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Samsung SMX-C20 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £136.77

High definition camcorders have only been available to consumers for five years, with Sony’s HDR-HC1E leading the way. But already standard definition models are on their last legs. If you’re on a tight budget, though, opting for standard definition can give you more features for less money. Such is the case with Samsung’s SMX-C20, which costs a similar amount or less than a pocket Internet HD model, but provides a lot more control and configuration.


The most obvious benefit the C20 has to offer is an optical zoom. Virtually all pocket Internet camcorders only incorporate digital zooms, but Samsung provides a 10x optical telephoto. The C20 is built around a small 1/6in CMOS sensor with just 680,000 pixels, but one of its benefits is allowing this very respectable optical zoom, despite the camcorder measuring just 109mm along its longest edge. The sensor isn’t of the back-side illuminated variety, however, unlike Samsung’s HMX-H200. There is a digital zoom available, but this boosts the factor to an utterly ludicrous 1,200x, which as always we’d recommend avoiding.


Image stabilisation is also optical rather than electronic, so theoretically more effective than usually expected at this price. In fact, almost no pocket Internet camcorders offer any form of image stabilisation at all, with the notable exceptions being JVC’s PICSIO GC-FM2 and PICSO GC-WP10AE. Whilst JVC’s latest models also incorporate a few more configuration options than most pocket Internet camcorders, they don’t go as far as Samsung’s SMX-C20 in this respect either. A quick menu accessed via the joystick on the LCD edge lets you adjust a selection of settings with a few finger presses, including focus, exposure, and scene modes.


Focus options include face detection and fully manual, although the latter is hard to adjust with only the joystick. The exposure control has 13 positions between -2 EV and +2 EV. The scene modes include the usual suspects, such as Sports and Portrait. But the same menu also houses the white balance presets, so you can’t enable both at the same time. There is no option for manual white balance either.


If you don’t want to make these kinds of settings yourself, the C20 also offers a Smart Auto option which attempts to detect conditions and set the scene mode accordingly. However, whilst reminiscent of Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto, Samsung’s Smart Auto doesn’t offer the same range of scene modes, and is nowhere near as effective as a result. Smart Auto essentially enables low light mode in poor illumination, although a macro mode will also appear when appropriate.


If you delve into the main menu, time lapse options are available, allowing you to record a frame every one, three, five, ten, 15 or 30 seconds, for a duration of 24, 48, or 72 hours, or for as long as your media can hold. Annoyingly, back light compensation is only accessible via the main menu, where a discrete button would be more appropriate.

The C20 also incorporates one of Samsung’s more unusual recent design features – a lens that points slightly up. This takes a little getting used to, as you naturally expect to point this format of camcorder in the direction of its longest dimension. However, it’s also true that your wrist feels more comfortable with the camcorder pointing slightly downwards. So having the lens points up means you can hold the device without twisting your hand, making the posture less tiring. Once you’ve adjusted the LCD to compensate, shooting like this can be quite comfy. If you prefer holding the camcorder in a more torch-like fashion, controls are available on edge of LCD for operating the zoom and toggling record.


There’s no storage integrated into the C20, with removable SD memory called upon instead. The video resolution is set at 720 x 576 and frame rate at 25 per second, although you can choose between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. There are three quality levels available, with the top one capturing video at 4.5Mbits/sec. So a 4GB SDHC card will be enough for around two hours of footage. Still images can be captured at 1,696 x 960 or 848 x 480, neither of which are going to give a standalone digital camera any competition.


Where colour is concerned, the C20 performs very well for its price. Fidelity is good in bright light, although the camcorder is put through its paces by extreme contrasts in brightness. It’s also hard not to notice the lack in detail compared to most HD camcorders. There is obvious smearing visible from bright light sources, too, but overall the C20 achieves very commendable results for its price.


Low light abilities are a mixed bag. Again, colour remains reasonably accurate, even in relatively poor illumination. However, the image is much fuzzier in these conditions, and detail is even more obscured. So whilst you can see your subjects in low light, the picture isn’t particularly impressive.


Built-in software is becoming de rigueur for budget camcorders, and the C20 includes an app called Intelli-Studio, or i-Studio depending on where you look, which installs on your PC straight from the camcorder when you first plug it in via USB. Intelli-Studio is reasonably well featured, with modest editing abilities and uploading to Flickr and Facebook as well as the ubiquitous YouTube.

Verdict


It won’t be very long before we find it impossible to recommend any camcorder that doesn’t shoot in high definition. But for now there’s still just about enough reason to choose standard definition when on a budget. If you just want to point and shoot, with no need whatsoever to configure your shooting, an HD pocket Internet camcorder would suit you best at this price. However, if you want a little more flexibility, particularly a fully fledged optical zoom, Samsung’s SMX-C20 would still be worth considering instead, and its sub-£150 price makes it great value.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Value 9

Image Processor

Image Sensor Quantity 1
Image Sensor Size (Millimeter) 0.16"mm, 4.06 mm

Lens Features

Optical Zoom (Times) 10x
Digital Zoom (Times) 1200x

Video Recording

Recording Media Memory Card
Video Capture Format SD
Max Video Res 720x480 or 720x576
Image Stabilisation Electronic

General Features

LCD Screen Size (Inch) 2.7 in

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