Casio EX-FH20 Review

 
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Casio FH20 Operation

The Casio FH20's record and playback mode display are similar to those of many other cameras, with a few twists, and some nice tweaks to make dealing with large masses of images from continuous-mode shooting easier to deal with. We liked the on-screen record-mode menu, reminiscent of the Function Menu of Canon digicams, but with the menu on the right rather than the left, and with the status icons always remaining in place whenever you have the information overlay turned on.

Casio FH20 Record Mode Displays


Casio FH20 Record Mode Displays
The FH20's record mode display offers a lot of info at a glance, including focal length, battery status, number of images, exposure mode, image size and quality, ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, metering mode, AF mode, flash mode (if supported by the current capture mode) and capture mode itself. There is also a live RGBY histogram available as an option.
Pressing the Set or up-arrow buttons activate the icon bar along the side provides quick access to most settings while still showing your subject. Note the full "P.A.S.M." exposure modes available in the first menu entry. We found this a little awkward, as compared to PASM being on the mode dial, but having them here lets you select whichever mode you want in high speed continuous mode as well.
High-Speed Continuous mode lets you set 1, 3, 4, 10, 15, 30 or 40 frames-per-second. At 30 fps and below, the maximum resolution is 8 megapixels, dropping to 7 megapixels at 40 fps.
Here, you can set the pre-trigger amount for High-Speed Continuous graphically. As this animation shows, you can select the number of frames the camera will capture before you press the shutter button. The minimum pre-capture time is either zero or roughly 0.5 second, with the minimum number of frames of pre-capture adjusting as you change the frame rate. At the maximum setting, only one frame will be retained from after the shutter press, the other 39 coming from before.
The FH20 offers 18 "Best Shot" scene modes, plus you can register your own choice of settings as a Best Shot menu option (it even lets you assign your own image to it).
Each scene mode has an associated help screen to describe the settings used.



Casio FH20 Still-Image Playback Screens


Casio FH20 Still-Image Playback Screens
Only one level of thumbnail display is offered, showing 25 images or image groups at a time. Note the "stack" icons, which indicate bursts of images captured in High Speed Continuous mode. The images with film sprockets around them are movies, the others are normal still images.
The FH20's playback displays are fairly typical, offering a varying amount of information (including a nice RGB histogram) overlaid on the image, indexed and zoomed views.



Casio FH20 High Speed Continuous Mode Playback

The Casio HF20 has two high-speed modes. The slower of these is its High Speed Continuous mode (marked with an icon labeled 1-40 on the mode dial), in which you can capture high-resolution (7 megapixel and smaller) images at frame rates ranging from 1 - 40 frames/second. The images and movies below describe how these files are handled in HF20's the user interface.

Casio FH20: Playback of High-Speed Continuous Images
High-Speed Continuous mode shots are collected in what Casio calls Continuous Shutter (CS) Groups. Groups are represented in thumbnail views as a thumbnail of the first image, lying on top of a stack of pages. The number of frames in the group appears upper left (40 in this case), and the file number of the first frame in the group appears upper right. To being a slow-motion playback scroll through the CS Group, just press the Set button on the camera's back.
This is the default screen during playback of a CS Group. The information at upper left shows which frame of the series you're on, and the frames/second speed for the group, with the current file number appearing top right. The control bar at the bottom of the screen shows current playback speed (the green arrow), with the red indicator showing where you are within the group. The right and left arrow keys speed up or slow down playback, while pressing the Set button pauses and resumes. When paused, the right and left arrows step forward and back one frame at a time. Pressing the up arrow returns you to the thumbnail display shown at left, and pressing the down arrow takes you to a dialog asking if you want to delete the image.
You can zoom in and pan around the images during playback of High Speed Continuous groups. The zoom toggle zooms in and out, and the arrow keys control panning.
Playback at zoomed scales can help isolate critical action, and the panning feature lets you follow it as the subject moves within the frame. In zoomed mode, the only playback control you have is the Set button to pause or resume playback. (Because the arrow keys are used for panning.)

Images shot in High Speed Continuous mode are stored on the memory card as individual files, but the Casio FH20's user interface wisely groups them together into clusters of shots that were captured in the same sequence. The shot above shows how you navigate among shots within a group. I found the playback controls very well thought-out: They made it easy to deal with the masses of images the camera generates in its High Speed Continuous mode.

For a more dynamic look at High Speed Continuous playback, the movie clips below show what it looks like as you're stepping through a high-speed sequence.

Casio FH20:
Movies of High Speed Continuous Playback
This first movie just shows basic playback. It starts out at the slow playback speed by default, then I speed it up a bit by pressing the right arrow a couple of times. (8 seconds, 6.6 MB movie)
This movie shows how you can adjust the playback speed up or down, forward or back, as well as pausing, single-stepping, zooming in, resuming playback and panning to follow the motion, then zooming back out again. (28 seconds, 20.2 MB movie)

The options for playing back sequences of images shot in High Speed Continuous mode was one of the real bright spots with this camera, I was very pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to work with groups of large files like this.

Casio FH20 Movie Mode Playback

While the Casio FH20's movies can be captured at very high frame rates, the resulting output is just standard Quicktime-compatible .MOV files. As a result, playback is much more straightforward. There are, however some options for trimming the movie files, to cut out uninteresting parts.

Casio FH20: Movie Mode Playback
Movie mode files appear as "filmstrip" icons, with sprocket holes suggesting movie film. The basic view show the file type, length, frame rate, date and time, as well as whether audio was recorded or not. (Audio cannot be recorded in High Speed modes, is always recorded for normal-speed movies.)
This is what the default screen looks like during movie playback. There's not quite as much information here as for High Speed Continuous mode sequences, as there's just the single file. There are more steps for controlling playback speed though, and you can pause and step forward or back one frame at a time.
You can zoom in on Movies the same as with High Speed Continuous Mode shots, but not as much, and the quality of the individual movie frames is lower. (This shot is from a High Speed Movie, recorded at 210 frames/second, and 480x360 resolution.)
When Movie playback is paused, another icon appears bottom left, letting you know that you can trim the movie by hitting the down-arrow button.
This is the screen you get when you hit the down arrow. Here, I've selected the option for cutting off the beginning of the movie, to eliminate some dead space.
The next screen lets you scrub back and forth to set the part of the movie you want to trim.
As usual, there's a confirmation screen to indicate that you really want to make the cut.
Processing the trim can take several seconds to a minute or so, depending on how large the movie file is.

 

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