Peps Goh Japan Travelogue x Casio Exilim FR200 Review
Hi all! I’m Peps, first and foremost a stunt actor. But I’m also videographer, and the occasional dabbler in photography. And travelogues are sorta my thing, playlist over here. Currently the new Japan Travelogue isn’t completed yet, so for now, here’s my humble review of my experience with the FR200.
Instagram video of my hair makeover experience at Shunji Matsuo, shot on the FR200:
Right before I left for Japan in November, I was really fortunate to get to meet TJ from Casio Singapore, and he proposed a collaboration. So off I went with a pair of Casio Exilim Cameras; the FR100 and FR200, to bring along and document my travel with! I grew really fascinated with the 185° super wide angle lens of the FR200, and coming from a traditional photography background with conventional compositing education, I’ve never formally learnt how to handle and compose/frame with such a distinctive equipment. So here’s what I brought with me:
- Charging Cable
- EAM-1 Tripod Mount
- EAM-3 Muilti-angle Belt Seat (with built in mount)
- Charging Adapter
- FR200 Lens + Body
- EAM-2 Muilti-angle Clip
- Lens Cap
- FR100 Lens + Body
- Spare Tripod Rivet
Optimized for Color Enhancement
Pardon me will I walk you through my clumsy stumbling journey of discovering the wonders of shooting in super-wide. And before I begin, allow me to first declare that I have indeed run the shots through some editing and color enhancement. The sensors work amazingly under good light conditions, and is optimized for post-enhancement with minimal consequential grain. This bottom comparison photo illustrates the before-and-after of the treatment. I contented with bringing out just a little more of autumn’s color, and avoided doing anything too drastic to it, after all, the mark of good editing is editing that isn’t noticed.
[Top is the original]
[Bottom is the edited]
Conventional Composition vs Avant-Garde Framing
The camera phone that I’m using for comparison is the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact.
Here you see the same subject, in this case the Nagoya Palace framed in 2 completely different styles. In the top photo; the conventionally composed photo, I placed the focus of the shot which are the intricate designs of the roof, leaning towards the bottom right of the frame. What this does would be to draw the eye line in a diagonal motion, and utilizing negative space to create a feeling of vastness to the shot. On top of that, I used the shelter along the walk way to create a silhouetted frame on the sides of the composition to tighten the shot and guide the eye.
[Sony Xperia Z5 Compact]
[Casio Exilim FR200]
While in the bottom photo is shot with the FR200, the entire creative process is newfangled . Instead of creating interest by exclusion of information, shooting in super-wide is all about inclusion of information. And when placed next to each other, the top shot now feels almost inadequate in comparison. Now there is a sense of grandness, being able to see the palace in its full majesty. Coupled with that a feeling of immersion into the location, something I will expand upon in greater detail as we go along in this article.
Super-Wide In All It’s Glory
This shot was taken in the final couple days of the travel, when I’ve really begun to have a deeper understanding of the advantages and limits of shooting super-wide. And I proudly declare that this is probably the money shot of the entire holiday.
This is the one shot that I undeniably feel that anything other than a super wide lens can NEVER achieve ever. Here, the deepest potential and fullest ability is brought out of the EX- FR200, and it is glorious.
By the way, bear with me while I brag about how serendipitous this shot was to come by. I wrestled the sleepiness out of my squinted eyes and got up at 5am in the freezing morning taking a 45 minute hike to hunt for a good spot, where I then planted the camera for this shot. The famed misty lake of Yufuin, Bebu, only rises in very specific moments. Criteria number 1, the atmosphere must be cold enough, whilst not so cold that the humidity escapes it entirely. Criteria number 2, the underwater hot-spring current must have been running actively enough to heat up the lake sufficiently for the mist to begin rising.
Now with the mist rising off the surface of the lake, the presence of a gentle breeze is vital in making it visually pleasing, BUT not so much wind that the surface of the water disturbed too aggressively for the mirroring of the sights to be possible. On top of ALL of that, the colors are in the height of autumn, a 2 week window that is as unpredictable as the seasons come. And finally, the cherry on top of this amazing cake, this heron decides to present itself as a model and perches itself upon the torii, thus completing this serendipitous money shot of the entire travel.
Limitation In Shooting Distant Subjects
The subject of this shot is the waterfall, and in context, perhaps Exilim FR 200 might not be the go-to tool in this situation. Due to the nature of shooting super wide, near objects looks nearer while distant subjects feel even further away.
Now I’m not saying that it isn’t a nice shot. As it is, this is a decent enough photograph, and arguably even more visually stimulating than the top photo. I’ll talk about the reason behind that in the following comparison, and for now, lets just agree that if the waterfall is what you intended to shoot, this isn’t the best choice of equipment.
A Fantastical Sense Of Immersion
This is what I feel is the strongest trait of the Casio Exilim FR200’s 185° lens. It could make you feel like the scene is something in another world, while in that very same breath, make you feel like you are one foot in it.
The exact scenery, shot from exactly the same angle and composition, yet, two very different feel. It’s not just about the range of vision nor the warping. It. Just. Feels. Right.
Making The Mundane Seem Unreal
The weather wasn’t the most ideal when I dropped by Kenrokuen Garden. Putting aside the persistent drizzle giving me squishy socks, the gloomy skies and underexposed sunlight made taking any decent photos challenging at best, impossible at worst without specialized low light sensitive equipment.
Admittedly the FR200 isn’t optimized for low light. But what it lacks in shear sensor prowess, it makes up for in the lack of grain. And thanks to that, it becomes possible to bring up the colors in post to salvage some of your rainy day snaps.
All of these shots were edited within my phone. Because I had to shoot, edit and upload on the go, what I used was Snapseed, a free photo editing app by Google INC. It’s a very inclusive app catered to and easily learned by anyone and everyone.
Understanding It’s Strengths
Like I mentioned before about how it’s not the best choice for shooting distant objects, with that in mind, just don’t. Yeah you heard right, just don’t do it. Instead, use it’s strength and capture the bigger picture.
There. Isn’t that great too, you may not see the splinters and scratches on the great Otorii, but you get the vastness of the sunset, the street lights across the high tide, and the curving horizon line all in one gaze.
Getting indoor shots is when the sense of immersion is played to it’s advantage. In an enclosed space, the interior view naturally wraps itself around your vision.
Notice how you basically feel like we are in there with the train conductor, watching the train march on. This is the other shot that is difficult for any other lenses to achieve!
We have to be a little more careful while framing living things, and remember to try to keep your subjects within or close to the center of the shot as much as possible in order to reduce the possibility of facial warping.
Once again the sense of immersion is evident in this snap. I almost feel as if I can reach out and stroke the kitty 😀
Temperature Of Colors
Unlike most automatic shooting functions in phones, compact and DSLR alike, the FR doesn’t seem to auto adjust it’s Kelvin (not quickly at least). When used to properly, it is actually an advantage over the rest, being about to capture the natural warmth or cool of a sight.
The mood of the Nabana No Sato’s tunnel of light pours out the photo just the way it feels when I was physically there, in comparison to my phone camera that flattens it into neutral by default. Plus I could easily fit myself into the snap too, so 10 points to
Gryffindor Casio, which brings me to my next point.
The screen and lens is connected wirelessly and completely detachable. It can also be flipped around and vice-versa. The buttons are also found on both lens and body making for easy triggering. Combined with it’s wide field of vision that enables you to easily selfie with your bare hands without the hassle of lugging around a selfie stick , what it all adds up to is an extremely portable camera that is optimized for selfies unlike any other brand’s.
Now I’m not a person who has the habit of taking pictures of myself, but I must say, the Exilim’s really make it so convenient for me to take them that it seems that I really had no excuse not to.
Durability and Versatility
It is also weatherproof, waterproof, scratch-proof, and as far as I know, shock-proof. Just be reminded to firmly shut all the tabs and you’ll have nothing to worry about. That lets you take certain liberties with it that you may not with your DSLR, compacts or even your phones. My Sony Xperia Z5 Compact is also almost waterproof, so I’m rather reckless with it anyway, but in your cases, perhaps the EX- FR200 will allow you to take perspectives you may not have dared to before!
My hand was half submerged in the water to get this quirky snap of the Nagoya Radio Tower.
Easy Wireless Transfer to Phone
One final thing that I really like about the my experience with this camera is the EXILIM ALBUM app that you can grab free off the Google Play Store. It allowed me to transfer files without the need for data nor wifi. Utilizing bluetooth combined with a wifi field that the FR generates itself, I can sync my shots from the FR into my phone on the fly. It really is build to be a great travel companion. Here’s a link to Casio Exilim FR 200 home page for any in-depth technical details you might need I may have missed out.
Now I’ll leave you with a video of me jumping off a bridge with the FR200 taped to my hand. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I definitely wouldn’t be able to do with my phone. I hope this has been informative, and that you’ve enjoyed reading it!
TLDR; The Casio EX – FR200 gets you interesting rarely seen perspectives, and it’s an awesomely portable, sturdy and reliable travel companion. Check out #PepsGoJapan in Instagram for more photos!