Casio’s new lineup of small, high speed video cameras has raised it in the past few years to one of the most popular camera makers of the 21st Century. Today, I have a Casio EX-ZR400 that I’m going to review, as well as give you a few tips and tricks. Unfortunately, I can’t show you any video of my own, but I’ll embed a couple of YouTube videos later on as well as give a link to video from other ZR400 owners.
I’ll start by saying that this camera has many relatives, including DSLRs like the EX-F1 or EX-FH9, and also other point and shoot cameras like the EX-ZR200, EX-ZR300, EX-ZR500 (new this year I believe), EX-ZR700, and EX-ZR1000, but today I am going to focus on the ZR400.
I found six main attractions to this camera:
- Zoom. This camera has a 24mm to 300mm zoom lens, giving it an amazing 12.5x optical zoom. It also has lossless digital zoom up to 25x and normal digital zoom up to 50x.
- Battery life. This camera has a huge battery for its size, giving it up to 515 shots on a charge. My experience with my ZR400 is that the battery life is even longer.
- Video. This amazing little camera can shoot 1080 and 720 HD at 30fps (frames per second), as well as VGA (640×480) at 30fps. It can also shoot high speed video which I will go more in depth on later.
- Picture quality. The ZR400 takes up to 16.1 MP images, with no image deterioration even at 25x digital+optical zoom.
- Size. The ZR400 is roughly the size of your typical point and shoot camera, but slightly larger due to the 3″ LCD display and its larger battery.
- Finally, price. On Amazon, the ZR400 costs just $175 on average, although the price varies between color and season. At Christmas the camera was $205, but you get free shipping. The $175 price does not include shipping. Since shipping is $13, the $205 price is still more expensive, but not a huge amount (around $20 all told).
Now let’s go into the high speed video capabilities. As mentioned before, the ZR400 can shoot at 1080 and 720 HD as well as VGA at 30fps. But the ZR400’s capabilities don’t stop there. The ZR400 can shoot high speed video (slow motion) at the following frame rates and image sizes:
- 120fps/VGA (640x480px)
Whoa! Did you see that right? Yes, you did. The ZR400 can shoot high speed video at up to 1000fps! That’s 33x slower than real time when played back at 30fps. But let’s say you play it back at 25fps: 40x slower than real time! You can play back video smoothly to around 20fps, meaning that you can slow things down with this camera up to around 50x!
This feature, combined with its small size, makes it work well for on-the-spot slow motion because you don’t need the laptop and battery pack needed for a real high speed camera. Plus it doesn’t cost $100,000! I would like to acknowledge, however, that the resolution at 1000fps is quite small. But hey, it works!
The ZR400 has two other slow motion features: HS 30-120 and HS 30-240 (HS as in High Speed). In these modes, the camera starts recording at 30fps (real speed) in the resolution for either 120fps or 240fps (depending on which mode you choose). Then, at the touch of a button, the camera switches to 120 or 240fps (once again depending on which mode you’re in). I really enjoy this because I can take videos of my dog running, then have him suddenly run in slow motion, mid-video.
Here is a link to slow motion video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0RIBdagBE8 (this was actually the ZR700, but the slow motion capabilities are the same)
Here are a couple of videos from YouTube showing slow motion from the ZR400.
You may have noticed that the second video has a lot of light grain on it. Let’s talk about that!
When recording video, the shutter is opened for a fraction of a second. The higher the frame rate, the smaller the fraction of the second. You probably know that images are created by light hitting the sensor on the camera. If you think about this, it means that the higher the frame rate, the smaller the amount of light hitting the sensor is. This means that for high speed video, you need a lot more light than you normally would. I recommend shooting outdoors because then you know you will have enough light.
Finally, let’s talk about one more thing: the flickering lights. As you know (at least I hope so), the current in your house is AC. AC stands for Alternating Current, meaning that the current is not constant and flickers on and off to achieve a steady output. This also means that if you have a lightbulb and you put AC current through it, the light will also flicker very quickly. High speed cameras, as you know, slow things down, and that is why the light flickers in the video. The slow motion is actually slowing down the flicker until you can actually see it! That’s just another reason to shoot outside.
I hope that you enjoyed this post! Maybe now you have something else to noodle on as the summer approaches. This camera would be great to take to the beach!
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