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Casio Exilim EX-H20G Digital Camera Review

Duncan Evans reviews the Casio Exilim EX-H20G with built in GPS receiver.

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Casio Exilim EX-H20G front
Duncan Evans reviews the Casio Exilim EX-H20G with built in GPS receiver.

The beauty of a digital compact is that you can take it anywhere but with the new Casio Exilim EX-H20G you can now remember everywhere you’ve been. That’s thanks to the built in GPS receiver which supports geotagging and also map referencing on image when playing them back. On top of that tech, there’s also a healthy slab of features wrapped up in well-built body that really marks the H20G out from the crowd.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G: Features
First and foremost, if you don’t want the GPS ticket, you’re on the wrong train. The H20G makes good use of this facility both outdoor and inside. Even when there’s no satellite signal, accelerometer type instrumentation measures where the camera has been while out of satellite range and logs the position accordingly. On playback, images are mapped to positions on the built-in map and nearby destinations can be looked at to see what photographic attractions are there. In terms of what you get as a camera, there’s plenty to back up the tech. For a start, there’s a big 14MP CCD sensor, a handy 10x optical zoom with digital extensions if required, and a crowd-pleasing 24mm wide angle view. The lens has CCD-shift anti-shake and there’s something called the Premium Auto. This detects what you are doing with the camera and moves to that particular mode automatically. Something close up? Macro mode. Got a face in the picture? Portrait mode with facial cleanup. There’s also a range of scene modes, or Best Shot modes as they are called here, and if you put the camera into regular Auto mode, then the full raft of regular photographic features can be accessed. We’re talking ISO range from 80-3200, three types of metering, exposure compensation, regular AF, constant AF and tracking AF, face detection and so on.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G Key features: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G front lens   Casio Exilim EX-H20G back
The 10x optical zoom provides good range from the wide angle start of 24mm.   The only handling issue comes from having your thumb rest over the movie mode button.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G top   Casio Exilim EX-H20G battery compartment
That rubber block in the middle is the GPS receiver which is pleasantly effective.   The GPS polls the satellites even when the camera is off but it has negligible effect on the battery.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G: Handling
The H20G is in the upper end of compact pricing so you want a feel and finish that reflects that. Rest assured then that there’s a nice combination of shiny black metal and plastic finishing with glossy and ordered control buttons. The lens as well has a nicely solid feel to it and the dual menus are bright and very easy to read. If there’s any issue it’s because the LCD is nice and large at 3inch, and that the buttons are pretty big as well, there’s scarcely room for your thumb to grip the camera. It actually sits over the video button, though to be fair, in practice I never managed to activate it. Otherwise the bright LCD screen makes composing shots easy and there are options for how much detail you overlay on the screen. The live histogram is always welcome. What may come as a surprise is that the joypad control only has two shooting functions; display and flash. Everything else is on menus. It gives the H20G a stripped down and very easy to use feel. If you want the more advanced options, you’ll need to go into the menus.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G: Performance
There’s a number of focusing modes on the H20G, starting with regular AF but also including manual and, surprisingly, an infinity mode. There’s face detection which works well and also a tracking AF mode and this was fairly effective. The AF itself is no slouch and the optical zoom races through from an excellent 24mm wide angle to the 240mm telephoto end. There’s also a brace of digital extensions to that, giving up to 15x reach, but the quality does degrade when that is used.

Colours are bright and cheerful, but compacts are getting more clever these days, so when faced with a portrait situation, complexions are natural and clean. The standard dynamic range is better than you might expect and even then, there’s menu options to brighten up shadow areas. So, when shooting into light or backlit situations, you never really get those blacked out foregrounds and often there’s lots of detail and plenty of brightness. The H20G certainly acquits itself well in tricky situations.

It isn’t, however, one for the sports enthusiast. There is a sports scene mode, but that simply ensures the shutter speed is kept up. Because Fine mode has nigh on five seconds of processing time added to it, rapid shooting at top quality simply isn’t there as an option. What is very welcome is the on-screen histogram, showing a live feed from the metering system chosen. This offers a choice of zone, centre-weighted and spot, the latter of which really is a spot metering mode in practice. White balance performance is generally good, with fluorescent lighting being handled with ease indoors, though tungsten is a little on the warm side. Outside, cold weather in open skies tends to give bluer results, especially with snow unless you shoot using the snow scene mode. Otherwise, there’s no problem with normal situations. One thing to look for as well is the range of colour filters than can be applied to a scene? Want the sunset to look golden and glowing, add a yellow or red filter to it.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Casio Exilim EX- Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting   Casio Exilim EX-H20G Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting.   Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting   Casio Exilim EX-H20G Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting
Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting.   Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting.

Finally, there’s an interesting point about the GPS system. Even with the camera turned off it looks for the satellite signals every 10 minutes, just to keep you up to date with where it is. You might expect that to hammer the battery but it has no noticeable effect, enabling a good days worth of shooting.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G Performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G brightened shadows   Casio Exilim EX-H20G centre weighted metering
With the Lighting function turned on the deep shadows caused by low-lying sun are brightened to reveal plenty of detail.   Centre-weighted metering rendered this door with healthy black tones. There’s good range here.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G portrait mode   Casio Exilim EX-H20G snow mode
Despite vivid colour saturation elsewhere, portraits, even in poor lighting, tend to have natural complexions.   A variety of scene modes are available including ones for landscapes and also for snow.

ISO and noise performance
With a 14MP chip inside the H20G there was always going to be some price to pay on the noise front, the question was how would the noise suppression firmware cope with it? You can see noise even at ISO80, though it’s largely in the shadows. In bright light there’s no real issue at low ISOs. This is much the same up to ISO400 where you can now see noise in solid colour areas as well. At ISO1600 there’s noise everywhere but the significant factor here is that it isn’t running riot over the image with coloured noise, it’s kept under control but at the expense of image detail which has deteriorated by this point. At ISO3200 then you lose both detail and colour cohesiveness, with the darker colours suffering more. In compact terms though, there’s perhaps more noise than you might expect early on, but it’s kept under better control than most throughout.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO80
Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO80 Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO100 Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO200 Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO400
ISO80 ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO800 Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO1600 Casio Exilim EX-H20GTest chart ISO3200  
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200  

Lens performance
With no aperture control it’s down to the best shot modes to give you what you want in terms of depth of field so make use of those portrait and landscape modes. However, running some test shots in Auto mode at a low ISO reveals decent sharpness in the middle of the lens at the wide angle end. There’s some distortion around the edges as you’d expect, though detail does fall off away from the middle. At the telephoto end there’s a little bowing of the vertical lines, but not much. The detail is clearly softer though, but hardly unusable. At this end you are dealing with a widest f/5.7 aperture, so expect an increase in ISO ratings to keep the shutter speed up. Shooting into the sun however, produces less flare than you might expect so good news there.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G Lens quality: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G telephoto   Casio Exilim EX-H20G wideangle
Don’t use Landscape mode with the zoom otherwise you end up with narrow f-stops requiring high ISOs to keep the shutter speed up.   Backlit scenes are rarely a problem as the camera ensures the exposure captures the foreground.
Casio Exilim EX-H20G zoom on detail   Casio Exilim EX-H20G macro mode
The widest aperture at the end of the 240mm telephoto is f/5.7 which ensure reasonable detail though it is softer.   Super macro gets in as close as 7cm, which is only average in terms of macro mode on compacts.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G: Verdict
The H20G is clearly aimed at the well to do holiday maker who wants good quality, detailed snaps and be able to record where they were taken. If you go on lots of holidays or trips, then once you get used to the system, it will be invaluable. The hybrid GPS and indoor calibration system work well and the camera backs this up with a lightweight body that has a quality feel to it. There’s much to admire, from the high resolution packing in lots of detail, the fast zoom and the 24mm wide angle. If you don’t want the GPS functionality then this is not the camera for you, but otherwise the notable specification and go-anywhere and remember functionality will make it a great camera for the frequent photo traveller. Casio are offering £20 cashback on this model, more details here.

Casio Exilim EX-H20G: Pros
Casio Exilim EX-H20GGPS geotagging
Casio Exilim EX-H20GWide angle lens
Casio Exilim EX-H20GQuality finish
Casio Exilim EX-H20GTracking AF
Casio Exilim EX-H20GFace recognition
Casio Exilim EX-H20GCCD-shift anti-shake

Casio Exilim EX-H20G: Cons
Casio Exilim EX-H20GNoise in images
Casio Exilim EX-H20GNo burst mode
Casio Exilim EX-H20GSuper macro is 7cm


Casio Exilim EX-H20G: Specification
Price £329
What comes in the box Wrist strap, AV-Phono cable, battery charger and lead 
Optical zoom 10x (24-240mm equiv.)
Resolution 14.1MP
Sensor size 1/2.3 inch
Sensor type CCD
Max image size 4320 x 3240
Aspect ratio 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Focusing system Contrast detection AF
Focus modes AF, Macro, Super Macro, Infinity, MF
Focus distance 15cm normal, manual and macro, 7.5cm super macro
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Metering system Program AE
Metering modes Multi-pattern, centre-weighted, spot
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV
Shutter speed range 1-1/2000th sec normal, 4sec-1/2000th sec night mode
Frames-per-second 30fps at 1280x720
Image stabilisation Shift-CCD
Monitor 3in TFT LCD
Media type SD, SDHC
Interface Hi-Speed USB, AV Out, HDMI-mini output
Power Lithium-ion NP-90
Size 102.6 x 67.5 x 28.7mm
Weight 216g inc battery and card

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13 Dec 2010 12:54AM
Great technical review. I thought I would add a couple personal comments.

Pros: GPS is much quicker and more accurate than I expected. I used the camera, turned it off and drove 900 miles over night. Turned it back on and took a picture within 15 seconds and the location was accurate to within feet. Battery life is good. I took 247 pictures over 12 hours and the battery was still green. Works great with iPhoto. Coming from 4x zoom, 10x is much better!

Cons: Pictures look good, but not as good as a similar priced Kodak. And the thing that bugs me most, the AutoFocus is CONSTANTLY clicking, very noisy and distracting. I put the camera in review mode when not using just to shut up the AF.

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