Casio Exilim EX-H20G review

Chunky compact with hybrid GPS and hefty zoom
Photo of Casio Exilim EX-H20G
£330

With more than enough point-and-shoot cameras on the market to bamboozle, it makes good marketing sense for a new model to have a standout feature. Casio’s Exilim EX-H20G has just that, in the form of a hybrid GPS tracking device. A lot of cameras now have GPS to geo-tag photos, but this is something even cleverer: it includes a motion sensor and an integrated compass, which together allow it to plot a position even when the GPS signal is lost.

Location, location, location
Each location you photograph from (including latitude and longitude coordinates) is embedded into the image file, so you can’t forget where it was taken. Heaven forbid.
 
What use this actually has is a good question; maybe for those who get lost easily, or have a shocking memory – but is it not the point of photographs to prompt your memories of travel? Of course, the GPS can be deactivated, but then what would be the point of having it on the camera in the first place?

Decent spec
GPS aside, this is a fairy good point-and-shoot camera. It sports a 14.1-megapixel sensor and a 10x zoom lens (24-240mm) that puts it on the better side of average for a small compact, and its ability to shoot 360-degree panoramas and 720p HD video is not to be sniffed at, either (although the lack of a zoom function in video mode is disappointing).

For those that plan to use it, know that inside the EX-H20G are 152 city maps and a ‘points of interest’ database than runs into seven figures. Out the box, our sample thought it was still in Japan, but quickly acclimatised to its new home once taken outside.

Shocking surprise
With a solid feel, a good size screen (larger than most, at 3in) with decent colour saturation and a mini HDMI to attach it directly to a TV, it sounds like the Casio has it all. Surprisingly, it lacks a thing or two normally found on ‘rugged’ cameras of the GPS bent: the EX-H20G is neither shock- or water-proof.
Now we’ve dropped that one on you, how about its exceptionally traveller-friendly panorama mode, which uses Sony-style continuous bursts of shots; the fact that it doesn’t do 3D is not a problem for us.

The quick access user toolbar that appears with the touch of just one button allows immediate selection of ISO (80-3200), megapixel, image aspect ratio and a manual focus option (not a true manual, but you can pick a specific focal distance).

Easy to use and quick to master, the EX-H20G’s simple user interface is one we like. However, the lack of true manual operation, such as aperture and exposure control, could be frustrating for a true photographer, as will the absence of an optical viewfinder.

Also rather annoying is the placement of the on/off switch. Positioned in the middle of the top of the product just where it feels natural to grip when tugging to from a slipcase, we managed to prematurely switch the thing on every single time. No big deal, you might say, if you’re about to use it anyway, but it’s slightly alarming to hear the camera leap into action and extending its lens while there’s a hand, or worse, a camera case, across it. I wouldn’t mind betting there have been a few returns with damaged lens caused by this exact issue.

On a slightly clunky though otherwise reassuringly tough design, the EX-H20G’s undercarriage stores a slot for a SD/SDHC/SDXC card alongside a NP90 lithium-ion battery. The camera itself weighs 216g (including battery and SD), and measures 102.5x68x29mm. Battery life in our test was better than most, managing a total of 640 shots on a full charge.

Image quality
Image quality doesn’t compare with that of a D-SLR, but for the size and price the Casio does a reasonably good job. The sensor-shift image stabilisation meets its brief by preventing blur from hand wobble, especially at longer focal length. The resulting pictures are much sharper than on rival models, and we were impressed too by the natural colours and low-light performance. Nice work, though the face detection system didn’t always operate properly, especially when taking group shots.

Video is shot in either 720p HD or SD, and saves as a MOV file, with digital zoom only available during filming. In our tests we weren’t able to adjust the optical zoom during recordings, while the focus remains constant. So unless you’re filming a single subject, the resulting file is pretty poor – though tracking doesn’t cause as much blur as we’d expected.

Company: Casio

Website: http://www.casio.co.uk/

Contact: Casio on 020 8450 9131

Positives
  • Hybrid GPS; decent zoom for a camera of this class; good battery life.
Negative
  • Lacks manual controls; expensive.

Verdict

It's priced on the high side, for sure, but Casio has created a camera that concentrates on quality point-and-shoot pictures and adds some genuinely more capable GPS technology that other brands have mustered.

It's not cheap technology, however, and with non-GPS cameras that offer pictures of a similar quality around half the price, we're not sure if the EX-H20G can justify its RRP. Find it for around £200, however, and this is every geography teacher's dream camera.