The Gear: Casio's EX-FC100 is a slimmed-down pocketable version of its chunky slow-mo cams. It looks like a standard 9MP 5x-zoom shooter at first, but does tricks we haven't seen before.
The Price: $350
The Verdict: It's got some picture-quality flaws as a still and video camera, but its unique attributes make it something you may want to have a look at, especially if you think you're better than Tarantino at crafting a slow-mo scene.
Similar to the more expensive, chunkier EX-F1, the EX-FC100 has three modes, but this time, they're 210, 420 and 1000 frames per second. It's fewer frames than the big boy, but it gets the job done. It's even got the "she walked into the room" setting, with a standard 30fps jumping to 210 to punctuate a particular moment in time, then back to 30 to signal that the moment has passed. Same caveats apply: The lowest setting has a much higher resolution than the 420, which is in turn higher than the 1000. Also, slow-mo shooting at 420 and 1000 require too much light to use them in anything but brightly lit rooms, or better yet, outside. And any indoor shooting is pretty much noisy as hell, whether you jack the ISO up to 1600 yourself, or let it do it automatically.
Like the EX-F1, the EX-FC100 also has continuous-burst shooting so you can get at least one perfect shot out of 30 in a split second, and you can even set it to remember shots from before you press the shutter. Other tricks like this include a "move in CS"shot, where you can set the camera to take a burst when something flies into the shot, and a "move out CS" shot, for the opposite. The camera has a continuous-burst toggle button on its top next to the shutter button which may be convenient for some, but that I found annoying. I kept entering CS mode when I didn't want to.
I was fairly happy with the low-light still shooting indoors—it's definitely better than the Olympus I recently tested, though I wouldn't think it would come close to a typical Canon Digital Elph. What I like about the EX-FC100 is that it has a very cool trick for making any questionable shooting environment slightly better: There's a little button that just says "SLOW" on it that, when pressed, gives you "slow motion view"—a slideshow of the best shots taken in a three-second window, that you can pick from by just clicking your shutter. Aim the camera at your moving, potentially unfocused subject, click SLOW, and then see a series of shots will appear, hopefully one nice and clear one. I haven't figured out how to really control slow motion view, but I like it.
Now, about those picture-quality problems. One big one is noise. Lots of shots are noisier than hell, a typical Casio problem, one that you can mitigate a bit manually by adjusting your ISO. You can see how manual adjustment affects shots:
But most important, how is the quality of that crazy SLOW-MO VIDEO? As you can see, outdoor shooting is a lot nicer than indoor shooting, no matter how cute the cat:
All in all, it's a cheaper way to get some slow motion in your life, and some of those other shooting tricks are original and unique enough to make the camera worth considering. But if you just want nice pictures, indoors and out, we wouldn't exactly make fun of you if you said, "Oh, I think I'll just go with the Canon instead." [Casio product page]