BUILD AND DESIGN
The Exilim H20G is built on Casio's EX-H15; sharing that camera's basic operating system, 14 megapixel sensor, 10x zoom, and 3.0-inch LCD. The H20 is a thoughtfully designed, precision built and robustly constructed imaging tool that was obviously designed for casual shooters who are also world travelers. The H20's body is metal alloy and polycarbonate.
The auto-everything H20 permits very limited individual input into the image making process. Styling is conservative, maybe even a bit stodgy. The relatively thick brick-shaped H20 is square and blocky and appears to be available only in black. The H20 can be dropped in a shirt pocket, but with noticeable droop and a substantial bulge.
Ergonomics and Controls
The H20 handles like a typical point-and-shoot, so users should deploy and religiously use the included wrist strap since there is only a rudimentary handgrip. The H20's user interface is logical and uncomplicated - all buttons and controls are a bit small, but they are clearly marked and easily accessed by right handed shooters.
Controls are well laid out except for the poorly placed and somewhat unresponsive on/off button which is tiny and flush with the camera's top deck surface, making it difficult to turn the camera on or off with one push of the button. Deleting an image immediately after review is also more difficult than it should be.
Menus and Modes
The H20's menu system is a bit complex, but it is comprehensive, logically presented, and navigation is fairly simple. Auto-everything digicams can be frustrating for more advanced users, but even auto-everything cameras can produce awesome images if they have the ability to make minor exposure adjustments to overcome prevailing conditions.
One of the most important options on any auto point-and-shoot is the exposure compensation mode. Exposure compensation allows users to easily and incrementally lighten or darken images to overcome lighting problems. While many OEMs provide a dedicated button or use one of the directional buttons on the compass switch to provide quick, direct access to the exposure compensation mode, Casio buries this super important control in the menu system.
The H20 doesn't have (or need) a mode dial since there are only two shooting modes - full auto mode (the camera automatically sets all exposure parameters) for still images and movie mode which automatically captures HD video clips.
In the early days of the digital imaging revolution essentially all cameras provided both an optical viewfinder and an LCD viewfinder. Digicam users these days have only the LCD screen for all composition, captured image review and menu navigation chores. Most modern shooters rarely use optical viewfinders anyway and in many shooting scenarios (macro and portraits, for example), it is often quicker and easier to watch the decisive moment come together on the LCD screen.
The H20 doesn't feature an optical viewfinder, but makes up for that shortcoming by providing a better than average 3.0-inch LCD with 460k-dot resolution. The H20's TFT LCD screen is bright, hue accurate, relatively fluid (not jerky), automatically boosts gain in dim/low light, and covers approximately 100% of the image frame. The user-enabled grid display is a very useful tool for more serious shooters.
The Casio Exilim EX H20G's LCD, like all LCD panels, is subject to fading and glare and reflections in bright outdoor lighting. Using an LCD for composition and framing in bright outdoor light can be very maddening. When comparing two (or more) digital cameras the camera with the brightest, highest resolution LCD, a good contrast ratio, and a decent anti-glare/reflection coating would (everything else being more or less equal) seem the best choice. It is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the contrast ratio of an LCD display by eye and camera manufacturers are dependably (and universally) guilty of grossly inflating numbers to make their newest models seem more appealing.
The DCR test lab objectively measures LCD peak brightness and contrast ratios to assist our readers in making more informed buying decisions. A decent LCD contrast ratio would fall somewhere between 500:1 and 800:1. That would be bright enough to use the LCD for framing and composition in outdoor lighting, and it would provide a better sense of contrast and image quality. The H20 weighs in on the high end of that scale at 663:1 - for comparison purposes several of Canon's current P&S digicam models score in the low 400's. Peak brightness for the H20 (the panel's output of an all-white screen at full brightness) is 650 nits and on the dark side the measurement is 0.98. For reference, anything above 500 will be fairly usable outdoors, with better results obtained at higher output levels.
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