Sony HDR-CX350V Full HD Flash Memory Camcorder
Text and Images by Tony Gomez
Earlier this year Sony introduced an entirely new line of High Definition HandyCam camcorders. Depending on the model, these new camcorders use hard disk, internal memory, or removable flash memory—or a combination thereof. I recently tested one of the best of these new models, the HDR-CX350V, which is a 32GB internal/removable flash memory model that shoots 1920 x 1080 Full HD video and sells for $799.99 (MSRP).
Casio EX-FH100 Review
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson
The Casio EX-FH100 has been making waves since its announcement at CES due to its inclusion of a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 10x optical zoom and—most notably—high-speed video and still recording. Priced at $349.99, the FH100 offers a lot of features, including full manual shooting and the ever-alluring possibility to capture slow-motion video, all in a sleek and compact body. The fact that the FH100 can shoot high-speed movies at 1,000 frames per second (fps) and burst mode stills at 40fps tops the list of reasons that it’s an exciting piece of equipment, and the superb quality of its still image capture makes it a nice overall camera, albeit with a few frustrating UI kinks.
High Speed Still Images
High-speed shooting is accessed at any time by pressing the HS button on top of the camera, or by turning the shooting mode dial to the red Continuous Shooting option. With the HS button you can toggle between continuous shooting and single shot, regardless of whether you are in CS mode, Manual, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. Continuous shooting is not available when shooting in Best Shot mode. In continuous shooting mode, you have the option of capturing up to 30 images at rates of up to 40fps. These choices are accessed by pressing the SET button. For capturing action such as sports or fast-moving subjects such as pets, the EX-FH100 is almost unparalleled among compact cameras.
Super Slow Motion Video
As I mentioned, the show-stopping feature of this camera is its ability to shoot high-speed movies at up to 1,000 frames per second—which allows for a super slow-motion effect (33 times slower than true life). With video becoming not only popular but expected in compact cameras these days, the Casio EX-FH100 goes above and beyond in delivering exciting possibilities for creating slow-motion movies with pocket-size equipment. The drawback, however, to recording these impressive slow-motion movies at 1,000fps is that the resolution is substantially decreased, bringing videos all the way down to 224 x 64 pixels in size (640 x 480 at 120fps, 448 x 336 at 240fps, 224 x 168 at 420fps).
What Needs Work
This camera is a serious piece of equipment—both the features and the price reflect that—and yet the thing handles quite inelegantly. The screeching electronic noise that the lens motor makes when you zoom and focus is truly painful. It sounds as if the camera is frying on the inside. Frankly, it sounds cheap. And then there’s the auto focus lag, which is a problem in several of the shooting modes from the Best Shot menu—even when you press the shutter release half way down. The worst of it happens when shooting in “Multi-motion image” mode from the BS menu. Once the image is finally captured, the screen goes black and then says “Busy…Please wait…” for 15 seconds. Obviously in the interim you are bound to miss any other photo-ops. It’s hard, however, to complain too much about this when the high-speed camera offers continuous shooting mode to make sure you capture a whole sequence instead of worrying about shot-to-shot lag time. But sometimes you just want to take one picture, not 30, not 10, not even 5.
The layout of the camera’s buttons also leaves much to be desired. Where one’s thumb would naturally sit when gripping the camera, the video record button also sits. There is also the chance that a thumb will inadvertently press the HS button when pressing the shutter release because of where it sits, making it easy to accidentally switch to or from high-speed mode. The camera’s large 3-inch LCD is nice and bright, but is probably the culprit as to why buttons seem awkwardly placed in the meager space beside it.
The battery life of the EX-FH100 is remarkable, and its compact size makes it easily portable, though it is noticeably heavier than many point-and-shoot cameras on the market right now. Because it uses a backlit CMOS sensor, it does incredibly well in low-light, capturing sharp images even in the dimly lit temperate rain forests of northern Washington State. With a whole host of Best Shot scene modes, as well as Manual, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes, the EX-FH100 does stand alone as a feature-rich compact digicam, but if you are looking into purchasing this camera it’s most likely for its specific high-speed capabilities.
Pentax Optio I-10 Review
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson
Retro Cool Compact
Similar to the white Pentax K-x D-SLR, the white Pentax Optio I-10 compact camera is eye-catching and envy-inducing—a beautiful object in the hand of the photographer. Weighing only 5.4-ounces, and measuring 1.1-inches thick, this ultra compact point-and-shoot is light and slim. And with the charming retro look of its pearl white body, the I-10 (which also comes in black) has style.
What’s Old is New
Because so many point-and-shoot cameras share similar specs and price points, manufacturers sometimes try to attract consumers by setting their cameras apart with style. Most camera makers opt to go the route of sleek and futuristic for these compacts, but Pentax has taken a look back for their style cues—back to the once beloved Pentax Auto 110 film camera. The new Optio I-10 (notice the homage to the past even with the name?) is styled after its elder—with a digital face-lift of course. At PMA in February, I had the chance to check out the old and new side by side, and the similarity is staggering. Both fit right in the palm of your hand. With the popularity of all things vintage in photography right now, such as the Hipstamatic iPhone app and resurgence of Pinhole photography, the I-10’s retro cool looks are right on trend. But how does it fare as a contemporary camera?
Beyond the Beauty
With a 12.1-megapizel CCD sensor and offering 5x optical zoom, the I-10 features much of what consumers want in a slim and stylish point-and-shoot. The 5-25mm (28-140mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.9 PENTAX zoom lens does offer a less than desirable aperture range, however. The camera’s 2.7-inch LCD screen—with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio—is quite bright, even in direct sunlight. Though a 3-inch screen is ultimately more desirable for framing, it would have caused the camera body to be larger, and one of the I-10’s most celebrated features is its petite size.
Shooting Modes and Special Features
The I-10 features a host of subject and setting-specific shooting modes, which are accessed at the touch of the “Mode” button on a four-way D-pad to the right of the camera’s LCD. It is convenient that Pentax has chosen to not bury this menu deep in a digital folder somewhere because most users of this point-and-shoot will opt to swap modes fairly often, as the shooting environment changes from, say, Surf and Snow to Night Scene. Also included among the 24 shooting modes are: Auto Picture, Program (which allows slight tweaks to Auto such as white balance and exposure compensation), Portrait and Digital Shake Reduction (SR). There is also a mode called Digital Wide, which stitches together two pictures to create a wider image. This is not to be confused with Digital Panorama mode, which stitches together more than two images taken with the camera to create a panoramic photograph.
In addition to the point-and-shoot friendly shooting modes, there are a few features that are meant to assist in quality image capture. Another of the four-way D-pad choices takes you directly to a Focus Mode menu, where you can choose from among: Standard, Macro, Super Macro, Pan Focus, Infinity and Manual. To help the photographer avoid taking blurry pictures in challenging lighting conditions, the I-10 features a mechanical sensor shift Shake Reduction system. The Optio I-10 also features High Definition video (720p at 30fps) in .AVI format.
As I touched on above, there is a four-way control on the back of the camera, located to the right of the LCD, and owing to its petite size, there is room for few other manual controls on the body. A playback button and a button for Smile Capture and Face Detection are found above the four-way D-pad. Pentax’s “Green Button,” which is also found on the Pentax Kx, allows for a customizable quick-jump to a specific menu feature—I set it to EV Compensation. The button also doubles as the trash option when reviewing images in playback mode. To the left is the Menu button, where a fairly straight-forward set of options is presented in lists. At the top of the camera, we find the on/off button, shutter release and zoom toggle.
Beyond the D-SLR-like looks of the I-10, it carries over the feel of one in a small but important way with the raised hand grip on the front of the camera and the “leatherette” texture in the same place. I find that too many ultra compact digicams are hard to get a comfortable handle on, with their sleek body designs and slick plastic cases. The I-10 feels a lot more secure in-hand than most due to the small details of the grip and texture.
I did the bulk of my test shooting outside on a sunny day at a farmer’s market, and found that this was the ideal shooting condition for the I-10. It does well handling detail in bright spots and shadows, and focuses quite quickly on still objects in good lighting. In Auto Picture mode, with the Standard Focus option, I was able to get close-up shots with shallow depth-of-field, as it “took the guesswork out of photography” for me, as they say, reverting automatically to f/3.5 and ISO 80 to capture food displayed at a seller’s stand. When I shot the food that was inside of my farmer’s market tote, it punched up to ISO 800 in Auto mode and still maintained low noise. The results of photographing moving subjects in difficult lighting conditions were less consistent, however. At a fashion show in Malibu (a prime environment for showing off the stylish little digicam, by the way), the I-10 had some trouble tracking the fast-moving runway models under the inconsistent catwalk lighting.
The Price of Beauty
The I-10’s price that has been raising a few eyebrows since its January announcement, though I have to note that at $299.99 $249.99 (updated price) (MSRP) it’s not outrageous. People seem to expect to get everything they ever dreamed of in a camera these days for less and less money. All said, it is in the same ballpark as—or even less expensive than—some digicams with comparable specs. But I don’t like to play the spec-by-spec comparison game. It’s best to get your hands on a camera, get your eye to the viewfinder (or fixed on the LCD in this case), to judge whether it’s worth your money. You’ll need to weigh the limited aperture range against the stylish looks and ultra compact portability; the less consistent capture of moving subjects in difficult lighting against the impressively low-noise capture at higher ISOs when shooting still objects. In my estimation, the Pentax Optio I-10 packs an intuitive UI, HD video and a good zoom into its ultra compact and portable little body. Your major decision might come down to whether or not you want to commit to the camera’s unique retro look.
Pentax Optio I-10
$299.99 $249.99 (updated price)
4.0”W x 2.6”H x 1.1”D; 4.7 oz. loaded
Still Recording Format:
SD/SDHC, 26.7MB internal
2.7-inch LCD (230,000 pixels)
Video Recording Mode:
1280×720 (30/15fps); 640×480 (30/15fps);
320×240 30/15fps in .AVI (Motion JPG) format
Still: Sensor-Shift SR, Pixel Track SR, Digital SR (ISO 3200-6400 5M or 3.8M) Movie: Movie SR
Auto: 80-800, Digital SR 80-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at 5M or 3.8M) Manual: 80-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at 5M or 3.8M)
The Olympus PEN your story challenge opened for submissions this week, so what are you waiting for? Submit something to it! This contest is pretty unique—and really exciting—so rather than explain it myself, I invite you to visit the Olympus YouTube page to watch a video all about it. I will say that six finalists will get a new Olympus PEN E-PL1 and $5,000 to make their proposal a reality. And one grand prize winner “will also be given the chance to introduce themselves to the world, with an all-expense-paid trip to New York, where their work will be displayed live on a giant video board during the US Open.” Submissions close June 6th.