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First Look

Casio debuts new 'freestyle' camera for adventure buffs

Casio is launching its new 'freestyle' digital camera Exilim EX-FR100 ($699, available in yellow, white and black) in Singapore this week. It is the successor to the FR10 released last year and features the same unique modular design. Two weeks ago, Trevor Tan got to check out the FR100 in Japan. To test the camera, he went paragliding, negotiated a treetop obstacle course, hiked in the forest and canoed on a lake 1,500m above sea level with it.

DESIGN

Like its predecessor FR10, the FR100 sports a two-part modular design. The camera module can be separated from the wireless controller module, which has a touchscreen LCD. The modules are linked wirelessly via Bluetooth, and can work at up to 10m apart from each other.

This is known as the "freestyle" mode, which allows you to detach the camera module, place it anywhere and shoot remotely using the controller's LCD or shutter release button.

You can also use the camera in the conventional way, by docking and folding the camera module 180 degrees on its hinge so that it lies against the controller module. To take selfies, simply flip the camera module upright and turn the display to face you.

The modules are dust-proof, can withstand being dropped from a height of 1.7m, and can be submerged to depths of 1.5m for as long as an hour.

Casio is not bluffing about the camera's toughness, as I found out during the rope obstacle and forest hike that were part of the camera's launch event in Japan.

During the hike, I dropped the camera module from waist height a few times. During the rope walk, the controller module plunged 4m. Both modules survived.

CAMERA MODULE

The camera module houses a 12-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor, compared to FR10's 14-megapixel sensor. It has a wider 16mm f/2.8 lens, compared to FR10's 21mm lens.

Armed with Casio's dual-core HS Engine 3 image processor, it is able to shoot up to 30 still images per second for up to a maximum of 30 shots in burst mode. It can shoot full high-definition videos at 30 frames per second.

It also has an anti-shake feature that minimises image blurring.

The camera has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. It can be connected to Android and iOS devices, using the Casio Exilim app, for instant transfer of photos and videos from the camera to your smartphone.

This makes sharing of photos on social media quick and easy.

But I found that this feature drains the batteries of both the camera module and smartphone pretty quickly.

WIRELESS CONTROLLER MODULE

The biggest upgrade for FR100's wireless controller is its 3-inch 921,600-dot touchscreen display. The FR10 has a 2-inch 230,000-dot display.

The former also packs 16.7 million colours, compared to FR10's 0.2 million colours. When I first used the controller, I was amazed by how sharp and vivid images looked on the display.

The bigger touchscreen display also makes it is easier to control the camera, as there is more screen real estate for taps and swipes. You can tap to take a photo. I was also impressed that there is virtually no lag between the real action and the images on the display.

The menu interface is easy to browse, thanks to its big icons that are great for tapping.

ACCESSORIES

Its predecessor comes with plenty of accessories. The FR100 comes only with a tripod nut for mounting on tripods and a carabiner strap for clipping the controller.

Prices of optional accessories, such as the multi-angle clip and 20m underwater case, range from $32 to $159.

But I think the most important accessory that you need is the EAM-4 ($149) multi-angle selfie stick.

It is well built, easily extendable and has clips that let you mount the controller and camera modules without fuss.

Even when I was paragliding (yes, this was also part of the launch event) at 1,000m above sea level with the ground 300m below me, I was able to adjust the selfie stick easily.

You can also use the stick to dip the camera into streams when out hiking, or create interesting low angle shots.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Operation of the camera is quick. Once you switch on both the camera module and wireless controller, which takes around two seconds, they are paired immediately.

When they are in sleep mode, a quick press of the controller's power button will wake both modules up within a second.

Images and videos shot with the FR100 are much sharper and have more detail than the FR10. I am impressed with the minimal distortions at the sides of the images despite the lens' wider coverage.

In addition, there are less noise artefacts in the images compared to the FR10. This is probably due to the lower megapixel count of the FR100.

There are two auto modes and various picture modes such as toy, sepia and monochrome. It comes with a make-up mode if you want smoother skin in your selfies.

There is also the Intelligent Interval shooting function that allows you to take photos and videos at regular intervals, which you can set. But I regret using this function when I was paragliding, as it did not capture everything during the descent.

Overall, the Casio FR100 should be a good addition to the adventure seeker's arsenal for capturing the great outdoors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'New 'freestyle' camera for adventure buffs'. Print Edition | Subscribe