Samsung HMX-QF20 review:

Wi-Fi can't help this camcorder's mediocre video

There is no power button; you turn the camcorder on and off by opening and closing the 2.7-inch touch screen. The lens cover is operated with a switch on the right side of the lens barrel, and other than a Home button next to the LCD, everything else is operated via the touch screen. It's adequately responsive, but its size can make it difficult to accurately tap on things.

The screen rotates 180 degrees, so you don't have to record yourself blindly. It'll rotate 90 degrees down, too, letting you easily shoot overhead. It's not a particularly good LCD, though, and can be very difficult to see in full sun.

Worth mentioning is that the camcorder can be used in either the right or left hand thanks to a sensor inside that flips the image. If you don't need this, you'll want to shut it off in the menu system; simply tilting the camcorder a little too far left or right will flip the image.

Inside the screen cavity behind a sliding door are Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB ports, and a tiny AV output. There is no jack for an external mic (there's a stereo mic on top) or a headphone input. There is no way to adjust the mic sensitivity, either. If you're recording anything that's very loud, it will end up overloading the mic.

Key specs Samsung HMX-QF20
Price (MSRP) $259.99
Dimensions (HxWxD) 1.7x2.1x4.7 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 6 ounces
Storage capacity SDHC/SDXC cards
Resolution, sensor size, type 1.75 megapixels, 1/6.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution 2.7-inch LCD, 230K-dot touch screen
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 20x, f1.8-3.9, 38.4-768mm (35mm equivalent)
Minimum illumination 5 lux
File format (video, audio) MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4)
Resolution (video/photo) 1,920x1,080 pixels (60fps, interlaced, 14Mbps VBR), 1,280x720 (60fps, progressive, 12Mbps VBR)
Recording time at highest quality 1 hour 3 minutes (16GB)
Image stabilization type Optical
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 105 minutes

Though there is a Manual mode, the QF20 is designed for easy automatic shooting. Its Smart Auto mode picks the appropriate settings based on 10 scene types, including macro and backlit subjects, and it works well. Manual mode lets you adjust brightness, white balance, and focus, and turn on backlight compensation or a 3-lux low-light mode.

Other shooting options include an Art Film mode that applies digital effects while recording: Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Art, Ghost, Noir, Western, and Dazzle; Art Time Lapse with several recording settings for different effects; and a Vertical Smart Auto for those who want to record tall, thin movies.

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Once you're done shooting, the QF20 has embedded viewing, editing, and sharing software for Windows computers. Named Intelli-studio, the software isn't overly simple, especially for those who've never edited video before, but it's not difficult to figure out either, and it has a very good set of editing tools. You can also use it for quick uploading to sharing sites including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

Then there is the built-in Wi-Fi that can be used for wireless backups of your videos to a Windows computer (using the Intelli-studio software); streaming from the camcorder to DLNA-supported devices such as Web-connected TVs; and direct uploads to Facebook, YouTube, and, for photos, Picasa. The wireless is fairly easy to set up, but entering passwords can be a pain. You also won't be able to connect to any public hot spots that require you to agree to terms and conditions.

Also, you can't do wireless video uploads of movies shot at 1080i or 720p. The camcorder has a special HD/Web video resolution that creates two clips: one at 1,280x720-pixel resolution and one at 432x240, with the latter available for Wi-Fi sharing. You have to shoot in this mode in order to get Web video version; there is no way to convert a 1080i or 720p clip to the lower resolution in camcorder.

The Samsung HMX-QF20 is hard to recommend simply because its video isn't very good. What you're paying for here are the design, size, weight, and zoom lens, and, in the case of the QF20, Wi-Fi features. (The Samsung HMX-Q20 is the same, but doesn't have Wi-Fi.) If you're just looking for something inexpensive to shoot Web-friendly movies with, it'll get the job done. But those who want better video than they can get from an average smartphone and a long zoom lens will need to spend more money on a higher-end camcorder or get a point-and-shoot camera like the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 or Sony Cyber-shot HX30V.

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