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Hands-on with the Samsung VP-MX20: Credit crunch camcorder

In these troubled financial times, even a Lehman brother or an Icelandic banker could afford the Samsung MX20, a standard-definition camcorder employing hi-def compression for frugal shooting

In these troubled times, we all need to tighten our belts. Accordingly, the Samsung VP-MX20 takes a number of measures to be a more frugal camcorder. It's the first standard-definition video camera to record in the H.264 codec. H.264 is a video-compression standard generally used by high-definition camcorders to shrink the giant files produced 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 2 hours of shooting time, with Samsung promising up to 30 hours from a 32GB card.

Samsung is also keen to point out the MX20's extra-long battery life, trumpeting an impressive 3 hours. We'll be testing these claims in our full review, which is hurtling towards you like a Wall Street trader plummeting to the sidewalk.

The camcorder is certainly small, nestling in the palm of the hand like a can of Coke, or rather, generic discount cola. The flip-out screen measures 69mm (2.7-inch) corner-to-corner. The Schneider-Kreuznach lens is protected by a manual lens cover, which is annoying because we always forget about it. But we do like the swivelling hand grip, which allows you to hold the camcorder every which way.

The MX20 also features the intriguing-sounding 3D noise reduction. This analyses motion between the frames, splits the frames into different types, passes them through filters to launder out the noise, then recombines them. That makes about as much sense to us as derivatives trading, but happily without the potential to end the world.

Other features include face detection and a 34x optical zoom. Direct YouTube upload is built into the bundled Mediashow software to make it as easy as possible to launch videos of you lip-syncing with friends to the cloud.

In these credit-crunched times, of course, the big question is the price. The good news is even an Icelander could afford one at £169, which almost gives the budget likes of the Flip Video a run for their money. -Rich Trenholm