Samsung SC-MX20 review: Samsung SC-MX20

The 2.7-inch LCD seems about par for its class--pretty coarse but usable. On the bezel are a menu and secondary record button, plus the four-way-plus-OK navigation switch that doubles as a secondary zoom. The MX20 offers selectable shutter speed (although you can't drop below 1/60 second) in addition to basics such as exposure compensation and manual focus. Within the menus you get the standard scene presets, white balance, electronic image stabilization, digital effects, 16:9 wide recording, resolution options (TV Super Fine, TV Fine, TV Normal, Web, and Mobile), a wind filter, backlight compensation, an intervalometer (1 through 30 second increments till you fill up the card), a night mode which slows the shutter to 1/30 or 1/15 second, and some other minor features. (You can download/view the manual in PDF format if you'd like more detail.)

While it all seems straightforward, the controls actually feel a bit mushy and there's an annoying delay when stopping/starting recording. I frequently thought my button press hadn't registered, beginning an endless cycle of inadvertent stops and starts. Furthermore, the zoom switch is too sensitive, making it difficult to get an evenly paced zoom speed. The navigation switch on the LCD is also just a bit too flat, making it difficult to press the right arrow without accidentally pressing the enter/OK button.

The MX20's 34x zoom lens probably attracts a lot of interest, but like all budget camcorders, it unfortunately pairs a really long zoom with electronic (rather than optical) image stabilization. That said, the EIS does a fair job of minimizing shake, but there are other issues with the MX20 that makes its EIS performance moot. For one, it focuses fairly slowly and in low light it pulses quite a bit. Overall, the video looks mediocre, even by pre-HD YouTube standards. It's video is soft, with color moire and has interlacing and compression artifacts--and that's at its best, TV Super Fine quality (720x480 pixels at 60 frames per second). Part of the problem is the relatively low-resolution 680,000-pixel sensor. In practice, I've found that tapeless recording requires slightly higher resolution to produce a decent video. Oddly, though, it captures really nice-sounding audio.

If you're looking for a cheap camcorder with a long zoom lens, it's worth spending about $50 more for the Canon FS100. However, if your budget's that tight, consider foregoing the zoom entirely and getting a cheap minicamcorder instead. If the Samsung SC-MX20 sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Samsung SC-MX20 (Blue)

Part Number: SC-MX20L Released: Sep 7, 2008
Low Price: $174.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 7, 2008
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Width 2.4 in
  • Depth 4.9 in
  • Height 2.4 in
  • Weight 9.9 oz