Chris Drage checks out a stunningly fast digital camera from Casio
The Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is a typical ‘bridge’ camera – it fits between digital compact cameras and DSLRs and attempts to offer the best of both. Bridge cameras are a good choice for school users who prefer the simplicity of a compact camera, but occasionally find it restrictive in terms of lens quality and range and picture-taking features, yet find a DSLR camera too expensive or daunting.
The 'bridge' models offer a useful compromise, and this Exilim in particular specialises in high-speed photography that could be a boon for science and for anyone who wants to analyse performance.
Measuring 122mm x 81mm x 84mm, and weighing just over half a kilo (including four AA alkaline batteries) the EX-FH20 is very solidly made and the large, comfortable rubber-coated handgrip should permit children to handle it quite easily. It features an excellent on-screen menu, providing instant access to most of the common shooting settings. This 9-megapixel camera features a 20x optical zoom, close focusing (10cm macro, 1cm super macro) a 3-inch TFT LCD screen, 31.9 megabytes of internal storage with additional storage on memory card (SD, SDHC, MMC or MMCplus).
The EX-FH20 also includes a number of handy features like face detection, image stabilisation and Casio's wealth of best-shot scene modes. It connects with a computer via USB 2.0. However, its biggest attraction for schools will be its blisteringly fast speed.
The camera can shoot up to 10 flash-lit pictures at a rate of up to five frames a second, although the image size is limited to 8 megapixels (more than enough for most). There’s a high-speed, single-shot mode which provides some interesting options on the quick menu. The frame rate can be set from 1 to 40 frames a second, but there is also the option to pre-record a number of frames. This starts as soon as the shutter button is half-pressed, and records at least 20 frames in the camera. When the shutter is fully pressed these frames and up to 20 more are recorded, making it very easy to capture fast-moving action. Again, the image size is limited to 8MP for up to 30 frames a second, and 7MP for 40 frames a second.
The high-speed video mode is perhaps the most interesting feature. The EX-FH20 can shoot at a range of very high frame rates, but the frame size is very restricted. It can shoot at 210 frames-per-second (fps) with a frame size of 480 x 360 pixels, 420fps at 224 x 168 pixels, or 1,000fps at 224 x 56 pixels. In life you don’t get anything for nothing: and at the latter speed you end up with a very small frame indeed: a thin ‘letterbox’ image with poor image quality.
Not just a novelty - '210 and 420 frames per second'
Although 1000fps is little more than a novelty selling point, the 210fps and 420fps modes use a 4:3 aspect ratio, so they can be re-sized and edited into standard video footage. There is also a variable speed mode, which can shoot at between 30fps and 210fps. Similarly, although the EX-FH20 has a HD video mode, at 1280x720 pixel resolution at 30fps this isn't real HD, but it certainly fares a lot better than the VGA mode found on most cameras. The two limitations to this mode are the disappointing mono audio and the fact that the optical zoom cannot be used while recording.
Overall, the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is a well-made camera with superb handling, very good performance and it is quite intuitive to use. Its unique high-speed continuous shooting is great for slowing down action in PE lessons, athletics and in science explorations etc and analysis of that action its slow-motion view mode via its large LCD screen. The Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is perfect for this application. Thoroughly recommended.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 5
Casio Exilim EX-FH20 camera
'Bridge' 9-megapixel digital camera with 20x optical zoom and distinctive feature of very high-speed picture taking. Price £240 (online)-£300
Available from Casio at Carnaby, Currys and most electrical retailers