Thanks to its market-leading sensor specification, the HMX20 managed to put Samsung up with the big brands for image quality once and for all. The H104 is a bit more of a sober performer, however. It still shoots decent footage in good light. Colours are faithful, but not as heavily saturated as with some consumer models, particularly Sony's. Detail levels are also more than acceptable.
The image is surprisingly bright in poor lighting, too, considering the size of the CMOS sensor, and has commendable white balancing. However, colours become very washed out as illumination drops, so most of the detail nuances are lost. Unfortunately, the H104 is not such an exceptional low-light performer as the HMX20, and ranks below other pocket point-and-shoot HD camcorders in this area, particularly JVC's Everio GZ-HD300 and Sony's HDR-CX105E.
Flip off a cover at the rear, and a relatively comprehensive selection of AV ports is revealed. A small proprietary socket hooks up to a breakout cable offering component analog video and RCA audio connections. There's also HDMI available, but as always it's of the mini variety and no adapter is supplied in the box. The mini-USB connection resides here as well.
Unlike most other mainstream manufacturers, Samsung doesn't use the AVCHD format for its camcorders. Instead, it relies on MPEG-4 AVC H.264 with an MP4 file format, which is allegedly more standards-compliant than AVCHD but in reality we found it caused problems with Adobe video editing software. Fortunately, Samsung has taken a leaf out of the current trend towards video sharing camcorders, and has bundled an app called intelli-studio, which installs from the camcorder itself. This provides some very basic editing capabilities, plus one-step upload to YouTube.
The Samsung HMX-H104 doesn't quite live up to the expectations created by the VP-HMX20. But that isn't to say it's a bad camcorder. Costing just over £400, it's actually rather good value, considering that Sony's HDR-CX105E is priced around the same with just 8GB of built-in memory, and JVC's Everio GZ-HD300 over £100 more, but with a 60GB hard disk. However, of these three the Sony's superior low-light performance still makes it the best overall choice.