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Casio just introduced two ultra-fast ultra-compact digital cameras. Normally, ultra-fast and ultra-compact are considered more-or-less opposites, but this time Casio has produced ultra-compact digital cameras that can shoot continuously faster than any DSLR ever produced. Combine that with a shutter-lag of virtually zero and we finally have ultra-compact digital cameras that will not miss a moment.

First up, Casio’s flagship ultra-fast ultra-compact, the Casio Exilim EX-FC100 with a 9 megapixels CMOS sensor, a stabilized 5X optical zoom lens and a 2.7″ LCD in a 0.9″ thin body. This camera can shoot 6 megapixels images at 30 FPS. It can also record 720p HD movies (1280×720 30FPS) and faster lower resolution movies at up to 1,000 FPS. Shutter speeds range from an amazingly fast 1/40,000 to 4 seconds. The zoom has a rather narrow 37-185 mm coverage. Aside from these standout features, the Casio FC100 is a mostly point-and-shoot digital camera. Exposure is always automatic with -2 to +2 EV of exposure-compensation. Focus has 4 modes: normal, macro, infinity and manual, which is something not present in most ultra-compacts.

Second is the very ultra-compact Casio Exilim EX-FS10. This one sports the same 9 megapixels CMOS sensor as the FC100 but brings a non-protruding 3X optical zoom lens and a smaller 2.5″ LCD to fit in a body 0.64″ thick. It retains the high-speed abilities of its bigger sister model, shooting 6 megapixels images at up to 30 FPS, high-definition 720p movies at 30 FPS and very-low-resolution movies at up to 1,000 FPS. Shutter-speeds run from 1/40,000s to 4s. Aside from the shorter zoom range, the FS10 does not have image stabilization compared to the FC100. Both these cameras have an ISO range from 100 to 1600, which is quite standard these days. It is highly interesting that these are one of very few non-DSLR cameras to feature CMOS sensors. This is the key to providing digital cameras with high-speed shooting capabilities since CMOS sensors can be read much faster than CCD sensors.

Once there is a sensor which can be read at high-speed and high-resolution at the same time, possibilities greatly expands. In the case of these two Casio cameras, this ability is used to continuously buffer up to 24 images. Zero shutter-lag is obtained by storing the image read from the CMOS sensor at the exact time the shutter-button was pressed. Normally, shutter-lag occurs because it takes time to press the shutter and the camera to react to this action. In the case of continuous read-out from the sensor, it just becomes a matter of storing the right image. The difference with other ultra-compacts is that the LCD preview, which is read at up to 60 FPS, can only be read at low-resolution, typically between 0.3 and 1 megapixels. These low resolution images are not kept by the camera because their resolution is too low to be useful.

These two cameras will be available in March 2009, with a suggested retail price of $399 for the Casio Exilim EX-FC100 and $349 for the Casio Exilim EX-FS10.

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