Long-time readers would probably notice that the EXILIM EX-FH20 is Casio's follow-up to last year's EXILIM Pro EX-F1. The unique thing about both cameras is their speed: they can shoot a high number of continuous photos and (soundless) videos at high frame-rates, which makes them great for action shots and slow motion video. Here's our take on this new introduction to the Casio repertoire.
Instead of resembling a compact camera, the FH20's shaped like a mini-DSLR, and physically, the FH20 has some beautiful curves. The controls are mostly conveniently located, like the Zoom dial which is just around the Shoot button. We liked the simplistic Mode dial, but not the troublesome Play/Record functions with a dedicated button for each function. The lens cap has to be manually removed when starting, or the FH20's lens will bump into it and refuse to turn on. Startup time is slow, from three to six seconds from pressing the On/Off button to taking the first shot.
Now, while the F1 was a 6-megapixel camera with a sensor size of 0.56-inch (diagonally), the FH20 is a 9-megapixel camera with a sensor that measures only 0.43-inch. In terms of image noise (which usually results from a smaller sensor), the FH20 does a little better than most compact cameras. It performs well at ISO100 to 200. While shooting at ISO400 is acceptable, pushing it further to ISO800 would return some noisy images.
The FH20 has a few issues with its exposure and focus in Auto mode - it seems to have trouble deciding on the main focus area and over-exposes shots with contrast levels of lighting, e.g. backlit shots. Even with its reduced sensor, we observed some purple fringing and aliasing in shots of ISO400 and above, especially in low light.
The problem with the zooms is that the further out you zoom, the more pronounced camera shake becomes. Fortunately, the FH20's image stabilizer manages to right most shots, even with its 20x optical zoom. Shots are clear and mightily impressive but the auto-focus will take a second or two to resolve itself.
The burst modes of shooting 30 photos per second at 8-megapixels or 40 at 7-megapixels are great for action shots. But it seems that to reach such speeds the FH20 doesn't re-focus in-between every shot, thus placing a limitation to an otherwise fun mode.
The highest speed setting of 1000fps shoots at a strange, small and longish resolution of 224 x 56. Because each shot is exposed for only a fraction of a second, ample lighting is required to capture clearer images. The optimal results were gather at resolutions of 480 x 360 at 210 fps. While most videos turned out beautifully, for some reason, a rare handful were jerky. The camera takes a long time to process each video before returning to shooting mode; a 10 second video took roughly 15 to 17 seconds of processing (and waiting) time.
The FH20 presents a specialist's conundrum. Though it manages to excel with its 20x optical zoom and stable images, its smaller sensor results in noisier pictures, especially in low light. The high speed modes are a lot of fun, but it's not for everyone. FH20 is really good at certain aspects so if those are your requirements, you may be able to turn a blind eye to its failings.