For the videomaker who doesn’t want to bother with the shutter and aperture priority controls, Samsung has enabled something clearly inspired by Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto, rather tellingly called Smart Auto. This detects the current lighting conditions and sets scene modes accordingly, such as Indoor or Night Mode in poor illumination. However, we also found the Indoor mode was automatically enabled in some cloudy outdoor conditions, which didn’t provide the correct exposure. So Smart Auto is best left off outside unless you’re shooting at night. Alternatively, you can set the iScene modes yourself, with the usual options available such as Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, or Beach/Snow, plus the slightly more unusual Food.
Image quality is the most important area where Samsung has improved over the last few years, and overall the H200 continues the trend. With its relatively small sensor, it doesn’t offer the same excellent performance as 2008’s VP-HMX20, but it does have a good level of detail. Colours are reasonably faithful, although the camcorder can’t handle extreme variations in brightness as well as Panasonic HD camcorders equipped with Intelligent Contrast. Nevertheless, there’s virtually no sign of noise in bright conditions, and the picture is sharp.
The H200’s BSI CMOS sensor pays dividends in low light, where the image is much brighter than would normally be expected for a sensor this size. There is some evidence of grain, but colour is maintained to a very acceptable level. The results aren’t quite as impressive as Sony’s camcorders with 1/5in Exmor- equipped sensors, such as the HDR-TG7VE, but image quality in poor illumination is still very good for a camcorder this size and at this price. As a camcorder for grabbing usable footage such as your child’s assembly in an indifferently lit hall, the H200 fits the bill nicely.
In a nod towards the pocket Internet camcorders, which are only slightly cheaper than the H200, there is also software built in that installs the first time you attach the camcorder via USB and then applies any updates detected over the Internet. The app is called Intelli Studio and it offers the usual limited selection of editing facilities, plus the ability to upload to YouTube and Facebook.
The Samsung HMX-H200 doesn’t quite have the sense of polish found in the top camcorder models. The Smart Auto system is a pale imitation of Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto, and its one-touch focus system doesn’t include exposure. But it does have a decent level of features, and video performance is also very good for the price. So whilst this isn’t the Samsung camcorder that entirely brings the Korean manufacturer on par with its Japanese competitors, it does compete very well on value.