Still, when you’re trying to pinpoint problems with your golf swing, your tennis serve or your industrial equipment, slowing time down to this extent is like a keyhole into a previously invisible world. You might not care about the size of the keyhole.
Unfortunately, this highly unusual, almost experimental piece of equipment includes nearly as many downsides as breakthroughs.
First, even though it’s nearly as big and bulky as a digital S.L.R. like a Canon Rebel or Nikon D80, the F1 is, at its heart, an amateur camera. It contains a tiny light sensor (about half an inch diagonal, versus 1.1 inches in a beginner S.L.R.). As a result, its light sensitivity is poor. Except in bright sunlight or studio lighting, those burst-mode shots are often disappointingly dim or disappointingly blurry.
Casio was obviously aware of this weakness, and so it engineered one of the brightest and fastest flashes ever on a consumer camera: it can fire an amazing 7 times a second for up to 3 seconds. That superflash generally solves the light-sensitivity problem, but of course you might not want the characteristic harshness of flash photos.
There’s even a second “flash” right above the first — actually a very bright video-light L.E.D., which can maintain steady illumination on nearby subjects when the main flash’s 7 frames a second still isn’t fast enough. Clever.
But there are other problems. The eyepiece viewfinder is electronic (a tiny, relatively coarse video screen), not optical (pristine, see-through glass). Start-up is slow.
The 12X zoom is nice to have, but it’s slow to react. And during video capture, when you turn the lens ring to zoom, it jerks spastically through the zoom range, effectively ruining your shot. The camera has great difficulty changing focus during filming, too.
The F1 is also complicated. It has two different mode dials and two different “shutter” buttons (one for stills, one for video). All those high-speed features, and all the attendant settings, had to go somewhere.
There are long lists of limits, too. You can’t use the lens ring to zoom during high-definition filming. The flash won’t operate in pre-record mode. Face detection doesn’t work during video capture. There’s no sound in high-speed videos. You can’t change focus, zoom or exposure during high-speed filming. And so on.
Now, it does seem ungrateful to criticize such an astonishing camera; it’s like complaining that your 7-year-old violin virtuoso is lousy at sports.
But make no mistake: no camera has ever offered anything like the F1’s high-speed stills, high-speed videos or high-speed flash for anywhere near its price. Everybody who sees this camera in action winds up slack-jawed with disbelief.
Casio deserves congratulations for innovating in so many big, bold, industry-defying ways. Instead of pushing misleading metrics like megapixels, the company went its own defiant way and came up with a camera with an extremely clearly defined identity.
Maybe it’s not the time machine of sci-fi movies. But in the world of consumer electronics, it’s an eye-opening first step.
David Pogue is a columnist for the New York Times and contributor to CNBC. He can be emailed at: email@example.com.