Casio's Exilim EX-FH100 is a compact, yet very powerful digicam. As the smallest camera in the "FH" line, this 10-Megapixel model also features the line's smallest zoom with its 10x ultra-wide lens (instead of the 20x of the FH20
). The zoom and body size is the only thing lacking on FH100 though, as it boasts High Speed image capture of 40fps, High Speed video capture of up to 1000fps, 720p HD video, Stereo Microphones, Full Manual Controls, and a slew of new Best Shot modes designed just for this camera's high speed performance. These pre-set shooting modes make it easy for anyone, even those with little or no photography experience to take advantage of its powerful burst and high speed movie features.
Although it is a little larger than most compact digicams, it crams in a large 10x optical zoom and the same powerful features that you will find on many ultra-zoom models. The body itself is heavy, but easy to hold with a very sturdy feel. A grip on the right side makes for easy one-handed operation of the shutter, zoom and video record buttons. Casio has also placed the switch for HS video and the button for HS shooting in easy reach when using just one hand. Making up the rest of the camera are just a few other buttons and the large, bright, 3-inch LCD screen. With three levels of brightness and two auto adjustment modes, it is easy to see in most lighting conditions. Direct sunlight can make it tricky to see, as the LCD does not appear to have an anti-glare coating.
Performance from the Exilim FH100 is very good once the camera is on. It is a little slow on startup, taking 4.1 seconds before it is able to capture its first image. When the camera is pre-focused the shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second, and between 3/10 and 5/10 of a second when allowing the autofocus to work. In single shot mode, the camera has a shot-to-shot delay of 1.75 seconds or if you are using the flash it jumps to 4.48 seconds. All of our tests were completed using a RiDATA Pro 120x 2GB SD card, Auto shooting mode, Flash off, ISO auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
One of the big features on the FH100 is its high speed burst shooting. High speed continuous has several settings to provide a mode that suits your needs. It is able to capture up to 30, 9-Megapixel images at rates ranging from 1-40fps. There are also two other burst settings, Normal and F CS. Normal mode allows you to capture full 10-Megapixel images, but at the same rate as single shot mode, only you do not have to press the shutter release for each image. F CS allows you to capture full 10-Megapixel images as well, but you have burst rates of up to 20 images at 10fps. Casio has also created several low-light Scene modes that use the high speed image capture as well. These scene modes capture several images ver quickly then combines them in order to keep image noise down without a long exposure. They even allow the user to capture night shots without a tripod.
Our outdoor image samples show that the camera produces excellent exposures and vivid colors that really make the images pop. One issue that we did see in these images is some noise in the darker areas of the image, including the blue skies. At ISO 100, you should not see any noise within these images. With the 24mm wide end of the zoom, one of the widest you will find on a digicam without an adapter, you can capture incredibly wide landscape images. On the telephoto end, at 240mm, you can get nice and close to objects that are off in the distance. The 10x range in between these two extremes works very well for all types of portraits from large groups to extreme close-ups. With a lens this wide you will see some very noticeable barrel distortion on the wide end. You will also find some slight chromatic aberrations in bright, high contrast areas, such as along the roof in our Golden Dragon image.
Looking at our M&M Man sample images at 100%, the first thing you will notice is that even at ISO 100, the images are a little soft due to image noise. As the ISO goes up, the colors in the image start to get blotchy, giving a rough look to most of the edges within the image and really lowering image quality, especially in larger prints. We recommend keeping the ISO set as low as possible to avoid seeing noise in your prints. Assisting with your indoor and other low-light images is a rather small built-in flash considering the size of camera and optical zoom. With a range of up to 11.8-feet (Wide) at ISO auto, it was not enough to correctly light our M&M Man image from 6ft. away at mid-telephoto (ISO 100).
Portrait photography is easy, thanks to the face detection technology featured on the FH100. It did well locating and following faces within the frame, as long as they were directly facing the camera. With the Red-Eye reduction flash on, we did not see any instances of redness in the eyes. While the skin tones and colors look good, the higher levels of noise within the image soften it and take away the fine details.
One of the major features of Casio's High Speed camera line is its ability to capture High Speed (HS) movies as well as High Speed burst images. With frame rates as high as 1000fps, these videos allow you to record video and play it back in extreme slow motion. The only problem is the higher the frame rate, the smaller the resolution of the video and the darker the video will be. While these videos are fun and can be very helpful in specific situations, such as analyzing a fast-moving subject, videos taken with a frame rate faster than 120fps is too small to actually blend into a home movie.
The FH100 also has the capability to capture 720p High Definition video. These videos play back very well on the camera's LCD, a HDTV with the help of an optional HDMI cable or on a PC. They are fairly smooth when watching them, but they do not appear as clear as you would expect to see due to noise in the video. The built-in stereo microphone is very sensitive, capturing all sounds that take place around it. Unless you are incredibly close to your subject, you will pick up a lot of background noises. These sounds will be much more apparent when you watch your movies. To help avoid this, try to stay away from air conditioners, furnaces and out of the wind.
Powering the FH100 is a massive 3.7V, 1950mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Storing far more juice than most compact camera batteries that we see, it allowed us to capture well over 200 images and movies while completing our tests, without even using half of the batteries power. This easily backs up Casio's claims of the battery being able to capture 520 images on a single charge based on CIPA standards. This is an outstanding battery life, allowing for full day or even weekend shooting trips without having to worry too much about a dead battery. If you plan on a longer trip, capturing a high number of images day to day or plan to shoot a lot of video with this camera, you will definitely want to keep a second battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - The Casio EX-FH100 is a 10-Megapixel, high performance digicam that's loaded with features, some of which you will only find on Casio's high speed line of cameras. This model features a 10x optical zoom, HS video capture of up to 1000fps, 720p HD video, HS image capture of up to 40fps at 9-megapixels and several new scene modes created specifically to take advantage of the camera's high speed features. The down side to this camera is its image quality. From the lowest ISO up, the images look soft at 100% due to higher than normal amounts of noise in the images. If you're one who plans on printing mostly 4x6-inch to 8x10-inch photos, it's not likely you will see these noise issues. With a MSRP of US $349.99, this camera is full of fantastic features for the money spent.