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.

Unusually for a camera launched into this sector of the market the movie mode is restricted to 320 x 240 pixels (at 15 or 30 fps), which is a quarter the size of the VGA mode offered by virtually all the SP-500UZ's competitors.

Overall quality is pretty good and exposure is excellent and responds quickly to changes in scene brightness, though the continuous focus can struggle to keep up when you're filming at the long end of the zoom. The QuickTime .MOV files are fairly small (averaging around 0.7MB per second) - though they are slightly larger if you use the image stabilizer.

You can use the optical zoom during filming, but only if you shoot without sounds (sound on/off is an option in the mode menu). You can also enable and use the digital zoom, which is better than nothing, though the quality drops significantly if you do zoom in digitally.

As with stills you can adjust the amount of on-screen information displayed when shooting movies from very basic (remaining time) to fairly comprehensive - but you can't use the grids or view a histogram.
In movie mode you have options for size / quality (320 x 240 pixels at 15 or 30 fps), digital zoom (on/off), digital image stabilization (which does a fairly good job of smoothing out some of the jitters), white balance, ISO, AF mode, AE compensation and sharpness, contrast and saturation. You can also choose whether sound is recorded or not (if not you can use the zoom during recording).
During recording the movie icon turns red and a countdown timer appears showing how many minutes' worth of space you've got left on the card.
In playback mode a thumbnail of the first frame of the movie appears when scrolling through saved images. Again you can alter the amount of information overlaid (though there's no histogram option).
You have to press the menu button and choose the 'play movie' option to watch your movies on the camera's screen. The only controls offered are fast-forward and rewind, plus volume up and down.
The SP-500UZ has rudimentary movie editing controls (for trimming footage from the start or end of each clip).

Sample movies

320 x 240 pixels @ 30fps
9.2 seconds
File size: 5.77 MB

Showing use of zoom and digital image stabilizer (no sound).

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

320 x 240 pixels @ 30fps
4.3 seconds
File size: 2.97 MB

Shot at mid zoom (60mm equiv. approx) with image stabilizer turned off.

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