Samsung SMX-F34 review:

Samsung SMX-F34

Video can be recorded at three different quality levels at a resolution of 720x480: TV Normal, TV Fine, and TV Super Fine. There's a 640x480 Web and Mobile setting, too. Truthfully, though, you probably don't want to stray from TV Super Fine quality.

Though the F34 certainly seems like a camcorder for point-and-shoot movies, Samsung does include manual control of focus, shutter speed, exposure, and white balance. It also has a C.Nite feature for slowing the shutter down to 1/30 or 1/15 for better low-light visibility, but it also slows motion down. Basically, the manual controls are there if you need them, but honestly this camcorder is more for automatic users. You do get eight scene modes to choose from and interval shooting, too, should you want to capture something like a flower opening. There are also a handful of digital effects to play with. All in all, it's a nice collection of features for a budget camcorder.

If there's one glaring omission to the feature set, however, it's optical image stabilization. The electronic image stabilization does an adequate job, but the 34x zoom lens really demands optical stabilization. Don't plan on using the full length unless you're mounted on a tripod and, in that case, shut off the EIS.

The F34 produces video in line with other camcorders in its class. The video is soft and generally grainy looking with interlacing and compression artifacts. Low-light performance isn't great, either, exhibiting more of the same. The autofocus is slow regardless of lighting conditions, but in dim light it does a lot of hunting on top of being slow. Color is OK, as is exposure, though highlights are usually blown out. Having said all of that, the F34 isn't necessarily any worse than other sub-$200 standard-def consumer camcorders available. So, if you still live completely in a low-resolution world, the recordings are destined for video-sharing Web sites, or you simply want to capture the moment no matter how it looks, the F34 should be satisfactory.

Photo quality is pretty poor, but again, that's to be expected for such a low resolution. You'll be able to capture an image, however it won't be good for much more than Web sharing or, if very well lit, 2x3-inch prints.

Read enough user reviews of current standard-def consumer camcorders and you'll see one comment frequently pop up: "My cell phone takes better video than the (insert product name here)." I don't know that that's true for the Samsung SMX-F34, but depending on the resolution of the device, it may very well be the case. However, you're not going to find a cell phone--or a pocket camcorder, for that matter--with a 34x zoom lens, 16GB of storage, and an SDHC card slot for expanding the capacity.

Find out more about how we test camcorders.

What you'll pay

This week on CNET News


Discuss: Samsung SMX-F34 (Black)

Conversation powered by Livefyre