If you want to shoot action sequences, you need a digital SLR, right? Something like the Canon EOS 50D, for example, which can shoot at 6 frames per second and will cost you over a grand? Or the 9fps Nikon D3, perhaps, which costs around £3,000? Or you could just spend around £270 on the Casio Exilim EX-FC100 and shoot at speeds that neither of those can even approach.
The FC100 uses Casio's new High-Speed Continuous Shutter technology to produce continuous shooting speeds that are out of this world, although, admittedly, it can't keep them up forever. It shoots a maximum of 30 frames in a row, and it's up to you whether you want this delivered as a 1-second burst at full speed, a 2-second burst at 15fps, a 3-second burst at 10fps and so on. Whichever way you do it, the FC100 then has to dump the contents of its buffer to the memory card before it's ready to do it all over again. This only takes about 5 seconds, though, so it's no great hardship.
The other limitation is that, in high-speed mode, the camera's resolution drops from 9 megapixels to 6 megapixels. But that's still high enough for decent image quality, and way better than conventional compacts can manage in their high-speed modes. The Nikon Coolpix P90, for example, can shoot at up to 15fps but drops right down to 2 million pixels to do it.
Casio's High-Speed Continuous Shutter technology also offers plenty of other tricks, including a slow-motion mode, a high-speed movie mode, and movie and stills 'pre-recording'. With the pre-record function, you half press the shutter and the camera starts recording stills or movie clips, but only into a kind of rolling buffer. When something happens that you wish you'd caught, you press the shutter the rest of the way and the camera pulls the last few seconds out of the buffer, as well as capturing live footage from that point on. Its the same technology as used in the smaller Exilim EX-FS10, a camera which we rate highly. Like the FS10, the FC100 can shoot high-definition (1,280x720-pixel resolution) movies, too.
In fact, the main differences between this camera and the FS10 are physical. The FC100 has a larger body and a 5x optical zoom. It's also around £30 cheaper. The FC100 lacks the charm of the super-slim FS10, but the extended zoom range makes it more practical.
The FC100 shoots good pictures, too. By today's standards, 9 megapixels might not sound much, but, by this point, the quality of the results you get from compact cameras already depends at least as much on the lens as it does on the sensor, and the FC100 has a pretty good one.
Unfortunately, the 5x zoom is stacked mainly towards the long end of the scale. It has an equivalent focal range of 37 to 185mm, so it can't do wideangle shots. You could argue, though, that, if you buy this camera specifically to take action shots, you might want a slightly longer lens anyway.
The FC100 is also something of a compromise. It's not as pocketable -- or as pretty -- as the FS10 and doesn't have the zoom range and 40fps shooting speed of Casio's Exilim Pro EX-FH20. Also, Casio's user interface design is functional rather than attractive, and the myriad high-speed shooting options take some figuring out.
If all you want is a decent compact with a 5x zoom, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives. But, if action photography is your bag, you'll be amazed by what can be achieved with the Casio Exilim EX-FC100's High-Speed Continuous Shutter technology. This is what you're paying for in the end, so be aware of that before you buy.
Edited by Charles Kloet