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Casio Exilim EX-FH20 review: Casio Exilim EX-FH20

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MSRP: $399.99

The Good High-speed features work as promised; comfortable body design; lots of features for experimentation.

The Bad Occasionally annoying to use; mediocre photos for the money; eats batteries, storage.

The Bottom Line Equal parts fun and frustrating, the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is an adequate megazoom camera with a couple of truly novel features.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 5

The Casio Exilim EX-FH20, like most all megazooms, is basically a puffed-up point-and-shoot camera. However, it's what Casio puffed it up with that sets it apart: the ability to shoot at 40 frames per second and 1,000fps video capture. In fact, these are really the only reasons to choose the FH20 over another megazoom. The camera can be a bit trying to operate, and its photo quality, even at its full 9-megapixel resolution, is just OK, leaning toward mediocre when you factor in the FH20's price tag. Unless you need the speed and the long lens more than you need great-looking photos, you'll probably want to pass on the FH20.

Key specs Casio Exilim EX-FH20
Price (MSRP) $499.99
Dimensions 4.8 inches wide by 3.2 inches high by 3.3 inches deep
Weight (with battery and media) 20.4 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 9 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CMOS
LCD size, resolution 3-inch LCD, 230K dots (0.2-inch EVF)
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 20x, f2.8-7.9, 26-520mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) DNG (raw), JPEG/Motion JPEG
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,456x2,592 pixels (4:3)/ 1,280x720 at 30fps (16:9)
Image stabilization type Mechanical and electronic
Battery type, rated life Alkaline (AA x 4), 230 shots

The FH20 design doesn't stray from typical digital SLR-style megazoom territory. It has a big, comfortable handgrip and a large thumbrest, well-positioned controls, a respectably large screen, and a decent electronic viewfinder (EVF). The 20x zoom lens is responsible for a bulk of the weight, but it's balanced well with the four AA batteries in the handgrip.

On top is a mode dial, but not for the usual shooting modes such as auto or program AE. It's for switching between the five shot types: continuous shutter with flash, high-speed burst, single shot, high-speed movie, and high-definition video. If you want to change shooting modes, you have to head to the camera's menu system, but not by hitting the actual Menu button. No, instead you press the Set button at the center of the four-way directional pad. This brings up the main shooting controls, while hitting Menu gives you less-used shooting controls, in addition to basic setup options. Should you want to take advantage of the FH20's scene modes--called Best Shot--you press the BS button on back or you can change to Best Shot mode by hitting Set and switching to it through the onscreen menu. But if it's not the scene type you want (there are 19, including a user-configurable one), you have to hit the BS button anyway. Ultimately, the controls are decently arranged and eventually make sense; getting adjusted to them without regular use is a little maddening, though.

General shooting options Casio Exilim EX-FH20
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Shade, Day White Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, Tungsten, Manual
Recording modes Single Shot, High-speed Continuous, Flash Continuous, High-speed Movie, HD/SD Movie
Shooting modes Auto (program AE), Best Shot (scene), Aperture AE, Shutter-speed AE, Manual Exposure
Focus Spot, Free (user selectable), Tracking
Metering Multi-pattern, Center-weighted, Spot
Color effects Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Pink, Purple
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) None (HS Continuous up to 40 photos at 7MP; up to 30 photos at 8MP)

Wrapped up in all the controls and menu system is a fairly robust megazoom digital camera. Much like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50 and the DSC-HX1, the FH20 is loaded with shooting options to experiment with, including eight color filters, dynamic range expansion, and sharpness, saturation, and contrast amounts. Or you can set everything to Auto and never touch a thing. However, if you're considering this camera at all, you're probably up for some experimentation with at least two of its features: the 40-frames-per-second high-speed burst and 1,000fps high-speed movie capture.

In Single Shot mode, you can shoot at resolutions up to 9 megapixels or raw plus a low-res JPEG. There is no full-resolution continuous shooting option on the FH20. Instead you get the capability to capture up to 40fps at 7 megapixels or up to 30fps at 8 megapixels. Also, if you let it, with a half-press of the shutter release the camera will start prerecording photos. Press it all the way down and it will immediately capture what's in the frame. You can divvy up the shots between prerecord and record. So for example, you can set it to continuously prerecord 20 frames and then capture another 20 frames once the shutter is fully pressed.

The camera can be set to store all shots automatically, to ask if you want to save all, save nothing, or save selected, or start immediate playback so you can pick which photos to save by pressing the shutter release. Unfortunately, while you're doing all of this decision making, there's a good chance you've missed shooting all sorts of other things. Even if you set it to just store all images, it takes on average 10 to 15 seconds before you can shoot again (it is, after all, storing up to 40, 7-megapixel photos). Plus, just accepting them all means you have no idea of what you captured and if they're worth keeping, and storage fills up quickly if you keep taking 40 shots a second. Not to mention the batteries it eats through while doing so. (You'll definitely want to invest in some NiMH rechargeables.)

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