Flash! Ah-aaah! He'll save every one of us! In a pre-Bank Holiday treat, today at Crave we got our hands on the only flash-based Samsung VP-HMX20 in the whole of the UK. It's a snake-hipped hybrid camcorder, barely wider than the lens barrel, and nicely lightweight. 1080p H.264 video is recorded to 8GB onboard memory, or SD, SDHC and MMC cards. 8GB, you cry, that's not much. Well, just hold on there: this is no deep-pocketed but ultimately fragile hard disc drive; this is 8GB of robust, drop-proof, no moving parts flash memory.
You get a 10x optical zoom, going up to 100x digital, and digital image stabilisation. An easy Q button switches over to automatic, while face recognition makes focussing and exposing for subjects even easier. There's no hotshoe, but you do get a microphone socket as well as a built-in stereo microphone. Two-channel sound is encoded in AAC format, and protected by a WindCut Plus wind filter.
That flippy-swivelly screen is a 4:3 ratio 69mm (2.7-inch) touchscreen, giving access to manual controls such as exposure and focus via onscreen sliders. Secondary record and zoom functions are placed next to the screen for southpaws or waist-level shooting. Speaking of which, the HMX20 has a neat swivelling grip, which allows you to switch grips from thumb backwards to thumb forwards without taking your hand out of the grip -- if you're smooth enough, perhaps even while shooting.
One of our favourite features is the slow-motion option. You can choose from 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 speed, with a frame rate of 250 frames per second. Yes, we dooo... looovve... slooooo... mooooo...
Ahem, sorry about that. Anyway, the Samsung VP-HMX20 will be available June-ish. It's out in the States as the SC-HMX20, with a retail price of $999 (£500) announced at CES. Click Next Photo to see what other surprises this flasher has up its sleeve. -Rich Trenholm