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Shaped and priced like a DSLR, the EX-F1 does a lot more—but also a lot less.
The EX-F1 is an unevenly performing camera that almost always seems to present a downside to counter each amazing high point. Its most unique feature is its ability to capture video at amazingly high framerates, all the way up to 1,200 frames per second. Five seconds of real-time footage turns into more than three minutes when played back, transforming a bumblebee’s flight and falling raindrops into a backyard ballet. But faster speeds severely limit resolution, curbing possibilities in both recording and playback. Still photos look good, with bright, accurate colors, but RAW images drastically slow down the camera.
Videomakers will get hooked on the camera’s high-speed potential. We recorded eggs shattering, water pouring, matches lighting up, and more. In each experiment, we uncovered hidden action that normally goes unnoticed. The EX-F1 is a rare tool that can shift your perspective on the world; it had us constantly searching for new truths in ordinary activities. But even at 300 frames per second, the camera squeezes its resolution down to 512x384 pixels, which is lower than standard TV. At 600 frames per second, it shoots at 432x192 pixels, and at the astounding 1,200 frames per second, you get the peephole size of 336x96 pixels. These tiny, wide resolutions can be hard to line up when recording, and they’re not big enough to use in most videos other than those shot just for the Web.
HD video performance is also mixed. The EX-F1 records in either 1080i or 720p, the two most common high-definition resolutions. But 1080i clips don’t play on Macs without an unsupported, third-party video codec. And both resolutions have a hard time defining objects in indoor lighting, while panning and tilting outdoors blurs details. We had better results shooting at 640x480 pixels—a common benchmark for standard-definition video.
Photos look great compared to those shot with a midrange point-and-shoot. Although the EX-F1 is priced like a DSLR, don’t expect that kind of performance. When capturing JPEGs, the camera is always speedy, even able to burst 60 shots in a second at its 6-megapixel maximum. It can fire a high-speed burst with the flash at 7 shots each second. Almost every aspect of the camera is tuned for speed.
We captured vibrant colors, even indoors without the flash, although we got the best results in daylight. The image stabilizer worked well in low-light situations to keep the frame steady, and we noticed great image details when scrutinizing repeating objects and patterns. Auto-exposed photos looked good, but complete control over aperture, shutter speed, and other manual settings will satisfy experienced photographers. The EX-F1 even shoots times as fast as 1/40,000th of a second, or long exposures up to 60 seconds—great for night landscapes.
When shooting in RAW, however, the EX-F1 feels like a different camera. Its response plummeted in our tests. It still captured single shots almost instantly with the shutter button, but we had to wait a few seconds before taking another.
The EX-F1 is a rare gadget that’s full of potential, despite problems that are impossible to overlook. High-speed video and good overall photo performance stand out. But low resolution at 1,200 frames per second and slow performance shooting in RAW will disappoint video shooters and still photographers alike.
Speedy JPEG performance. Good, clear image results. Lens ring feels good controlling zoom or focus. Low cost for 1,200-frames-per-second video.
Low resolutions limit what you can do with high-speed video footage. 1080i video not natively supported on Macs.