Inside the LCD recess are a power switch, photo flash, display, full auto Easy Q, and image stabilization buttons. On the LCD bezel sit a secondary zoom switch, record button and Q(uick) Menu button. The battery and the SDHC slot sit on the bottom of the camcorder, a poor location if you plan to shoot on a tripod, which completely obstructs the hatch. It also provides a built-in electronic lens cover, a nice feature that has become typical in camcorders in this price range, and the stereo microphones sit on either side of the lens, gaining more separation than we typically see in consumer camcorders.
Unfortunately, though, the touch-screen interface is relatively annoying. I generally find that touch screens aren't very comfortable to work with on the 2.7-inch displays common to this class, and Samsung's proves to be no exception. I found the system to be frequently unresponsive, and require multiple presses to recognize input. That said, the menus are organized fairly well. However, even though the camcorder offers some manual adjustments, like shutter speed and aperture, they're inconveniently buried in the menu system. You can't even pull them up with the Q Menu button; that's reserved for switching storage media (SD or SSD), scene modes, video and photo resolution, white balance, exposure compensation, and focus (auto, manual, or TouchPoint).
The camcorder records 1,920x1,080/60i, as well as 720p and 480p, video using MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 encoding, similar to that used by AVCHD. Though Samsung doesn't report its bit rates, QuickTime reported that most of my test clips encoded at about 17 megabits per second, which is pretty typical for this class; some camcorders can handle up to 24 megabits per second, but if you're not planning on editing the video you probably won't notice the difference. You can fit about 7.5 minutes of footage per gigabyte of storage at highest quality; clips are limited to a maximum of 1.8GB.
|Key comparative specs||Samsung HMX-H106/H105/ H104/H100|
|Sensor||2.2-megapixel CMOS||4-megapixel Exmor CMOS||3.3-megapixel CMOS|
|1/4.5 inch||1/5 inch||1/3.2 inch|
|Lens||10x f1.8-2.5 3.3-33mm (actual)||10x f1.8-2.2 42 - 497mm (16:9)||12x f1.8-3.0 42.9 - 514.8mm (16:9)|
|LCD||2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel touch screen||2.7-inch, 211,000-pixel touch screen||2.7-inch, 211,000-pixel touch screen|
|Primary Media||64GB/32GB/16GB SSD; SDHC||80GB hard disk||60GB hard disk|
|Maximum bit rate||n/a||16Mbps||24Mbps|
|Manual shutter speed and iris||Yes||No||Yes|
|Audio||2 channels||5.1 channels||2 channels|
|Body dimensions (WHD, inches)||2.5 x 2.4 x 5.1||2.8 x 2.8 x 5.1||2.9 x 2.5 x 5.4|
|Operating weight (ounces)||14||14.5||17.6|
|Mfr. Price||$899.99/$729.99/ $649.99/$579.99||$749.99||$899.99|
Compared with many of its competitors, especially the higher priced ones that go head-to-head with the H106, the performance doesn't stand up very well. The autofocus especially seems slow, and has more trouble than usual finding and locking on the correct subject. I ended up having to use the TouchPoint focus more frequently than normal, and between the occasionally nonresponsive touch screen and the subsequent slow focus--even after being told where to look--I missed several shots. The optical stabilizer works pretty well out to the end of the zoom range, though.
While the video quality isn't bad, it lacks the sharpness and color saturation we expect from HD models. Edges are noticeably fuzzy, especially when viewed on a large-screen TV. Even in good light there's some color noise in the video, and low-light video looks perceptibly noisy and overprocessed. In normal daylight, the white balance is overly cool and there's some clipping in the highlights. Still photos just look smeary and overprocessed.
There's not much to recommend in Samsung's current HMX series--the H106, the H105, the H104, and the H100--over similarly priced competitors. They don't stand out in any particular aspect, and weak, though not terrible, performance and video quality may be turnoffs for many people. Before committing to one, check out our list of top HD camcorders.