Samsung SCD103 Mini-DV Camcorder

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Product: Samsung SCD103 Mini-DV Camcorder
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price: ~ $314USD on Pricewatch

Introduction:

Samsung has thrown me a curve as far as the "normal" hardware I get to review.  This time around I received the SCD103 Mini-DV Camcorder.  This model is located in their "Handy & Easy" category on their Mini-DV Camcorder page.  This being said, it should be pretty handy and easy to use.  We'll see.  I have had this camcorder for over a month, and compared it subjectively to my Sony Mini-DV camcorder.  Although you will not be seeing direct comparisons, I will use the Sony as reference.  To see if this is truely "Handy & Easy", I let my boss' wife use the camcorder around the farm for a few hours.  She is in her mid-70's, and yes, she figured it out - it's that easy to use.

Enough of the blather, let's take a look at some features and specs of this beauty.

Features:

Mini-DV Easy-Q EZ Navigator Optical 18x Zoom 1/6", 680K Pixel CCD 2.5" TFT Color LCD
Video Light Slow Shutter Nite Pix Digital Image Stabilizer Playback Zoom Photo Mode
Memory Stick Slot Built-in Digital Camera Multi-Display MPEG4 Movie Clip Multi Language Display Digital PCM Stereo Audio
  External Mic. IEEE 1394 in/out USB Streaming Web Camera  

For full specifications, please visit Samsungs site here, or get the eBrochure here.

Bundle:

The Samsung SCD103 comes with everything you may expect, but a little less than you'd hope for.  It ships with an analog audio/video cable, mini-usb to usb cable, power adapter and cord, neckstrap, Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, software cd and manuals.  What is missing in this package - and in most camcorder packages unfortunately, is the firewire cable.  With the included cable, you have to use compression to get your video on your computer.  You ruin the awesome quality of Mini-DV.  If you pick up this camera to capture movies to your computer to burn DVD's, make sure that you pick up a firewire cable before you come home.

On the next page, we'll take a closer look at the camera itself.


Camera Up Close:

I've taken quite a few pictures of this camera up close so you have a better idea of what you're getting if you decide to purchase this model.

The one thing that I really like about this camera is the large lens.  This large lens is able to gather more light that my Sony and as a result, video taken indoors or in poor lighting conditions, is clearer and less grainy.

Moving around to the back allows you to see the battery, "Camera/Off/Player" switch and the black and white viewfinder.  The viewfinder is quite clear, and can be used instead of the LCD to conserve battery power.  Here is my first real beef with the SCD103.  The viewfinder doesn't extend.  It tilts upwards, but if you have a nose, you can't leave it down and see through it.  (Look at the first picture on page 1 and you'll know what I mean).  Having to tilt it up to use it doesn't allow for a natural feel, as you must look down into the viewfinder while holding the camera horizontal.

I realize that most people will never use the viewfinder, but if you plan on it, this one is a little awkward.

Moving down to the bottom reveals the tripod mount, battery release lever, tape eject, and the Sony Memory Stick port.  Here lies my second personal complaint.  This is a Samsung Camcorder, not a Sony.  Sony Memory Sticks are not as popular as SD or MMC cards which are generally used in non-Sony cameras.  Samsung has chosen Sony, and although it's not a bad choice, it still seems a little odd to me. 

 

Unfortunately, I don't have any Sony Memory Sticks handy, and was unable to test this camera's digital camera features.  It does however take pictures that are only 640x480.  To reference, the images you see in this review are actually only 512x384, so for emailing or web-shots, it should do just fine.

Heading around right side reveals, the "Slow Shutter" button, the "Photo" button, and the I/O area.  Under this cover you've got plenty of interfaces to choose from.  Mini-Firewire, Mini-USB, Analog A/V, S-Video, as well as an external microphone jack.  Also under this cover is a battery door that contains a button cell battery used to remember time and date as well as camera settings.

The left side of the camera houses the LCD and a few other buttons.  Here you've got your main editing mode, and settings controls.  There is a speaker available to allow you to hear the video while you play back during editing.  The speaker is quite clear and goes fairly loud.  Beside the speaker is the DC input which allows you to run without the battery, or charge the battery.  Speaking of the battery - it lasts quite a while.  I'm not sure how many hours you can expect in reality, but it appears to be longer than my Sony.

Also pictured is the Tape/Memory Card switch that allows to you choose where pictures and video will be stored.  Yes, the camera can take pictures without a card, but they are recorded onto the tape.  Not a perfect solution, but at least there is an option.

On the next page, we'll take a quick look into the features and menus on the LCD.


LCD & Menus:

The LCD on this camera is reasonable sized measuring in at 2.5".  Under bright conditions, such as outside on a sunny day, it is very difficult to see no matter how you hold it.  You can adjust the brightness manually, but it still appears dim. . . you may want to use the viewfinder.

Instead on going on for a few pages about all the features that are available, I thought I'd post up some pictures of the LCD menus.  That will explain as good as I could in 1,000 words what the camera is capable of.  Afterall, 5 pictures are worth 1,000 words right?

 

This camera has all the features, bells & whistles you'd expect to find in todays Mini-DV camera's.  It features Nite-Pix as well as a very cool "Wind Cut" feature that we'll touch on a little more later.  All in all, a very feature packed camcorder.

Now, on with the software and test results!


Software:

To be honest, there isn't a whole lot of software that comes with the camera.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  Some companies bundle a bunch of useless software that never gets installed.  If you don't have a Sony Memory Stick and are running the latest version of Windows Media Player and DirectX, you'll likely only install the DVC Driver and the DVC Media 5.1 program.  These two pieces of software will allow you to use the USB connector and the USB Streaming feature.  If you're using Windows XP and the Firewire cable, no software will need to be installed at all.

If you plan to take pictures with the built-in digital camera, you may want to install the Photo Editor and the MS (Memory Stick) Formatter.

The USB Streaming feature allows the SCD103 to be used as a web cam.  The quality of the SCD103 stream far exceeds $30 web cams as it should.  Due to the overlay that is used, I was unable to capture a screenshot of the USB Streaming in action, but it would appear in the window below.

Test Results:

We used the SCD103 around home here for over a month and were quite impressed with the quality of the video.  Video taken indoors was brighter than that of my Sony, and video outdoors was as crisp as Mini-DV can be.  Battery life is quite exceptional, as I've used it on and off for over 2 hours, and it still showed a decent charge remaining.

 

Nite-Pix works well and allows you to take video (at limited distance) in full dark.  The video light helps to illuminate under low-light conditions, but drains the battery rather quickly.

Althougth SCD103 is somewhat larger than other Mini-DV cameras, it fits well with hands of all sizes and is comfortable to use.  Weighing in at just over 1lb, it won't tire you arm from extended use. . . If it does, maybe you should put down the twinkie and go get some excercise.

Conclusion:

After using this camera extensively, there is really nothing bad to say about it.  I've got a couple of minor beefs with it, but nothing that could be said is "wrong".  So let's break it down into yeahs and nays

Yeah:

- Clear, crisp Mini-DV.
- Lightweight, "Handy & Easy"
- Good Battery Life.
- USB Streaming + IEEE1394 Firewire.
- WindCut (not perfect, but better than nothing)

Nay:

- Awkward Viewfinder.
- No Firewire Cable.
- Dim LCD.

All in all, I could recommend the SCD103 to just about anyone.  It's simple to use, full of features, and offers great quality with the large lens.  If you want to go Digital Video on the cheap, the SCD103 is definitely a good choice.  It has a couple of minor annoyances, but they are liveable for the price.  Both still pictures and video are shot at 640x480, so video on your TV will look great.

Here's how it really breaks down:

BensCustomCases.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
9/10
Software Pack:
9/10
Stability:
10/10
Features:
10/10
Value:
10/10
Total Score 9.7

 

I'd like to thank Samsung Canada for sending this out for a review.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them in the forum over here.