The Samsung VP-MX20 is a standard definition, flash memory camcorder. At around £150, it's an affordable option for those who don't need high definition but want something a step up from the burgeoning mini-camcorder sector.
The camcorder is certainly small, nestling in the palm of the hand. Even so, you get a decent-sized 69mm (2.7-inch) flip-out screen. The design is simple, with only five buttons dotted around the body, and two buttons plus a round clickpad on the screen bezel.
The three buttons in the screen well include a status check button and an automatic mode toggle, called Easy Q. The camera doesn't need to be on for you to see the battery and memory card status at the touch of a button. Easy Q mode does everything for you, though it is a bit annoying when you press the menu button and get an error message telling you to turn Easy Q off -- we'd prefer it if pressing the menu button took you straight out of Easy Q mode.
Although it is primarily designed to be held with the arm bent and the camera in the palm of the hand, greater freedom is afforded by the swivel grip. This allows you to change your grip to a straight-arm lower position without stopping filming, as the grip swivels smoothly. You can change shooting position to get different angles.
The connections are composite out and USB, protected by a plastic cover. The battery is contained in the bottom of the camcorder, which means you can't add an extended battery. The lens is protected by a lens cover that you have to click open yourself. If you forget, the camera chides you with an on-screen message, which gets a bit wearing.
The Schneider-Kreuznach lens boasts a 34x optical zoom and video is recorded at 720x576-pixel resolution. The MX20 is the first standard definition camcorder to use the H.264 codec, a video compression standard that is generally found in high definition camcorders because of the larger file sizes created when shooting in HD.
Samsung has applied this technology to a standard-def shooter in order to boost shooting times. We put in a 4GB SDHC card and were promised a whisper under two hours of shooting time, with Samsung promising up to 30 hours from a 32GB card.
Sharing video is designed to be as simple as possible. Putting the camera into Web and mobile mode automatically adjusts video to 640x480-pixel resolution. YouTube upload software is baked into the Mediashow software included with the camera.
Other features include face detection and a WindCut Plus wind filter, designed to cut down on ambient noise. You also get interval recording, capturing a frame at an interval you set, so you can shoot time-lapse videos for as long as the battery will last.
Samsung is keen to highlight the MX20's battery life, claiming an impressive three hours. According to the battery check, the fully-charged battery offers nearly three and a half hours, but we got slightly less than that as we left the camera filming, even without much use of the zoom.
The MX20 is reasonably quick, starting in two seconds, though it doesn't have an instant-on standby mode. Footage looks reasonable, with the usual slightly jagged diagonal lines, but it was generally clean and free of noise.
The long zoom is handy, with a reasonably responsive control. We did find that zooming too quickly gave the autofocus some problems, with the image going out of focus. More often than not the autofocus would fail to lock on again, and the image would stay blurry until we zoomed out again.
The Samsung VP-MX20 is certainly a well-priced camcorder. If Web-sharing is your main aim, the Flip Video Ultra is cheaper but lacks many of the features, or for slightly more cash you could go for the JVC Everio GZ-MG330, which boasts a 35x zoom.
Edited by Marian Smith