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Casio Exilim EX-FC100 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 17/07/2009
Rating: Recommended
Author: Joshua Waller
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Read reviews on: Casio Exilim EX-FC100


Introduction: Announced on the 9th of January 2009, the Casio Exilim FC100 is one of Casio's new ultra fast high speed digital cameras, featuring a high speed 9 megapixel CMOS sensor that allows 30fps shooting at 6 megapixels, and upto 1000fps video mode. The camera also features 720p video recording (at 30fps), face detection, 5x optical zoom, anti-shake sensor, a 2.7" screen, and a stylish metal body available in black or silver. The Casio Exilim HS EX-FC100 is available from around £249 which makes it a little expensive, however few other cameras feature high speed shooting in a compact. The camera measures approx. 99.8 (W) x 58.5 (H) x 22.6 (D)mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 145g. excluding battery and memory card.

Casio have this to say about the camera:

"Combining a slim-lined body with amazing High Speed features, the EX-FC100 is the perfect camera for capturing your friends and family at play. The EX-FC100 can shoot at an amazing 30 frames per second in High Speed Burst mode. This allows you to capture up to 30 images with a single press of the button. After the images have been taken you simply save the best pictures to capture the perfect moment."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FX40)


Front view - camera off, microphone.


Front view - camera on, flash, lens, focus assist lamp.


Top: power switch, shutter release, zoom control, 30fps shooting button.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 9.1 megapixels 1/2.3-inch high-speed CMOS
  • 5x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 37 - 185mm)
  • 2.7" LCD Display (230K pixels)
  • Face Detection
  • Video recording: HD 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 1280x720 30fps (720p), HS (High Speed) Video (30-210fps, 210fps, 410fps or 1000fps).
  • Continuous shooting: 2 frames/sec (Standard mode at 9mp), High Speed shooting: 30 frames/sec (upto 30 shots at 6mp)
  • Lag correction - 0.1, 0.2, 0.3 takes the photo upto 0.3 seconds before the shutter is pressed (after focusing, at 6mp)
  • HD Output: No, PAL
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes (Flash)
  • 3cm Macro mode
  • ISO: Auto / ISO100 / ISO200 / ISO400 / ISO800 / ISO1600
  • IS (Image stabilisation): CMOS-shift image stabilization
  • Best shot modes: Auto, Portrait, Scenery, Portrait with Scenery, Children, Sports, Pet, Flower, Natural Green, Autumn Leaves, Sundown, High Speed Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, High Speed Anti-shake, Multi-motion image, High speed best selection (Shoots multiple images and extracts best faces for final image), Move out CS (starts shooting auotmatically when subject moves out of the frame), Move in CS (same but when subject moves into the frame), Pre-record Movie, For Youtube, Register User Scene. Additional modes: Single shot auto, 3-30fps Continuous Shooting (at 6mp or lower), HD Video (720p, 30fps), and HS Video (30-210fps, 210fps, 410fps or 1000fps).
  • Histogram available: RGB - In playback and record
  • Exposure bracketing: No
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • Manual WB: Yes

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Battery Charger (BC-31L)
  • Li-ion Battery Pack (NP-40, 3.7V, 1300mAh)
  • AV Cable
  • USB Connection Cable
  • AC Cable
  • Strap
  • Software CD-ROM

Average box contents - a large memory card would be nice, as would a case and are both recommended purchases.

Menu system: The menu system is easy to use, logical, well layed out and easy to see thanks to the large 2.7" screen. The camera gives you quick access to all the most commonly used options whilst taking photos simply by pressing the middle SET button (such as iso, white balance, image size, exposure bracketing, etc), and then the Menu can be accessed when additional settings need changing such as macro, contrast, sharpness, saturation, contrast, etc. It was a little bit annoying to find the macro optoin within the Menu rather than being able to access them more quickly through the SET button or through the 4-way controller. The playback menu gives all the usual options such as a slideshow, print, movie editing, white balance, brightness, etc). An explanation of the scene modes is displayed automatically when selecting the mode.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size / aspect ratio (9m, 3:2, 16:9, 6m, 4m, 2m, VGA), and compression (Fine, Normal, Economy). Higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes, aspect ratios, and compression options.


Bottom - Battery (DMW-BCF10E, 3.6v, 940mAh), SanDisk Ultra II 4GB SD memory card, metal tripod mount, speaker.

Battery usage: I was able to take around 570 shots (around 130 were taken at 30fps) before the battery went flat, this is excellent for a compact.

Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 2gb memory card, if you intend to take fine JPEG images, and preferably a 4gb memory card, or larger. The larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. You can use SD or SDHC memory cards - I tend to use Sandisk Ultra II Plus USB SD memory cards as these let you plug the memory card straight into a USB socket making it easy to transfer images onto any computer, they are available as 1GB SD, or 2GB SD cards and 4GB SDHC cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Casio Exilim FC100:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £2, 2gb (2000mb): £5, 4gb (4000mb SDHC): £6, 8gb (8000mb SDHC): £10, 16gb (16000mb SDHC): £35
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, from off, to taking a photo in 2.5 seconds. Focusing seemed quick, except in very low light - this takes a little longer to focus depending on the subject, and focus at the telephoto end of the zoom was slightly slower. The playback mode is very quick, and the cameras menus seemed quick.. The camera shutter response seemed instant when pre-focused responding in 0.1 seconds or less - and shot to shot time was quick, with a delay of around 1.1 seconds between shots without flash. The flash recharge time added about a second delay allowing a shot to be taken every 2.2 seconds. Continuous shooting is quite good offering just under 2 fps at 9 megapixels. High speed continuous shooting is excellent, amazing in fact, providing 30fps shooting at 6 megapixels (and lower).


Back - 2.7" screen, slow motion button, 30fps shooting button, video mode dial, video shutter release, play / record buttons, 4-way controller (with display and flash / delete buttons), middle Function button, menu and Best Shot buttons.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, with a quite logical menu system, and most items are easy to access (however I would have expected macro to be more easily accessed). The camera has a number of best shot modes and numerous scene modes so that you should be able to get good shots. The face detection focus can help capture photos of people and will automatically expose the photo so they subjects face is correctly exposed. The controls on the back of the camera are straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the clear play / record buttons. The menus are responsive and are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, and a number of options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus using the zoomed review mode. The screen is very clear, and works quite well outdoors. The camera is mostly point and shoot with a number of more advanced high speed shooting modes and video modes. The number of buttons and options can sometimes overwhelm, with a seperate video button causing some confusion.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with all button and controls reachable with your right hand (apart from the slow motion button). The zoom control and shutter release is very good. The camera can be a little confusing at times, with different buttons and switches used to change modes, and use features, the BS (Best Shot) button lets you choose the scene mode / feature you want, there is a video dial that lets you choose between High Speed video and HD video, and it has it's own video shutter button to start recording, and then there's another button when you want to access the 30fps shooting mode. It can quickly become quite confusing and you can end up taking photos accidentally when you meant to start recording a video. The quick menu button gives quick access to your favourite settings, although macro is accessed through the full menu, and the left / right keys can be customised to set the self timer. I thought the camera felt very good but lacked a hand grip at the front or back, and grabbing or picking up the camera while in your pocket can result in you accidentally switching the camera on with the photo mode button meaning the lens is automatically extended while the camera may still be in your pocket (this is a potentially annoying feature of Casio cameras and can be disabled). The camera feels very well made, with a robust metal body. The camera is easy to hold, fits into pockets, and looks good, with a premium styled body available in a number of colours (black, or white).

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Casio Exilim FC100 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO200) Flash photo (ISO250)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is almost no red-eye in the photo. It has a fairly good flash, and copes fairly well with group photos, although if the subject is too far away then detail can appear very low if the ISO setting goes above ISO400. There is some red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low, and noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, the LED illuminator helped focus.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO 100 - ISO1600), manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 9 megapixel Canon Powershot SX110 IS and Ricoh CX1.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS (9mp) Casio Exilim FC100 (9mp) Ricoh CX1 (9mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Powershot SX110 IS on the left, Casio Exilim FC100 in the middle, Ricoh CX1 on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS (9mp) Casio Exilim FC100 (9mp) Ricoh CX1 (9mp)
 
ISO80 - NA ISO80 - NA ISO80 - Actual Pixels
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
   
ISO3200 - Actual Pixels (2mp)

Noise results: Noise is noticeable on the Casio even from ISO100, and detail is good in these shots, with ISO100, and ISO200 showing quite good detail, as you go above ISO200 detail is smoothed away as they try and smooth away the noise as well. ISO800 and ISO1600 results show a lot of noise, and detail is quite poor. Compared to the other cameras, the Casio shows less noise, but also less detail that the others.

Image Stabilisation: The Casio Exilim FC100 features real image stabilisation, with a CCD-shift sensor that moves to counter any shake, it also can boost the ISO setting so that subject movement is minimised due to the camera being able to use a faster shutter speed. This feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. With image stabilisation switched on the images are much sharper and clearer, and are much more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO100) Super Lamb Banana (ISO100)

Outside: The camera has nicely saturated colours - colourful but not overly saturated. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing images outside, with good contrast, although there was some noticeable noise in the blue sky. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting. Images are slightly soft, but nothing too worrying.

Zoom: This lens provides a 5x optical zoom starting at 37mm equivalent and the camera zooms to 187mm allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. Digital zoom basically takes a crop of the centre of the frame and enlarges the image, degrading image quality, and is therefore best avoided.

Wide-angle Full Optical Zoom Full Optical and digital zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed fairly well with detail in the dark areas - however the clouds are slightly over exposed - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes very little noise, and gives you around 10 steps between wide and telephoto - this gives good control over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing / Chromatic aberration was occassionally seen in areas of high contrast, but was generally low.

Macro Lens Performance:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO400)

The camera can take macro photos where the subject is roughly 3cm away from the lens in macro mode. Colour and detail is good, although this photo would have benefitted from being shot at a lower ISO setting. The camera has manual white balance which can help get better shots in artificial lighting.

Video mode: The camera features an excellent video mode - it records HD (16:9 Aspect Ratio) 1280x720 30fps videos with sound as AVI files and has fairly good compression allowing you to record long videos. The video mode does not let you use the optical zoom whilst recording. The HS / High Speed video modes allow recording at 30-210fps (switchable whilst recording), 210fps, 420fps or 1000fps, although at a greatly reduced resolution. 210fps films are recorded at 480 x 360pixels, 420fps films are recorded at 224 x 168, and 1000fps films are recorded at 224 x 64 pixels. Examples recorded with the FC100 can be viewed on youtube.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good - with excellent colour, and high levels of saturation and contrast. Noise levels were fairly low but often at the expense of detail and as the ISO setting increased, detail decreased. There was some red eye in group photos, and purple fringing was occasionally seen. The camera did a good job focusing most of the time, even indoors, thanks to the focus assist lamp. There was no noticeable vignetting (darkened corners), nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion in photos. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratios, and a good choice of compression options. Auto white balance, metering and exposure seemed to be very good, and manual white balance can help with photography in artificial lighting. Optical image stabilisation helped keep shots blur / shake free in low light helping the camera get a higher shot success rate than cameras without. Macro performance was very good allowing you to get very close to the subject. The camera has an excellent 16:9 HD video mode, and a number of impressive high speed video modes, although unfortunately at much lower resolution. (8/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact with a stylish metal body available in white or black. The camera feels very well built, with pleasing switches, and is fairly comfortable to hold. It features some very clever features, particularly the high speed shooting and video modes, the 30fps shooting at 6mp can be very useful, and the high speed video is a neat feature, and certainly fun to play with. The camera has a great 2.7" screen that works fairly well in the sun. The camera is fairly easy to use, thanks to numerous scene modes, and auto modes, and provides fairly quick access to the most commonly used options, although it would have been nice if there were dedicated macro and self timer buttons on the back (the left / right keys can be customised to set the self-timer, and the AF mode will automatically focus on macro subjects so it isn't too big of an issue). The layout of buttons and controls is quite good but can be confusing as there are seperate shutter buttons for photos and videos. The camera speed is good, with an average switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, and quick continuous shooting mode (in normal mode), a quick flash recharge time, and excellent continuous shooting in the high speed mode. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit most people, such as face detection focus, red-eye reduction, numerous scene modes, excellent video mode, very good macro mode, a 5x optical zoom lens, sensor based image stabilisation, manual white balance and numerous image options. The camera also has very good battery life. A wide-angle lens would have been a nice addition, as would a hand grip. (9/10)

Value for Money: The Casio Exilim FC100 from around £249, is a little expensive, with similar compact cameras available for around £200, however, no other compact camera currently offers 30fps shooting and high speed video shooting, unless you buy another Casio camera from the HS range. Other cameras worth considering include Ricoh CX1 (with wide angle 7.1x optical zoom, 4fps shooting, and extended DR), and the Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR (with wide angle 5x optical zoom, extended DR and low noise). (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Casio Exilim FC100 is a very good compact camera offering a 9 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom lens, image stabilisation, a 2.7" screen, and HD video recording. All this in any ordinary camera would be quite good, however, the Casio uses a 9 megapixel CMOS sensor that allows high speed shooting, much like the Ricoh CX1, however, by reducing the resolution to 6 megapixels the FC100 can shoot at an amazing 30fps! It also lets you record videos at 210, 420 or 1000fps, letting you see things that you wouldn't normally be able to see, although at a much lower resolution. If you want high speed photo shooting, or extremely high speed video then this is probably one the the cheapest cameras available with these features. The camera also provides good image quality, and is a fun camera to use. Recommended.

Casio Exilim FC100 Rating: Recommended (8.3/10)
Available for £249 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Quite easy to use
  • Compact and stylish metal body available in black or white
  • Excellent HD 720p video mode (16:9 aspect ratio, 30fps etc)
  • Excellent High Speed video modes upto 1000fps
  • Very good build quality and switches
  • Good image quality - excellent colour
  • 5x optical zoom lens with anti-shake sensor
  • 30fps shooting at 6 megapixels
  • Excellent 2.7" screen - works well in bright sunlight
  • Very good macro mode
  • Quick performance - very quick playback mode
  • Lag correction
  • Focus assist lamp
  • Very good battery life

What I don't like:

  • Some noise visible at ISO100
  • Some purple fringing (but generally very low)
  • Some options (Macro mode) in Menu - not easily accessible
  • Soft images - noise reduction greatly reduces detail as the ISO setting increases
  • Buttons / options on the back of the camera can be confusing
  • No hand grip - can result in the camera being switched on while it's in your pocket
  • Lacks exposure bracketing / HDR features - which is a shame considering the camera is capable of 30fps shooting (see Ricoh CX1)

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Casio Exilim FC100 Sample Photo Gallery.

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