Samsung camcorders used to be somewhat ‘cheap and cheerful'. But in the last couple of years a transformation has occurred. In fact, simply picking up the VP-HMX20 reveals how far the company has come. The build is solid, the design bold and purposeful. It's clear that Samsung means to make up for lost time, and the HMX20 has plenty of surprises in store.
The first bombshell is just how big the sensor is. It's a 1/1.8in CMOS - the largest in any consumer camcorder currently available. This sports a similarly chart-topping 6.4-megapixels, which may not benefit video but will pay dividends for digital photography. Still images can be shot at up to 3,264 x 2,448 pixels, with a built-in flash that pops up when needed. We found it very effective in everyday domestic settings. If you fancy shooting some photos of your family alongside the video, the HMX20 will be more than up to the job.
Discrete buttons have been kept to the bare minimum, with virtually all controls operating via the touchscreen TFT. This is highly reminiscent of Sony's camcorder touchscreen system, which is not a bad thing as that's very capable. All manual settings are configured through this TFT, and Samsung has made the key options readily accessible. Hit the Quick Menu button on the TFT, and six icons appear providing immediate access to Storage (for choosing between the 8GB internal memory or additional SDHC card), Resolution, White Balance, Focus, Exposure and Shutter.
There are five resolutions on offer. The HMX20 can shoot 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD with 25 progressive frames or 50 interlaced fields per second. You can also choose 576/50p and Slow Motion. The latter records 10 seconds of footage using a curious 448 x 336 resolution, but at 250 frames per second. The output is then played back at 50 frames per second for extremely smooth slo-mo.
There are also three quality modes to choose from - Super Fine, Fine and Normal - which operate independently of the resolution options. Super Fine equates to about 15Mbits/sec with HD, and 9Mbits/sec with 576/50p. The 8GB internal memory is therefore enough for 71 minutes of footage in one of the HD modes at Super Fine quality mode, or four hours of standard definition at the Normal quality mode.