Serious photographers usually own more than one camera. There’s the high-end model you might use for nature photography, a pocket camera for quick indoor shots, and one that has some specific feature for unusual situations – such as finally getting front row ticks to your favorite sports team. With the Casio EX-FH20, the main perk has to do with an unusual burst mode, which can capture 40 photos in a second with one shutter press. Or, you can capture a whopping 1000 frames-per-second in a kind of burst mode for video. Unique, and well-suited to certain photo conditions, the burst modes are a blast to use. And, compared to the previous model – the Casio EX-F1, which costs twice as much – the EX-FH20 still functions as a regular point-and-click digicam. Yet, it’s not a great all-around camera, the lens feels like it could jam easily, and battery life is just atrocious, making it a niche device.
Features and Design
When you first unpack the EX-FH20, you might not be ready to dive into all of the extra burst-mode features. Casio does a good job of making the setup and casual photography features as accessible as possible. There’s one button to use camera mode, and one to use picture-review mode. The poorly named “BS” button is used for selecting a best-shot mode, essentially the same as the scene mode on other cameras. There are also options for nighttime photos, sports scenes, and far-off outdoor photos. You can click the set button to access aperture settings, adjust white balance modes, and set the ISO. The rather small menu button allows you to set options such as image resolution, and record modes.
In a hands-on test, we weren’t impressed with the power-on time of the EX-FH20: the time you wait as the 20x optical zoom lens extends and the camera becomes fully operational. It’s a bit ironic, since you might suddenly see something worth shooting in burst mode, and will have to wait to take the quick burst shots. The camera is light (just 483 grams) and portable, so it has more in common with a point-and-click. The grip feels secure and comfortable. The expansive three-inch viewer screen is large enough to see finer details of a photo and decide if you want to delete it or not. You can also press a button to disable the LCD viewer and use the eye viewer, although it does not show you the exact lens view.
In some ways, we’d prefer a heavier and more robust camera, since the EX-FH20 almost feels too light. In several outdoor test shots, we found the camera would move around easily unless we really locked a right arm tight and held it steady. The lens, which protrudes a full four inches or so from the camera body, looks like it could get easily bent if you dropped the device on a hard surface. (The bane of every pocket camera is that, if you drop it when it’s turned on, there’s a good chance the lens will get bent and won’t retract, and that means a costly repair unless it’s under warranty.)
Indoor shots were just passable. The EX-FH20 captures at 9.1 megapixels, and there’s a flash that pops up when you press a trigger button on the side. Unlike higher-end digital SLR cameras, the bracketing process of setting ISO and aperture priority are just too cumbersome on the EX-FH20 since these settings are on a digital menu instead of accessible through dedicated buttons. As one example, we tried to capture a sunrise in a winter scene and just couldn’t get the shot we wanted. Switching over to a Nikon D60, we quickly found the exact ISO and aperture that worked well for the shot.
For an afternoon of casual photography, we noticed a few other bugaboos. For one, we used standard Alkaline double-AA batteries, and the EX-FH20 barely lasted a day for occasional shooting. For close-up shots, we found the camera added extra noise to the final image (when inspected closely in Adobe Photoshop on a 22-inch LCD monitor) when higher-end cameras kept the colors smooth.
Still, some of the photos and video you can shoot with this device are just not possible with even a high-end Nikon or Canon camera. The Casio EX-FH20 is fun to use for creative photography. For example, you can set the EX-FH20 to capture just six shots per second instead of 40. We tested it during winter when there are not as many hummingbirds and jumping squirrels around, but the idea is that you can capture – either as still shots or video – a scene that you cannot physically see. At a basketball game, for example, we set the full burst mode of 40 shots per second and could capture one player’s movement under the basket and then pick the one we wanted after the fact. The 1000-frames-per-second video mode is a cool parlor trick as well – we shot a video of a Border Collie running – you can slow down the action to see that the animal’s legs are fully off the ground more than they touch the ground. We envisioned all kinds of other uses, such as a firecracker exploding or a blinking eye.
What does this all mean for practical use? Not too much. Most of us use a camera for capturing the moments of life, not filming hummingbirds at close range. If you can bring the EX-FH20 along on a photo trip and use it with your primary camera, you can rely on it as a good burst mode camera or for shooting slo-mo video and high-def movies. Otherwise, we’d be hard-pressed to use it as a primary camera because the bracketing settings are hard to find. It’s too expensive as a throw-away pocket digital, and doesn’t take the most awe-inspiring casual shots, especially indoors.
- Cool burst mode
- High-def video recording
- Light and compact
- Lens could break easily
- Not the best casual shots