CES 2009: Casio's latest little Exilim cameras win some and lose some (but hey, that's Vegas)

IMG_2624.JPGToday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Casio brought new features into two sets of Exilim point and shoot cameras. First, the high speed photo feature I so admired in its professional cameras last year is now built into the Exilim FC-100 and FC-10 as part of its High Speed line of products (between $300 and $400 retail). These cameras can shoot in bursts of 30 still frames per second, or take video at 1000 frames per second. That means that users can sort through images for the perfect shot, or run action sequences in extreme slow motion.

Kazuo Kashio, company founder and CEO, called this a new way of taking photos, a benchmark for the next generation of cameras. Itâ''s clear to see how such a capability will make everyday picture taking easier and better; I only have to think of how many times I made my kids jump off of a pile of sand on the beach last summer as I attempted to catch them mid-air before abandoning the effort. With Casioâ''s burst mode, I would have gotten the picture I wanted on the first shot.

These cameras also use the high-speed burst mode and some image processing to eliminate blur from shaky hand-held shots and enhance nighttime images, something that would also improve my photo taking dramatically.

Casio didnâ''t stop there, though it probably should have. It introduced a second line of consumer point and shoot cameras, the Dynamic Photo line, with a feature the company calls Moving Image Composite; I think of it more as the Forrest Gump Effect, or Instant Blue Screen.

The idea: take a short video of someone, donâ''t worry about the background. Then swap out the background for a different one, real or virtual. The process, as demonstrated, has several steps: take the video, ask the subject to step aside, take still picture of the background, take a photo of a different background, and combine the two. In the demo, Kashio put a person giving a gift on a birthday background, inserted children into their own artwork, and put a little girl on the moon. Kashio was genuinely enthusiastic about this capability, and demonstrated it extensively, but I just wasnâ''t sold.

It was clever, and seemed to work well, but itâ''s an odd feature for a point and shoot camera, as odd as the color swap feature on my current Canon cameraâ''I can change all the blues in an image to orange instantly as I shoot it, but Iâ''m about as likely to want to do that as I am to want a photo of my kids on the moon.

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