Samsung has mostly thrown off the image it had a few years ago of producing cheap but generally feature-reduced camcorders compared to major brand competitors. Fortunately, in this process of improvement, the company hasn’t thrown the baby out with the bathwater – that is, the low price. The HMX-F80BP sums this up nicely. Despite being available for under £120, which is generally candy-bar pocket Internet camcorder territory, this model has specifications and features that we would normally associate with a camcorder costing as much as £100 more.
Both video resolutions are recorded in standard H.264 MPEG-4 format, and there are no options to alter quality to reduce the data rate, which runs at 9Mbits/sec for 720p footage. A single SDXC-compatible memory card slot is provided for storage, with a 16GB card being enough for nearly four hours of footage. The HMX-F80BP’s CMOS does use more of its pixels when grabbing still images, which can be captured at up to 1,696 x 954 in 16:9 video mode, or 1,600 x 1,200 in 4:3 photo mode. There’s a button to switch between these modes, and a relatively convenient photo button positioned right next to the zoom rocker on the top.
The extra pixels also come into play slightly when zooming. The HMX-F80BP offers a very healthy 52x optical zoom, but there is also a 65x Intelli Zoom, which takes advantage of the spare sensor resolution to ensure overall detail isn't lost (though low light image quality will be reduced slightly). The digital zoom, meanwhile, which is offered at up to 130x, will simply stretch the picture, loosing detail in the process. Unfortunately, Intelli Zoom is only available in standard definition resolution.
The lens is protected by a built-in shutter, although this is manually operated, rather than opening automatically when the camera turns on. One area where Samsung has economised is in offering digital rather than optical image stabilisation, but this is true of virtually all sub-£200 camcorders, with the notable exception of the excellent Panasonic HC-V100.
Samsung has helpfully placed controls on the side of the LCD as physical buttons. There is a second record button here and the joystick doubles as an alternative zoom control in the up and down direction.