Samsung HMX-R10BP £350
9th Jul 2009 | 13:44
A fun, versatile and affordable HD camcorder with a design twist
This full HD camcorder offers everything a 1920x1080 camcorder should offer, but with an interesting twist.
Picture the scene in the design department: the MD is demanding a camcorder that's got all the usual Full HD goodness, megapixels worth of still imaging, face detection tech AND a touchscreen LCD.
But he wants more – he wants this new camcorder to look and feel different; he wants it to be compact, ergonomic and, well, you heard him, different-looking.
And so here is the Samsung HMX-R10, a camcorder that isn't styled like a traditional palmcorder (think Panasonic's HDC-SD10) or even an upright model (such as the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000). Samsung has decided on a unique approach that sees the R10's f/3.5 lens tilted upwards by 25 degrees.
The idea is that this is a more logical design – in terms of how camcorders are held – and it promises to be more comfortable in the long run. And that's just how it works out.
Initially, you feel all at sea, and consequently end up holding the R10 either too high or too low. Once you're accustomed to the tilt, it's easy to shoot with, and the cam also still throws up the chance to record from intriguing angles.
The design crafty-ness doesn't stop there. Samsung has added a second record button and extra zoom controls onto the frame of the 2.7in touchscreen LCD.
Though they are smallish additions, they're incredibly practical – allowing you easy access to the features, as well as encouraging you to hold the LCD when you're shooting, for added support.
There's a range of HD and SD shooting modes on offer, with the maximum being the tantalising Full HD of 1920x1080, while digital stills can be snapped at 9MP (a further boost up to 12MP is delivered through interpolation).
SD CARD: load your memory cards in the port underneath the camera
Your movies and photos can't be captured to an internal memory because there isn't one; instead, the R10 stores to SD and/or SDHC.
Touchscreens are nothing new but they can be hit and miss when it comes to responsiveness – and how smudgy they become. Fortunately, the R10's version is an excellent one. It's easy to use and responds quickly to touch. It's helped by a menu system that's clearly laid out and deceptively simple.
The sub-£350 price tag and an array of sockets that's limited to AV out, USB and mini-HDMI (no headphone or mic inputs for example) gives a nod to the fact that the R10 is not necessarily over burdened with features.
While that's true – there's definitely a dearth of manual features – the camcorder does still offer some variety and creative control.
Things don't start well though: the 5x optical zoom is pathetic for a camcorder at this price point (even the sub-£200 Toshiba Camileo H20 manages a 5x optical zoom!) and the electronic image stabiliser takes the shine off the quality of some footage.
However, there's a hat-trick of exciting features that really cements the R10's reputation as an attention-grabbing camcorder: super slow-mo, HD timelapse and magic touch shot.
The first offers a choice of 300 or 600 frames per second (fps) recording, enabling you to capture events in super slow motion.
There's a limited time capacity for recording, but it's perfect for eye-catching moments: and these could be a goal celebration, a bouquet flying through the air(!) or as Samsung's website video suggests a child throwing a Frisbee.
CONNECTIONS: ports include USB, power and HDMI
HD timelapse recording is essentially an interval recording option. You can set the R10 up to record short bursts of video over a period of up to 72 hours.
Magic touch shot is a much simpler function, for stills recording, and allows you to press a point on the touchscreen LCD that optimises focus and brightness settings for recording.
Samsung has taken its lead from pocket-friendly, YouTube camcorders by incorporating software into the camcorder.
There is no disc to install; instead you simply connect the R10 to your PC and the software installs directly from the cam.
his works remarkably quickly and speeds up the process by which you can share your videos via the net. The software interface is perhaps a little intimidating for beginners but spending time getting to grips with it will prove incredibly useful.
The software isn't Mac-friendly – though the video footage can be played using QuickTime – but your Apple computer will recognise the R10 as an external disk when it's connected – allowing you to drag and drop video and photo files.
There is so much to like and enjoy about the Samsung R10 that this often manages to distract you from its occasional faults. The design is, at least aesthetically, an acquired taste but the long-term prognosis is that it's just as effective as other designs – so don't be scared of it.
Visually, the results are impressive. Our test footage shows an almost unflinching performance from the autofocus and the R10 can handle complex scenes without diminishing video quality. Colours are accurately reproduced and there is an sharpness to the edges of objects and at the edges of the frame.
On the audio front it's nothing spectacular: so it's crisp on speech but a bit woolly on anything with too much bass (i.e. music!).
Compact, easy to use and with a menu that's well labelled and a cinch to access via the touchscreen.
Very impressive overall video performance at this price point; and the ability to shoot HD and SD footage is useful for increasing recording times.
Extra record button and zoom controls are practical and effective.
A piddly 5x optical zoom on a camcorder like this is, dare we say it, almost criminal.
Yes, the software is free, and is rather versatile, but it would still benefit from an interface tweak to make it more welcoming to new users.
Samsung is an ultra-competitive brand in the camcorder world and the R10 is equipped with a very good mix of features and functionality, plus it comes in at a cost-effective price. A couple of extra spec points and this would be scintillating, instead it has to settle for being (just) very impressive. Not bad, 'eh?
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