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Video

These days, as more and more consumers are coming to compact digital cameras from cell phones, movie mode is one of those features that is an expected part of the camera's specification, rather than a nice addition. Video specification is fast becoming one of the key differentiators between compact digital cameras, and all of the models in this test offer at least 720p video recording - the minimum specification that can be given the all-important (from a marketing perspective) 'High Definition' label. The Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5 even offers 'true' HD video of 1080p, which is a world away from the VGA resolution maximum which was standard in compact cameras for so long.

These pages are based around three samples per camera, all shot at their respective highest quality settings (highest resolution, lowest compression, and AVCHD/Lite format in the two cameras where it is available) with all other settings at default. The three scenes that we've created are intended to show how well the cameras capture various moving subjects, from the fast (the ball bearings in our Newton's cradle) to the slow (the colored cogs on our child's game).

The three targets are shot at different focal lengths, handheld. By shooting handheld, we have an opportunity to assess how good these cameras are at minimizing camera shake, as well as how prone the cameras are to picking up handling sounds.

A note on all cameras: We assessed video files from all of these models on a top-end desktop computer with a powerful graphics card and an HD LCD display. Footage from all cameras in this group played back with no 'jerkiness' or pauses. If you experience issues playing back these files, you're seeing the limitations of your hardware/internet connection.

Canon Powershot SX210 IS

The SX210IS offers movie capture in a choice of three resolutions, 320x240px, 640x480px (VGA) and 1280x720p (HD) with stereo sound. It is possible to zoom the lens during video shooting, but the zoom action is much slower in video mode than it is when used in still capture. This helps to keep the footage nice and smooth, and also reduces the sound of the zooming motor to the point where it is all but unnoticeable on the soundtrack of the footage. It can be frustrating, though, if you want to zoom in or out quickly.

Video from the SX210 looks really good. The Canon coped very well with all of our tests, and even when faced with movement, pausing the playback reveals crisp and accurately rendered detail, with natural motion blur. At default settings in our test environment, the Canon has delivered accurate white balance, too, and colors are rendered accurately. Of slight concern is the camera's propensity to pick up background noise (in the case of our test environment this is the gentle hum of a studio light's cooling fan) and the somewhat wayward image stabilization. Overall though, an excellent performance.

Canon SX210 IS 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 30MB, 10 secs .mov File size: 20MB, 6 secs .mov File size: 30MB, 10 secs .mov

Casio Exilim FH-100

The Casio Exilim FH-100 has one of the most advanced video specifications of any camera in this group, and as well as 'conventional' 720p HD video with stereo sound, it is also able to capture high speed movie footage up to 1000fps. If you don't need 1000fps, there are three other 'high speed' options available - 120fps (at VGA resolution), 240fps (at 448x336px), and 420fps (224x168px). All are recorded without sound, and the highest 1000fps setting is limited to 224x64px, which effectively reduces it to the status of a 'stunt' setting - fun to try, but essentially un-useful.

Here, we've shown samples shot at the maximum resolution of 1280x720p, but beneath these thumbnails you'll see download links for sample files shot at all of the high speed settings.

The Casio gives perhaps the best quality video footage of all the cameras in this group, when set to its maximum 720p resolution. Detail is sharp and very well-defined, and motion is smooth and fluid. Exposure and white balance are spot on too, and although the Casio didn't do as well as some of its competitors in our image stabilization tests, video footage from the FH-100 is acceptably stable. The Casio does a good job of minimizing background noise, too.

Casio FH-100 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 35.6MB, 10 secs .avi File size: 20MB, 6 secs .avi File size: 36.4.8MB, 10 secs .avi

Click here to download sample video shot at 120fps
Click here to download sample video shot at 240fps
Click here to download sample video shot at 420fps
Click here to download sample video shot at 1000fps

Fujifilm Finepix F80 EXR

The Fujifilm Finepix F80 EXR offers HD video recording of 1280x720px with monoaural sound, with a lower-resolution VGA (640x480px) option also available. The lens's optical zoom works during video shooting, and unlike the Canon SX210IS the zoom is not damped, but operates at its full speed. This is great from the point of view of speed, because it allows you to quickly reframe a shot, but as the lens zooms the focus is thrown completely out, and takes a moment to reacquire.

Autofocus options are fairly basic, with a choice of single or continuous AF. Single AF is effectively AF lock, since half-pressing the shutter button whilst capturing video footage (as if to initiate AF) actually stops video recording. A white balance adjustment option is also available.

Video footage from the F80 isn't the best of the cameras in this group, by any means. Movies are short on fine detail, and frame to frame, the footage is slightly soft. More distracting is the moire patterning visible in the fenceposts of our model train shot. However, despite these issues, the F80's video files are nice and smooth, and the moving targets that we've shot in these three clips are rendered accurately.

Fuji F80 EXR 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 34MB, 10 secs .avi File size: 21.5MB, 6 secs .avi File size: 27.7MB, 10 secs .avi

Fujifilm Finepix JZ500

The JZ500 offers almost exactly the same video specification as the F80 EXR (see above) with the exception of an additional '320' mode, which allows movies to be captured at a low resolution of 320x240px. Autofocus options are the same too, and the JZ500 also suffers from the same loss of focus when the lens is zoomed. The main difference in the JZ500's video implementation compared to the F80 EXR is that you don't have control over white balance in the JZ500, and the camera is limited to AWB only when capturing movie footage.

Video footage shot with the JZ500 is effectively indistinguishable from clips produced by the F80 EXR. Movies are short on fine detail, and frame to frame, the footage is slightly soft. More distracting is the moire patterning visible in the fenceposts of our model train shot. However, despite these issues, the JZ500's video files are nice and smooth, and the moving targets that we've shot in these three clips are rendered accurately, with no distortion or 'jello effect'.

Fuji JZ500 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 21.5MB, 10 secs .avi File size: 24.6MB, 6 secs .avi File size: 34MB, 10 secs .avi

Kodak EasyShare Z950

As the glowing red 'HD' logo on its topplate proudly proclaims, the EasyShare Z950 shoots high definition (720p) video, with monoaural sound. Two lower resolution capture modes are also available, 640x480p (VGA) and 320x240p. The Kodak's internal memory is adequate for 26 seconds of VGA quality footage, or a little over a minute at 320x240 resolution, but if you want to shoot HD video you'll need to install a memory card.

The 35-350mm optical zoom can be used whilst shooting video files, and like the Canon SX210IS, the zoom motion is considerably slower and smoother than it is when shooting stills. Autofocus can be switched between continuous and single AF modes, but again, like the Fuji cameras, single AF doesn't allow focus to be reacquired during filming.

At a casual glance, the Kodak delivers some of the sharpest video footage of all of the cameras in this group, but when viewed on a large computer screen, it is clear that this is oversharpening. Pausing the playback reveals slight haloing around high-contrast detail, and 'jaggies' can be seen on edges. Compression artefacts are also very visible when the video footage is examined frame-by-frame, but this is much less noticeable when the video is played back at normal speed.

Kodak EZ950 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 17MB, 10 secs .avi File size: 10.4MB, 6 secs .avi File size: 17MB, 10 secs .avi

Nikon Coolpix S8000

The Nikon Coolpix S8000 offers three video recording options - QVGA (320x240), VGA (640x480) and 720p HD. Autofocus can be set to single or 'full-time' (continuous), and sound is recorded in stereo, using the inbuilt microphones on the camera's top plate. It is possible to zoom in and out when shooting video, but only digitally, not optically. The equivalent zoom range is a mere 2x.

Another frustration with the S8000's video mode is that because video shooting is enabled with a single press of the red-dotted movie button, the 16:9 format frame for 720p video is not previewed on the screen before shooting is commenced. This quickly proved infuriating when shooting the video comparisons in this test, but may be of no consequence to most photographers in normal use.

Video footage from the S8000 looks great, and detail is very well rendered compared to some of the other cameras in this group. Compression artefacts aren't noticeable, and footage is nice and smooth, and in our test environment, it is virtually noise free. Exposure and white balance are accurate too, and colors are natural without being too over or undersaturated. Our main concern is with the soundtrack, which (in our test sample at least) features a high pitched whistling sound, at the very upper register of our hearing.

Nikon Coolpix S8000 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 10.7MB, 10 secs .MOV File size: 5MB, 6 secs .MOV File size: 11MB, 10 secs .MOV

Olympus Stylus 9010

Like the Nikon S8000, the Olympus Stylus 9010 has a dedicated video shooting button, rather than a selectable video mode. As such (and again, like the S8000) the video framing is not previewed on the LCD screen prior to the commencement of video shooting. Video can be recorded in a choice of three resolutions, QVGA, VGA and HD (720p), but it is not possible to zoom the lens during video shooting.

Nor is it possible to use AF, since the 9010 locks focus prior to video shooting, making it advisable to shoot movies at the widest angle lens setting for best depth of field, rather than risk out of focus footage. In fact, it isn't possible to do anything during video shooting, since with the exception of the start/end video button, all of the other controls are disabled.

The Olympus gives disappointing results in video mode compared to the other cameras in this test. Although motion is recorded smoothly, the footage has a jerky appearance, which is caused by the Olympus's somewhat unresponsive image stabilization. The model train shot also shows a slight flickering, where the camera has picked up the pulsing of a fluorescent light in our studio. Detail capture isn't as high as some of the other cameras in our group either, and frame to frame, footage is soft enough to make some of the detail in our targets look smudged.

Olympus Stylus 9010 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 fps
Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)
File size: 16.4MB, 10 secs .MP4 File size: 10.5MB, 6 secs .MP4 File size: 17MB, 10 secs .MP4

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