Casio’s latest EX-H20G adds Hybrid GPS to the compact camera fold. Does this latest feature warrant the price tag? The What Digital Camera Casio EXILIM EX-H20G review…
Casio EXILIM EX-H20G review – Features
The Casio EXILIM EX-H20G is Casio’s latest compact, but beneath its standard exterior are some unique features: namely the Hybrid GPS technology that combines Global Positioning Satellite technology with a motion sensor to geotag images wherever you are. Beyond this the camera comes pre-loaded with top locations on a map, and a simple click of a button will find your location and what’s in the surrounding area.
The EX-H20G has a 24mm wideangle lens with a 10x optical zoom that can reach to an impressive 240mm for mid-telephoto shots and is further support of a strong feature set.
Elsewhere the EX-HS20G offers Best Shot mode (for a variety of selectable Scene Modes), Premium Auto, 720p HD movie and even a Panorama setting – but no full Manual options.
On the rear there’s a 3in LCD with a decent 460k-dot resolution and the camera’s rechargeable battery promises to offer a super long-lasting life with up to 600 shots per charge.
Casio EXILIM EX-H20G review – Design
The EX-H20G is modeled in a familiar frame to the other Casio Hi-Speed or H-series compacts. The body isn’t especially slim, but it’s not too large either – and this is entirely forgivable given the significance of the 10x optical zoom lens that sits flush into the camera when turned off.
The feel of the camera is perhaps a little plasticy in the hand, though the lens surround and barrel feel sturdy and well made.
Accessing options is quick via the ‘BS’ (Best Shot) button on the camera’s rear and other settings are easy to toggle through. A lack of manual options means that there are relatively few modes that require more than a point-and-shoot action. And 720p HD movie is particularly easy to activate with the one-touch movie button on the rear to the top right hand side.
The H20G’s GPS mode has its own individual button for quick access into mapping locations and is conveniently located to the top left side of the camera next to the ‘Current Location’ button.
Black or silver colour options are available in the UK and either options smartly-dress the camera body.
Casio EXILIM EX-H20G review – Performance
The H20G’s GPS mode works relatively well, though the ‘Current Location’ button was occasionally convinced of Japanese locations when this was not the case – it takes a little while to update sometimes (usually after a flight, for example) which can be a frustration. Once it has kicked in and found the exact location it’s possible to bring up a map of your surroundings and even check out some images of ‘best locations’ from around the world that are pre-loaded into the camera. The mapping system isn’t the most advanced – it’s not Googlemaps on a camera – but it’s a nice touch that has the grounding for plenty of future development in follow-up releases. The ‘Hybrid’ element to the GPS is a motion sensor that can detect movement to continue tracking in otherwise impossible locations – such as going through a tunnel for example. The main use for GPS is its ability to automatically tag latitude and longitude of your shots for placement on a map – something that’s useful for archiving, sharing or using web programs to automatically match your shots up with specific locations. As the technology gets more advanced there will likely be even more potential for such tagging.
The EX-H20G also has an impressive zoom lens. Its ability to zoom through from the wideangle to middle zoom is swift and accurate, though this does slow in terms of pace for more accurate zooming at the very top end. A digital zoom (that crops into the frame) up to 15x (equiv.) is also available should you choose to use it, though this is at the detriment of image quality above the optical 10x zoom.
Autofocus-wise and the H20G is actually pretty nippy at attaining focus, but there’s one slight blip when shooting at the fullest 10x zoom: the camera almost freezes up, there’s a momentary lag of nothing happening on screen then focus is suddenly attained. This is no particular issue for still subjects, but if you’re attempting to track a subject then it makes it very difficult indeed.
Outside of the standard Auto mode the Casio EX-H20G also offers a Premium Auto mode. This mode is designed to automatically recognise typical scene scenarios and adjust the settings accordingly. Although this sounds good on paper, the added processing time for every shot means there’s a couple of seconds to wait before the camera is ready to use again – something not present in the standard Auto mode.
Other Scene modes in the Best Shot menu will adjust the camera settings accordingly, and these shouldn’t be overlooked as a variety of them are very useful (Fireworks for low-light longer exposures for example). The new Panorama mode which, like many other manufacturers are now starting to offer, allows for a panoramic image to be taken by rotating the camera in real time. The H20G’s results are reasonable, but the small height and size of the file limits its use, the image quality isn’t overly exceptional and the biggest bugbear comes where certain surfaces are notably mis-joined in the auto-stitching process. It feels a little premature in its current state, especially compared to other offerings out there on the market.
Elsewhere and the EXILIM H-20G provides a seriously good battery life: its means you can, as the spec sheet states, take many hundreds of shots without fear of the camera cutting out. Certainly a very useful feature that can be easily overlooked when purchasing a camera, but here the H20G won’t disappoint (though the GPS feature means the battery life is ever so slightly less than other Hi-Zoom Casio compacts).
Instead of lens-based image stabilisation the H20G opts for CCD-shift stabilisation instead, which assists in keeping your images sharper and counters camera shake. It’s not the most ground-breaking but certainly goes some way to adding extra support in lower lighting conditions.
Image Quality & Value
Casio EXILIM EX-H20G review – Image Quality
Although the Casio H20G’s image detail is reasonable at the lower ISO settings, this quickly diminishes from ISO 400 and above. ISO 800-3200 appear progressively washed out of colour and lacking in detail. What’s most disappointing about the overall image quality however is the presence of JPEG artifacts throughout the entire ISO range. Even at the lowest ISO settings the H20G’s images display granular-like structures of luminance noise that disrupt fine detail and edges. A 14.1MP resolution over such a small sensor size is a high resolution – to the point of being detrimental to of overall quality. Furthermore there is some purple fringing apparent throughout the zoom range, particularly towards edges or around back-lit subjects.
For the non-critical eye, the Casio H20G’s images are perfectly acceptable on-the-go snaps, and when scaled down from the large 14MP size are certainly ideal for online sharing and other digital use.
Casio EXILIM EX-H20G review – Value
The Hybrid GPS adds a unique angle to the EX-H20G and, should you be willing to pay a premium for such a feature, then it’s fairly priced. The 10x optical zoom adds additional diversity to ensure that most shooting situations are possible. But at just under £300 the Casio H20G is not an especially cheap compact camera, it has to be said.
There are no fully manual options and the lack of truly inspiring image quality may make the most image conscious of users look for a more advanced compact for only a little more cash – think Samsung EX1 that’s available for around £300 at present (01/2011).
Casio EXILIM EX-H20G review – Verdict
Overall the Casio EX-H20G is an all-round solid performer. The Hybrid GPS is unique but if you have no interest in this particular feature then save yourself a bit of cash and look elsewhere in the Casio range (or, indeed, browse other manufacturers’ ranges).
The 24-240mm lens is justification for the medium sized body and such a zoom range provides really good shooting potential from wideangle through to a relatively long zoom.
If the EX-H20G provided slightly more impressive image quality for the price and some manual controls were thrown in to boot then we’d be considerably more impressed. As it stands the H20G is otherwise an ample performer with an interesting and unique angle to the compact market.