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
The HMX20 takes stills while recording, which is a great feature for getting decent frame grabs to complement your films. It packs a 1/1.8-inch CMOS imaging chip, with a whopping 6 megapixels for quality stills. And what's that sitting proudly on top of the lens? We could swear that wasn't in the last picture -- you can click back and check if you like. That's right: it's a pop-up flash. The flash doesn't act as a lamp, sadly, but it's still pretty neat.
Interestingly, Samsung has prioritised the HMX20's slim profile by taking all the connections out of the body and sticking them in a dock. Concerns about losing the dock aside -- honestly, who loses a dock? -- our only worry is that it won't be easy to share at a friend's house. Still, the body does contain a USB connection, and footage can be dubbed easily to removable memory. The dock is neatly shaped to set the camcorder in it, swivel the screen, and watch footage back on the fly. All together now: "Flash! Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!"