With its 20x zoom and high-speed capture mode, the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is built to handle action shots, especially when you can't get close to your subjects.

The Casio Exilim EX-FH20 megazoom digital camera looks and feels like a small, entry-level SLR, with its oversize 20x-optical-zoom lens, pop-up fill flash, and big, beefy right-handed grip. But the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is as easy to use as a point-and-shoot - and a lot more versatile, thanks to its high-speed shooting modes. It's a follow-up to last year's innovative Casio Exilim EX-F1, and a big sibling to the pocketable, high-speed Casio Exilim EX-FC100.

The mode dial has only five settings: Flash CS (consecutive shots with flash), High-Speed CS (according to Casio, this mode will continue to shoot as long as you press the shutter button), Single Shot, HS for high-speed movies, and HD/STD for normal-speed movies at 1280-by-720-pixel or 640-by-480-pixel resolution, both at 30 frames per second.

When the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is in any of the still-photo modes, you can press the BS (Best Shot) button on the back of the camera and select any of 18 presets, including standards such as Portrait, Sports, and High Speed Night Scene.

A few of the preset modes - such as Multi-motion Image (which lets you shoot multiple images of a scene that the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 then combines into a single image) or Digital Panning (which combines multiple images into one picture where the subject is in focus and the background is motion-blurred) - let you have a little fun.

You can also set the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 for aperture priority, shutter-speed priority, manual, or automatic. The ISO range is from 100 to 1600, and you can adjust the white balance and image brightness, as well. You can easily navigate all of the controls by pressing the directional button and the Set button on the back of the camera with your right thumb. The Menu button on the back lets you access other camera settings.

The Exilim EX-FH20's 3-inch colour LCD looks nice, though we did have trouble seeing it in very bright sunlight. In such instances you can use the camera's electronic viewfinder, a small LCD that produces flatter and fuzzier colours than the 3-inch LCD.

Switching between the electronic viewfinder and the 3-inch LCD is as easy as pushing a button. When you're using the electronic viewfinder, however, you're dedicated to it - while switching presets, you have to peer through the electronic viewfinder to navigate the screens. The Casio Exilim EX-FH20 doesn't switch to the 3-inch LCD when you're adjusting the camera and then back to the electronic viewfinder when you're done and ready to shoot, which can hamper your efforts if you're trying to adjust the camera quickly.

Typically, you'd set a camera to single-shot auto mode to take a run-of-the-mill picture. But with its megazoom and high-speed modes, the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 is a camera built for action shots.

In High-Speed CS mode, you can set the camera to shoot 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 30, or 40 frames per second. If you have the audio turned on, the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 will still make the shutter noise for every still you take, even if you're shooting 40fps.

Though Casio says that in High-Speed mode the camera will continue to shoot as long as you keep the shutter button pressed, in actuality the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 will continue until you've filled the memory cache; it then stops and asks if you want to save all of the pictures, a select few, or none. Saving all of the pics not only takes several seconds (the more frames shot, the longer the process) but also consumes precious memory-card space.

If you're taking photos of, say, a sporting event, you might use the High-Speed mode often in order to get a special action shot. When we used a 2GB SDHC card, we had room for 446 photos at the highest quality - that translated to only 11 different "shots" if we had the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 set at 40fps. Sure, as you go, you can try to select pics to keep and others to dump, but then you wouldn't be paying attention to the event. The best solution is to use a large-capacity SDHC card - multiple large-capacity SDHC cards, if you can afford it.

The Flash CS mode takes three shots in rapid succession, with the flash bursting quickly three times in a row. If your subject is looking at the camera, the three flash bursts can be a little blinding, but this mode is useful for action shots when the subject is looking in another direction. The flash doesn't pop up automatically; if you enter Flash CS mode with the flash closed, the Casio Exilim EX-FH20 merely shows you an 'Open the flash unit' message on the LCD or electronic viewfinder.

NEXT: making movies >>