultra-zoom digital camera will pass up the Casio EX-F1 because of its $999 price, but perhaps this is a budget breakthrough for certain photographers who need slow-motion capture.

Gadget Freaks – By the time you’ve reached this point, you should know that the EX-F1 will be a subject of much lust among the gadget-friendly crowd. Wipe the saliva off your chin.

Manual Control Freaks – Want Manual or Aperture Priority? Want 300 fps or 60 fps? Feast your eyes upon the plentiful manual controls of the Casio EX-F1: they are more than satisfactory.

Pros/Serious Hobbyists – If you’re a pro looking for monstrous resolution, this isn’t the camera for you. But if you’re a pro looking for a ridiculously fast digital camera to shoot slow-motion sequences, the Casio EX-F1 will interest you.

Conclusion

**

Conclusion**

Have you ever watched a long movie and felt like you were left hanging at the end? I’m sorry if this review leaves you feeling that way. The Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1’s hottest features are ones that couldn’t be fully evaluated on the show floor. The pre-production model shown at the Consumer Electronics Show wasn’t fully functional: unfortunately, many of the burst and movie features weren’t working. And some features simply can’t be appreciated in the camera: high definition video, for instance.

I can come to a few solid conclusions, though. The Casio EX-F1 is the hottest digital camera at CES. The 60 fps Burst mode is enough to make any photographer lust after this camera. And many consumers search for the perfect camera to carry in place of hauling around a digital camera and camcorder. The EX-F1 just might be that camera. The 6-megapixel camera will reach a wide market with its 12x ultra-zoom functionality and serious camcorder-like high-definition and high-speed Movie mode.

The EX-F1 comes in a surprisingly sturdy body and has solid components; Casio didn’t take shortcuts on this camera. It has a hot shoe and external microphone jack, proving it is a serious contender in the hybrid category. The Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 comes at a $999 price and will be available in late spring 2008. It is still in development and we look forward to seeing more functionality in a few weeks at the Photo Marketing Association Trade Show in late January 2008. Stay tuned for more on the EX-F1.

Meet the tester

Emily Raymond

Emily Raymond

Editor

Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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