Performance and image quality

In terms of its overall performance, the FH7 performs in pretty much the way we'd expect of a camera in this class, and at this price point. It is pleasantly responsive, turns on very quickly and didn't keep us waiting when out shooting, either. Shutter lag is minimal, and AF acquisition in good light is very fast. Images appear quickly on the rear LCD after they have been shot, and with a decent mid-range SD card, shot to shot times are limited only by the (brief) pause while AF re-aquires. Operationally, where the FH7 falls down is its touch-screen which although not the worst we've ever used is far from the best.

The FH7's touch screen responds to pressure, not simply touch, so you have to press down slightly to get a response. Normally this is fine, but sometimes, especially when performing swiping operations (like flicking between captured images) the screen becomes frustratingly laggy. Things aren't helped my the relatively crowded interface, which makes it hard sometimes to precisely pinpoint the option that you want. Considering the FH7's low cost, though, we'd hesitate to place too much emphasis on the limitations of its screen.

At base ISO of 100, or thereabouts, in good light, the FH7 is capable of producing very pleasant images with a decent amount of detail. The image on the left was shot in optimal conditions, outdoors, and compares fairly well against some more expensive cameras in the travel zoom and enthusiasts' class. Towards the top of its ISO sensitivity scale however, crtical image quality drops. The still life on the right here was taken at ISO 800, and doesn't look great when viewed crticially at 100%, although crucially, metering and white balance are spot on in this scene, lit with low, artificial light.
Both these images were taken in bright sunlight, and demonstrate the FH7's generally highly accurate metering and white balance systems, as well as its impressive detail reproduction at low ISO sensitivities. Unless you need to make large prints, the FH7 is certainly adequate for day to day and social photography.
As you can see from the samples above, as image quality is concerned, the FH7 performs well considering its low cost, but cannot compete with higher-end models like the best of those featured in our recent group test of travel zoom compact cameras. This shouldn't be taken as serious criticism though, since the FH7 is perfectly capable of doing what it is designed to do - producing bright, colorful pictures for use on the web or the occasional small print. Pixel-level image quality isn't stunning, even at relatively low ISO sensitivities, but there is enough detail right up to ISO 1600 to satisfy most 'everyday' shooting requirements.

If you have the choice though, we'd recommend employing the FH7's built-in flash in low light, in preference to using its ISO 1600 setting. Obviously, this is only an option at relatively close range (flash won't help a bit when taking pictures inside a dark church or when the camera is pointed at a singer on a distant stage, for example) but for close portraits and fill-in, when shooting outdoors, the FH7's tiny flash is very capable.

Video Samples

The FH7's video mode is basic, but very easy to use. Image quality isn't stunning - some noise, and some compression artefacts are visible even in what should be optimal conditions - but clips are certainly good enough for sharing on the web. Manual control in video mode is virtually zero, and both focus and zoom are locked at the point where video recording is initiated.

1280 x 720 30 fps, .MOV file, 9 sec. 27 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

1280 x 720 30 fps, .MOV file, 15 sec. 44 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

1280 x 720 30 fps, .MOV file, 10 sec. 29 MB Click here to download original .MOV file