So I Can Close the Tab

I came across Ken Rockwell’s site the other day, and, as I perused a lot, I came across his interesting mention of the Casio EX-F1. I’ve “graduated” from integrated point-and-shoots to digital SLRs, although this camera costs more than my digital SLR and three lenses put together.

Photographically, it’s mediocre. 6 megapixels. Except you don’t buy this thing for its resolution. You crave it because:

  • 60 frames per second at 6 megapixels. (Note that most movies are shot at 24 fps.)
  • “[S]tereo HDTV movies,” although I confess that I’m not quite sure what that means.
  • Continuous shooting mode, where it’s just constantly shooting at 60fps, and, when you hit the shutter, saves the ones around that time. Thus, you can actually get shots from before you click the shutter.
  • A maximum shutter speed of 1/40,000 second. That is not a typo.
  • 60 frames per second is ridiculous. But if you can take a cut in resolution, you can go further, all the way to 1,200 frames per second at a pitiful 336×96.

Actually, 336×96 isn’t just tiny, it’s a really weird size. I’ve resized (and cropped) a random photo of mine down to 336×96:

336×96 Pixels

In conclusion… 6 megapixel camera, with a long zoom lens equivalent to 36-432mm. And it’s an HDTV video camera. And it’s got the crazy bonus of letting you use shutter speeds of 1/40,000 of a second, and capture low-res video at 1,200 frames/second. I wouldn’t carry it as my main camera (though it would probably be entirely usable for that), but I’d love one of these in my bag for video and such.

I also wonder about the “trickle-down” effect. Although really, more like the “trickle-out effect.” Nikon’s D3 will give pretty clean shots at ISO 6400, something no other camera even tries to offer. It goes up to ISO 25,600. Canon and Nikon are very close when it comes to the frames-per-second rate of their high-end digital SLRs; 7-9 frames/second. (Hint: get rid of the shutter, which is useless on a digital camera where you can just “read” the sensor for a given period of time.) Companies keep focusing on packing more and more megapixels into smaller and smaller sensors. As I’ve said before, I have a 20×30″ print from my 6-megapixel camera. (Cropped a bit, too, actually.) I only “upgraded” to my 10-megapixel XTi because the old one broke and you can’t buy a 6-megapixel SLR anymore. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve seen an end to the megapixel arms race. We exceeded the resolution you could squeeze out of film a long time ago, and now we’re giving medium format a run for its money. When I go to buy a new SLR in maybe five years, I don’t want it to be more than 10 megapixels. But I hope that it goes a lot further than 6 megapixels. And if a “prosumer” point-and-shoot camera does 60 frames per second at full resolution, all of a sudden 3 frames per second on an SLR looks pathetic. Similarly, I’m unaware of any still camera (aside from maybe weird scientific-engineered stuff) that will take a 1/40,000-second exposure, or any flash that’s capable of running at 7 frames per second.

(That said, I’m having a hard time figuring out when you’d need a 1/40,000-second exposure. I only hit my camera’s 1/2,000-second limit when I’m too lazy to stop the lens down…)

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