Samsung attempts to differentiate the bulk of its HD camcorder line by incorporating SSD--solid-state drive--storage compared to competitors' traditional hard disks, regular old built-in flash, or simply removable flash cards. This is a rather flimsy thread to hang a strategy on. While SSD theoretically confers a size advantage over hard disks, Samsung's core line of four HD camcorders--the HMX-H106, the H105, the H104, and the H100--are nevertheless relatively large, and larger than a typical card-based model. The models are identical save the built-in storage, which starts at none (SDHC card only) and tops off at 64GB.
Given that you pay a price premium for the SSD--the differential between the no-memory HMX-H100 and the 16GB H104 is about twice the cost of a Class 6 16GB SDHC card--and the absolute dollar gap widens as capacity increases, the SSD ultimately ends up a marketing gimmick. This series review is based on tests of the H106.
|Comparative specs: Samsung HD camcorders||Samsung HMX-H106||Samsung SC-HMX20C||Sasumng HMX-H105/H104||Sasumng HMX-H100|
|Sensor||2.2-megapixel CMOS||4-megapixel CMOS||2.2-megapixel CMOS||2.2-megapixel CMOS|
|1/4.5 inch||1/1.8 inch||1/4.5 inch||1/4.5 inch|
|Lens||10x f1.8-2.5 3.3-33mm (actual)||10x f1.8-2.5 6.3-63mm (actual)||10x f1.8-2.5 3.3-33mm (actual)||10x f1.8-2.5 3.3-33mm (actual)|
|LCD||2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel touch screen||2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel touch screen||2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel touch screen||2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel touch screen|
|Primary Media||64GB SSD||8GB built-in flash||32GB/16GB SSD||SD card|
|Maximum bit rate||n/a (Samsung does not report bit rates)|
|Manual shutter speed and iris||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Audio||2 channels||2 channels||2 channels||2 channels|
|Body dimensions (WHD, inches)||2.5 x 2.4 x 5.1||2.6 x 2.7 x 5.4||2.5 x 2.4 x 5.1||2.5 x 2.4 x 5.1|
|Operating weight (ounces)||14||16 (est)||14||14|
While the camcorder's design is attractive, the feel is a mixed bag. Physically, it's quite similar to its progenitor, the HMX10. A tad more compact than nonflash competitors, it looks and feels pretty solid despite its all-plastic construction. All the operational controls--zoom switch, photo button, power, mode, and record--fall comfortably under your right thumb or forefinger. The top zoom switch is one of the skinny, wobbly types that I find uncooperative when trying to maintain a smooth, consistent zoom, however. In a hatch below sit the miniHDMI, the USB, the AV, and the power connectors.
The grip rotates about 150 degrees, and though you can leave it at any point in the rotation, it locks into only two positions. The first slight rotation drops it by about 5 degrees, increasing the height for larger hands. You can continue the rotation to about 150 degrees, useful when shooting at a low angle. This is a clever, older design that I've yet to see copied.
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.