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Samsung SMX-F34 review: Samsung SMX-F34

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MSRP: $329.99

The Good Comfortable, compact design; 34x zoom lens; 16GB internal memory; good audio quality; relatively easy to operate.

The Bad Slow autofocus performance; long zoom lens lacks optical image stabilization.

The Bottom Line The Samsung SMX-F34 is a serviceable inexpensive standard-definition camcorder, but the money goes more to storage and the megazoom lens than to video quality.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 6

Aside from design, what separates pocket minicamcorders like the Flip from camcorders like the Samsung SMX-F34 is not video quality, but optical zoom and storage capacity. The F34 features 16GB of internal memory as well as an SDHC card slot for storage expansion. It also has a 34x zoom lens and a feature set that includes manual shooting controls, which you definitely won't find on ultracompact YouTube camcorders. Unfortunately, the video quality really isn't any different; the F34 delivers pretty standard, standard-definition video.

Key specs Samsung SMX-F34
Price (MSRP) $299.99
Dimensions (WHD) 2.4 x 2.4 x 4.9 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 11.2 ounces
Storage capacity, type 16GB; flash
Resolution, sensor size, type 680K pixels (460K effective), 1/6-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution 2.7-inch LCD, 112K dots
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 34x, f1.6-4.3, 2.3-96.6mm
Minimum illumination 3 lux
File format (video, audio) H.264 (.MP4) /AAC (stereo)
Resolution (video/photo) 720x480/ 800x600
Recording time at highest quality 380 minutes
Image stabilization type Electronic
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 180 minutes (continuous)

The soda-can shape of the F34 is very comfortable to use, and since the hand strap is mounted across the middle, there's little body roll should you release your grip. Plus, it has Samsung's swivel-grip feature allowing you to quickly change from underhand to overhand shooting without removing your hand from the strap. The body, which is available in black, silver, blue, and red versions, is almost entirely plastic, but doesn't feel cheap.

Controls on top include an ultrasensitive zoom rocker, followed behind by a shutter release for capturing stills (though not while movies are being recorded), and a Mode button; Movies, Photos, and Playback are the options. Following the curve down the body's back is a door concealing a 3.5mm AV jack, a miniUSB port, and a DC input for power. To the right of the jack cover is a large record button and below it a spring-loaded power button. The camcorder's battery compartment and SDHC card slot are behind a sliding door on the bottom.

Flipping open the LCD reveals three more buttons in the screen cavity: iCheck, LCD Enhancer, and Easy Q. With the power off, the iCheck button gives you an onscreen readout of remaining battery life and storage; with the power on it toggles on and off information on the display. The LCD Enhancer improves contrast and brightness of the display for better visibility. Lastly, pressing the Easy Q puts you into a fully automatic, you'll-get-no-settings-and-like-it mode. Holding it for about 3 seconds, however, brings up a list of scene modes.

The LCD itself is fairly low resolution, but is fine for the capabilities of the F34. To the left of the screen is a Menu button, a four-way directional pad and a select button, and a record button. Since the zoom can be controlled with the pad, it and the record button give you a second set of controls. The pad is small and flat, so bigger fingers may have trouble accurately pressing different directions.

The Menu system is straightforward enough, so learning to control everything takes no time at all. Selections are, for the most part, in a horizontal scroll bar letting you easily turn features on and off; only the system settings menu has an extended vertical set of options.

Features Samsung SMX-F34
Inputs/Outputs None/miniUSB, composite
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Tungsten, Custom
Scene modes Auto, Easy Q, Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Beach, Snow, High Speed, Food, Waterfall, Manual
Focus Auto, Manual, Face Detection
Color effects Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Art, Emboss, Mosaic, Mirror, Pastel, Cosmetic, Stepprinting
Lens cover (auto or manual) Manual
Video light/flash None
Accessory shoe None

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