Summary

Our Score

7/10

User Score

Pros

  • Great value
  • 52x optical zoom
  • iSCENE modes and manual focusing

Cons

  • Mediocre low-light performance
  • No Full HD, just 720p
  • Digital image stabilisation

Review Price £119.00

Key Features: 1/3in CMOS with 5Mpixels; 720p at 25 frames per second; 576p at 50 frames per second; 52x optical zoom; 65x Intelli Zoom (standard definition only); iSCENE modes and manual settings; SD memory slot

Manufacturer: Samsung

Samsung HMX-F80BP - Introduction, Main Features and Quick Menu

Introduction


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.

Samsung HMX-F80BP - Features and Quick Menu


For a start, the HMX-F80BP is based around a decently sized 1/3in CMOS with 5Mpixels, although Samsung quotes this as only offering an effective 0.921Mpixels. The reason for this is because the camcorder only shoots 720p (1280 x 720), not Full HD (1920 x 1080), so it only needs this many pixels. The HMX-F80BP also offers standard definition at 720 x 576 in 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 regular aspect ratios, although this is recorded at 50 progressive frames per second (rather than 25fps), providing smoother motion.

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.

As is common, in Smart Auto mode, the camcorder's menu is completely disabled. Instead, it monitors shooting conditions and automatically sets scene modes accordingly. For example, Colour Nite mode is enabled in low light and Landscape mode when expanses of sky are detected. Turn off Smart Auto, however, and quite a few more options become available. Pressing the centre of the joystick calls up a quick menu, with options for turning on face detection and manual focusing - although it's rather fiddly to control using the joystick - plus exposure between 2 and -2 EV. You can set an iSCENE mode, with Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Beach & Snow, Food, and Waterfall options. So there’s quite a selection here, but strangely not the Colour Nite and Landscape modes that the Smart Auto mode can enable.

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.

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