Not long ago, Samsung camcorders were famous more for their low cost than anything else. Their features and video quality were no match for the main brands. But with the VP-HMX20, Samsung began to put up a serious fight, and subsequent models have continued the trend of respectable performance coupled with value. The HMX-R10 is very much a case in point. It's no high-end prosumer powerhouse, but it does pack a lot into a small, keenly priced package.
Despite weighing under 250g and with the dimensions of a really fat mobile phone, the R10 still manages to incorporate an impressively large 1/2.33in CMOS sensor with a native 9-megapixels. This makes it quite accomplished as a digital stills camera, perfectly adequate to stand in for a compact, so you won't need to bring one of these with you at the same time. Samsung adds a little interpolation to provide 12-megapixel images. There's also a modest flash built in, although its range is not very great.
However, only 5.3-megapixels are used when shooting video. That's still more than is required for Full HD, and enables a Smart zoom. The R10 only offers a 5x optical zoom natively, so Samsung calls upon the extra sensor pixels to boost this to 8x. This is not the same as a digital zoom, which interpolates missing data. Instead, there is no loss in detail as there will still be enough pixels for Full HD, although a smaller area of the CMOS will be used so light sensitivity will be reduced.
The R10 has quite a range of shooting modes on offer. At the top of the list are the Full HD options, of which there are three. Two interlaced 50i modes provide a pair of compressions levels, but there is only one setting for 25p Full HD. The remaining quality options are only specified by resolutions. There are 720p and 576p modes, both of which run at 50 frames/sec, and a low-resolution Web-friendly option.
There are also Time Lapse and Slow Motion options. The Time Lapse mode lets you set intervals of 1 to 30 seconds, and can record for a fixed period of 24, 48, or 72 hours, or until your storage card is full. The Time Lapse function also lets you specify the recording format to use, although only the progressive options are available. For slow motion, the R10 can shoot at 250 or 500 frames per second, which are played back at the regular 25 frames/sec, so you get 10 or 20 times slow-down respectively, for silky smooth motion.