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 FX9 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.

Overall quality is good, with movies very smooth and showing little (if any) compression artifacts, and few focus errors. In fact, there's very little to complain about here. The QuickTime .MOV files are fairly large (though smaller than the AVI files captured by Canon compacts, for example) - they work out at around 1.3MB for every second of footage you capture at the largest size and highest frame rate.

You cannot use the optical or digital zoom while actually filming.

On-screen information when recording movies is fairly basic - remaining time (how much longer you can shoot until the card is full) and low battery warning. You cannot zoom or alter exposure during filming, but you can use AE-Compensation before you start.
The record menu in Movie mode is a cut-down version of the menu you get when shooting stills (the second page which isn't shown has the color effects options).
There are four quality/size settings; 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels at either 30 or 10 fps, and you can keep shooting until the card is full (streaming).
In playback mode a thumbnail of the first frame of the movie appears when scrolling through saved images. Press the down arrow to play movies. Interestingly you can view a histogram for the movie by pressing the DISPLAY. button. When the movie is playing you get basic play/pause, stop, fast-forward and rewind buttons, but no editing or trimming in-camera.

Sample movies

640x480 pixels @ 30fps
4.0 seconds
File size: 5.3MB

Shot at tele end of zoom (105mm equiv) plus 2x digital zoom

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

640x480 pixels @ 30fps
2.15 seconds
File size: 3.3MB

Shot at wide angle (35mm equiv.)

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

Image stabilization

The MEGA O.I.S image stabilization system used on the FX9 (and all other recent Panasonic models) works, though maybe not quite as effectively as it does on the FZ super zoom models (undoubtedly in part due to the size and body design of the FX9). There are two modes: Mode 1 (IS on all the time) and Mode 2 (IS is activated at the moment the exposure is made). Mode 1 makes framing easier - the IS system steadies the preview image, but is less than 100% effective when it comes to actually taking the pictures. Mode 2, which minimizes the amount of movement needed by waiting until the actual moment you press the shutter is supposed to be more effective.

In our extensive testing of the FX9 we found that - unlike the FZ5 and FZ20 - the difference between the two modes is less pronounced and less predictable.

Overall Mode 2 is still the most effective, allowing handheld shots at the wide end of the zoom down to around 1/4th of a second (if you're fairly steady-handed). But there were times when Mode 1 seemed to work better (specifically with extreme shake; long exposures or when using 105mm the long end of the zoom). In either case the IS has demonstrable benefits even in such a small camera and even at the wide end of the zoom, but there are limits to what it can do. Our advice when the shutter speeds falls below about 1/15 sec would be to take a few shots - at least one of them will be sharp enough to be a 'keeper'. It's also worth noting that using Mode 2 increases shutter lag noticeably.

IS off IS mode 1 IS mode 2
1/8 sec, 105mm equiv.
IS off IS mode 1 IS mode 2
1/8 sec, 40mm equiv. Macro Mode
IS off IS mode 1 IS mode 2
1/8 sec, 40mm equiv.