Video is recorded at 1080p high-definition resolution, and saved in H.264 format. Windows Media Player and QuickTime struggle with this format, although iMovie is happy to read footage.
The enormous 1/1.8-inch CMOS sensor gives impressive 6-megapixel stills. Face recognition works in both still and video modes. You also get a 10x optical zoom, going up to 100x digital, and digital image stabilisation. One of our favourite features is the slow motion function, allowing 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 speed filming up to 250 frames per second -- but it should be noted this is at reduced resolution, and the resultant clips are not high definition.
Sound is only recorded in two channels, which is then encoded in AAC format. The mic is protected by a WindCut Plus wind filter.
Colours are natural and fresh. There is some tendency to blow out highlights, but exposure is generally quick to adjust. Diagonal lines suffered from some jaggedness but the picture was generally free of compression artefacts. There's a nice crispness to the detail, with only a trace of grain -- graininess is only an issue in low light.
Although lower lighting conditions did see a fair bit of noise, fine detail stayed sharp and colour relatively vibrant. The camera did a good job of exposing but not focusing in darker conditions, with zoom changes fixing the autofocus in low-light situations. It's a shame that there's no manual control over gain, which may have alleviated some of these problems. Nonetheless, we were impressed with the low-light performance.
Our main concern was the lack of optical image stabilisation. Panning too quickly -- which isn't that quickly at all -- leads to motion blur, and handheld filming also sees softness creep in. It's a shame that the excellent sensor is held back by the relatively poor performance of the electronic stabilisation system.
We were hugely impressed with the Samsung HMX20. Despite a lack of decent image stabilisation, it produces crisp high-definition video in a sleek, accessible package. It may not top the Canon HF10, but is still a great option for consumers seeking the power of high definition without the complication of an overpowered camcorder. The glossy styling and excellent low-light performance helped us look past the unsubtle zoom and lean manual controls, with the HMX20 giving more established camcorder-manufacturers a real run for their money.
Edited by Marian Smith