Originally Posted: August 15, 2010
Last Updated: August 18, 2010
The Casio Exilim EX-FH100 ($349) is a feature-packed compact ultra zoom camera. At its core is a 10 Megapixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor that allows for high speed continuous shooting, video frame rates as high as 1000 fps (at low resolutions), and HD movie recording. Other features include a 24 - 240 mm lens with image stabilization, a 3-inch LCD display, full manual controls with RAW format support, tons of scene modes, and HDMI output.
The FH100 faces tough competition from the likes of Canon, Panasonic, and Sony. How does it perform? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Exilim EX-FH100 has an unremarkable bundle. Inside the box you'll find:
- The 10.1 effective Megapixel Exilim EX-FH100 digital camera
- NP-90 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Body cap
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Photo Transport and YouTube Uploader
- Fold-out Quick Start guide + full manual on CD-ROM
While most of their cameras have almost no built-in memory, Casio has put a whopping 85.9 MB worth into the EX-FH100. This stores up to thirteen fine quality JPEGs, which is pretty good compared to the competition. Even so, the built-in memory will fill up quickly, so you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The FH100 supports both SD and SDHC cards, and I'd recommend a 2GB or 4GB card to start with. It's worth spending extra on a high speed card, though you don't need to go overboard and buy a Class 10.
The EX-FH100 uses the NP-90 lithium-ion battery for power. This fairly large battery can hold an impressive amount of energy -- 7.3 Wh to be exact. Here's how that translates into battery life:
Casio has long been one of the best manufacturers when it comes to battery life. The EX-FH100 maintains that tradition, with the ability to take 520 shots on a single charge of its powerful battery. That's twice as many as most of the cameras in the table above!
I do need to mention a few things about the proprietary batteries used by all of the cameras on the above list, though. First, they're expensive, with a spare NP-90 setting you back around $50. In addition, should this battery die, there's nothing you can buy at a corner pharmacy to get you through the rest of the day. There's nothing you can do about this, though, as all of the compact ultra zooms are the same way.
When it's time to charge the NP-90, just pop it into the included charger. It takes about 200 minutes to to fully charge the battery, which isn't too bad considering how much energy it can store. This charger does not plug directly into the wall -- you must use a power cable.
As with all compact cameras, the FH100 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.
The EX-FH100 has a very limited accessory selection. In fact, the only things I can come up with are spare batteries and camera cases in every color imaginable.
It is here where I normally talk about the software included with a camera, but Casio gives you just two very limited applications. The first is Photo Transport (Windows only) which, despite its name, is used for copying photos from your computer to the camera. The second is YouTube Uploader (also only for Windows), which saves you a few steps when you want to send a video to the popular sharing service.
You're on your own for everything else. Want to copy photos from your camera to your computer? That's a manual process. There's no editing software included, so you'll need to pick something up for that. The camera supports the RAW format (Adobe DNG to be specific) so if you use that, you'll need to find software that can work with it (might I suggest Photoshop Elements?). Mac users can get along just fine using iPhoto for working with JPEG and RAW still images, as well as the movies produced by the FH100.
Oh, and if you have no idea what RAW is, I'll tell you. In a nutshell, RAW files contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. You'll need to process them on your computer before you can do anything else with them, but this allows you to adjust things like white balance, exposure, and noise reduction, without reducing the quality of the original image. In other words, it's almost like taking the photo again. The downsides to RAW include the much larger file sizes, the fact that you can't use it for any of the high speed shooting modes, and the need to process each and every image on your computer in order to save them in more commonly used formats. The RAW format is only usable at ISO 100 and 200 on the FH100, for some bizarre reason.
The EX-FH100's manual situation is becoming all too familiar these days. There's a fold-out "quick start" guide to get you started, but if you want more details, you'll have to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manual itself is just average. Documentation for the bundled software is installed onto your computer.
Look and Feel
The Exilim EX-FH100 is a compact (but not tiny) camera, made almost entirely of metal. Build quality is very good overall, though I'm never a fan of a plastic tripod mount. The camera can be held and operated with just one hand, with the important controls within easy reach of your fingers. I did find that my thumb rests right on the record mode button on the back of the camera, though. Normally this isn't an issue, but if you've defined this button to turn the power on and off, doing so accidentally is quite easy. And actually, turning the camera on accidentally with the regular power button is very easy, due to its placement and sensitivity.
Now let's take a look at how the FH100 compares to other compact ultra zooms in terms of size and weight:
The FH100 is right in the middle for both bulk and weight. It's small enough to fit in all but your tiniest pockets, so it can go just about everywhere.
Let's start our tour of the EX-FH100 now, shall we?
The EX-FH100 features an F3.2-5.7, 10X optical zoom lens. This lens is likely the same one used in Casio's EX-H10 and EX-H15 models, as well. That maximum aperture range is a bit slow, but it's par for the course when it comes to compact ultra zooms. The focal range of this lens is 4.3 - 43.0 mm, which is a equivalent to a very "wide" 24 - 240 mm. The lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses and filters are not supported.
At the other end of that lens is a 10 Megapixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor. This is likely the same Sony-designed sensor that has found its way into cameras from nearly every major manufacturer over the last year. The design of the sensor allows for more light to reach the photo sites, which (in theory) improves sensitivity, resulting in better low light photos. CMOS sensors also allow for fast continuous shooting and high resolution video capture.
The CMOS sensor is mounted to a movable plate which is how the camera's image stabilization feature works. The camera detects the tiny movements of your hands that can lead to blurry photos, and then shifts the CMOS sensor to compensate for it. This allows you to use slower shutter speeds than on a camera without image stabilization. Sensor-shift image stabilization is good at reducing blur caused by camera shake, but it can't do much to prevent motion blur. The EX-FH100 has a second feature called Image AS which increases the ISO as needed in order to freeze a moving subject, resulting in a sharp photo. Do note that noise levels can be high when the camera does this. You can use Camera (sensor-shift) AS, Image AS, or both.
Here's an example of the FH100's image stabilization system in action:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
In addition to seeing that I now have a much more colorful calculator, you'll also observe that the FH100's image stabilization system produced a nice, sharp photo at 1/10th of a second. With IS turned off, the photo is blurry. While many cameras that use sensor-shift stabilization don't support IS in movie mode, the EX-FH100 does. Watch this brief video clip to see how well it works.
To the upper-left of the lens is the FH100's built-in flash. This isn't one of the stronger flashes out there, with a working range of 0.4 - 3.6 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). The EX-FH100 does not support an external flash, nor would I really expect it to.
The last item of note on the front of the camera is the AF-assist lamp, which you'll find to the upper-right of the lens. The camera uses this lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations. This lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
The first thing to see on the back of the FH100 is its 3-inch LCD display. This screen has 230,400, and sharpness is average. The screen has good visibility in bright outdoor light, and I found low light viewing to be above average, as well.
As you can see, there is no optical viewfinder on the FH100. Except for the Ricoh CX3 (which has an available optical viewfinder), none of the cameras in this class have optical or electronic viewfinders.
Now let's talk about all those buttons and switches located to the right of the LCD. The first is the dedicated movie recording button. Press it once to start recording a video, and again to stop -- simple enough. Around it is a switch which toggles between the regular or high speed movie mode. I'll tell you more about those later in this review.
Below that is a button for entering record mode, and there's an equivalent for playback mode further down. The four-way controller between them is used for menu navigation, reviewing photos you've taken, and also:
- Up - Display (toggles info on LCD)
- Down - Flash setting (Auto, flash off, flash on, auto w/redeye reduction) + delete photo
- Center - Shortcut menu + Set
- Left/Right - customizable
Pressing the center button on the four-way controller allows you to quickly change the most commonly used settings on the FH100. They include (but are not limited to):
- Image size (see chart later in review)
- ISO sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
- White balance (Auto, daylight, overcast, shade, day white fluorescent, daylight fluorescent, tungsten, manual)
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
- Flash setting (Auto, flash off, flash on, auto w/redeye reduction)
- Shutter speed/aperture (in manual mode)
The only thing from that menu that I want to mention is that manual white balance option. This allows you to use a white or gray card to get accurate color in unusual lighting conditions.
Down at the bottom you'll see the button for entering playback mode, with the Menu button to its right. And that's it for the back of the EX-FH100!
There's plenty more to see on the top of the EX-FH100. Something that stands out right away are the stereo microphones. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that it's really easy to block the left one with your fingers, so be careful. Other buttons here are for power, high speed continuous shooting (described later), and shutter release.
Around the shutter release button is the camera's zoom controller, which moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.6 seconds. I counted fifteen steps in the camera's 10X zoom range -- more would've been nice. I appreciate the fact that the FH100 displays the current focus range on the LCD when you're adjusting the zoom.
Next up is the mode dial. The dial doesn't have many options, though tons of shooting modes are hidden beneath that "BS" spot. Here are the shooting modes available on the EX-FH100:
Before I delve into the millions of Best Shot (scene) modes, let me quickly mention two things about the manual controls. While the EX-FH100 allows you to select both the shutter speed and the aperture, do note that there are only two aperture settings to choose from at any one time. For example, at wide-angle you can select from F3.2 and F7.5, and that's it. Second, for some bizarre reason, the ISO is fixed at "Auto" while in shutter priority mode. That's a new one for me!
|Best Shot modes||Details for one of them|
The FH100 has more Best Shot modes than one could possibly need. Many of them take advantage of the camera's high speed shooting abilities. Casio doesn't tell you must about what each of the Best Shot modes do, relying solely on a description that you can see by pressing the "zoom in" button. I could spend a week telling you about all of the Best Shot options, so here are the highlights:
- Expression/Baby/Child/Pet/Sports CS: The only real difference between all of these continuous shooting modes are the frame rate, the maximum number of photos taken, and how many were taken before the shutter release button was pressed (these are called pre-recorded shots). Expression CS shoots at 3 fps for up to 10 shots (3 of them pre-recorded), with Sports CS on the other end of things, shooting at 30 fps for up to 30 shots, 10 of which are pre-recorded. Do note that the resolution is lowered to 9 Megapixel for this and all of the other high speed modes, and RAW is not available, either.
- Child/Pet/Sports HS: This is similar to the previous option, except now it's for movies. The frame rates for these modes are 120, 240, and 420 fps, respectively. Do note that the resolution of these movies will be 640 x 480 or lower and that sound is not recorded.
- Lag correction: Camera takes five photos, four of which were pre-recorded before you pressed the shutter release button, allowing you to select the best ones
- High speed lighting: Similar to "HDR" features on other cameras, this feature takes three photos in row, each with a different exposure, to improve dynamic range
- High speed night scene / high speed night scene and portrait: the camera will detect whether you're using a tripod; if you are, it takes a single long exposure, using the flash if the portrait option is selected; if you're not, it combines a series of exposures into a single image, hopefully reducing blur in the process
- High speed anti-shake: similar to the previous option, this combines several exposures into one, to reduce camera shake
- High speed best selection: the camera takes a series of images and uses face/smile/blink detection to pick and save the best one
- Multi-motion image: takes a series of images and isolates the moving subject; tripod recommended
- Move-out/move-in CS: allows you to set up a "boundary" in the frame, and only records images when your subject enters or exits this area
- Pre-record movie: the camera saves the 5 seconds buffered prior to your pressing of the movie record button
That's quite a list, and there are a lot more where that came from. Before I tell how well some of those work, let me remind you that the resolution is lowered to 9 Megapixel for any of those high speed modes, and you cannot use the RAW format, either.
I tried out a couple of those features to see how they performed. The first one I tried is the HDR feature, which Casio calls high speed lighting. This feature definitely works, though I noticed that the image area is reduced somewhat when using it.
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|High speed lighting
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If you don't mind the smaller field-of-view, I think you'll be quite pleased with the results you can get from the high speed lighting option. The photo above has great dynamic range, with a reduction in highlight clipping at the end of the tunnel.
Here are two samples of the high speed anti-shake feature (there's a third in the photo gallery):
In the high speed anti-shake mode, the camera combines several exposures into one, and typically uses ISO 800. The resulting photos do come out sharp, though there's plenty of noise and detail loss. If you're just making a 4 x 6 inch print, this shouldn't be much of an issue.
I tried to take my usual night test photo using the high speed night scene option, but the photos were either blurry, out of focus, or both.
Alright, let's continue to the tour now, shall we?
There's nothing to see on this side of the EX-FH100. The lens is in the full wide-angle position.
You'll find the FH100's I/O ports on this side of the camera. Under that plastic cover is a combination USB+A/V port as well as a mini-HDMI port (cable not included). The lens is at the full telephoto position.
On the bottom of the FH100 is a plastic tripod mount, the speaker (both hidden from view), and the battery/memory card compartment. The reinforced door over this compartment is fairly sturdy, and includes a locking mechanism. Do note that you won't be able to option this compartment while the camera is on a tripod.
The massive NP-90 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.
Using the Casio Exilim EX-FH100
The Exilim EX-FH100 has one of the slowest startup times I've seen in some time, taking 3.7 seconds to extend its lens and prepare for shooting.
Autofocus speeds were a lot better. At the wide end of the FH100's lens, the camera locked focus in the range of 0.3 - 0.5 seconds. Telephoto focus times were about twice that, only occasionally going over a full second. Low light focusing was good, courtesy of the camera's green-colored AF-assist lamp. Expect focus times to be around one second in those situations.
I didn't find shutter lag to be an issue, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
Shot-to-shot delays depend on a number of factors. If you're taking one image at a time, then you can expect to wait for about two seconds when shooting JPEGs, and a whopping thirteen seconds when using RAW+JPEG (now you see why you can't use it for high speed shooting). Speaking of which, the camera will be locked up for about ten seconds after you take a high speed burst of photos.
There's no way to delete a photo you just took -- you must enter playback mode. Something that drove me nuts about the EX-FH100 is that it retracts its lens after about 20 seconds in playback mode, which is annoying when you just want to review a photo or two. At least it remembers the position of the zoom lens so your composition is maintained when you return to shooting mode!
Now here's a look at the numerous image size and quality settings on the Exilim EX-FH100:
That's a pretty lengthy list! The EX-FH100 supports the RAW (DNG) image format, though note that JPEG is always taken at the same time. The DNG files are not stored in the same folder as the JPEGs -- you'll want to look in the appropriately named "RAW" folder to find them. I should add that when shooting RAW, the ISO is limited to 100 or 200. Why, I do not know, but this eliminates one of the big advantages of the format: getting around the heavy-handed noise reduction that usually shows up in high ISO JPEG images.
Casio is tied with Pentax for having the most archaic menu system of any digital camera manufacturer. The menus are plain-looking, lack any help screens, and are more difficult to navigate than they should be (e.g. pressing "ok" to change an option closes the menu entirely). In record mode, the menu is divided into three tabs, covering record, quality, and setup options. Here's what you'll find in those menus:
Let's start off the menu discussion with the FH100's autofocus options. The "focus" option is where you'll find the camera's manual focus feature. This allows you to use the four-way controller to set the focus distance yourself. The center of frame is enlarged (you can't move around, unfortunately) and a guide shows very roughly what the focus distance is.
There are four AF area modes, including multi-area (9-point), spot, tracking, and "free". The last option lets you select any spot in the frame on which to focus, save for a margin around the edges. The tracking mode is simple enough: you put your subject in the center of the frame, halfway-press the shutter release, and the camera will then follow them as they move around.
Naturally, the EX-FH100 supports face detection. The camera can detect up to ten faces in the frame, making sure they're properly focused and exposed. The FH100 handled our test scene with ease, finding all six of the faces in it.
That brings us to one of the hallmark features on the EX-FH100: it's superb continuous shooting ability. Press the high speed continuous button on the top of the camera and you're all set to go. There are three parameters that you can adjust in high speed continuous mode:
- Frame rate (Auto, 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 30, 40 frames/sec)
- Total number of shots (5, 10, 20, 30)
- Number of pre-recorded shots (0, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25)
That's right, the camera can take up to 30 photos at a whopping 40 frames/second. Yes, the resolution is lowered to 9 Megapixel, but I doubt anyone will care. At its highest speeds, the FH100 shoots so quickly that the burst ends in less than a second. The LCD keeps up fairly well with the action, so you should be able to track a moving subject (though obviously this will be more useful at the slower burst rates). If you want, you can have the camera save up to 25 photos that were recorded before you actually pressed the shutter release button, so you don't miss that important moment.
The FH100 has two other continuous modes, in addition to the high speed one. First is "normal" continuous mode, which refocuses between each photo and shoots at the full 10 Megapixel resolution. It's also very slow, with a frame rate of just 0.3 fps. The other mode doesn't have a very descriptive name, but you'll want to use the "F CS" mode if you notice any distortion in photos taken with the high speed continuous mode (caused by rolling shutter, if I'm not mistaken). This "full pixel continuous shooting mode" uses a mechanical shutter to prevent distortion, though the max frame rate is 10 fps, and the most photos you can take in a burst is 20. That's still pretty amazing!
The last feature I want to tell you about is simply called "lighting". This feature goes by many other names on other cameras, and what it does is brighten the dark areas of your photos. On the EX-FH100 there's just on or off -- you can't select how much of this effect is applied. Here's an example:
|Lighting off (default)
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As you can see, the lighting feature works as advertised. It does give the images even more of an "over-processed' appearance, though you won't notice this unless you're viewing the photos on your computer screen (or making huge prints).
That does it for menus -- let's talk photo quality now.
The Exilim EX-FH100 did a so-so job with our macro test subject. The colors are saturated, but there's a noticeable bluish cast to the photo, showing that the FH100's custom white balance feature struggled a bit with our studio lights. For those of you shooting under normal lighting, this shouldn't be an issue. However, if you take a lot of photos under artificial light, you'll want to shoot RAW (when allowed) or find a camera with a better white balance system. Getting back to the figurine, it's not too hard to spot the effects of noise reduction -- just look at the red cloak, which has a mottled appearance. Aside from a little fuzziness, the rest of the figurine looks pretty good.
The minimum focus distance on the EX-FH100 varies considerably, depending on the zoom position. At full wide-angle, it's 15 cm. Between the 2X and 3X position, the distance drops down to 7 cm. At the telephoto end of the lens, the minimum distance jumps up to 50 cm.
The night shot turned out pretty well. The colors are a bit yellower than I would've liked (though the fog doesn't help matters), but overall, a pretty good performance. The FH100's manual shutter speed controls let you bring in plenty of light, though you may need to use full manual (M) mode so you can lock down the ISO to a set value. There is some highlight clipping here, which isn't surprising. The buildings are all very sharp, probably due to a strong in-camera sharpening algorithm. Noise isn't an issue here, and while there's detail loss from noise reduction, it's fairly minor. Purple fringing levels are low.
Now let's use that same scene to see how the FH100 performed at higher sensitivities:
The effects of noise reduction are more pronounced at ISO 200, though the photo is still very usable. Photos start to take on a kind of watercolor look at ISO 400, so this is probably where you'll want to stop in low light situations on the FH100. The ISO 800 image shows lots of detail smudging, and things only get worse from there, so pass on ISO 1600 and 3200. Do note that you can only shoot RAW (which can reduce noise reduction levels) at ISO 100 and 200.
|Night test added on 8/18/2010|
The Exilim EX-FH100 is clearing doing some serious barrel distortion correction with its JPEG files (RAW files will not have this correction), as there's very little of it to be found here. You will spot some vignetting (dark corners) here, but I didn't find this to be an issue in my real world photos. Like many compact ultra zooms, the EX-FH100 has some issues with corner blurring, especially at the wide end of the lens (example).
Compact cameras almost always have big problems with redeye. Casio's solution is to fire the flash before the photo is actually taken, which shrinks your subject's pupils, reducing the risk of this annoyance. Unfortunately, this method rarely works, and the proof can be seen above. The EX-FH100 does not have any digital removal tools, so you'll probably end up fixing this on your computer instead. I also noticed that the flash test photo was pretty noisy, as the camera has to boost the ISO considerably to compensate for its weak flash.
Now let's take a look at our studio test scene. Since it's always taken with the same lighting, the results of this test can be compared among cameras I've reviewed over the years. As you can see, there's a bluish color cast (as discussed earlier), but we're looking at noise here, not color. Keeping in mind that viewing the full size images is always a good idea, let's begin:
There's little to complain about at ISO 100. The image is very clean, save for some blurring near the edges of the frame. At ISO 200 you'll notice a drop in color saturation, as well as some detail smudging (courtesy of the camera's noise reduction system). The ISO 400 shot looks even more over-processed, though it's still usable for smaller prints. I would avoid ISO 800 unless you have no other choice, and would definitely pass on the two higher settings, as they have too much detail loss to be usable.
Normally, when a camera I'm reviewing supports the RAW format, I give examples of how you can squeeze more detail out of a photo by using that feature. For whatever reason, Casio only lets you shoot RAW at ISO 100 and 200 -- arguably when you need it the least. That's not to say that it's not useful, as you still get the other benefits of the format, which I discussed earlier. While I didn't notice a huge difference in terms of image quality at ISO 100, you can get a modest improvement at ISO 200:
JPEG, straight out of the camera
RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.2)
RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
While I don't necessarily care for the oversaturated colors produced by Adobe Camera Raw here, you can see that we've gotten rid of those mottled reds that are found in the original JPEG photo. Now if only Casio would let us use RAW at the higher sensitivities...
As long as you don't let the ISO wander too high, you'll get very nice results from the Exilim EX-FH100. Exposure was generally spot-on, though as with all compact cameras, highlight clipping can be an issue, though the high speed lighting feature can help you get around it. In natural lighting, colors were vibrant and pleasing to the eye. The camera struggled in artificial lighting, as my studio test photos illustrated. At the base ISO of 100, photos are tack sharp, save for some blurring around the edges of the frame. While there is some detail loss at that setting (due to noise reduction), it's fairly minor. Detail smudging becomes a lot more noticeable once you hit ISO 200, and things go downhill pretty rapidly after that. For the 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 inch print crowd, you probably won't notice any of this. But if you're making large prints or viewing the images at 100% on your computer monitor, then you probably will see the mottled skies and smudged details caused by heavy noise reduction. On a more positive note, I found purple fringing levels to be very low.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. I've got a huge gallery of sample photos available for your perusal. View the full size images, perhaps printing a few if you'd like, and then you should be able to decide whether the EX-FH100's photo quality meets your needs!
The Exilim EX-FH100 has a very elaborate movie mode. There are two different movie recording options available: "traditional" and high speed. For traditional movie recording, you can take videos at 1280 x 720 (30 fps) with stereo sound. The camera can keep recording until the file size reaches 4GB, which takes about 17 minutes. For longer movies, you can drop the resolution down to VGA (640 x 480), which allows for over 50 minutes of continuous recording.
As is usually the case, the optical zoom cannot be operated while you're recording a movie. The image stabilizer is available, however. I should add that you really need to watch your fingers, as blocking the microphone is very easy.
The FH100 allows you to set the aperture, shutter speed, or both in movie mode. The ranges (and limitations) are the same as they are for still shooting.
The other half of the movie recording experience is high speed recording. This allows you to select frame rates ranging from 120 to a whopping 1000 frames/second. The catch is that as the frame rate increases, the the resolution goes down. So while the resolution at 120 fps is 640 x 480, it's only 224 x 64 at 1000 fps. This table summarizes all six of the high speed movie modes:
There are quite a few important things about high speed movies to point out. First, no sound is recorded along with the movies. Second, the movies play back at 30 frames/second, so you end up seeing things in super slow-motion (which can be very cool). The last two options in the above table allow you to adjust the frame rate on-the-fly.
As it does with stills, the FH100 also lets you pre-record movie footage. You can set things up so the camera saves 5 seconds worth of events that the camera buffered before you pressed that dedicated movie recording button. You can also take a still photo during movie recording, though the resolution will be 2 Megapixel. The FH100 also offers a YouTube movie mode, which (supposedly) uses optimal settings for uploading videos to the popular website. The YouTube movies are also saved in a separate folder, so they're easy to find.
Whichever movie mode you're using, they're saved in AVI format, using the Motion JPEG codec.
I have three sample movies to share with you. The first two are taken at the 720p setting, while the third was recorded in the high speed mode at 420 fps. The HD movies aren't ideal (one's too fast, the other has too much wind noise), so if I get the chance to take a better one, I will.
The EX-FH100's playback mode has quite a few options, though it's missing a very useful feature, namely redeye correction. The basic features you'll find here include slideshows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail view, and playback zoom (which allows you to zoom into an image by up to 8X). As I mentioned earlier, the lens retracts way too quickly when you enter playback mode, which I found annoying.
Photos taken in the high speed continuous modes are stored in a "stack", which you must enter in order to view all of the photos. You can view each image at a time, or play them back sequentially for a movie-like effect.
Adjusting the white balance of a photo in playback mode
Photos can be rotated, cropped, and resized right on the camera. You can also adjust the brightness of a photo (kind of like D-Lighting on Nikon cameras) and even adjust the white balance (which works better than one would expect).
Other features you'll find in playback mode include:
- Motion Print: grab one or nine frames from a video turn them into a still image (a collage in the case of the nine-image capture)
- Movie editing: trim unwanted footage from the beginning, middle, or end of a clip
- Divide CS group - breaks photos taken continuously out of their stack
- CS Multi Print - creates a 10 Megapixel collage of up to thirty photos taken in continuous mode
- CS Frame Edit - apply DPOF print marking or protect, copy, delete all images in a CS stack
By default, the EX-FH100 doesn't tell you much about your photos. But press "up" on the four-way controller and you'll get a lot more, including a histogram.
The FH100 moves from photo to photo instantly in playback mode.
How Does it Compare?
The Casio Exilim EX-FH100 is a compact ultra zoom camera with a plethora of high speed shooting features, courtesy of its back-illuminated CMOS sensor. It offers nearly an endless selection of point-and-shoot features, plus a decent set of manual controls. I found that the EX-FH100 is best suited for the small print, "auto mode" crowd, rather than the enthusiast. I say this because of the "crippled" manual controls (only two apertures to choose from, RAW only available at low ISOs, no ISO adjustment in shutter priority mode), lengthy startup and write times, and mediocre image quality once the ISO starts to rise. If you're an action shooter who will be mostly sticking to smaller-sized prints, then the Exilim EX-FH100 is worth a look. More advanced users may want to consider a camera that offers better manual shooting features and performance.
The Exilim EX-FH100 is a compact (but not tiny) ultra zoom camera with a body made mostly of metal. Construction is generally very good, though I'm never a fan of plastic tripod mounts. The camera is easy to hold and operate with one hand, but watch your fingers, as blocking both the microphone and the flash is relatively easy. Speaking of easy, turning the camera on accidentally takes very little work, which I found to be a frequent problem. The FH100 features a 10X optical zoom lens with a very wide 24 - 240 mm range. It's coupled with a sensor-shift image stabilization that effectively reduces blur in both stills and movies. The FH100's flash is on the weak side. On the back of the camera is a standard issue 3-inch LCD display with 230k pixels. I found both outdoor and low light visibility to be good.
The EX-FH100 has a ton of point-and-shoot features (some of which are quite unique), as well as a full (but restricted) set of manual controls. For the "set it and forget it" crowd you'll get a standard auto mode plus 27 Best Shot (scene) modes. About the only thing missing is an auto scene selection feature. The most interesting of the Best Shot modes involve continuous shooting or high speed movie recording. The most compelling one for me is the high speed lighting option, which is essentially a high dynamic range feature. This quickly takes three photos, each with a different exposure, allowing for much greater dynamic range in your photo. The only real catch is that the field-of-view isn't as wide as it normally is. The high speed anti-shake feature allows you to take blur-free photos in very low light, though it's best suited to small prints, due to fairly high noise levels. While the FH100 has what seems like full manual controls, they're actually quite restricted. In the aperture priority and full manual modes, there are only two apertures to choose from at any one time, due to the camera's use of a neutral density filter. In shutter priority mode, the ISO is fixed at the Auto position, which can lead to noisy photos. And, while the camera supports the RAW (DNG) format, it's only available at ISO 100 and 200, which is arguably when you need it the least (though it can still be helpful). In addition, Casio provides no software for working with these files -- in fact, they include no image editor/organizer at all.
Two of the camera's biggest features are high speed continuous shooting and movie recording. Thanks to its CMOS sensor, the FH100 is able to take up to thirty 9 Megapixel photos in a row at a whopping 40 frames/second. If that's too fast, you can choose from several other speeds, slowing all the way down to 1 frame/sec. The camera can also saves photos that were buffered before you pressed the shutter release button, so even if you're a little slow, you can still get the shot you're after. As you might image, you cannot use the RAW image format in high speed continuous mode. The high speed movie mode can record at frame rates ranging from 120 to 1000 frames/second. As the frame rate increases, the movie resolution decreases. So, at 120 fps you can record 640 x 480 video, but by the time you reach 1000 fps, you're recording a postage stamp-sized 224 x 64 clip. As with the high speed still shooting, you can "pre-record" up to five seconds of footage that was taken before you pressed the shutter release button. Do note that sound is not recorded in the high speed movie modes.
The FH100 has a "regular" mode mode too, which can record at 1280 x 720 or 640 x 480, both at 30 frames/second. Sound is recorded in stereo, though watch your fingers, as the microphone is easily blocked. You can keep recording until the file size reaches 4GB, which takes around 17 minutes at the 720p setting. The optical zoom is not available during recording, but the image stabilizer is. The EX-FH100 allows you to adjust the shutter speed and aperture in movie mode, though you'll have the same restrictions as you do for still shooting.
Camera performance is a very mixed bag. The EX-FH100 has one of the slowest startup times that I've seen in ages, taking 3.7 seconds to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. On a more positive note, focus speeds were relatively snappy, even in low light. Shutter lag wasn't a problem, either. Shot-to-shot times were all over the place. For JPEGs, you'll wait around 2 seconds before you can take another picture. If you just took a burst of photos, the delay is around 10 seconds, and a single RAW (plus JPEG) photo takes 13 seconds to save. As I already mentioned, the camera's burst mode is incredible -- easily one of the best on the market. Battery life has always been one of Casio's strong suits, and the EX-FH100 delivers best-in-class numbers in that department.
Photo quality is good, as long as you don't let the ISO wander far from its base value of 100. Exposure was accurate, though like all compact cameras, the FH100 is prone to highlight clipping. Colors were pleasing, and subjects were sharp, save for some blurring in the corners (also a common trait of compact cameras). Images are fairly clean at ISO 100, save for some mild detail smudging and a somewhat over-processed look. You should be able to get away with midsize or large prints through ISO 400. ISO 800 is best suited for emergencies only, and the two highest ISOs should be avoided. It's unfortunate that Casio does not allow you to use RAW at the higher sensitivities -- you could probably get much nicer photos as a result. The EX-FH100 does have issues with redeye, and there's no digital correction available. And, to compensate for the weak flash, the camera will need to use a high ISO to properly expose a flash photo, which ends up being quite noisy. Purple fringing levels were relatively low on the FH100.
There are a couple of other things I wanted to mention before I wrap things up. I didn't find the camera's color rendition in the studio to be that great, even with its custom white balance feature. Most people probably won't care, but if you shoot under unusual lighting, you might. The menu system is in dire need of a face lift -- it feels like you're stuck in 1995. You won't be able to access the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod. And finally, the camera's bundle isn't very good (aside from having a lot of built-in memory). There's no photo editing software included (not even for the RAW images), and the full camera manual is hidden away on a CD-ROM.
After spending a lot more time than expected with the Casio Exilim EX-FH100 (and I'm still not done with it -- night shots are still waiting to be taken), I'm pretty confident in saying that its a camera best suited for the snapshot crowd, rather than the enthusiast. It has a nice set of scene modes -- some of which are quite useful -- and parents will love being able to capture photos of their kids at a soccer match with the camera's high speed burst mode. Enthusiasts will likely be disappointed with the crippled manual controls, sluggish startup and RAW write times, and mediocre high ISO performance. If you're after a camera which can record photos and videos very quickly, then the Exilim EX-FH100 is worth a look. If manual controls are what you're after, it's probably better to consider another camera.
What I liked:
- Good photo quality at low ISOs
- 10X, ultra wide 24 - 240 mm zoom lens in a compact, well built body
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- 3-inch LCD has good outdoor and low light visibility
- Tons of Best Shot (scene) modes, several of which are quite useful (e.g. high speed lighting / anti-shake)
- Limited manual controls
- Super-fast continuous shooting (up to 40 fps!), with pre-recording capability
- Can record 720p movies with stereo sound; also records low resolution, silent movies at frame rates ranging from 120 - 1000 fps
- Best-in-class battery life
- Plenty of built-in memory
- HDMI port
What I didn't care for:
- Details start to get smudged once you pass ISO 200
- Redeye a problem, no removal tool available
- Some corner blurring at wide-angle
- Didn't perform well in artificial light, even with custom white balance (won't affect most people)
- Very slow startup speeds; lengthy write times for bursts and RAW images
- Manual control limitations: RAW only available at ISO 100/200, only two apertures to choose from at any time, ISO locked at Auto in shutter priority mode
- Design annoyances: too easy to turn camera on accidentally; flash and microphone easy to block with fingers; plastic tripod mount; can't access memory card slot when using tripod
- Dated menu system
- No image editing/organizing software included, which is especially frustrating for working with the RAW format
- Full manual on CD-ROM, not terribly detailed
Some other compact ultra zooms to consider include the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS, Fuji FinePix F300EXR, Kodak EasyShare Z950, Nikon Coolpix S8000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7, Ricoh CX3, Samsung HZ30W, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Exilim EX-FH100 and its competitors before you buy.
Check out the EX-FH100's photo quality in our gallery!