Other useful features include a moveable AF aiming point which can be positioned anywhere in the frame, a live exposure histogram, and the unique shooting data monitor display that tells you not only the exposure settings but also the focusing range and depth of field. This screen, shown in the picture of the back of the camera, looks horrifyingly complicated, but once you figure out what it all means it is extremely useful.
The EX-P505 isn’t a cheap camera, in fact at around £315 it is in the upper end of the market for 5MP models, but it does have a lot to offer for the money not least its extraordinary movie modes. Effectively a hybrid still/movie camera, the EX-P505 comes as close as anything on the market to competing with dedicated digital video camcorders for quality and features. It is the only digital still camera I have ever seen that can shoot movies with stereo sound, through two small microphones on the top of the flash housing. Movies are recorded in full 640 x 480 pixel VGA quality at 30 frames per second, and are saved in the near-DVD quality MPEG-4 video compression format straight onto the memory card. A 256MB SD card gives over eight minutes of shooting time.
The camera has four movie modes. The standard mode simply starts recording when you press the button and stops when you press it again. The short movie mode records a clip of up to eight seconds, but several of these clips can be seamlessly strung together as a montage. The Best Shot movie mode offers five special settings for portrait movies, landscape movies, night scenes, fireworks and silent black & white movies. However it is the Past Movie mode that is the really clever part. In this mode the camera is continuously recording video to its memory buffer so that it can effectively begin recording five seconds before you press the shutter button, so you’ll never have to miss the action because you weren’t ready. Movies can be cut and spliced in the camera, and single frames can be isolated and saved as still images.
This barely leaves us with enough room to mention the camera’s still picture performance, but if you look at the accompanying sample shots you’ll get a good idea of what it can do. Picture quality is generally superb, although the automatic white balance seemed to be a bit hit-and-miss, producing a noticeable colour cast on some images with very bright or dominant colours, however using the easily accessible pre-set white balance options corrected this problem. Focusing and exposure were accurate, image noise is well controlled and the level of detail is extremely good for a 5MP camera. The 1cm focusing macro mode is particularly good, producing superb close-up results. There is some barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the zoom range, but nothing too severe.
A little on the expensive side for a 5MP camera, but the impressive stills performance, easily accessible creative features and some outstanding and unique movie modes – including stereo sound – make the Exilim EX-P505 a unique and appealing model for the more advanced user. It manages to fit in more features than most cameras twice its size