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Casio EX-FH20 Digital Camera Review

Casio EX-FH20 Digital Camera Review - Building on the teeth rattling speed of the EX-F1, the EX-FH20 has made a compromise for resolution. Matt Grayson went to London to see the new model.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Casio EX-FH20
Price : £342
Rating :
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Performance is still the key word with the Casio, however it seems that it's been spread over the cameras features now instead of focusing on one area.

Casio EX-FH20: SpecificationCasio EX-FH20

  • Zoom: 20x optical
  • Resolution: 9.14Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/2.33in
  • Sensor type: CMOS
  • Image size: 3456x2592
  • File type: JPEG, RAW
  • Sensitivity: ISO100-1600
  • Storage: 31.9Mb internal, SD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus
  • Focus types: Auto focus, macro, infinity, manual, spot free tracking
  • Normal focusing: 40cm
  • Close focusing: 10cm macro, 1cm super macro
  • Metering types: Multi pattern, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: -/ 2EV in 1/3EV steps
  • Shutter speed: 30sec-1/2000sec
  • Flash: Built-in
  • Monitor: 3in TFT LCD
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: 4x AA batteries
  • Size: 122.6x81.4x84.5mm
  • Weight: 483g

Casio EX-FH20: Features
When I first saw the specification of the FH20, my first thought was: ‘only 40fps?' Which is a little stupid considering it still blows all other manufacturers out of the water. It seems that as a society of consumers, we always want more.

Casio EX FH20Well, looking around the rest of the camera it shows that other areas have been changed and at least one of these, the resolution, contributes to the downgrading of the fps (frames per second).

Uncle Ben told Peter Parker that with great power comes great responsibility. Wise words, but as a photographer, Parker would have surely appreciated wisdom such as: With great resolution comes lower frames per second. That's why the F1 only had six fps as it couldn't cope with anything higher.

With that in mind it's a shame that the FH20 has come out with a higher resolution as it shows that the pixel race is still well and truly under way. This camera is of course, not a replacement to the F1 but sits below it and broadens the range. Whereas the F1 is the fastest commercial camera in the world, the FH20 is the fastest with the highest resolution because the F1 has 6Mp.

It's interesting to know that when in continuous mode, the FH20 only shoots at 8Mp otherwise the download speed would have slowed the performance even more. After closer inspection of this, it seems that the 8Mp can only run at 30fps. To get the full 40fps, you need to push the resolution further down to 7Mp. Something that Casio keep to themselves.

The FH20 also takes four AA batteries. Casio took this decision due to the energy efficiency of AA batteries these days coupled with the wider availability. The fight between lithium ion and AA batteries is an old one that looks like it won't end for a while yet.

Looking at the camera and it's obviously a lower spec model due to its comparably diminutive size. It boasts a 20x optical zoom but this is housed in a smaller lens. The function ring has been removed and the zoom can only be operated by the rocker that's situated under the shutter release.

Taking a quick tour around the camera and it's been designed like a bridge camera although Casio Digital Imaging Manager Steve Ainge is reluctant to give it that classification. He said "the FH20 would be classed as a bridge or prosumer but I like to think that these cameras go further than just bridging a gap." There was no definite answer as to what it would be classed as but then every manufacturer thinks their model is in a league of its own.

Casio EX FH20The side of the lens barrel has two buttons for AE lock and macro mode. The FH20 has two macro modes: standard which can get into 12cm and super which can get into 1cm. The super macro still focuses on objects when they're 12cm away so I fail to see the point of the two modes.

Interestingly, the HD quality has been dropped to a barely HD 1280x720 which, similar to the Nikon D90, is classed as HD video but isn't full HD. When the F1 was released, the HD capability was scratched onto our foreheads by Casio PR so we couldn't forget it but the FH20 appears to gloss over the drop in quality.

Let's face it, we know the FH20 is a lower spec model and maybe I want something for nothing but would it hurt to give the camera full HD?

Casio EX-FH20: Build quality
In the hands it feels solid enough and not too dissimilar to Fujifilm bridge models. The function buttons are in the places where they need to be and there's a few changes from its bigger brother, the F1.

Casio EX-FH20 The EVF/LCD button which swaps your view between the electronic viewfinder and the screen has been moved onto the left shoulder to free up a little space on the smaller body. The other buttons can be moved further away from each other and notably, there's no dedicated video button on the top right corner. This button is synonynous with Casio so I'm really surprised to not see it there.

As a lower model, the FH20 doesn't have a hotshoe on the viewfinder but does have a pop up type which boasts a range of 0.4-7m at wide angle, 1.3-4.4m at telephoto. This will help with the 20x optical zoom but keep your hopes up of it covering the whole distance.

The zoom lens will be a great benefit to many users but I thought we were past the days of external zoom. Even with a large zoom such as the one found on the FH20 I'm still surprised at how long the lens extends.

Casio EX-FH20
The lens is out quite a bit even when at wide angle.
Casio FH20
Zoomed out and the lens adds some serious imbalance issues.

Casio FH20: Performance
Shutter lag on the FH20 is the same as any other compact sitting at around 0.08sec which is a decent result. Focusing is faster than the Casio EX-F1 so I'm glad that the issues I had surrounding the other model have been addressed but taking a picture from cold with focusing in between takes over half a second. This sounds pretty fast but as a camera designed to shoot fast moving objects, it needs to be practically instant which it isn't.

I don't need to tell you about the burst test although I'm now disappointed that the camera won't shoot 40fps at 8Mp like I was led to believe at the launch. Still 30fps is faster than any other camera available from competitive manufacturers and Casio have also altered the way that it shoots these monstrously fast images.

The EX-F1 would simply sit there for one second and then bring up a screen asking you what you fancied doing with them all. The FH20 actually makes a whirring noise like a camera taking pictures really quickly. Not only does this give you the nod that something is happening, but in a weird way it makes you feel more in control.

One thing about the absence of noise or external action from the F1 when recording in high speed was that it makes you feel more distant from the camera. As though control has been taken away and something else is doing it all for you. All you can do for that one second is sit and wait hoping that the camera remembers you're there.

With the whirring of the shutter (I daresay simulated) you feel as though you've actually done something and that the camera is obeying your commands.

Pretty deep stuff, but the last thing you need in today's society of auto everything is the thought that you're not even the one taking the picture.

Funnily though, it wasn't until hearing the FH20 that I realised just what the F1 is missing. I think if the FH20 had stayed silent like its big brother, this wouldn't be a problem so in a way, for me Casio have shot themselves in the foot as the F1 now has a psychological flaw.

Casio EX-FH20

Looking at the colour chart image, the primary colours are boosted and I like the balance of the earthy colours. The skin tone looks a little pale which is unusual because the portrait image is a bit too warm.

It's a decent result with the mono tones being nicely balanced but I'm unsure of the orange, I think it looks slightly off colour.

Like all modern prosumer and bridge cameras, the EX-FH20 has a dynamic range booster which is altered in the menu. Dynamic range optimisers add detail to shadow areas by adding light to the image but not at the expense of blown out high lights. The idea is to give the optimal dynamic range in one image creating as much information to look at as it can.

Casio EX-FH20
With dynamic range off, shadows are deeper on this detail study of some party poppers.
Casio EX-FH20
With the dynamic range switched on, darker areas are brighter and shadows with little information now have more.
Casio EX-FH20
The wide angle goes to 26mm in 35mm terms.
Casio EX-FH20
The 20x optical zoom can help you take photographs from a comfortable distance ensuring you don't disturb the fishes.
Casio EX-FH20
The landscape image has good colours and detail but suffers from purple fringing.

It was a really rainy day when I took the landscape images so brightness and contrast were low. The white bars have still thrown up a small line of fringing which is visible at actual size. I like the level of detail in the grass and the droplets of water along the handrail of the lock gates can be seen clearly enough.

I also like the colours that the camera has produced in the grass and the trees down the right side of the frame.

In portrait mode, the skin tones come out balanced, slightly warm with good detail in the hair.

Using flash has flattened the image horribly and given it a cold cast. catchlights in the eyes are good but there's slight bleaching on the forehead with over exposure.

Casio EX-FH20
Portrait mode has good skin tones, not overly under exposed and records good detail.
Casio EX-FH20
Using the flash has flattened the image, caused a burn out on the forehead and given the image a cast.

Casio EX-FH20: Focus and metering
Casio EX-FH20Focusing options such as single point or multi point AF can be accessed through the on screen quick menu along with metering. The focusing modes are accessed through the macro button on the lens barrel.

The Casio EX-FH20 has two macro modes with differing close focus points. Standard macro crops in to a disappointing 10cm but supermacro can get in as close as 1cm. This is much better than the standard option but you do lose zoom.

However for studies of still life, a zoom isn't necessary as the image of the water droplet on the berry displays.

Casio EX-FH20: Noise test
ISO100 and 200 control noise as well as you'd expect them to. Indeed, ISO400 doesn't do a bad job either and it's not until ISO800 that it all seems to fall apart for the EX-FH20.

In the event of high noise ruining an image, other companies will use noise reduction software or reduce the resolution. Casio have a different tactic. They simply stop raising the ISO. It's quite simple really that if you aren't going to get a decent picture then why try to?

Casio EX-FH20
The ISO100 test.
Casio EX-FH20
The ISO200 test.
Casio EX-FH20
The ISO400 test.
Casio EX-FH20
The ISO800 test.
Casio EX-FH20
The ISO1600 test.
 

Casio EX-FH20: Verdict
I've been pestering Casio since I saw this model because I wanted to try it out so badly. It's a great little camera that's bringing the ultimate speed of the F1 to the masses due to its more modest pricing.

I'm surprised that after the blaze of glory that the HD video possibilities of the F1 came out in, that they dropped the quality on the FH20, but they're probably reserving it for the flagship.

I'm disappointed in the drop of resolution from 9Mp to 7Mp when shooting at its fastest. Casio say it can do it at 8Mp but that's at a slower speed.

It's a great little camera with plenty to do on it. The recent Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 could be a threat to bridge cameras of this type so be cautious before committing to buying for that reason.

Casio EX-FH20: Plus points
Nice design
Comfortable to hold
Good macro
Good low ISO performance
20x optical zoom
Loads of fun with the slow motion video (see below)

Casio EX-FH20: Minus points
Lowers resolution for hi-speed fps
Flash has a tendency to flatten
Lens comes out too far

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL

 

Prices vary online but appear to start from around £342. You can purchase the Casio EX-FH20 from Warehouse Express:

Casio EX-FH20.

 

 

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Comments


13 Jan 2009 8:22PM
This camera is ultra rad. I love using it to show my friends skating, the slow-mo (210 fps is my fave) is awesome for that. The burst mode is cool too, especially for quick tricks. Anyway, I fully can't live without this camera any more.

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19 Jan 2009 6:57PM
I brought this camera along with me to art class yesterday hoping to take a few stills, and that I did. The color fidelity, while not perfect, is actually amazing, which I really didn't see coming. But we all know the real reason I picked up this beauty was for the slo-mo. Well, might I just tell you it blew my mind. While my friend was spraying a canvas (it's a graff-art class), I shot him at 210 fps, and watching his arm move so delicately was amazing, especially when I'm used to him moving at 100mpg, I swear. Anyway, the man looks graceful (for the first time in his life) and the gorgeous colors and super frame rate combine to make magic. Needless to say, I'm in love with this camera.
19 Jan 2009 7:01PM
I brought this camera along with me to art class yesterday hoping to take a few stills, and that I did. The color fidelity, while not perfect, is actually amazing, which I really didn't see coming. But we all know the real reason I picked up this beauty was for the slo-mo. Well, might I just tell you it blew my mind. While my friend was spraying a canvas (it's a graff-art class), I shot him at 210 fps, and watching his arm move so delicately was amazing, especially when I'm used to him moving at 100mpg, I swear. Anyway, the man looks graceful (for the first time in his life) and the gorgeous colors and super frame rate combine to make magic. Needless to say, I'm in love with this camera.

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