Movie mode

It would be a brave manufacturer these days that produced even a budget model without a basic movie mode, and movie capability is becoming an ever more important part of the buying decision with this type of camera. As is now the norm on cameras of this type the A640 offers a maximum movie size of 640x480 pixels - enough to fill most television screens at 30 frames per second. It also offers options to shoot at smaller sizes and lower frame rates. The 320 x 240 pixel 60fps High Frame Rate option offered by the A620 has been dropped.

Overall quality is good, with movies very smooth and showing few compression artefacts, though inevitably the quality drops a little if you use the digital zoom. The AVI files are large - at the best quality setting (640x480 / 30fps) you're burning around 1.7MB every second, so if you intend to shoot a lot of movies you're going to need to invest in some big, fast SD cards.

You cannot use the optical zoom during filming, but you can enable and use the 4x digital zoom, though you will see a distinct loss of quality if you do.

Here's the screen you see when you first turn the mode dial to movie mode. The left and right keys switch between the various movie mode presets: Standard, Compact, Color Accent ( the A620's 'Fast Frame Rate' mode has been dropped). Icons indicate the file size, frame rate, metering, white balance etc and the amount of recording time left on the card.
On-screen information when recording movies is fairly basic - elapsed time and low battery warning if necessary.
The FUNC menu gives you options for white balance, self-timer, movie size (640x480 or 320x240 pixels), frame rate (15 or 30 frames per second) and My Colors effects.
Pressing the menu button in movie recording allows you to change self-timer, AF-assist beam and digital zoom settings.
In playback mode a thumbnail of the first frame of the movie appears when scrolling through saved images. Press the FUNC/SET to play movies. You can view a histogram and full shooting information for the movie by pressing the DISP. button.
When viewing movies a set of controls appears along the bottom of the frame allowing you to play, jump to either end, pause (and move one frame at a time) and edit.
The edit functions are simple, but do at least allow you to free up a little more card space by trimming from the start or end of clips.

Sample movies

640x480 pixels @ 30fps
7.0 seconds
File size: 12.35 MB

Shot at wide angle (35mm equiv.)

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

640x480 pixels @ 30fps
6.05 seconds
File size: 11.2 MB

Shot at mid zoom (approx 70mm equiv.)

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)