While not quite what we consider an ultra-compact camera, the H5 is rather small, especially when you consider it's packing a 10x optical zoom lens. The camera fits well in your hands thanks to its size, and the surfaces of the camera are not cluttered with complicated controls. In fact, the controls seem to be rather limited, which helps the camera remain simple to use for beginners. All of the buttons are well placed, within easy reach of your finger tips. They are labeled well for the most part, however Casio gave no indication on the back for what the "Left" and "Right" positions of the 4-way controller toggle; they control the Make-up and Vivid Landscape options, The camera seems to be constructed quite well, however it does have a very light feel to it (which some may translate into a cheap feel).
Like we mentioned earlier, the EX-H5 offers over 40 exposure mode options for you to choose from, including your typical Auto exposure mode. Each will help you capture better looking photos in a variety of different shooting situations, without having to worry about which camera settings to choose in order to capture the look you want. Like most of their current Exilim models, the EX-H5 also boasts some fun color filters and in-camera editing options for you to explore your creative side. These include 8 different color filters, Make-up and Vivid Landscape filters, Dynamic photo mode, and several Art Effects like Oil painting, Crayon, etc. All of which will help you add a little more fun to the picture taking process.
Indoors the H5 produced some decent close-up portraits when using either Auto or the dedicated Portrait best shot mode. During our tests the flash worked quite well for our young subject from about 5 or so feet away, using the mid telephoto of the zoom to tightly frame. Flash exposure looks very good, and skin tones look very natural in Auto mode. When using Portrait mode, I did see some in-camera processing that looks to have softened the skin and bumped up the saturation a bit as it showed rosier skin tones. Casio calls it their "Make-up" filter, which can also be activated when using Auto mode by pressing "Right" on the 4-way controller. This will appeal to some, as it helps your portraits look a bit more flattering. One issue we noticed was when shooting under some typical tungsten lighting in our home, the camera seemed to produce a very warm photo, which shows that the white balance system was having some issues. We saw the exact opposite under our daylight fluorescent bulbs, where the H5 produced much cooler photos.
The EX-H5 can produce usable photos all the way up to about ISO 800 when manually choosing the sensitivity settings. You can look at our M&M man ISO series on the samples page to see our results. Your best photos will come from using ISO 400 and below, and we highly recommend you do not use the ISO 1600 or 3200 options. They are riddled with noise as well as heavy detail loss from the in-camera noise reduction process. Luckily the Auto setting seemed to do a good job of controlling the sensitivity, keeping it below ISO 800 most of the time. Just be sure you keep an eye on the "Rec. Ready" screen, which is displayed when you half-press the shutter to lock focus and exposure for a shot; it shows the ISO setting the camera has selected for the photo that you are about to be capture.
Like most all digicams on the market today, the EX-H5 features a 720p HD video setting. It uses Motion JPEG format to record your movies, which saves files with a .AVI file extension. You can choose from 1280x720 (24fps), 640x480 (30fps), or 320x240 (15fps) resolutions, with audio. Overall our HD video examples show decent digicam quality video quality with typical amounts of compression noise. We noticed that the AF system seemed to go in and out of focus often when shooting in dimmer lighting, however it always recovered focus quickly. The optical zoom can be preset beforehand, however you can not zoom while recording. There is a digital zoom option, but we strongly advise not using it unless absolutely necessary. It degrades quality quite rapidly; you can see an example on the samples page.
Battery life from the EX-H5's small battery was typical for a compact point-n-shoot. Casio claims you can get about 240 photos from a fully charged battery pack. We captured about 100 still photos, several short (20 seconds or less) video clips, and concluded most of our other usual tests with a little power to spare. Since the EX-H5 kit includes a nice external battery charger, it would be a wise choice to pick up a spare battery pack just in case.
line - Casio's latest affordable H-series model surprised us in many ways. Not only does the Exilim EX-H5 sport an awesome price tag of only $179 US or less, but it produces some very nice 12-megapixel photos, offers speedy shooting performance, and is loaded with helpful and fun exposure options. This is a simple to use digicam that should please most users looking for a compact camera with a bit more zoom reach over your typical model of this size. That said, we have no problem recommending the Exilim EX-H5 for those seeking a nice compact long-zoom camera that is easy on the wallet, while still providing some good quality and performance.
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