Casio Exilim EX-FS10 digital camera review

The Exilim EX-FS10 is a stylishly smooth and slim line model yet with a tough aluminium casing with a highly lacquered finish available in a range of of blue, gray, red and white colours for those wanting a slightly different slant to the camera.

So, what kit do we find on-board such a camera that is just 16.3mm thin by 97.1mm wide and 59.4mm high and that weighs in at just 121g with both battery and SD storage card safely slotted home in the camera’s base?

Casio’s new 9.1MP, high speed CMOS sensor starts the ball rolling allows for some pretty amazing snapping trick and was technology first introduced by the companies groundbreaking EX-F1. For a start there’s 720p HD movie capability and this is dovetailed to the cameras 30fps burst shooting mode, though that’s limited to (a still respectable) 6-megapixel maximum.

Add to this the camera’s ability to shoot at 1000fps giving ultra slow speed movies and the clever kittery of the new model starts to look very interesting indeed. However, in the 1000fps mode, the movie resolution is limiting to say the least, since the resolution drops to 224 x 64-pixels, so very tiny indeed. It lacks sound too and will inevitably look terrible - even if used on YouTube.

Yes, it’s great to have the ability to shoot ultra slow motion movies and as a proof of technology, it works, but what can you do with a silent movie that’s so small it is almost unusable? Even if it is a slow motion movie of, say, a popping balloon or your granny bouncing on a trampoline! No matter how novel, it’ll still be almost unusable.

However, there is another slow motion shooting mode on the EX-FS10 that comes as a result of the high-speed sensor and that is the slow motion pre-capture mode. Here at a separate button on the top of the camera, helpfully marked “slow”, the camera starts to preview the action before the lens in slow-motion, you watch the action and press the shutter button at the point you want to take a shot.

Now that’s useful, you can (almost) control the capture point in fast action scenes as needed - it’s like slowing down time in the camera, very clever and simple to use too. In terms of controls the camera looks rather complex for a ultra compact having a set of four shooting button for stills, 30fps burst, slow and movie recording, the latter on the back of the camera denoted by a red dot.

You have the lens zoom control surrounding the “normal” shutter button and a tiny on/off sliver of a switch that’s just usable with a fingernail. On the back you have a jog button set and central set button for scrolling and selecting menu options with playback and shooting direct buttons then a menu control and finally the Casio Best Shot button.

There are a range of 21 scene modes that make up for the lack of any manual control options apart from exposure compensation to +/-2EV activated along with other key settings from the on-screen active display on the camera’s 2.5-inch LCD and activated by pressing down on the jog button in single shot mode.

Here you can adjust resolution, ISO, white balance time and date and adjust the slow motion view between 1-second for 30fps, 2-seconds for 15fps or 3-seconds 10fps. The slow motion view speed can be tweaked here to with a one to eight range of adjustment, one being the slowest.

The camera’s lens is quite limiting in terms of its focal length of 38-114mm, this is not wide enough for larger vistas and not long enough to get really close; the 10cm macro is not that impressive either. And so what you have here is a camera that while full of technical innovation in terms of its high speed shooting, starts to look a little less exiting when you get back to its main still shooting capability.

Image noise suppression seems to be overly aggressive, for example, meaning images lack detail even at lower ISO settings and it just gets worse the higher the ISO goes, as does the image noise, even with the over processing.

The camera's dynamic range (the amount of detail from black to white that can be successfully captured) is rather disappointing with highlight and shadow detail dropping away far to quickly in a shot, again exacerbated by higher ISO settings.

Colour leaches as the ISO rises too but otherwise natural and the white balance control is okay. Focus control is very good and quickly latches onto the main subject and the metering is rather impressive too and that goes for the flash metering too, which, although very underpowered, can shoot close to a subject without bleaching out highlights.

Verdict

Looked at as a whole, the Casio Exilim EX-FS10 is a technical marvel on the one hand, while on the other, it would seem to be an overpriced mediocre ultra compact.

Still image quality is not good enough; other makers' similar models can produce better still image quality at a more affordable price; the movie and high speed systems, while clever and neat to have, just might not be worth the premium price.

The Casio Exilim EX-FS10 is an attractive, well made and technologically advanced ultra compact but the prominence given to that high-speed technology seems to have been at the price of the final still image quality and its price point.