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 the LX2 offers VGA (640 x 480 pixel) movies at 30fps, and if you switch to 16:9 mode you get the option to shoot unique 848 x 480 pixel widescreen movies (perfect for filling your plasma screen!), again at 10 or 30 fps. If you really want to go big you can shoot 'HD resolution' 1280x720 pixel movies, but as these are restricted to 15 frames per second they look jerky.

Overall quality is okay, though not fantastic (there are visible compression artifacts), and is helped a great deal by the steadying effect of the MEGA optical image stabilization. The M-JPEG files (Quicktime .MOV format) aren't immense - about 1.3 MB/sec for VGA and 1.6 MB/sec for widescreen (at 30fps), but you'll still need a big, fast card if you want to shoot extended movie sequences.

You cannot use the optical or digital zoom during filming.

On-screen information when recording movies is fairly basic - elapsed time and low battery warning. You can use AE compensation and white balance tuning (before you start shooting), but as mentioned above you can't zoom.
Pressing the menu button in movie mode brings up a cut-down version of the stills record menu, with the usual options for metering, focus, picture adjustments and movie size / frame rate. There are two or three options (frame rate, size) per aspect ratio.
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.
When viewing movies a set of controls appears in the bottom left corner of the frame allowing you to play, fast-forward and rewind and pause the movie.

Sample movies

848x480 pixels @ 30fps
5.15 seconds
File size: 8.5MB

Shot at wide angle (28mm 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 LX2 (and all other Panasonic models) works, and within reason it works well (I think the smaller body means it's less effective than the FZ models simply because there's more shake to deal with). 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 LX2 we found that - like the LX2- 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 1/15th 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 112mm 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'.

IS off IS mode 1 IS mode 2
1/15 sec, 136mm equiv.
IS off IS mode 1 IS mode 2
1/20 sec, 136mm equiv.