Hands on: Casio EXILIM EX-FH20 review

Photokina 2008: Casio makes high-speed photography more affordable

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CES in January saw the launch of Casio's high-speed Exilim Pro camera, the EX-F1. Capable of shooting 60 JPEG images in a single second, the emphasis was on high-end, high-speed photography and slow-motion video. We were impressed with its performance, but with a launch price of £750 and a paltry marketing campaign, it was doomed to remain a niche product.

Which is why we're extremely glad that Casio has taken feedback on board in creating the EX-FH20.

First of all, and most importantly for this new model's success, the price; £399. It's still rather higher than we'd have hoped, though that hope comes with an understanding that this isn't a massively inflated price – technology this impressive comes with a high manufacturing cost.

Impressive sibling

The FH20 may be cheaper than the F1, but it's by no means a baby brother. In many ways, it actually excels against the F1, and its feature set is arguably more balanced. The F1's 60fps was undeniably impressive and stands as a demonstration of Casio's technological abilities. To achieve such a high frame rate, however, the camera's sensor was limited to 6 megapixels.

The FH20 offers shooting at 40 frames a second – not quite as iconic, but certainly no slouch. We suspect the FH20 uses the same sensor as the F1, meaning it's technically capable of 60fps – so why the drop in speed?

The answer is obvious when you look at the FH20's target audience. In the consumer market, pixel count is still king. A 6 megapixel camera for £399 in a display case full of sub- £200 14 megapixel compacts wouldn't stand a chance.

Up the resolution

For this reason, Casio has increased the sensor resolution to 9.1 megapixels, with a 7 megapixel resolution available during high-speed capture. High-speed video recording was extremely popular on the F1 (just search YouTube for Exilim F1), as it enabled users to create incredible slow-motion footage at up to 1200fps.

That functionality returns in the FH20, offering up to 1000fps – though resolution is limited at very high frame rates. Conversely, 720p HD recording is possible at 30fps.

The camera itself is an unmistakable descendent of the F1; it's smaller in nearly all dimensions, yet shares the same solidarity and high build quality. The only thing missing externally is the hot shoe, though in both cameras the flash limits high-speed ability, so we're not particularly sad to see it go.

The rear of the camera has been simplified, as has the method if switching image modes, and a new, consumer-friendly 'Best Shot' button has been added. This provides the usual array of scenes – nightshot, portrait etc, and serves as a reminder that despite the emphasis on frame rates, this is still a very competent all-rounder. Despite the camera's smaller body, the FH20 packs a 3-inch LCD screen – a little larger, and higher resolution, than the F1's.

Range rover

Another improvement over the F1 is the zoom range – now at 20x, the FH20 covers the impressive 35mm equivalent of 26 to 520mm. Unlike the F1, this now protrudes from the camera's body – it's fairly formidable at full zoom.

Interestingly, the FH20 has dropped the F1's proprietary rechargeable battery for standard AA compatibility. Presumably, this is to lower costs as well as to add consumer appeal – though stick with the non-rechargeable batteries included with the camera and things may start to get expensive.

With talk of an exciting marketing campaign soon to launch and this new, lower price point, Casio has high hopes for the FH20. It's everything we asked for in our review of the F1, and we can't wait to spend more time with it very soon.