Samsung HMX-H104 16 GB Camcorder - Black

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Good camcorder value

May 8, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Battery Life:
  • Movie Quality:

Pros:Video quality, image stablization

Cons:Battery life, low-light performance, some control layout issues

The Bottom Line: Very good camcorder value, plenty of features and easy to use.  It would be outstanding with better battery life and low-light performance.


Date received:  May 6, 2009
Purchased from:  Dell (online)

Preface:  I’m just a casual camcorder user, mostly making videos of noteworthy family events.  My opinions and thoughts are wholly from the perspective of a non-professional.  I was prompted to write this after finding just about no useful usage information about this camcorder on the internet.  We took the camcorder out for a night at our daughter’s cheerleading practice, and this review is based on that experience.

Equipment used:
Samsung HMX-H104 camcorder (16GB SSD)
SanDisk 8 GB Extreme III SDHC Card (Class 6, 30MB transfer rating)
Sony Bravia KDL46S4100
Dell XPS1530 laptop

1080i Video:
You can say what you want about 1080i vs 1080p, but the reality is any difference is subtle, and likely rendered moot by any decent hi-def TV.

Outdoor performance:  Outstanding.  I found the color reproduction to be naturally vibrant, and sunlight always seems to bring out the best in camcorder recordings.
Indoor performance:  Very good.  Fluorescent lights can be problematic, but the iScene fluorescent lighting mode (i.e., ‘indoor mode’) does a good job of compensating for the color shift.
Low light performance:  Ok.  I was, perhaps unrealistically, hoping for better low-light results.  What I get is acceptable, but no more. 

Still photos:
Adequate.  It’s not a digital SLR but the 4.7MP resolution is good for quick snaps.  My wife is using this camera as her primary still camera, and she’s perfectly happy with the photos she’s taken.  The flash has a limited range, but that’s normal for 99% of built-in flashes.

Internal SSD to SDHC transfer times:
First transfer was for about 1.5 GB of data, and it took about 2 minutes.

1.8GB video file size limit:
This is something I forgot to test.  The manual states that video files are restricted to 1.8GB.  For 1080i recordings set to super-fine, that equates to about 15 minutes of video.  My question is – what happens if I record for more than this time?  Are new files automatically created?  Does the recording automatically stop?  Researching this topic on the internet, it would appear that new files are automatically created, though a frame or two might potentially be lost in the transition.

Battery charging time (from 0%):
Right at 2 hours

Battery run-time:
Given that the camcorder uses a SSD, the battery life is amazingly short.  It’s not a tiny battery, either.  Granted, with no EVF the LCD panel is probably the biggest power drain, but taking some video (20 minutes, tops, a minute or two at a time), and a couple of dozen photos (some with flash) and reviewing them shouldn’t run the battery down.  I’ve got a second battery and an external charger on order, and I may have to add a 3rd battery too.

Camcorder menu system:
Overall, I found the menu layout and structure simple and easy to use.  For whatever reason, some of the menu items didn’t make immediate sense to me, but it was simple enough to figure out.  For example, the menu item ‘Storage’ I at first assumed meant ‘Storage Information’, but in fact is how you select whether to record to the internal memory or an inserted memory card.

Optical Image Stabilization performance:
Low zoom:  Excellent
Medium zoom:  Excellent
Max zoom:  Very good
As noted in the manual, when image stabilization is enabled there is a slight lag in what is displayed on the LCD panel, and this is particularly noticeable when panning the camera.  This is a by-product of the mechanical nature of the image stabilization and I didn’t find it distracting.

Touch screen:
It works relatively well, though given the small dimensions of the screen (2.7” diagonal widescreen) people with big, wide fingertips might have a problem or two.  The controls and menus are generally well-spaced and this partially compensates for the smallness of the screen.

Physical controls:
I found the location of the zoom switch a little too far toward the rear of the camera and thus awkward to operate, without moving the camera when my finger stretched for the control.  It wasn’t horrible, just a little awkward for my particular hand.

Zoom:
I did notice that if you switch from recording to viewing mode, and back to recording, not only does the lens cover close and open (which is ok), but the zoom level resets to the default, middle position.  I was taking photos at the lowest zoom, reviewing them, and then taking more photos and I had to continually reset the zoom.  It’s not hard to do, just a momentary leaning on the zoom lever, but I would have preferred that the zoom setting be retained.  I only tried the optical zoom, as I have no interest in the digital zoom.  The optical zoom performs very well, and will zoom at a variable speed based on how far you move the zoom switch.

CONCLUSION:
I’m very happy with this purchase.  I was looking for a digital camcorder to update to from my old Sony Hi-8, and wanted to get as much camcorder as I could without spending an arm and a leg.  I was nervous to go with this Samsung model since it is so new with no decent reviews out (that I could find), but reading the specs and reviews of other Samsung camcorders, coupled with the all solid state SSD storage, convinced me to give it a try.  The touch screen is nice (and I hope it lasts!) as is the optical image stabilization.  10x zoom is adequate for my needs, though I wish the battery life and low-light performance were a notch better.  Overall, though, very nice camcorder for the money.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 665
Recommended for: Home and Families - Keep Memories of Family Vacations


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