Samsung HMX-QF20 Wi-Fi Enabled HD Camcorder

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Product: Samsung HMX-QF20 Wi-Fi Enabled HD Camcorder
Provided By: Samsung
Price: ~$279 at publication (Find Lowest Price Here)

Introduction:

Recording video has changed dramatically over the past couple of years and consumers have moved from bulky camcorders to phones more often than naught.  The amazing thing about new smartphones is the quality of the video they can record and the ease in which you can share that video.  Samsung has some great phones that do amazing things, and yet the realize that there is still a market for dedicated camcorders - if you do it right.  

How do you do a camcorder right these days?  You either have to have some insane quality that you can't get in a smaller device, or you have to offer great functionality and convenience.  Samsung HMX-QF20 tries to capitalize on quality, performance, convenience and features - all with an attractive price tag.  They do this by using flash storage for your video (SD, SDHC or SDXC) and putting WiFi in the camera for backup, sharing and viewing convenience.  There is a lot of little things in this camera that might go unnoticed and we're going to take a look at them and see if they are worth carrying around another device to record video. 

 Box

First Look:

Samsung asked us if we could do a couple more reviews here before the summer kicked into high gear, so I figured a camera and a video camera would be relevant items for your summer travels.  We recently looked at the NX200 ILC camera, so that leaves us with the HMX-QF20.  I haven't been shopping for a camcorder so when this unit arrived I was surprised to see how small and compact HD camcorders have gotten.

The HMX-QF20 is very small and can actually slip into a case for a Nintendo DS.  Although it has a compact size, the button layout is pretty much non-existent in a lot of ways and this makes it work well - even in large hands.  The layout is clean and simple and the sides of the camera are free of buttons.  The only functionality on the sides (when closed) is the screen on the left side.

Side Profile
Side Profile
Other Side Profile
Other Side Profile

 

The hand strap slips tight for storage and is actually very convenient so you don't snag it on other items in your camera bag.  As you can see below, the camera functions equally well left-handed or right-handed and auto-rotates the video (most of the time).  We'll get more into that during testing.

Right Handed
Right Handed
Left Handed
Left Handed

 

One of the main features of the camera is the touch-screen that is used instead of a plethora of buttons and obscure functions along the side of the camera.  One thing I like is that the screen even offers a zoom function so you don't have to touch the controls at the rear of the camera if this is more convenient.

On Screen Zoom
On Screen Zoom

 

The rear of the camera is where all the controls are located.  They offer basic zoom functions, bookmarks as well as record/snap photo.  Also at the rear of the camera is the power jack used for charging the battery.

Rear Controls
Rear Controls
DC Connector
DC Connector

 

When the LCD is swung out it reveals a sliding door on the camera that hides a micro-USB connector, a micro-HDMI connector as well as another connector for hooking up AV cables to the camcorder.  On the screen that swings out we have a single "home" button that gets you though some of the menu navigation.  

 Ports
Ports

 

With a camera of this size and price, the bundle is a little lean, but at least we have a pretty snappy f1.8~f3.9 lens that should provide us with pretty decent light gathering ability - even when racked out to 20x optical zoom.

 

Bundle:

By all accounts the lens and bundle are very good for a camera of this price range and the 20x optical zoom is really ample for most situations.  The HMX-QF20 Camcorder uses a 1250mAh Lithium Ion battery and stores video on the afore-mentioned SD card - located in the bottom with the battery.  This slot supports and SDHC cards and accepted an 8GB SDHC card with no issues.  Power is toggled on by opening the screen on the side of the camera.

 

Bundle

 

What I would like to see is companies including the compatible HDMI cables for their devices as running full HD video from this camera to your TV via the composite cable looks horrible.  Of course, there is always the WiFi feature...

 

We've pulled some of the features and specifications of the HMX-QF20 camcorder from Samsung's site and posted them here for you convenience.  For all of the features and specs, please visit their site.  Below are just a few of the cool details. 

Features:

Wi-Fi Connectivity
No more searching for cables. With Built-in Wi-Fi capability, you can share every special moment on the move. Post videos on to YouTube. Upload your latest photograph to PicasaTM, or share both photos and videos through FacebookTM- and wait for the rave reviews to come in. Use the TV Link feature to wirelessly display your photos / videos on a large TV screen. With a click of the Auto Backup feature, save images to your PC without connecting the camcorder to a computer - it is that easy.

Switch Grip II
One thing lefties and righties can agree on the streamlined and compact QF20 with Switch Grip II was made for both. Because no matter in which hand it’s held, the camcorder’s LCD screen will adjust to ensure that the picture is shown right-side up. More comfortable shooting while holding the camcorder vertically? Good news: you can rotate the LCD screen 90º, and the image will remain right-side up. Shooting video from difficult positions has never been easier.

My Clip
Play back your favorite moments of a night out with friends or your hike through the woods — without having to waste time fast-forwarding or rewinding. The My Clip feature allows you to tag any scene in your video, so you can instantly relive the most hilarious bits or amazing sights over and over again — with no additional editing. 

OIS Duo +
With OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer) Duo +, you can capture clear and steady video, even if you have a case of shaky hands. The QF20 combines a built-in OIS with digital image stabilization technology to prevent bumps, jolts, and shivers from blurring image quality. OIS Duo Plus also compensates for body movement that can occur while you’re moving around, or for the movement of the digital zoom.

Full Specs:

We've pulled the full specs from Samsung's site and reposted them here for your convenience.

Specs

Specs

On the next page we'll take a look at the menus and setup of this camera before we jump into testing.

 

 

Menus and Settings - System Settings:

There are a lot of menu screens, settings and customization that can be done with this camcorder and I won't insult you by explaining every slide.  Instead, you can choose the ones you want to look at and we'll briefly cover some of the details at the bottom of each section.

Menu Screen
Menu Screen 1
Menu Screen - 2
Menu Screen 2

The menu above is accessed by pressing the physical "Home" button on the flip-out LCD Screen.  From here you use the touch screen to access the settings you are looking for.  Smart Auto tries (quite successfully) to match up what you are shooting.  Manual mode gives you full control over White Balance, Exposure, Backlight, Auto/Manual Focus and Night Mode.

Under the Art Film effects include some nifty/gimmicky effects as well as the ability to fade in and out of your video clips.  These effects can all be done in post, but if you want to quickly do it during production, this is the way to quickly get it done.

Art - Digital Effects
Art - Digital Effects
Art - Fader
Art - Fader

 

Wireless Functions:

It's pretty amazing how companies have not capitalized much in the past on built-in wireless functionality.  Samsung makes up for this and adds WiFi Auto Backup that pushes pictures and videos over the network to your PC (software included).  This is handy and means that if you are frequently around your base of operations, you'll have your video backed up and available on your PC - without connecting wires.  The TV Link option is like "All-Share" from Samsung but it works on more than just their TVs.  It works on supported DLNA devices.  This sounds great, but there are some bandwidth problems.

Auto Backup
Auto Backup
WiFi TV Link
WiFi TV Link

 

The Social Sharing option built into the HMX-QF20 includes support for uploading videos and images directly to Facebook, Picasa and YouTube.  These worked flawlessly during testing and I was quite impressed at the ability to push photos quickly to Picasa.  As I recorded video at full resolution, the file sizes were a little large to upload directly to YouTube or Facebook.  I know these services support it, but the time it takes to upload 1GB of video over a 256kbps upload is a little excessive.

 

Settings:

The default settings on this camera are more than adequate, but if you want to tweak, there are plenty of options to do just that.  You can choose several video and a couple of photo resolutions to get you started.

Video Resolution
Video Resolution
Photo Resolution
Photo Resolution

 

Below are a few more of the settings screens that are fairly self-explanatory.

Settings - 1
Settings - 1
Optical Image Stabilization
Optical Image Stabilization
Macro Mode
Macro Mode
     
Settings - Display
Settings - Display
Settings - Connectivity
Settings - Connectivity
Settings - General
Settings - General

 

 

Many of the same settings for the still camera are also available for the video camera.  The exceptions include items such as Super C.Nite and Image Stabilization.  If you're expecting to shoot in extremely low light with the HMX-QF20, you'll be disappointed.  There is no IR light feature like that Sony uses and recording in the dark is pretty disappointing.  Night modes increase the ISO and lower the frame-rate.  This allows you to capture something - but it's not pretty.

On the next page we'll jump into testing the camcorder before we draw up our final thoughts and conclusions.


 

Testing the Digital Still Camera:

Most people who purchase this camcorder will do so because of the 1920x1080i video resolution and attractive price tage, but with a 5.1MP CMOS sensor it should perform quite well as a digital camera.  The sensor is not super high quality and this unit won't replace your current SLR, but the camera is worth looking at and using on a holiday.  Because it packs in a decent camera, the Samsung HMX-QF20 can save you the hassle of packing a video camera as well as a still camera with you - provided you have good enough light.


I took a few pictures in different situations with the camera running on its automatic mode.  Better results may be obtained through tweaking, but time constraints demanded that we take some simple photographs without setting up anything too elaborate.

Photo Sample
Click for full resolution image
Photo Sample 2
Click for full resolution image

 

When viewing these images at full-resolution, you can quickly see the chromatic aberration and poor image quality - but for viewing on the web, or for quick sharing.  It works good.  I've included a few more pictures that I uploaded directly to PicasaYou can find them here.  Indoors, the images are grainy.  I'm surprised at the macro shot of the bottle top and how clear it is - without blurring.  Clearly Optical Image Stabilization is doing it's thing.


While the camera isn't spectacular, it certainly does the job well enough  if there is enough light.  You could print out 4x6 glossy photos of your favorite person, place or thing.  Overall, it's a small sensor that is not optimized for still image capture, but it can - provided the conditions are great.

 

Testing the Video Camera - High Definition:

Different resolutions are available including 1920x1080i and 1280x720p.  My current TV does 1920x1080p and we will focus on maximum quality in this review.  Because the video is simply H.264 we were able to easily play back the files on our computer using any standard media player.  The image below is a screen capture that I took while playing the video in Windows Media Player.  It has been compressed slightly but still maintain most of its original quality.

Vid Capture  

Screen Capture of Video

 

Even though the video is shot at 1080i, you can see no visible interlacing when played back on my PC.

Below is a YouTube clip of some video I shot on a bright sunny day and you can see that even here, there is some noise and artifacting in the video.  It's not bad by all means, but it's not a "pro-sumer" camcorder for sure.

 

Final Thoughts:

The Samsung HMX-QF20 camcorder was a bit of a surprise.  First of all, the camcorder is very small and the Switch Grip II idea is nice - although it doesn't always work and the video ends up upside down.  While the still image function is passable - it barely makes the cut and if you want to print pictures larger than 4x6 or view them at full resolution, you will want to bring along a dedicated camera.  What makes this unit special is integrated WiFi features.  I love the idea of the Auto Backup, Social sharing and TV playback.  The downside to the wireless aspect is the range (or lack thereof) with the camera.  When connected to a solid wireless network a couple of walls away - the playback buffered occasionally and it was sluggish.

Like most other cameras, quality degrades as you put it in lower light situations and even with the Super C. Nite enabled, recording video in a dark room is horribly grainy.  On the other hand, I took it to a spring concert and recorded a few clips from the opposite end of the stadium and the video quality was not too bad considering.

    

Possibly a downside is that there is no internal memory.  With the price of SD cards being so cheap, this may not be much of a downside though as it keeps the overall cost of the unit very reasonable.  It would be nice if Samsung threw in a generic 8GB card at the very least.

Pros:

  • Small Size
  • HD 1920x1080i and 1280x720p
  • 5.1MP CMOS Sensor
  • Good Video Image Quality
  • Flash Storage Can Survive Shaking
  • Touch Screen LCD For Navigation
  • Nice Fast Lens
  • Sub $300
  • Interesting and fun time lapse functions

 

 


Cons:

  • Noise and chromatic aberration in photos
  • No microphone input
  • No internal memory
  • Switch Grip II doesn't always switch the grip
  • Microphone doesn't always level well and there is clipping at times
  • Not full 1080p
  • Image quality seems a little flat overall
  • WiFi range/performance falls a bit short

 

BCCRating

 

Even with the decent list of "Pros" some of the quality and performance issues of the camera keep it from scoring as a recommended product.  The truth is that for the price, it's not a bad buy at all, but we have come to expect a little more quality from a dedicated HD video camera.  There are a few improvements that would help this sub-$300 to be absolutely great.  If you can live with what we've said though, I believe that many people would be happy with it for a long time.