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Casio Exilim EX-FH20 - Casio Exilim EX-FH20
The FH20 has several unusual features, selected via a simple five-position dial on the top plate. The centre position is standard still shooting, with a maximum resolution of 9.1MP and a full range of manual exposure options and metering/AF modes. In this mode the FH20 is much like any other super-zoom camera. It has Casio's usual excellent on-screen quick menu providing instant access to most of the common shooting settings.
Click the dial two steps up and you find one of the camera's less advertised features, a continuous flash shooting mode. The camera can take up to ten flash-lit pictures at a rate of up to five frames a second. This isn't some weedy LED flash either, it's a proper Xenon flash tube, and as far as I can tell the flash fires at full power, although the image size is limited to 8MP.
The high-speed single-shot mode 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 to the buffer. When the shutter is fully pressed these frames and up to 20 more are recorded, making it very easy to capture fast-moving action. The image size is limited in this mode too, at 8MP for up to 30fp, and 7MP for 40fps.
The high-speed video mode is perhaps the most unusual. The FH20 can shoot at a range of very high frame rates, but the frame size is very restricted. It can shoot at 210fps with a frame size of 480 x 360 pixels, 420fps at 224 x 168 pixels, or 1,000fps at 224 x 56 pixels. That's a very small frame, a thin letterbox format only a third of the width of standard VGA, and the imae quality isn't too great either. It's remarkable that it can shoot at 1,000fps at all, but the tiny frame size limits its usefulness to that of little more than a novelty. Even the 210fps and 420fps are quite small, but they are at least in 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.
The FH20 also has a HD video mode. As I'm constantly being reminded by our readers, 1280 x 720 at 30fps isn't real HD, but it's certainly a lot better than the usual VGA mode found on most current cameras. It only has mono audio, which is a bit of a disappointment, but the both the picture and sound quality are pretty good. On the downside, video clips are limited to 10 minutes in length, and the optical zoom cannot be used while recording.
Other than these features the FH20 is actually rather limited, with the same range of options as an average compact. It has some manual adjustments, including a range of colour filters, adjustable contrast, saturation and sharpness, and a three-stage dynamic range booster.