The camera powers up from cold in just under three seconds, which isn’t the fastest ever. However once up and running, timings improve. With a half press of the shutter release there’s the briefest of pauses whilst focus and exposure are determined, auto focus points highlighted in green with a chirp to signal the user is free to press down fully and take the shot. A top 14 megapixel resolution JPEG is committed to memory, here removable SD card, in around two seconds, which is about on par.
With a press of the ‘set’ button, key shooting options are presented in a toolbar that runs down the right hand side of the camera’s screen, each setting highlighted as the user tabs up or down, via the intuitive four way control pad at the rear. It’s here we find the ability to adjust light sensitivity between ISO80 and ISO3200, pick resolution and image aspect ratios, and even get a manual focus option. This provides the ability to pick a distance between 15cm and infinity for the camera to zero in on, at which point a live histogram also appears to facilitate an accurate exposure.
Among the Casio EX-H20G’s Best Shot options we were most impressed with the panorama feature. This fires off a machine gun-like continual burst as the user pans with the camera through a full 360°, its nearest competitor in terms of its simplicity and effectiveness being Sony with its Sweep Panorama technology. The result, similarly, is an automatically generated, single elongated image. OK, so the Casio version doesn’t also offer the ability to generate a 3D version viewable on a suitable TV, but it’s another way in which the camera reaches out to the traveller wanting to fully take in the sights around them.
In terms of being able to alter framing of your shots in a hurry, the EX-H20G’s zoom powers through the entirety of its focal range in just under two seconds, which isn’t bad at all. However it’s a bit of a let down that the zoom is disabled when recording video, even if it does save the footage from the lens’ distracting noise. We did like the act however that pressing the record button immediately commences filming no matter which alternative Best Shot mode is selected at the time. It’s one advantage of not sticking the video option on a conventional shooting dial or wheel set up. The screen display automatically narrows to provide a cropped 16:9 aspect ratio image for video capture, more closely mirroring how the results will appear when viewed back on a TV, or your computer screen.
In terms of stills quality, we did as expected get the odd soft shot when shooting handheld at the extremities of the zoom, but generally the Casio acquitted itself well, in delivering warm, well saturated colours even on the dullest of winter days.
Usual compact camera bugbears such as loss of corner definition at maximum wideangle setting – again not wholly unexpected, given the ultra wide 24mm setting – plus chromatic aberrations between areas of high contrast are present and incorrect if you want to look closely for them. But most of the mass market target audience for the EX-20G will simply be pleased with the ability to point and shoot and get perfectly usable results, and consistently too.
For low light photography we managed to get a decent return at ISO400 and below, noise intruding and detail softening at ISO800, though up to ISO1600 is still, we’d argue, worth shooting at, if pushed. At top whack ISO3200, as our test samples show, detail has softened across the image and it’s beginning to take on a painterly effect. But again, this is no worse a performance than other big zoom compacts, such as Samsung’s competing WB600. And particularly so, given the high-ish 14 million pixels on offer, crammed onto a modestly sized 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor.
The travel zoom market has been in growth of late, with even formerly humble pocket models now boasting a 15x reach to further distance themselves from the latest smartphones. But rather than trying to trump competitors when it comes to zoom power, Casio has here added the extra of GPS to a still versatile 10x optical reach. Though a bit of a gimmick surely for most amateur photographers, it works up to a point, and helps earmark the camera as a possible purchase for those who love their gadgets as much as their photography.
On the down side, it is disappointing that the full extent of the zoom cannot be used for video as it can for stills, and that Casio insists on cramming information in several different languages on each page of its manuals, making them hard to decipher in a hurry. But, that aside, we actually have very few black marks to place against the EX-H20G, other than the aforementioned high price. Shop around however and less demanding photographers may well find this particular Exilim stacks up well as a possible travel companion. Though, we’d argue, if you don’t need the GPS, not quite as well as a sharper compact system camera like an Olympus Pen, Panasonic GF or beginner’s DSLR might.