With its 3X zoom lens, Samsung's HMX-U20 is the first candy-bar-style mini camcorder to offer optical zoom. But it's pretty expensive compared with the field.
Lori GruninSenior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Its first foray into the Flip-dominated mini camcorder market, the HMX-U10, didn't seem to make serious inroads. But at least one of Samsung's follow-up model in its U series, the HMX-U20, makes some necessary updates and adds a unique new feature for the category: a 3X zoom lens.
While zoom lenses are common on traditional horizontal and pistol-grip design models, to date the candy-bar design favored by Flip Video, the Kodak z series, Creative's Vados, and so on has been limited to fixed focal-length lenses.
The U20 also adds a captive USB cable, one of the missing features on the U10 that practically defines the product category; it's not clear whether the software is now loaded on the device. Samsung has also added digital image stabilization.
In all other respects it's pretty similar to its predecessor: a tiny bit narrower, with the same angled lens, 2-inch LCD, and 1/2.3-inch CMOS chip. It records 1,920x1,080 30fps using H.264 compression and snaps 10-megapixel photos.
For $20 less, the HMX-U15 trades the zoom lens for 14-megapixel stills. That's not a particularly worthwhile tradeoff, especially since these two models are particularly pricey: in a market defined by products that cost less than $200, Samsung will be charging $229.99 for the U15 and $249.99 for the U20 when they ship in the spring.