Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1 Digital Camera
Wednesday, June 11, 2008; 7:19 PM
You've seen photos that freeze the action as a baseball hits the bat, a race car bounces over a curb, fireworks burst in the sky, or a droplet splashes into a glass of milk. Even a hobbyist photographer can take shots like these easily with theCasio Exilim Pro EX-F1, which captures up to 60 fps (frames per second) and offers several ways to exploit this unique ability.
On a trip to the ballpark, I loved the mode that prerecords frames as you half-press the shutter release. The camera saves the images only when you click the button the rest of the way. I could easily set up a shot and wait for the action. If the hitter missed the ball, no problem--I just released the button and tried again next time.
When I caught a hit, I could review the sequence on the bright 2.8-inch LCD to choose the clearest shots of the ball hitting the bat and bouncing away. However, I found I often missed the next play while I was busy selecting the images, or even while waiting for all 60 images to be stored on my SDHC media card.
The EX-F1 also makes shooting video a joy. It can record full 1080i HD video as well as video in standard TV format. However, I had most fun at the baseball game filming high-speed video. The camera can shoot reduced resolutions at up to 1200 fps, but 300 fps is plenty to reveal the slow-motion contortions of a pitcher throwing the ball.
If the image-stabilized, 12X-zoom makes sports photography a breeze,   the camera's automatic face detection ensures that portraits are in focus and accurately exposed; you get a full set of manual modes, too. The built-in flash has two light sources--a regular strobe and an LED source for longer bursts. You can also attach an external flash to the hot shoe. One drawback: The wide-angle view is too narrow for dramatic scenery shots   or large family portraits.
The camera has a solid feel, with mostly sensible controls and feedback, but   I often hit the three buttons to the left of the lens by mistake. I like that you can configure the ring around the lens to adjust the focus, zoom, or frame rate. I usually hate electronic viewfinders, but I frequently found myself using the tiny screen to compose shots accurately, despite its lack of realism.
The sensor's 6-megapixel resolution may seem low these days, but it's a reasonable compromise   to achieve the camera's high frame rates. Image quality stood up very well to models with 8 megapixels or more in our lab tests, showing fine exposure and low levels of distortion. The chunky lithium ion cell pumped out enough power to cope with all 500 of our battery test shots. That's important because you can use a lot of juice just waiting for the right moment, let alone shooting many shots in succession.
At $1000, the Casio EX-F1 isn't cheap. But for subjects such as sports and wildlife photography, where high frame rates and HD video stand out, it could be worth every penny.