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Samsung SC-HMX20C

>> Thursday, August 20, 2009

With its attractive, well rounded, capsule shaped body, Samsung SC-HMX20C looks pretty slick, but its design makes it a bit awkward to hold. The curve of the camera makes one handed operation tricky, it's difficult to keep a steady grip, since you have to slightly unwrap your fingers to reach key recording controls like start and stop and zoom. Alternatively, you can swivel the right handed grip backward to a 45 degree angle but that just makes tapping the main controls on top of the camcorder even more awkward.

There's no optical viewfinder, but the 2.7 inch LCD touch screen offers a wide viewing angle and a responsive user interface. Samsung SC-HMX20C duplicates its zoom and recording controls to the left of the display. If you use these controls instead of the ones up top, you may be able to keep a steadier grip with your right hand. Samsung earns points for compactness; the 1.01 pound camcorder measures only 2.60 by 2.65 by 5.47 inches (HWD). Like Sony's HDR-SR11, Samsung SC-HMX20C features face detection technology while you're shooting, a green box tracks faces within the frame.

In my test shots, the camera had no trouble quickly identifying and autofocusing on faces. You get a 10X zoom lens, which is standard for the majority of models in this price range, though the aforementioned Sony gives you 12X. Like most camcorders in this price range, this Samsung uses a CMOS sensor with a focal length of 6.3mm to 63mm, with f-stops at f/1.8 and f/2.8. It captures still images of up to 4 megapixels. According to Samsung, Samsung SC-HMX20C can store 3 hours 10 minutes of video at highest quality (1.920 by 1.080 interlaced at 60 frames per second).

For additional storage, there's a slot for MMC+ or SD Memory cards (card not included). Like any tapeless camcorder, playback on the Samsung is a dream. You can quickly jump between segments of video with hours between them (like skipping through chapters on a DVD). A tape based camcorder like the Canon Vixia HV30, on the other hand, forces you to rewind and fast forward, the same way you'd cue up a VHS tape.

Video recorded by Samsung SC-HMX20C doesn't look bad not, that is, until you compare it with the Canon and Sony models with the same resolution (1.920 by 1.080i). The overall color tone of video is quite dark and underexposed. Footage shot heading down a subway staircase, for example, was extremely dark and showed no detail at all. In the same shot, the Canon and Sony footage picked up shadows and small cracks in the walls.

The Canon and Sony models record in AVCHD format, which creates larger files with more video information, while Samsung SC-HMX20C records in the smaller MPEG 4 format. Samsung SC-HMX20C also has issues with purple fringing in high contrast areas a problem it shares with the Canon HV30 and the JVC Everio GZ-HD10. Purple halos outlined buildings against white clouds, and indoors, ceiling lights were outlined in purple. The Sony HDR-SR11 is the only camcorder of this bunch that showed absolutely no fringing.

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