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Given the EX-F1's unusual capabilities, naturally its controls are somewhat different to those of a conventional camera, and are more complex than usual. The top panel carries two mode dials, one for the main shooting modes (PASM and Best Shot modes) and the other for the various high-speed shooting options. On the back, positioned for thumb activation, is an extra button for video recording, with a rotary selector for the three video modes; standard, HD or high-speed (slow-motion) video. The rest of the rear panel controls are more conventional, with record and playback mode buttons, display mode, menu and one to select between the monitor and electronic viewfinder. There are three more buttons on the left side of the lens barrel, for quick focusing, automatic backlight compensation and AE/AF lock, although it has to be said that this is not an ideal location for them. The function of the AE/AF lock button can be customised in the menu, as can the function of the rotary lens barrel. The only other unusual control is a rotary bezel around the D-pad, which is used to adjust manual exposure settings.
Although the controls are a bit complicated they are sensibly laid out and well labelled, and after a couple of days of familiarisation they are quite easy to use. The menu system is also well designed, and despite the large number of options and settings it is easy to understand and navigate.
The LCD monitor is a 2.8-inch wide-screen with a resolution of 230k dots and an extremely wide viewing angle. It is bright enough to use in daylight, but the EX-F1 also has a 0.2-inch 200k dot electronic viewfinder. I have to say I wasn't particularly impressed by the viewfinder; it seemed too dark and the small size of the screen made manual focusing difficult.
The unique features of the EX-F1 take some getting used to. Taking photos with most digital cameras isn't much different from the way that photos are taken with a film camera. You press the shutter button and snap an instant of frozen time, and just hope that you captured the instant you were intending to. Shooting with the EX-F1 is different. Instead of the click of a single frame, the camera buzzes briefly and captures up to two seconds of action in a rapid sequence of stills, including the option to pre-capture action before the shutter is pressed. You then have the option to save the whole sequence, or you can scroll through it to save just the moment you wanted. Say you're taking a photo of someone kicking a football, and you want the exact moment their foot strikes the ball. With a conventional camera you have to rely on luck and timing, and probably multiple tries to get the perfect shot. With the EX-F1 you just shoot, and then select the perfect shot afterwards. It makes action photography almost too easy.