Sony has long been at the vanguard of high resolution movie modes in digital stills cameras, and the H2 continues the tradition with a 640 x 480-pixel, 30 fps MPEG movie mode limited in duration only by the capacity of the card in use. You need to use a Memory Stick PRO Duo if you want to shoot movies at the maximum size.
The movies are recorded in MPEG-1 format, which means they are small (much smaller than standard M-JPEG or AVI movies), but the small sizes come at a price. MPEG-1 movies use a much less efficient compression system than the more modern MPEG-4, which results in visible compression artefacts - take a look at the samples below and you'll see it's much worse in scenes shot at the wide end of the zoom with a lot of fine detail.
Overall quality using the fine setting isn't too bad (though the compression artefacts can sometimes be quite obvious), and you can keep shooting until the card runs out (this will give you about 12.5 minutes on a 1GB card at the 640 x 480-pixel / 30fps setting). Using the 'normal' quality produces files with distractingly visible compression artefacts, and I'd avoid using it.
The focus system tends to hunt a little when shooting videos at the long end of the zoom (though nowhere near as much as the H1 did), something you can only stop by switching to manual focus, which is a pain. A welcome change is the ability to zoom whilst filming.
|As with stills recording you can choose the amount of information overlaid on the live preview image (though there's no histogram). There is an EV compensation (lighter or darker) control in the bottom right of the screen.|
|In movie mode you get a slightly more basic set of menus offering options for metering pattern, white balance and picture effects (sepia, black and white). You can also choose from one of three movie settings; 640 x 480 pixels/15 or 30 fps and 180 x 120 pixels at 15 fps.|
|In playback mode you get some basic controls for playing movies, allowing you to play, pause, rewind and 'Divide' (cut clips into smaller chunks). Nothing fancy.|
|Dividing is a simple case of choosing the dividing point (annoyingly you can only move forwards and backwards in one second leaps) and clicking on OK. You are left with two movie clips.|