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camcorders

Samsung HMX-QF20 Review

The Samsung HMX-QF20: the successor to the Samsung HMX-Q10, with the big new addition being Wi-Fi capability.

$349.00
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Introduction

The Samsung HMX-QF20 is the successor to the Samsung HMX-Q10, with the big new addition being Wi-Fi capability; this allows the user to upload video directly to the internet (via a Wi-Fi hotspot). The camcorder is loaded with a long 40x zoom lens, but it doesn't have too much else going for it, which explains its budget-friendly $350 MSRP. For $50 less, Samsung also offers the HMX-Q20, which forgoes the built-in Wi-Fi feature but is the same as the QF20 in all other aspects.

Design & Usability

The Samsung HMX-QF20 is about as small and light as you can get for a traditional camcorder. Sure, there are pocket-cams that are smaller than your average cellphone, but they're an entirely different breed than the QF20, with the most striking difference being their lack of (or limited) optical zoom capability. The body of the QF20 is void of most buttons, leaving the camcorder with a clean and smart look. The 2.7-inch touchscreen is standard for a budget model, but we found its touch interface responded horribly to our input.

The operation of the QF20 would be very simple if it weren't for the frustrating touchscreen interface.

The operation of the QF20 would be very simple if it weren't for the frustrating touchscreen interface. With virtually no buttons or knobs, most of the controls are relegated to the touchscreen LCD. The main menu is even a challenge to scroll through thanks to the screen's unresponsive design. Each time I tried to select a function on the screen, it required multiple pushes before the camcorder would understand what I was trying to do. If you think you can avoid using the touchscreen altogether, think again. You'll have to drag yourself into the menu system at some point (for video playback, to format your memory card, etc.), and not using the touchscreen means you can't change any of the recording options on the camcorder. It may work for a while, but you'll eventually want to change something. And that's when the frustration will begin.

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Features

New Wi-Fi feature isn't very extensive, but it's still one of the most unique features on the camcorder.

A few special functions, including silly digital effects and a time lapse record option, are found on the QF20, but the big new feature is built-in Wi-Fi. Samsung keeps the Wi-Fi options simple with the QF20, limiting the feature to social sharing (uploading content to the web) and auto backup that lets you wirelessly transfer video files to a computer. We'd like to see Samsung incorporate more-advanced Wi-Fi functions here, like features that allow you to pair the camcorder with your smartphone or setup the camcorder for remote monitoring via the web. But the QF20's features are a start, and the ability to directly send your videos to sites like YouTube or Facebook is something consumers will likely enjoy. Remember, though, you still need to connect your camcorder to a Wi-Fi network in order to do this, which is something you don't have to do when uploading media from your cellphone.

The HMX-QF20 doesn't offer much in terms of features and control. Shutter speed and aperture can only function automatically, and focus can be set manually, but only using the touchscreen interface. The camcorder does have basic exposure adjustment, backlight compensation, and white balance control, as well as multiple video resolution recording options. The QF20's C.Nite low light recording feature is somewhat unique, but it's really just a slow shutter mode. Normal C.Nite allows the camcorder to use a slightly slow shutter in order to boost brightness in dark scenes, while the Super C.Nite setting uses an even slower shutter speed—to the point that motion looks blurred and choppy—that will produce bright images in very low light situations.

Performance

Very good color reproduction, but extremely grainy images in low light.

Recording in very low light is barely possible with the QF20, unless you turn on one of the camcorder's low light modes to boost brightness levels.

The Samsung HMX-QF20 is certainly not a good all-around camcorder when it comes to video quality. The camcorder had some serious problems with low light recording, with its video in our tests showing tons of noise and blur once the lights got dim. Recording in very low light is barely possible with the QF20, unless you turn on one of the camcorder's low light modes to boost brightness levels. Doing so, however, will result in choppy motion and lots of blur—so there's really no way to get solid video in low light using this camcorder.

Sharpness levels, even in bright light, were also somewhat limited coming from the camcorder, but the QF20 did do a decent job with our motion test. Another positive for the camcorder was color accuracy, where the QF20 put up good numbers in both bright and low light.

Conclusion

Poor low light performance and the terrible touchscreen interface really drag the QF20 down.

As expected, the Samsung HMX-QF20's video performance is not the camcorder's strong suit. Low light images were barely usable, with the camcorder showing lots of blur and noise even in mildly-dark shooting situations. But the Samsung QF20 does have the benefit of simplicity. The camcorder has only a few features and functions, which should make it appealing to beginners, but certainly not to pros. The wireless features also speak to this beginner-friendly functionality. Once you setup the Wi-Fi, which can be a challenging process, the camcorder's ability to directly upload video to YouTube, Picasa, and Flickr are very appealing features for novice videographers.

If its touchscreen were improved, the QF20 would be a fairly approachable budget camcorder, but at times the interface was so frustrating that it made us want to avoid the product altogether. The camcorder has some good auto controls, decent handling (other than the touchscreen), and a compact size that makes it very portable. The camcorder is so small that it may even fit in your coat pocket, but good luck getting it to squeeze into the pocket on your skinny jeans.

The QF20 is one of the cheapest camcorders on the market, and it's likely you could find the camcorder for less than its $350 MSRP if you shop around. The camcorder has its limitations, mainly with low light video and the terrible touchscreen, but this is one of those instances where you do kind of get what you pay for. If you want better performance, then you'll probably have to pony up more cash—or look for a great deal on a mid-range camcorder like the Panasonic HC-V700 or Canon HF M50.

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