The Casio EXILIM EX-FS10 comes on the heels of the groundbreaking EX-F1, which records up to 1,200 fps slow-motion video and 60 fps burst mode stills at 6 megapixels. The EX-FS10 is different in terms of its smaller size and price point ($350 compared to the $999 price tag of the EX-F1). Still, the EX-FS10 is a new family member of this revolutionary high-speed imaging technology introduced with the EX-F1 a few years ago. The FS10 provides the photographer with a 9.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 30 fps stills captured at 6 megapixels, high speed movies at 1,000 fps for extreme slow-motion clips, and HD movie at 1280x720 resolution.
Casio has found a niche in the market with no competition; nothing can even touch the frame rates of their High Speed EXILIM family (the fastest DSLRs include the Canon EOS-1D Mark III with 10 fps, and the Nikon D3 at 9 fps). However, making that comparison is like comparing apples and oranges. These two DSLRs are pro models that aren't meant to be combo slow-motion video cameras with burst modes like the EX-FS10 or EX-F1, and they also have much larger sensors than these two cameras.
With that clarification being drawn, the EX-FS10 is a compact with some serious features in a camera body no bigger than a pack of playing cards. The EX-FS10 was announced along with its older brother, the slightly higher-class EX-FC100. The FC100 is differentiated by a 5x optical zoom and a CMOS anti-shake stabilization system that moves the sensor to compensate for shake, two features that the EX-FS10 lacks.
The Casio EX-FS10 comes equipped with a 1/2.3 inch high-speed 9.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 3X optical zoom, 2.5 inch high-performance Super Clear LCD, HD movie capture, 30 fps burst mode, and up to 1,000 fps video for ultra slow-motion capture.
Here's a list of some its most notable features:
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
Styling and Build Quality
Ultra-slim, ultra-stylish is how this small 4.2 oz. camera can be described. The EX-FS10 is a pocket camera that fits well into a pair of pants or just toting it around in your hand, and comes in three attractive colors: gray, the color of our test model, blue and red.
The EX-FS10 is no larger than a pack of playing cards, and made from a nice alloy body. It is a sleek digital camera with a brushed finish, complete with a tripod collar, battery trap door that holds the lithium-ion battery, and an SD/SDHC memory card slot. Also on the right is the USB/AV port where you can connect up your camera to your computer or TV. With all things measured, the body is certainly well-built and ready to be put into a pocket and taken out into the field.
Ergonomics and Interface
The button layout on the camera exceeds more than 10 buttons, some of which have specific applications. There are essentially two shutter systems, one for stills, and a red record button that starts and stops any sort of video you shoot with the EX-FS10.
Other unique buttons include a 30 fps and SLOW button on the top of the camera. The SLOW button turns the LCD monitor into a slow motion view, while the 30 fps buttons helps you to toggle between high-speed shooting and single shot quickly.
There is also a Movie Mode switch that lets you toggle between High Speed movies and HD movies. As far as typical digital camera button layouts go, on the EX-FS10 you have your shutter and zoom lever coupled on top, a Playback button and a Rec. button that moves you between image and video review back to the shooting process, a four-way dial that lets you navigate through the menus, and a Menu button to get you there. Also there is a Best Shot mode on bottom that gets you right to the scene modes without having to go through the menu system.
The Menu system can be called up by pressing the button and using the four-way controller to navigate through the REC/Quality/Set Up menus, and work in the typical fashion that most digital cameras are based on, allowing you to get to exposure modes, Autofocus, and other areas of control. Although it is mostly straight forward while shooting, the camera can take some getting used to, especially the slow-motion video capture and playback.
The EX-FS10 uses a 2.5 inch TFT LCD screen that has 230,400 dots (960x240), and has no viewfinder. The 2.5 inch screen on the back is smaller than most digital cameras, but for the size and shape of the Casio EX-FS10, it makes sense. Overall, it is sufficient for playing back images as accurately on the LCD as it is on the computer.
Timings and Shutter Lag
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||0.02|
|Nikon Coolpix S230
|Canon PowerShot SD960 IS
|Casio Exilim EX-FS10
|Pentax Optio P70||0.05|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||0.23|
|Casio Exilim EX-FS10
|Canon PowerShot SD960 IS||0.47|
|Nikon Coolpix S230||0.51|
|Pentax Optio P70||0.87|
The EX-FS10 earns Casio a "most improved" rating in our timings tests, providing significant improvements in the area of AF speed in particular compared to previous Casio ultracompacts.
|Casio Exilim EX-FS10
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37||3||3.6 fps|
|Nikon Coolpix S230||2||2.2 fps|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||10||1.6 fps|
|Canon PowerShot SD960 IS
* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
† Note: The Casio Exilim EX-FS10 has no continuous shooting capabilities at full resolution. It is, however, capable of shooting at 30 fps at a reduced 6 megapixels. Given this relatively high resolution, we have included the FS10's continuous shooting numbers in our comparison.
As promised, the FS10 delivered full 30 fps performance in our timings tests, albeit at a reduced 6 megapixel capture.
There are five focusing modes on the EX-FS10 and three AF Areas you can specify through the menu. Focusing modes include Auto Focus, Macro that lets you to shoot between 10-50 cm away for close up shots, Pan Focus for honing in on a fixed focal point, Fixed that will give you an area of focusing for even distant subjects and Manual focus that lets you choose your area of focus.
The AF Areas that can be set up are Spot, Free and tracking. Spot is best used when you want to keep focus on the center of the frame, and is the default setting for the EX-FS10, or can be used with the focus lock to single out a subject in the center of the frame. Free is also interesting, it allows you to find your point of focus by using the four-way controller to specify a specific area of focus.
But probably the most useful AF area that I found was Tracking, because it works great when you are using the 30 fps burst rate. By depressing the shutter halfway, you can track a subject that is moving rapidly. I was able to do this on the beach when a kiteboard surfer was launching his chute and I was able to keep my focus on it moving erratically without ever losing my focus.
Lens and Zoom
The EX-FS10 has a 3x optical zoom lens that gives you an effective focal range of 38-114mm, which is standard for this level of camera, neither making it exceptional nor ahead of its class.
The aperture speeds are f/3.9 wide to f/5.4 telephoto. The lens is a trap door lens that doesn't extend from the body, instead the diaphragm of the EX-FS10 stays in and quiet while moving from wide to telephoto lengths. Overall, edge-to-edge sharpness was good on both tele and wide ends. Zoom speed is relatively fast, but by no means a speed demon. With such a small camera design there was a lot sacrificed with the lens, making it no better than an average camera with a 3x zoom range.
The power performance of the lithium-ion battery is pretty dismal, and I found myself recharging at least 3 times during one day after using the high speed video modes, HD video and burst modes for stills, making it lackluster.
The basic image default settings provide a neutral exposure, but the FS10 also comes with color filters, sepia, black and white, and also control the sharpness, saturation and contrast in two steps. The image quality at default settings is somewhat subdued and plain unless you do something like change the filter or the saturation, which is easily done through the Quality tab in the menu system.
High Contrast and Brightness
Low Contrast and Brightness
The biggest issue with the EX-FS10 is noise, which is apparent in most shots where available light is limited, including indoors and sunsets. This is an inherent problem with point-and-shoot cameras because of the size of the image sensor, though some camera companies have been able to subdue noise through more powerful image processors. In the case of the EX-FS10, noise is very apparent.
The real prize of the EX-FS10 is high-speed video capture. This little camera is capable of capturing extremely slow video at 1,000 fps, though it's at an extremely low resolution (224x64). Shooting at 1,000 fps in low-light will render unusable footage, while shooting in available light will still give you extreme noise. The camera creates a tiny window almost like a pinhole area that you use to line up your shot, once you are ready to shoot you press the red record button.
While I found the 1,000 fps shooting to be useful for only a handful of situations, the frame rates of 210 and 420 fps were really the most interesting and rendered the best of this slow-motion capability. The 420 setting has a resolution of 224x168; while 210 records at 480x360. Both produced better video quality than the 1,000 fps setting. While the 420 mode is in the same ballpark resolution wise with 1,000, it gives you a wider shooting area and better low-light quality, mainly due to its slower speed. But the best slow-mo recording mode was the 210 setting, giving back video with very little degradation, and the cool effect of slow-motion that doesn't look mashed up or muddy.
It's important to note that the EX-FS10 in high speed movie capture does not capture audio, but why would it? Slow-mo is intended to be a visual capture, not a super slow-mo sound recording. Also, you cannot zoom in or out during slow motion capture.
The EX-FS10 also records HD video at 30 fps at a resolution of 1280x720. The recording time of HD movies are 10 minutes, and you cannot zoom during this capture either. There is also a monaural microphone that does an adequate job of capturing audio during HD video recording.
All video from the EX-FS10 is captured into .AVI files, and the high-speed movies do not take up much space at all, which is nice, seeing as how you're getting a slow-mo without killing your memory card's capacity. Shooting HD video, however, will quickly eat memory space.
The HD video quality is on par with most of the compacts with HD video, creating consistent output with nice color reproduction and very little of the color casts that I've been seeing in some cameras I've recently shot with. The high speed movies are great if that's what you're looking for, but are by no means a way to create a cinematic masterpiece. It is a niche being filled by Casio for the consumer who wants this unique feature, but is mostly for a wow factor to show your friends.
Exposure, Processing, and Color
The EX-FS10 has three exposure reading modes including Multi, Center Weighted and Spot metering. As usual, the Multi metering is the default setting, and works well for your general purpose shooting. It does a good job of metering light throughout the entire frame, but in low-light tends to be very noisy.
Use of the Center Weighted metering worked well in available light, and was the best performer in low-light conditions.
Spot metering was also a good low-light performer, and did well for measuring the light in a well-lit scene.
Auto White Balance worked sufficiently in the field, but the studio shots taken under incandescent light were warm and left a sort of orange cast over the foreground subjects.
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light
Field shooting under different lighting conditions produced satisfactory images as well.
Sensitivity and Noise
Noise is one of the biggest issues of the EX-FS10, mainly in low-light situations. Noise starts creeping into the frame when you push the camera past ISO 200, but in available light it works fine. In the studio lab tests, ISO 100 and 200 show decent images, but from 400 to 1600 you start to see noise. The EX-FS10 is certainly not the camera you want to take out at night without flash, but the camera is competent enough to produce a decent image.
ISO 100, 100% Crop
ISO 200, 100% Crop
ISO 400, 100% Crop
ISO 800, 100% Crop
ISO 1600, 100% Crop
Additional Sample Images
The truth is that Casio has set themselves at the top of the high speed market and can't even be touched by the competition. The EX-FS10 has a remarkable technology behind it, much like the EX-F1, minus the hefty price tag. Although it does have its quirks and limitations, the high-speed movie modes are enough to draw in someone looking for this effect.
If you're just shooting casually, this camera will provide you with sufficient image quality and performance. But if you're looking to catch the action, the 30 fps mode is impressive and works great, allowing you to slow down the action and always get the shot. With the combination of slow-mo video, HD video and extremely fast burst rate for stills, this camera is for the photographer who needs all this in one body.