Casio EX-H20G Hybrid GPS Camera Review

The Casio Exilim EX-H20G incorporates a Hybrid-GPS system so you can easily geotag your photos.  For those of you that have never geotagged, it means that the location a photo was taken gets tagged into the photo data.  So when your viewing your photos on your computer or on a lot of photo sharing websites the position the photo was taken at can also be shown on a map.  Google Earth can also show you what photos have been taken based on location as well.

Disclaimer: I currently work for a company that distributes this camera, so take this review with a grain of salt!

This kind of technology is perfect for people who like to travel, and take lots of photos, it makes it easy to remember where things are like a restaurant you ate at while visiting a different country or exactly which Mountain your standing in front of from your last holiday.

The Casio EX-H20G records your location, altitude and direction the camera was pointing at.  It’s also capable of showing you nearby landmarks or scenic locations with a photo of that attraction.  This can be great if your travelling and don’t know local areas too well.  The camera’s map display will also show you other photos you’ve taken that are nearby where you are which I thought was a neat little feature.  The GPS in the camera is not designed to help you navigate and it won’t give you turn by turn directions, it’s currently strictly for geo-tagging photos.

A sample photo uploaded to Flickr. Flickr automatically reads the GPS data and can place the photo on a map where it was taken

I was highly impressed with the Hybrid GPS system.  Besides using GPS satelites to pin point it’s location, it also has built in motion sensors to help track it’s location.  The combination of the two reports a very accurate location of where you are, even indoors.  The GPS system is incredibly quick to lock-on and locate a position (presumably because the motion sensors already know roughly where you are).  Normally if you have a GPS off and drive around when you first turn it on, it can take a few minutes to location your position.  With the EX-H20G your rough position is displayed immediately, while it pin points your location very shortly after.  The speed the system locks on is faster than any other GPS I’ve used, including smart phone hybrid GPS systems that innitially estimate your position based on cell towers.

To give the Hybrid GPS a good test, I took the camera out to Durham Forrest in Uxbridge.  I know that another hand held GPS and both iPhones I have tend to have problems keeping a solid GPS satellite lock out there.  On this day my iPhone was again struggling to keep track of where I was, often losing satellite lock for 10-15 minutes at a time.  Through the thick snow covered forest my phone really had no idea where I was.  The Casio EX-H20G however always kept a very accurate position of where I was.  They hybrid technology had no problems whether the camera was left on or off.  By the end of my 3 hour hike the battery was still fresh while my iPhone battery had been dead for 1/2 an hour already.

The next test I had for it was to bring it indoors. So I turned off the Casio and drove home.  I made sure to leave the camera off the entire time.  At home I didn’t turn on the camera until in the basement. I can assure you no GPS works from there.  So it would be up to the Hybrid technology to have kept track of how far the camera moved since last on.  Incredibly the camera located it’s position perfectly!

Image Quality

Image quality was above average for a camera of this style.  The features of the camera below combined together to create some excellent images.  The combination of having a wide range of zoom, wide angle, shift stabilization and premium auto means it’s pretty easy to come up with the photo you’re looking for.   Colours are accurate and natural, the white balance and exposure was good,  and I had no image quality image issues.

Wide Angle 10x Zoom

The camera features a 24-240mm zoom which provides excellent range for a fairly compact camera.  I always like cameras that have a little bit wider lens.  It’s a lot easier to crop images if you don’t have enough zoom to get in tight on something now with high megapixel cameras, but more often than not there’s not enough room to backup and fit everyone or everything in that you want.

CCD Shift Stabilization

Worked very well for me. I had no problems getting a blur free shot zoomed all the way in outdoors on an overcast day.  Of course indoors would be a little harder, but the image stabilization worked very well.

Fully zoomed in at 240mm the sign is still easy to take a photo of without camera shake thanks to the image stabilization system


Slide Panorama

If you spend time on my blog, you’ll notice I like taking panorama’s of everything.  A lot of things are just too big and grand to fit in one frame.  The Casio EX-H20G automatically stitches panoramas together for you.  You simply choose the panorama mode, press the shutter and pan to the left or right and click the shutter again when your done.  The camera automatically takes a series of photos while your doing this and seamlessly stitches them together.  It worked very well for me.  The only thing I wish it could do is to be able to pan vertically.  Or pan with the camera in a portrait orientation instead of having to be in a landscape orientation.  For really large subjects like the Grand Canyon, I might still do it manually and stitch on the computer after, but for most people this is so much easier and will get them results they can be happy with.

In just a couple of seconds a panorama can be made with the Slide Panorama feature.

Premium Auto

I’m not normally a fan of these types of settings, but for most users it can make things pretty easy.  I actually found the premium auto worked pretty well for me.  Photos with the flash on I was especially surprised with.  The Premium auto did an excellent job controlling flash and balancing back lighting with subject lighting.  The only odd problem I had with it was in my studio with the modelling lights, it had a hard time keeping consistent white balance.  But it only occurred under this one rare and weird circumstance.

This image in low light with flash is done real well with Premium auto. The foreground, background balance and colour balance is very good.

Battery Life

Battery life was excellent! I had no problems taking photos over two days, outside in the freezing cold.  I was especially surprised because I left the hybrid gps on the entire time and I never had to recharge the battery once.

Summary

I loved the camera.  With the simplicity, accuracy and speed of the hybrid gps system you can easily tag and share your photos with this camera.  It just adds another dimension of sharing your photos or archiving them!  I’d recommend this camera to anyone who is adventurous, and likes to travel or just likes to share their photos online with friends and family.  I think a lot more cameras will incorporate geo-tagging in the future.  Having the functionality on one device makes it a lot easier than what most people including myself have been doing, which is using software to combine GPS locations with GPS tracks recorded on a separate device.