Fairly impressed with the HD quality HMX20

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Fairly impressed with the HD quality HMX20 Powered By Docstoc
					1. Coverage can be found online at:
http://www.futurelooks.com/samsung-sc-hmx20c-high-definition-digital-camcorderreview/

2. Reviewed: Article by: Stephen Fung Product was submitted by: Samsung Electronics Canada, Inc.

Samsung SC-HMX20C High Definition Digital Camcorder Review

Earlier this spring, we reviewed Samsung’s SC-HMX10A, an HD camcorder that gave us a 1080i resolution, touch screen controls and photo functionality, all in a package not much bigger than a Coke Can. Although we were fairly impressed with the HD quality of the playback, especially via the built in HDMI port, we found the camera function to be a fairly useless feature that ended up being a “miss the moment” rather than “capture the moment” feature. Has Samsung succeeded in improving on their previous work with the introduction of the Samsung SC-HMX20C? Let’s find out!

What’s New in the SC-HMX20C?

1/10

Compared to its predecessor, the SC-HMX10A, the SC-HMX20C moves up to a full 1080p, which seems to have no affect on it’s recording time compared to 1080i on this unit. Both resolutions give you approximately 71 minutes of maximum quality HD on the 8GB of internal memory vs the 4GB of internal memory on the SC-HMX10A. The SC-HMX20C also ads in a slow motion capture feature that allows you to take 10 second clips at 60 fps for those more dramatic slow motion moments. When you play back a 10 second clip, it actually stretches itself back out to 50 seconds. The results look very similar to some cameras that record 300 fps clips. I was curious to see if they improved the somewhat limited camera functionality. Although you still can’t push the button to immediately take a picture (it just beeps at you saying no now), they did implement something called “Dual Recording” which essentially allows you to take a still capture while recording in any of the video recording modes. Of course, this means you are limited to the resolution that you are recording and you can’t just hit the photo button without recording. Still limited, but at least they’re trying to improve it. Samsung also adds a real flash to the camera and a Megapixel upgrade from 1.61 to 6.4 (4.0 effective) gives the camera improved resolution for stills. More specific information can be found in the Samsung SC-HMX20C manual which can be downloaded here.

What’s Inside the Box?

2/10

Compared to the SC-HMX10A, the packaged essentials are identical. Samsung still doesn’t throw in an HDMI cable for you, but they have included the regular AV cables, component video cables, Cyberlink HD Software CD and manual CD, power adapter, cradle, remote control, carrying bag and of course, the SC-HMX20C itself.

One notable addition to the bundled package was the inclusion of these core filters that were not included with the SC-HMX10A. The instructions ask you to attach them to the power adapter, AV Cable and the non existent HDMI cable. Although I never did end up using them, I guess they are nice to have.

Physically Speaking

3/10

When you first pull the SC-HMX20C out of the box, I couldn’t help but notice how much heavier the unit was compared to the SC-HMX10A. All the extra weight was clearly loaded into the much larger lens. The f/1.8 - 6.3 lens sported a rather long 63mm focal length which isn’t great for anything but outdoor shots or shots in open spaces. In testing there were many circumstances where I simply could not back up enough to get subjects in the shot. It just annoyed me to no end and I really wonder if the engineer really did spec that lens or if the bean counters picked it because they were on sale. A totally impractical lens for anything but outdoor use. Think about it. If I’m standing in front of you, I see your head. When I put the Samsung up to my face, can no longer see your head and you’re out of the frame. Instead of using the same top loading mechanism for memory and batteries, Samsung went to a hatch on the rear of the unit that made it possible to load up without removing your hand from the grip. This made it much easier to change SD cards or batteries without having to undo yourself. The SC-HMX10A required you to unstrap yourself so definitely a step in the right direction.

Speaking of the strap, I did find the strap rather uncomfortable on the SC-HMX10A. Samsung has softened up the material with an upgrade to a suede-like unit that greatly improves on comfort. The great rotating grip returns allowing you to customize the fit to allow you to reach all the buttons with ease.

4/10

Samsung added the nice touch of a sliding door to cover up the AV output and USB port on the side of the camera. They even gold plated them. However, one thing that they took away was the inclusion of the HDMI port. On the SC-HMX10A, you would find an HDMI port there, which would be handy to have on a 1080p HD camcorder. I mean, last time I checked, composite cables didn’t output an HD signal and HDMI makes more sense than component for 1080p output. To add insult to injury, I found out that the only way to use the HDMI output is through the cradle only. Even worse, you actually have to plug the power cable to activate it. I’m sure there’s some sort of technical reason, but how come it could be accomplished with the SC-HMX10A and not the SC-HMX20C? Having to drag that cradle around really puts a damper on the portability factor.

Although they covered up some stuff, they left the most vulnerable part uncovered. The port on the bottom of the camera which is responsible for allowing you to connect to the docking station that harbours the HDMI output is totally left to fend for itself. It far more likely to get damaged getting placed on top of a liquid spill or in something gross than the ports being covered by the LCD most of the time. Like the long 63mm lens, I wonder if the engineers really choice to exclude it from the final product because it sure doesn’t make any sense to me to cover one and not the other.

5/10

Setting Things Up
There really isn’t much to get going on the SC-HMX20C to make it go. Once you’ve got the strap tightened and the battery charged up (takes about 100 minutes), you’re good to go. Samsung guest mates about 85 minutes for all HD recording and 90 minutes for SD. You might as well record in HD all the time. As mentioned earlier, the 8GB’s of storage onboard does give you roughly 71 minutes of recording in HD so it’s almost a perfect match. The unit does support up to a 32GB external SD/MMC/SDHC memory card so if you grab a couple more batteries, you could be recording for a long time. We found Samsung’s estimates to be fairly close and slightly conservative. When it comes to MAC compatibility, there are some real question marks around that, especially since the manual says that the SC-HMX20C isn’t compatible with OSX. Well, I can confirm without a doubt, if you’re a fan of Steve Job’s OS of choice, you’ll have no problems using this camcorder in your iMovie 08 or iMovie HD endeavours. No software installation is required as the camera is mounted like any USB drive. Both iMovie versions process the HD, SD, and Slo-Mo files flawlessly. For Windows OS users, you’ll have to install the included Cyberlink HD software to work with the files properly. The Cyberlink software bundle isn’t actually bad at all and features a lot of different features that will help you stretch your creative muscles. However, I do find it funny that the unsupported OS seems to work the best with this camcorder out of the box. Go figure. Pictures are comparatively easy as you can simply grab them off the camcorder and use your favourite photo editing software.

Cool Features and Creepy Ones Too
The touch screen interface on the Samsung SC-HMX20C is responsive and easy to use. There isn’t very much that you need to figure out to at least get pointing and shooting. Here are a few things that caught my eye.

Back are the manual features like focus, white balance, exposure and shutter speed. Focus is pretty much pointless on a digital camcorder these days, but Samsung did try something a little fancy with this feature that I was quite surprised with.

6/10

Samsung has implemented something called Touch Focus which basically works in conjunction with the touch screen to allow you to choose by the tap of your finger what you want the camera to focus on. The function is quite good and seems to refocus on the subject that you choose quite quickly. This is useful in crowds where you might only want to focus on one person, and not necessarily the person closest to you.

On the creepy side, the firmware on our unit allowed you to shut off the recording light so you can record without anyone knowing you’re recording. Ahh…those crazy Koreans! On the other hand, all the best shots are the ones you don’t get when people know they are being recorded. I’m not sure if this feature will make it into the final version, but who knows. I’m pretty sure there is a law somewhere that this breaks. The remote control still continues to be one of my favourite things about the Samsung HD camcorders. It’s responsive and easy to take with you. Combined with the recording light shut off and I’m sure you can use your imagination.

Picture Please?
Let’s start with the nasty business first shall we…

7/10

The camera function was one of my biggest pet peeves of the older SC-HMX10A. I actually went as far as calling it a useless feature. Yes, the whole thing and Samsung still isn’t off the hook with this new SC-HMX20C. Although it is clear that they’ve given this photo feature some more teeth by including a real flash and allowing snapshots while recording (up to 1920×1080 resolution), it’s still not a seamless feature that allows you to get the shot when you need to. You can only take full quality shots when you make the change from video to photo mode and it is this disconnect that can cost you the shot in that moment. Although I appreciate them trying to improve it, I would still rather see Samsung concentrate on the camcorder functions and get that perfect first instead of dividing their attention. People don’t want to buy a compromise.

Roll Camera

As an HD Camcorder touting 1080p, expectations are high. I mean, it’s definitely no Flip Mino where expectations are pretty low in terms of picture quality. However, HD performance doesn’t disappoint and 1080p is excellent outside in the daylight and well lit areas. Where it seems to go south, and this is pretty much any camcorder, is in lowlight conditions. Subjects start to look blotchy in the dim light and coupled with the image stabilization, people seem to drift briefly before focus locks in the dim light. 480p performance was similar in these regards. Although the slo-

8/10

motion feature was a cool feature, the limit of 10 seconds and the fact that you couldn’t record in high definition was a little disappointing. Not to mention, you can’t make the picture 16:9 in the Slo-Mo mode, which makes your cuts and transitions a little strange when the rest of your footage is 16:9. The zoom is very quick and responsive. What I also noticed was how easy it is to feather in the zoom by gently toggling the lever. This was unexpected and was a welcome feature and works particularly well with the image stabilization when zoomed right out to prevent the shakes. Having said that, what my biggest gripe about the SC-HMX20C was absolutely was the lens selection. At a 63mm wide end, instead of looking at someone, you are looking through them. If Samsung could get a 50mm or shorter lens on there, it would make this camera a lot better suited to more intimate settings where everyone is close together. I had to back up way too much to get everyone in the frame. As a result, there were many cut off heads.

Sound Check
For the most part, sound quality was on par with the SC-HMX10A. Using a set of stereo mics embedded under the lens, the sound is clear and detailed. However, when you start to zoom out from that long 63mm lens, it starts to pick up all the background noise around you. The SC-HMX20C does have a wind filter that you can turn on, but it doesn’t do much when you’re zoomed in on your subject. Luckily, like its predecessor, someone at Samsung was on the ball and put an external microphone jack in the back of the unit. This will allow you to use an external microphone, or if you have the extra bucks, an aftermarket shotgun mic would go a long way in improving your pinpoint accuracy when zoomed out.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to keep this really short. If I was Samsung, I would immediately stop trying to make this into a camera/camcorder and make it into a camcorder. For me, there is just too much to work on to the camera to work like a regular extension of your creativity. Having to switch modes to get the high quality shots is frustrating. I do recognize Samsung for trying to drop in the capture mode while recording, but that’s totally a compromise and isn’t anything that you can’t do in post production when you view your footage. Most good software already supports screenshots.

9/10

In the end, the Samsung SC-HMX20C takes great high definition video, particularly when you’re out in the wide open spaces and in decent light. Samsung is so close to having a great all around camcorder, but their reluctance to let go of the useless camera function, I feel, really holds this product back from greatness. Having said that, it’s still one of the most comfortable, compact, HD digital camcorders out there and the the user interface is easy enough to use that most people can just pick it up and go with it. Despite the strong criticism of this product in some areas, if used to its strengths, it is definitely a product worth considering. At $849 US, it definitely is one of the less expensive and more compact full 1080p digital camcorders out there which really turn it into a good all around value.

Pros
       A sturdy and well built product Thanks for the useful remote control Comfortable compact size makes filming a joy Slo-Motion feature is cool for those EPIC moments Digging the record light cut off for those stealth recording missions Very easy to use and figure out for an HD camcorder Great touchscreen LCD interface. Very dialed.

Cons
    The camera side of this duo has got to go Lens is far too long to be practical in close quarters We require more EPIC slo-mo time and we need it in HD Some low light performance issues

Overall Rating: 8.0 / 10.0

10/10


				
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posted:11/28/2008
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