- Review Price: £247.40
Although the H200’s sensor is a relatively small 1/4.9in CMOS, this now incorporates Samsung’s BSI technology, standing for Back-Side Illuminated. The latter is a relatively new feature that is being included in the CMOS sensors used by many manufacturers, for both digital cameras and camcorders. It’s potentially very beneficial, particularly in low light, because a back-side illuminated CMOS sensor has the wiring on the side facing away from the lens, so more of the light-sensitive area of the chip is revealed. Sony has been using its own version, called Exmor, for a few years now, and our experiences have been entirely favourable.
The H200’s CMOS sensor has 3.32-megapixels, although only 2.07-megapixels are used when shooting video – exactly what you need for Full HD. Samsung throws in a bit of interpolation when grabbing still images to boost the resulting resolution to 4.7-megapixels. This enables photos to be taken at a size of 2,880 x 1,620 pixels. One advantage of the small sensor is to the optical zoom. Despite the H200 weighing less than 300g and measuring just over 11cm on its longest edge, it still packs a 20x optical zoom. So although there’s also a 200x digital zoom available, you won’t need it for a powerful telephoto.
Thanks to Samsung’s eschewing of the AVCHD format in favour of H.264-encoded MP4 files, video can be recorded at a number of resolutions. These include interlaced 1080/50i at 1,920 x 1,080, plus 720p and 576p at 50 progressive frames/sec. The top resolution uses a data rate of 17Mbits/sec, so 4GB of storage will be enough for around 30 minutes of video. In the H200’s case, your only recording medium available is SD memory. But there’s also an H203 model with 8GB, an H204 with 16GB, and an H205 with 32GB, with prices increasing respectively to match.
Thanks to its small body size, the H200 naturally lacks the features expected of an enthusiast-oriented model. There’s no accessory shoe, and there are no minijacks for an external microphone or headphones. But there are some manual functions available. The focus options can be found via the Quick Menu, and they include a touch-operated mode where you simply indicate the point in the frame to use as reference with your finger. Alternatively, you can adjust focus entirely manually using onscreen buttons. The white balance has a manual option, too, alongside two indoor and two outdoor presets.
There are shutter and aperture priority modes available, too, where you set one parameter and the camcorder takes care of the other. The shutter can be configured from 1/50th to 1/10,000th, and the aperture from F1.8 to F16, although it’s not possible to adjust both separately. As soon as you engage one priority mode, the other parameter returns to automatic. But there’s also a nine-step exposure setting as well, which gives you a reasonably flexible amount of overall control. This is also more easily available from the Quick Menu, so you don’t need to trawl through the full list of settings.
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.
Score in detail
|Image Sensor Quantity||1|
|Image Sensor Size (Millimeter)||0.24"mm, 6.10 mm, 1/3.2"mm|
|Optical Zoom (Times)||10x|
|Digital Zoom (Times)||220x|
|Recording Media||Memory Card|
|Video Capture Format||HD, MPEG-4, Full HD|
|Max Video Res||1920x1080|
|Minimum Lux Rating (Lux)||3 luxlx, 3lx, eid=3211lx|
|Image Stabilisation||Optical, Electronic|
|LCD Screen Size (Inch)||2.7 in, 5.8 cm (2.3")in|
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