Movie mode

Now let's move on to the DMC-ZS15's movie mode, which Panasonic still calls Motion Picture mode. The ZS15 can record Full HD video (1920 x 1080) at 60 interlaced frames per second. The sensor is outputting 30 frames/second, so it's not true 60i. If you want smoother video, you can also record at 720/60p. The AVCHD codec allows you to keep recording until the elapsed time reaches 30 minutes. Monaural sound is recorded along with the video.

If you want to avoid AVCHD entirely -- which you might, since it's difficult to edit and share -- then you can also use MPEG-4 (a step up from Motion JPEG used on previous models). You can record video at 1920 x 1080, 1280 x 720 and 640 x 480, all at 30 frames/second. Do note that recording stops when the file size reaches 4GB, which takes about 25 minutes at the 1080/30p setting.

As with its predecessor, the ZS15 lets you use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie. The lens moves slowly, so the noise from the motor is not picked up by the microphone. The optical image stabilization system works, as well, with an "active" mode that helps suppress severe camera shake. The camera can focus continuously while recording a movie, to help keep your subjects in focus, whereever they are.

Video recording is a point-and-shoot experience on the ZS15, with no manual controls (unless a wind filter counts). If you're in Intelligent Auto mode, the camera will pick a movie scene mode for you. The camera's Creative Filters are also available for videos. If you want to take a still image while you're recording you can take up to fifteen still photos of them, albeit at 3.5 Megapixel.

Sample Video 1:

Below is a sample movie recorded at the highest quality setting (1080/60i). I converted it for web viewing with Final Cut Pro X, and I've included a link to the original MTS file if you want to view it your own way.

Download original AVCHD file (36.7 MB, 1920 x 1080 @ 60i, MTS format)

Sample Video 2:

This clip, shot at the long end of the ZS15's zoom, shows how effective it's optical image stabilization system is in keeping everything nice and stable. Footage is pleasantly smooth and detailed, too. As you can hear though, the ZS15's built-in mic has picked up plenty of background noise - more or less inevitable with a scene like this, where the subject is so far away from the camera.

Download original AVCHD file (38.9 MB, 1920 x 1080 @ 60i, MTS format)