In the sub-£500 market, it's an equal mix of video-capable DSLRs versus compact system cameras. All four models tested here perform with some merit - and that's saying something when considering how primitive DSLR movie modes were upon their conception back in 2008. So which of our foursome is the best stills camera for video under the £500 mark?
First and foremost there's autofocus and focus control. No stills camera has got this quite perfect yet, and certainly not at this lower price point. The Canon EOS 1100D's autofocus isn't up to scratch for use during movie capture and, even though the Nikon D3100 is streets ahead in terms of autofocusing speed and AF-Area options, it's still not able to offer perfect transitions from one subject or focal plane to another. However, the variety of tracking options and a user-controllable focus point do make the D3100 the greatest success in this area, autofocus issues ignored.
Then there's the Samsung NX11 that's able to continuously autofocus and can do so with some accuracy, but the feedback on the screen is limited and AF-Area control non-existent.
It's the Olympus E-PL2 that wins in terms of its continuous focus capability - it's a camera that can elegantly glide between a close-up macro frame, then pan out to a wider shot and the focus will gently slide into place, usually without any focusing problems. It can take a little time to do so, but at least it does so with accuracy, though it's a shame there isn't more user control of where the focus is targeted.
Quality-wise, however, and that result is shaken up once again. The E-PL2's M-JPEG quality won't stand up to critical work and the AVI file format is large, yet the Olympus E-PL2 is the only camera of the four to offer manual exposure modes.
Despite the Full HD 1080p quality of the Nikon D3100 the final files look a little dull and the compression is too high. The Samsung NX11 suffers from too little data being streamed into its files, which results in so-so quality, plus the exposure metering is the least reliable as it 'jumps' between exposure values. Despite the Canon 1100D having the weakest autofocusing by far, its quality is marginally ahead of the others.
In short there's no one winner here. All the cameras have various issues, and there isn't one model that sweeps top prize in every important area. There are plenty of positives to be had too, of course, as all the cameras produce more-than-credible files. For continuous autofocus the E-PL2 is the most consistent, for focusing area options the D3100 has the most comprehensive range available at this price point, while it's the Canon 1100D's 720p final quality that packs in the most detail.