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Video

On this latest generation of superzooms HD video capture is pretty much the standard. All of the cameras in this test offer at least 720p, and two cameras (the Nikon P100 and Fujifilm HS10) even offer 1080p full HD video. Another new feature, thanks to the introduction of back-illuminated CMOS sensor technology, is high-speed video recording with frame rates up to 1000 fps which, played back at the standard 30 fps, results in ultra-slow-motion output. The Nikon P100, Fujifilm HS10 and Casio EX-H25 offer this functionality. Some cameras now also offer a degree of control over the sound recording and/or stereo sound.

Canon SX20 IS

The SX20 IS offers movie capture in various qualities up to HD resolution (1280 x 720 pixels, 16:9 format) at 30 frames per second. The camera uses H.264 compression which produces, compared to the Motion JPEG format on previous Canon compact generations, comparable image quality at smaller file sizes. It works out at approximately 3.0 MB/sec. The maximum length of a movie recording is 29min 59sec or 4GB file size.

The SX20's video quality is very good. The video output is smooth, with very few compression artifacts and no exposure jumps or the like. On the downside the Canon's HD mode creates fairly large file sizes, so get a couple of large SD cards if you plan on shooting many HD videos.

There's a dedicated video button and stills can be shot during video recording (there will be a noticeable gap in the video though). The SX20 records stereo sound and also offers control over the recording volume and a wind filter. There is no manual control over shutter speed and aperture but you can lock the exposure and apply exposure compensation. Optical zoom is available during recording as well. The Canon starts recording almost immediately when you press the video button and automatically adjusts its framing to 16:9.

Canon SX20 IS 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 16.6MB, 5 secs .mov File size: 20.8MB, 7 secs .mov File size: 36.7MB, 12 secs .mov

Casio EX-FH25

The EX-H25 offers 720p video recording at 30 frames per second. The recording format is the slightly long in the tooth (but still quite widely used) AVI Motion JPEG which produces very large files. Movie capture is limited to a maximum of 10 minutes. You can use the optical zoom when shooting video but can deactivate this feature if you need/want to. Exposure compensation can be applied before you start shooting but not during recording.

The output is good, with few artifacts and smooth motion. Color is comparatively muted at default settings. In HD or Standard (VGA) mode control is limited. Dial in some exposure compensation if you want to and start recording by pressing the shutter button. Do the same again to stop. Sound is recorded in mono. There's no discernible shutter delay in video mode.

Casio EX-FH25 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 23.6MB, 7 secs .avi File size: 24.3MB, 7 secs .avi File size: 24.8MB, 6 secs .avi

While its HD video mode is a fairly standard affair, the Casio's highlight in movie terms is its High Speed recording functionality. Thanks to back-illuminated CMOS technology movies can be captured with a maximum frame rate of 1000 fps which allows for the creation of super-slow-motion video. In this mode you also get manual controls over aperture and shutter speed. Audio is not recorded at speeds higher than 30 fps.

In high speed mode you can select speeds between 30 and 1000 fps, albeit at a reduced frame size. In fact, at 1000 fps the recorded video is so small (224 x 64px) that it's pretty much pointless. The 420 fps setting is at 224 x 168px just about usable. You can see examples of video taken at 120 and 420 fps below.

Just beware of the fact that, like pretty much all cameras that record video on a CMOS sensor the EX-H25 suffers from distortion caused by its rolling shutter (also called 'jello-effect'). The readout of the sensor means horizontal lines of the image are scanned, one after another, rather than the whole scene being grabbed in one go. The upshot is that verticals can be skewed if the camera (or the subject) moves too fast - the top of the image has been recorded earlier than the bottom, so vertical lines can be rendered as diagonals. This effect is visible on the Casio EX-H25 but by far not as bad as on some of the DSLRs with CMOS sensor that we have tested.

9.3MB, 7 secs .avi, 640 x 480 pixels @ 120fps 8.0MB, 23 secs .avi, 224 x 168 pixels @ 420 fps

Fujifilm HS10

The HS10 is one of only two cameras in this group test to offer 1080p full HD video recording (the other one is the Nikon P100). The footage is impressively detailed, especially when watched on a large screen, relatively free of artifacts and, as long as your computer and viewing software are capable enough, quite smooth.

On the downside the HS10's video mode doesn't really give you any opportunity for manual intervention. You cannot even apply exposure compensation which, despite of the high video resolution, makes the camera most suitable for 'snapshot' type videography. The HS10 is the only camera with a manual zoom ring in this test and zooming is therefore possible at any time during video recording. Footage is stored using the H.264 codec and the maximum length of a movie is 29min or 4GB file size. Sound is recorded using the built-in stereo microphone. Be aware that there's quite a lengthy delay between pressing the video button and the start of the recording which might well cause you to miss a crucial moment or two.

Fujifilm HS10 1920×1080 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 12.7MB, 7 secs .mov File size: 15.1MB, 8 secs .mov File size: 17.3MB, 10 secs .mov

Like the Casio the Fujifilm HS10 offers high speed video recording. We'd be surprised if all three CMOS cameras in this test aren't using the same sensor and it's therefore not a surprise that the high speed video specs are almost identical. Below you can see examples for video taken at 120 and 480 fps. As you can see from the slightly darker exposure of the right video for this type of videography bright light levels are essential (our scene was lit with one of our studio lights). The HS10 also suffers slightly from the same 'jello-effect' as the other two CMOS cameras in this test, the Casio and the Nikon.

2.8MB, 16 secs .mov, 442 x 332 pixels @ 240fps 2.8MB, 33 secs .mov, 224 x 168 pixels @ 480 fps

Fujifilm S2500HD

The S2500HD arguably offers the most basic video mode in this group test. You turn the mode dial to movie mode, select the quality and press the shutter button to start/stop recording. That's it in terms of user control. Specification-wise the camera offers movie capture up to HD resolution (1280 x 720 pixels, 16:9 format) at 30 frames per second. The dated Motion JPEG codec produces fairly large files and you can use the optical zoom while recording (menu option). The maximum movie length is 15 minutes or 2GB. Sound is monaural.

The recorded motion is smooth but the image shows more grain and artifacts than most of the rivals. We also often found the camera trying to constantly refocus while recording a movie which results in small but visible focus shifts. Unlike its stablemate the HS10, on the S2500HD there is only a very short delay when pressing the shutter button to record a video.

Fujifilm S2500HD 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 20.4MB, 5 secs .avi File size: 27.5MB, 7 secs .avi File size: 30.9MB, 8 secs .avi

Kodak Z981

Like the Fujifilm S2500HD the Kodak offers 720p video recording with monaural sound and no manual controls (no exposure compensation). However, its movies use the more advanced H.264 codec which results in much smaller file sizes without any visible loss of image quality. The maximum recording time is 29 minutes and the optical zoom can be operated while filming. There is a noticeable shutter delay but it is short enough that you won't miss any special moments. The Kodak records smooth motion but the image shows relatively strong compression artifacts and also some grain, even in good light.

Kodak Z981 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 7.9MB, 6 secs .mov File size: 8.3MB, 6 secs .mov File size: 8.3MB, 6 secs .mov

Nikon P100

Like the Fujifilm HS10 the Nikon P100 offers 1080p full HD video recording (the first ever Nikon with this feature) and high-speed video at lower resolutions. Video footage uses the efficient H.264 codec and sound is captured in stereo (with wind noise filter option). The maximum recording time, regardless of the capacity of your memory card, is 29 minutes. The optical zoom is available and you can also select the focus and metering modes of your choice. Exposure compensation can applied before but not during recording.

The video image quality is excellent. The large output resolution makes for very detailed viewing and watching the P100 footage on a large screen is a pleasure. If your computer has got enough processing power motion is very smooth as well. Like on the Casio and Fujifilm HS10 you'll also find signs of the so-called 'jello-effect' on the Nikon P100. It's also good to keep in mind that there is a shutter delay of more than one second in video mode and that there is no preview of the 16:9 video framing on your LCD screen. You have to roughly guess the framing before you start recording at which point the framing will actually change to 16:9.

Nikon P100 1920×1080 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 15.6MB, 8 secs .mov File size: 15.3MB, 8 secs .mov File size: 15.8MB, 8 secs .mov

Like the other CMOS-sensor cameras in this group test the Nikon P100 has the option to shoot high-speed video (which results in a slow motion video when played at the standard 30 fps). However, while the Fujifilm and Casio offer a maximum speed of 1000 fps (albeit at a very low resolution) the Nikon's maximum setting is 240 fps. On the plus side the P100 also provides a 15fps option. Below you can see samples at 120 and 240 fps.

3.1MB, 8 secs .mov, 640 x 480 pixels @ 120 fps 1.4MB, 17 secs .mov, 320 x 240 pixels @ 240 fps

Panasonic FZ35

The Panasonic FZ35 offers movie capture up to HD resolution (1280 x 720 pixels, 16:9 format) at 30 frames per second in either AVCHD Lite format (ideal for playback on HD television sets) or Motion JPEG. When using the latter format video file size is limited to 2GB. In AVCHD Lite mode you can make use of the entire memory card capacity. In addition AVCHD is a very efficient format, producing high quality but small size video files. And indeed the Panasonic produces clean video files with very smooth motion. While most cameras in this test use optical image stabilization by default when recording video on the FZ35 it works just that little bit better, almost creating a 'steady-cam' feel.

The FZ35 is also one of the few compact cameras that comes with manual control over shutter speed and aperture in video which increases the scope for creativity. You can also apply exposure compensation before and use the zoom during recording. The zoom slows down in movie mode to reduce zoom noise and give the AF more time to adjust as the focal length changes. As a general rule zooming is best avoided while recording video but it works pretty well on the FZ35. There is also a built-in stereo microphone which results in a noticeably clearer and more 'dynamic' sound recording than most of the rivals. Background noise can be reduced with the wind-cutter function. There is a noticeable shutter delay in video mode.

Below you can download three samples in AVCHD format which can be played with the free VLC player. Please note that the artifacts that are visible on some of the cogs in the first video are not visible when the video is played on Apple's iMovie software or directly to a TV.

Panasonic FZ35 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 7.6MB, 5 secs .mts File size: 9.5MB, 5 secs .mts File size: 20.6MB, 11 secs .mts

Pentax X90

The Pentax X90's video mode is a very straightforward affair. Turn the mode dial to movie mode, press the shutter button to start and stop recording. If required you can apply some exposure compensation beforehand but that's pretty much the only control available. The X90 offers movie capture up to HD resolution (1280 x 720 pixels, 16:9 format) at 30 frames per seconds and monaural sound. It uses the comparatively inefficient Motion JPG codec which results in pretty large file sizes. Nevertheless the 2GB maximum file sizes allows you the recording of single scenes long enough for most occasions.

The video image quality is, compared to the competition in this test, very grainy. This becomes even more obvious if you watch your videos on a larger screen. Motion is smooth though but the Pentax's Movie SR image stabilization is not quite as good as some rivals in this test. This means that, depending on the focal length you're shooting at, your video can also appear a little shaky. The optical zoom is not available in movie mode and there is a short but noticeable shutter delay.

Pentax X90 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 20.3MB, 6 secs .avi File size: 25.2MB, 8 secs .avi File size: 22.2MB, 7 secs .avi

Samsung HZ25W

The Samsung HZ25W is another camera in this group test with a fairly basic movie mode. It offers the now standard 720p HD resolution in combination with the fairly efficient H.264 codec which creates smaller file sizes than Motion JPG. Single clips are limited to a length of 20 minutes and, apart from exposure compensation which can be applied before you start recording, there are no manual controls. The optical zoom is available in movie mode. The shutter delay is noticeable but not long enough to be problematic.

The movie image quality is, together with the Pentax, the worst in this test. The Samsung's movie files show smooth motion but are comparatively grainy and we also noticed slight exposure shifts which can sometimes almost result in a 'flickering effect' (see video number three below).

Samsung HZ25W 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 7.6MB, 6 secs .mp4 File size: 7.7MB, 6 secs .mp4 File size: 8.9MB, 7 secs .mp4
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