Samsung has seriously upped its game with the arrival of this 1920x1080 flash-memory camcorder. The company can no longer be criticised for being competitive on price but not bringing anything new to the table in terms of design or features.
Design-wise the VP-HMX20 is all rounded corners and alluring curves, with the button count kept low because of that touchscreen LCD.
The touchscreen can be used for face detection and for focus tracking of a subject, which you select by touching the screen. Okay, you’ll have to live with fingerprint smudges on the LCD, but we’ll take that in exchange for being able to whizz through the menus.
On the down side, the HMX20 does feel heavy and even a little unbalanced when shooting, and its HD video lens is weighty. This is counteracted a little by a swivelling handgrip that can be pivoted into a range of positions helping redistribute weight, but it’s more productive just to hold the camcorder in a different way.
Super slow motion
Shooting modes have been trimmed to four resolutions. A 1920x1080 25p progressive mode gives footage a little of that film ‘look’, while the 1920x1080 50i is a more standard Full HD setting.
There’s also a 720x576 50p resolution and a slow motion option. Go for the latter one and you record for 10 seconds at 250fps at ½, ¼ or 1/8 speed. User manuals tell you this is for golf swings – but it’s far better to use as a creative function when you want something quirky.
The 8GB flash memory seems puny when compared to hard drive models from Sony, Canon and Panasonic that all show up with in excess of 40GB. Flash is more durable than HDD, though – which can be susceptible to bumps – and the HMX20’s memory can be expanded with SD and MMC cards.
Not a smooth operator
While it’s unlikely to storm awards ceremonies, you can derive pleasure from the Samsung HMX20’s footage. The low-light performance is better than a clutch of more expensive models, though there’s still a lot of grain in footage, and the autofocus is generally solid.
Naturally, there’s the odd misstep: the audio sounds tinny and there is picture noise on complex scenes. There’s also a lack of smooth movement at the maximum resolution, which is a real disappointment.
Some of these concerns are addressed by handy terminals, including an external microphone input and a full-size HDMI connection on the supplied docking station.
But add those picture problems to that unbalanced, weighty feel and there are nagging doubts surrounding the HXM20 that even the excellent LCD screen can’t quite rescue. A good try, but no cigars this time.