Casio Exilim EX-FH100
Though the Casio EX-FH100 pocket megazoom camera ($350 as of June 1, 2010) offers slick, curvy looks to frame its 10X-optical-zoom lens (24mm to 240mm), the main attraction for shutterbugs is its unique high-speed shooting mode. It's also a good all-purpose camera, thanks to its image quality and long battery life.
In the Macworld Lab's subjective tests for image quality, the 10.1-megapixel FH100 ranked in the top tier of our test group of pocket megazooms, serving up sharp images with good color accuracy and exposure levels. A bit of noticeable distortion and middle-of-the-pack video quality were weak spots, resulting in an overall imaging score of Good.
Here are sample clips that we shot in bright indoor lighting and in low light with the EX-FH100. For the highest-quality clips, select 720p from the drop-down menu in the lower-right corner of each player.
Zooming in and out with the EX-FH100 can be frustrating due to the noise of the lens motors and to the camera's autofocus, which sometimes searches for a second or two before locking in on a crisp image. Compared with the quiet motors and speedy autofocus of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5, the EX-FH100's lens motors and autofocus capabilities are severely lacking.
On top of that, the camera has noticeably more shutter lag than its competitors, even after you've pressed the shutter button halfway to focus on your subject. This is most obvious in the camera's automated Best Shot mode, where being too quick on the trigger results in a ‘Shutter half-press too short' error message. That could make the difference between capturing and missing a key shot.
The camera's high-speed shooting mode makes those offenses more forgivable. It's a valuable weapon for sporting events and other fast-action shoots, capturing up to 40 stills per second at a 9-megapixel resolution or 120 frames per second of 640-by-480-resolution video. You can crank up the video-capture speeds even higher, too: The EX-FH100 can record a certifiably insane 1000 frames per second of 224-by-64-resolution video.
You get quick access to the high-speed modes via an ‘HS' button next to the shutter release and an ‘HS video' lock switch on the back of the camera. Playback is well implemented on the EX-FH100's 3-inch LCD screen, letting you adjust the speed of the slow-motion playback by following on-screen instructions.
The EX-FH100 is also the only camera in our latest pocket megazooms test group that shoots raw-format images, making it a good fit for people who do a lot of image editing and enhancement. But when you're shooting in Raw mode—and when you're using the EX-FH100's high-speed mode—the camera takes quite a bit of time to save the photos to an SDHC card. Shot-to-shot times are lightning-fast, but write speeds are a slow 7 to 8 seconds for large raw images or high-speed image batches.
In addition to a wide range of scene modes and a Best Shot mode that selects the optimal scene mode for you, the EX-FH100 offers full manual, aperture-priority, and shutter-priority modes for more-experienced photographers. Although they're great settings to have, your options are limited in aperture-priority mode: Your f-stop selections are just f3.2 or f7.5 at the wide-angle end, f5.7 or f16.1 at full telephoto, and other two-stop combinations at focal lengths in between.
Among our latest test group, this is the go-to camera if you're looking for battery longevity. The EX-FH100's battery is rated for 520 shots on a single charge, so you can probably leave its charger at home in most cases.
Macworld's buying advice
Casio's high-speed, energy-efficient EX-FH100 is arguably the most versatile pocket megazoom around, thanks to its super-slow-motion shooting. The sacrifices here are lens control, a bit of video quality, and less-exciting scene modes than what you get from Sony, Canon, and Samsung.