Casio’s new FH100 has a 24mm wideangle 10x optical zoom, 720p HD video and can even shoot lower resolution high-speed video at up to 1000 frames per second. But is it actually any good in use? The What Digital Camera Casio EX-FH100 review puts it to the test…
Casio EX-FH100 review – Features
The Casio EX-FH100 certainly ticks a lot of boxes on the features front. With a wideangle 24mm lens capable of 10x zoom to a telephoto 240mm, the majority of the photographic spectrum is at your fingertips.
With a 10.1MP backlit CMOS sensor, Casio has opted for the quality measure over unnecessary excess pixels – a commendable focus. Backlit sensors help to reduce signal to noise ratio and thus, so the science says, reduce the visible, grain-like image noise that is associated with digital images. With a sensor-shift mechanism also in place, image stabilisation takes place by countering subtle hand shake to maintain sharper pictures when shooting at slower shutter speeds.
As well as a super high-speed continuous shooting mode of up to 40 (yes, forty) still frames per second, the FH100 also adds high-speed movie capture too. High Definition 720p capture at 30fps is the best quality available, but it’s also possible to capture VGA (640 x 480) at up to 120fps and lower resolutions can see frame rates up to an extreme slow-mo 1000fps.
The EX-FH100 has a Best Shot mode that automatically recognises the scene at hand and auto-selects the most appropriate scene settings (which are also user-selectable). A Best Shot high-speed lighting mode also features for optimised shadow and highlight detail exposed in a single frame. For those looking for greater control, full manual (PSAM) modes also feature (though aperture control is limited to one of two possible selections, depending on lighting conditions).
Casio EXILIM EX-FH100 review – Design
The EX-FH100 is a fairly bulky-looking brute of a camera, but this also translates to a solid-feeling experience. The layout springs no surprises, relatively formal as far as digital cameras go – the majority of the rear is lent to the 3in LCD screen, with a four-way d-pad plus playback, record, menu and movie buttons each available as one-touch options. On the FH100’s top is a fast-access ‘HS’ (High Speed) button to quickly change into burst shooting, signified by a fetching animation on the LCD screen. Next to this is a BS/Auto (P)/A/S/M dial to select shooting mode. The shutter button is sandwiched between these two others, which has a focus trigger around it.
The main menu, at least when in a manual mode, is sectioned into Record, Quality and Set Up options. Digging in and out of the menu to change focus, AF area, Face Detection and Anti Shake modes can be a little slow and cumbersome. With the potential to shoot manually, and with a number of one-touch buttons on the camera’s body itself, it seems a shame that at least one Function button hasn’t been made available for user-assigned use. The menus aren’t too bad though, and are at least far and away from confusing, but they don’t seem to have the polished finesse that they otherwise could.
Casio EXILIM EX-FH100 review – Performance
The FH100’s JPEG images can be shot from ISO 100-3200, though if you chose to shoot in the Raw format this is limited to ISO 100-200 only. Furthermore taking a single frame in Raw format will take some 13 seconds to process through the buffer before the camera is free to take its next frame. On the upside, the Raw files are DNG (Adobe’s native Raw format) so are immediately readable on third party Raw-processing software like Photoshop Elements or other similar packages. Otherwise the FH100’s shooting speed is one of its selling points: the high speed 40fps capture snaps away at pace and the burst of images are saved in a ‘stack’ as to avoid having to always scroll through dozens of shots when in playback. The main criticism here however is the when in burst mode the depression of the shutter gives no signifier that shooting is actually taking place. Only upon releasing the shutter again will the camera show itself as ‘Busy’ in processing the burst of shots. Jumping in and out of the high-speed shooting is easy thanks to the one-touch button on top of the camera however.
From high-speed stills to high speed-movie capture, the Casio FH100 has some headline-grabbing video modes capable of up to 1000fps. However, at this ultra-high frame rate the resolution is a paltry 224×64 pixels and has considerable image noise. Saying that, the 720p HD 30fps capture is good to have (although the lens is fixed and can’t be zoomed during capture) and the 120fps VGA capture certainly has its uses – watching people or objects move in super slow motion is good fun. Shooting movies is easy thanks to the one-touch record button on the camera’s rear, though this does have a slight delay prior to recording commencing.
To watch all the action the FH100 has a large 3in LCD screen, though the relatively low 230k-dot resolution is a let down. High areas of contrast can often fail to resolve successfully and can ‘flicker’ upon review.
The EX-FH100’s autofocus system is a fair offering that’s speedy enough, though it does make an awful lot of physical, crackling-like noise that is a distraction. Adjusting multi- or single-AF points could also be sped-up somewhat, as the menu digging equired for options like this can become frustrating.
Scene modes are available aplenty in Best Shot (BS) mode, and although the option of Manual and Aperture-priority modes are also there, the lack of selectable apertures available (and effective difference they make on such a small image sensor) does limit this use. When in any of the PASM options the menu does become a little quicker to adjust as it is displayed to the right of the LCD. Pressing the Set key quickly accesses adjustment that can be adjusted with the live preview still visible.
Image Quality & Value
Casio EX-FH100 review – Image quality
Despite the high promise of the FH100’s backlit sensor, image quality is a bit of a letdown overall. Even at ISO 100 the JPEG image quality is coarse and over-sharpened, with artifacts visible throughout. Images are fairly flat, and lack any real punch of colour, with Auto White Balance leaning towards the cooler end of the spectrum. As the ISO increases, so the quality decreases – image noise is well handled through the camera’s noise reduction, but this is at the expense of sharpness, where ISO 3200 lacks any real definition.
The 24mm wide lens is great in practice and yet the corners show considerable softness that is prominent on screen or in print. Chromatic aberration, light streaks and haloing is also an issue around some object edges, particularly when shooting towards the direction of light.
Certainly, for day-to-day real world pictures, the FH100 is more than capable of a wide variety of shots thanks to its 24-240mm lens. But it’s under closer scrutiny that its images lack where many competitors may provide a more resolved offering. If the lower ISO settings proved to provide a cleaner, more crisp images then the FH100 would be one step closer to a commendable camera.
Casio FH100 review – Value
At around £270 the Casio FH100 isn’t a budget compact, yet this is a fairly well priced option considering the wealth of features that come in tow. Competitor cameras around this price-point include models such as the Sony HX5 (which may have a higher RRP, but can be found competitively for under £300) that give the Casio a run for its money. There are a couple of positive clinchers in the FH100’s favour however -the high-speed shooting & movie capture and Raw shooting bode well and offer a unique experience above and beyond competitors’ models.
Feature-packed though the EX-FH100 is, and with great features such as both HD and high-speed movie, the whole package is just slightly short of the mark. The overall resulting image quality isn’t bright, punchy or sharp enough at any of the ISO settings and the 24mm wideangle lens is soft towards the corners. Raw shooting (in DNG format) does provide some quality improvement, but this is only offered at ISO 100-200 – which is ultimately limiting. Movie modes aren’t of optimum quality due to the resolutions for higher frame rate options being too low to be of practical use. Also the AF system, while relatively successful in practice, is irksomely noisy. On the upside the high speed stills shooting works a treat, there’s an Anti Shake sensor-shift image stabilisation system in place and that 24-240mm range does opens up a huge range of subjects for any situation. While the high-speed shooting adds a unique angle, the lacking in other areas doesn’t quite make up for it. All in all, a well-equipped camera with a lot to offer.