Is this just another camcorder to film our daily lives of significant others, milestone events or silly pranks, or can this be the one camcorder you would have to record the rest of your life with? The Samsung HMX-Q20 fits into most coat sized pockets and is a cinch to carry around with you. But is it worth buying it on top of your already decent smartphone camera?
I’m not sure, but it looks like every camcorder manufacturer has gotten really lazy. If someone came up to me and showed me this camcorder and two others from other manufacturers, at a glance I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Not at all. They all have cylindrical bodies and a fold-out screen. That is the basis of all the personal camcorder designs and it’s boring.
It works, though — it’s ergonomic enough for general purpose filming — but doesn’t have any flare. I can see Samsung’s attempt at making the Q20 stylish with the faux leather strap (which works quite well), but it actually highlights the glossy plastic body all the more.
The metal rim around the lens is attractive, though, and successfully balances the masses of plastic just enough to think that it has some solid build quality.
Which it does. It’s not that I actually did a drop test or anything, but this thing can actually handle a drop from about a meter up onto concrete without a scratch. Just take my word on it. I’m not saying it dropped, I’m not saying it didn’t. What I am saying, is that it’s stronger than i thought.
So, for it’s mostly plastic body, it’s quite strong — or flexible — I’m not sure which. But Samsung really could have made an automatic lens cover, instead of having to slide the cover up and down whenever you want to use it.
Camcorder vs. Smartphone
As soon as I got an iPhone, I said that I never needed a camera, camcorder or mp3 player ever again. So how does the Q20 compare — does it stand its own ground compared to the masses of smartphones? Or is it a dying market that smartphones have consumed?
90′s Touch Screen
We’ve really come a long way with touch screen technology. Our smartphones are super fast and super responsive. So why has Samsung made this one so awful? It’s a 2.7 inch matte screen, and while it works, it doesn’t necessarily work well. It often took more than one press for it to register, and usually quite a hard, deliberate press too.
This isn’t acceptable, especially when you need to change a setting in time to get a certain shot in. I mean, that wave isn’t going to wait for me to get the right setting before it knocks that silly kid off the rock. And those are the shots you constantly look for. I’m afraid to say, but good old fashion buttons wouldn’t have gone amiss. It also was quite difficult to see in the sunlight, and being a matte screen, this shouldn’t be the case.
Focusing was a major issue. Sometimes it worked flawlessly. Other times it didn’t work at all, not even a little bit. Zooming in and out didn’t help either, as much as I tried. I had to turn the camera off and on to get it to focus again. I was shouting at it at one point, demanding to know its reasons for not focusing. It has a Smart Focus setting which is supposed to know what scenario you are in and adjust accordingly. While it did this most of the time (very well, I might add), it was pretty stupid sometimes.
In especially loud scenarios the microphone did not handle well at all. I took it to a friend’s gig for his metal band, and well, it didn’t handle. Neither did my ears, so not many points off there.
I connected it to a telescopic pole to vary the shots, my favorite being from the ceiling looking down at the drummer whilst on stage. I was surprised at the stability of the camera, it never shook excessively, even in the car when we were driving on potholed roads.
The zoom on the Q20 divides opinions. It is really sensitive, allowing minute adjustments and slow zooms to make your videos a lot smoother. You can also zoom in quickly if needs be. Some people found it difficult to use, but I found it very useful and intuitive. I was using the zoom intuitively even before I realised I could zoom in slowly or quickly. Only after did I realise that the zoom was reacting exactly how I wanted it to.
High on Definition
The Q20 is a full HD camcorder, capable of recording resolutions up to 1920×1080 pixels. While you won’t be able to tell from the screen, it does if fact do this. The quality is quite good. Good, not great. There was one very obvious flaw: the screen-tearing. It really detracts from the enjoyment of watching your silly antics or significant moments on film. If it happened that the frames-per-second rate was too high, that is no excuse. If it’s going to record on its standard setting with that many frames-per-second, it should be able to handle it.
The Samsung Q20 is made for the simple use of recording everyday life. For this purpose it does well. You couldn’t ask for a simpler device. A push of a button and a slide of the lens cover gets you started. It does have some drawbacks, though. That screen is not very user-friendly — not registering nearly well enough or handling the glare.
The focusing was very temperamental, which makes for a very irritating experience. It completely nullifies the point of the camera if you can’t focus on what you’re shooting. Other than that, though, it was a very easy camera to use. The question of whether it is worth it’s price of US$299 depends on how much you want a dedicated camcorder. If you want to film on a regular basis, then yes. But if you only pull out your smartphone to record the odd occasion, then save up for your next smartphone.
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