A typical shirt-pocket camera, if you’re lucky, can snap one photo a second in “burst mode”. A $1,000 (approx. Rs40,000) semi-pro model will get you three shots a second. But the Casio Exilim EX-F1 can snap — are you ready for this? — 60 photos a second. These are not movies; these are full 6-megapixel photographs, each with enough resolution for a poster-size print.
In a flash: The Exilim EX-F1 is a sports fan’s dream camera.
So, who would ever need to take so many pictures in one second? Sports fans, of course; imagine having the luxury of plucking out a photo of exactly the bat angle, soccer-leg swing or basketball jump height you want.
The F1’s second trick is that business about photographing a moment after the fact. In pre-record mode, you half-press the shutter button when you're awaiting an event that's completely unpredictable: a breaching whale, a geyser's eruption or a five-year-old batter connecting with the ball. The camera silently, repeatedly, records 60 shots a second, immediately discarding the old to make room for the new.
When you finally press the shutter button fully, the camera simply preserves the most recent shots, thus effectively photographing an event that, technically speaking, you missed.
Then there's the motion detector. In this mode, you put the camera down on something steady, press the shutter button and back away. It sits there, waiting for hours if necessary, until it detects movement in the scene — at which point it auto-fires 60 burst shots. That could come in handy when you're trying to photograph a hummingbird approaching a flower, a bird arriving at its nest or an unauthorized household member raiding the cookie jar.
As a final time trick, the F1 can display, on its 2.8-inch screen, a slow-motion version of what the camera is "seeing." Your preview falls further and further behind real time—but you now have the luxury of patience as you decide precisely when to snap the shot.
Unfortunately, this highly unusual, almost experimental piece of equipment includes nearly as many downsides as breakthroughs.
First, the F1 is, at its heart, an amateur camera. It contains a tiny light sensor (about half an inch diagonal, versus 1.1 inches in a beginner SLR). As a result, its light sensitivity is poor. Except in bright sunlight or studio lighting, those burst-mode shots are often disappointingly dim or disappointingly blurry.
Casio was obviously aware of this weakness, and so it engineered one of the brightest and fastest flashes ever on a consumer camera: It can fire an amazing seven times a second for up to three seconds. That superflash generally solves the light-sensitivity problem, but of course you might not want the characteristic harshness of flash photos.
The F1 is also complicated. It has two different mode dials and two different "shutter" buttons (one for stills, one for video). All those high-speed features, and all the attendant settings, had to go somewhere.
Now, it does seem ungrateful to criticize such an astonishing camera; it's like complaining that your 7-year-old violin virtuoso is lousy at sports.
But make no mistake: No camera has ever offered anything like the F1’s high-speed stills, high-speed videos or high-speed flash for anywhere near its price. Everybody who sees this camera in action winds up slack-jawed with disbelief.
Casio deserves congratulations for innovating in so many big, bold, industry-defying ways. Instead of pushing misleading metrics like megapixels, the company went its own defiant way and came up with a camera with an extremely clearly defined identity.
Maybe it's not the time machine of sci-fi movies. But, in the world of consumer electronics, it's an eye-opening first step.
©2008/The New York Times
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