Casio Exilim EX-FH20 Digital Camera Review$599.99
Like many ultra-zoom cameras, the FH20 looks like a small, snub-nosed version of an SLR, though of course it isn't an SLR at all. It's crafted of black, serious-looking materials, and offers a viewfinder and an enlarged hand grip.
The left of the FH20's front has a relatively large grip, covered by rubberized material to add more friction. The handhold has a small divot for one of your fingers to make it slightly more comfortable to hold. To the right of the grip, near the top of the camera is the auto focus assist lamp, and beside that is the tiny pinhole that serves as a microphone. Of course, with a camera of this type, the majority of the front is taken up by the large lens. The Exilim's barrel is quite wide, with '20x optical zoom' emblazoned on the left side and '40 fps continuous shooting EX-FH20' on the right. Around the front of the lens are the optical details: 'Exilim Optical 20x, f=4.6-92.00mm, 1:2.8-4.5, 25-520mm 35mm EQUIV'. Above this is the Casio legend, writ large and in silver, and further up is the flash housing. On the right side of the front are a number of important controllers. The highest is the flash deploy button, which is actually a mechanical switch rather than an electrical one. Pressing it moves a small latch holding the sprung flash in place. Near the base of the lens are two buttons, the upper of which is AEL, used for focus and metering lock, and the lower for focus mode control.
The lens is the largest feature on the camera
The rear of the camera is surprisingly sparse on controls. Running along the right side, just below a small area designated for a thumb rest, are three buttons laid out in a triangle. The topmost is DISP (Display), which alters the amount of information presented on the screen. Directly below that is MENU, which takes you to its namesake display. Right of that is the BS button, which we shall do our utmost to refrain from commenting on, except to say it stands for Best Shot, and is the Exilim equivalent of scene modes. The main method of navigating the camera settings is the four-way pad, with SET in the middle, which takes you to a quick menu when pressed. About 2/3 of the camera's rear is taken up by the 3' 230,400 pixel LCD, which has the Exilim logo beneath it. Directly above the LCD is the electronic viewfinder, with an equivalent 201,600 pixels, which has a diopter adjuster to its left. Further left is the EVF/LCD button which toggles between viewing through the viewfinder and the LCD. Some cameras use a sensor beside the viewfinder to handle this task automatically, but that's missing here. To the right of the viewfinder is a small light which is used to indicate when the camera is processing data, or the self-timer counting down. Below the light are two buttons, the left for playback, the right for shooting. It's interesting that they've deigned to use two buttons for this process, rather than a switch, or a single button to alternate between the two primary modes. Unfortunately, all the buttons feel slightly cheap and low quality, as if they might degrade after a while.
The rear controls are minimal
Left Side* (4.00) *The left side of the camera has two features, one major and one minor. The minor is the eyelet for the neck strap, crafted of a robust feeling metal. Near the bottom is a thick but overly rigid plug that guards the USB/AV port and 9v DC in plug.
The plastic port guard feels brittle.
The right side is marginally more interesting than the left, if only by virtue of being larger, and having some grip over its front half. The second eyelet for the neck strap is here, as one would hope. So too is the door to the card reader, where you can insert SD/SDHC memory cards. After a week and half of using the camera, we noticed this door was starting to stick slightly.
*A wide area for you to wrap your mitts around
On the right, at the front of hand grip is the black reflective plastic of the shutter control, which is surrounded by a chromed zoom ring. Behind this is the on/off button, set in a small depression. One of the most prominent features of this area is the mode dial, set prominently, just above where your thumb rests. This can flip between five modes, high speed with flash, high speed, single shot, high speed video and normal video. This dial felt stiff, and difficult to change. While you're still able to flip between modes, it's unweildy. Finally, just to the left of the dial, are six holes in two rows of three that cover the speaker.
The mode dial felt very stiff
Finally, the bottom of the camera. There's a plastic tripod mount, which is aligned to the center of the body. Normally, we wouldn't particularly mind where this mount is placed, but with an ultra-zoom, having it centered on the lens would make aligning telephoto shots slightly easier. The batteries are stashed in the hand hold, and are protected by a substantial and tough-feeling door. The FH20 uses AA batteries, which is a great help if you're stuck somewhere you can't plug in a charger.
The tripod mount would be better placed if lens aligned.