Sport Cam Madness - Samsung SC-X210L

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Product: Samsung SC-X210L Sport Cam
Provided By: Samsung Canada
Price: $599 Online

Introduction:

SC-X210L - Box
 SC-X210L - Box

A while back Samsung released a "Sport Cam".  This camcorder used flash based storage and had an external camera that could be mounted to many things in order to capture some cool sport action.  The first generation product had some issues and they've now released the second generation sport cam - the SC-X210L.  This camera features many improvements over the original, and when Samsung offered it to us for a review, I couldn't resist.  I envisioned flying through the air doing some wicked jumps, then I realized that I didn't own a motorbike.  I do live on a farm however, and thanks to the generosity of my father, we will have some fun regardless.  In the meantime, let's take a look at the Sport Cam goodness.

First Look:

The box is pretty cool and it unfolds like an origami project to reveal a whole bunch of goodies.  Inside of the main box is two smaller boxes plus a compartment below the camcorder itself.  Take a look below at the bundle(s).

SC-X210L - Bundle #1
 SC-X210L - Bundle #1

SC-X210L - Bundle #2
 SC-X210L - Bundle #2

SC-X210L - Bundle #3
 SC-X210L - Bundle #3

Bundle #1 comes from the bottom of the box and contains a couple of CD's, a carrying case, instruction manuals, and of course the Sport Cam itself.  Yes, it is much smaller than a CD.  Bundle #2 is in a box and includes the I/O cables, power adapter, batter, a set of earbuds, a lens cap and a wrist strap.  Bundle #3 is all about the external camera.  It includes the external cam, a mounting bracket and an adjustable length elastic strap for securing the mounting bracket.  The carrying case is large enough to hold the charger, all of the external cam goodies and the camera itself.  Everything here is really small but promises big performance.  We'll see.

Closer Look:

The heart of the Samsung SC-X210L Sport Cam is the external camera.  This camera mounts almost anywhere and allows you to get some pretty wicked angles and cool shots of your best moves.  This can make for some pretty fun home movies that were never possible before.  The external camera is rubber armored for durability and the lens rotates so that you can always make sure your video is level and professional looking.

External Cam - Close
 External Cam - Close

 

SC-X210L - Side View
 SC-X210L - Side View

The SC-X210L is ridiculously small.  It's smaller than some digital still cameras, never mind digital video cameras.  You can see its tiny size compared to the 2.0GB SD Flash Card that Crucial gave us to use in the review.  The camera comes with 1GB of internal storage, and can be expanded easily to 3GB.  This actually provides more room and longer record times that even mini-DVD cameras.  Sweet.

 

As you can see in the pictures below, there is no optical viewfinder on this unit.  The LCD screen is the only way to see what you're recording.  Thankfully, the brightness controls on this camera allow it to be used easily even in bright sunlight.  Some LCD's are virtually impossible to read in direct sunlight.

SC-X210L - Front View
 SC-X210L - Front View

 

SC-X210L - Back View
 SC-X210L - Back View

There is really no way to appreciate how small this camera is until you hold it in your hand.  Even when it's all wide open it is still tiny.

SC-X210L - All Open
 SC-X210L - All Open

 

SC-X210L - Back Open
 SC-X210L - Back Open

The controls of the camera are very small, but well positioned in my opinion.  The power button resides underneath the LCD, so that it cannot be accidentally shut off when recording and the LCD is closed (durability - you'll see).  The record button is to the right of the zoom toggle, and the play button is on the left.  Tidy, handy and very usable.

Features & Specs:

For the list of features and specs we go to the Samsung website to get the 411.

  • 6 in 1 Multi-Function Sports Cam
  • Optical 10x, Digital 100x Zoom
  • 1/6", 680k Pixel CCD
  • 1GB Built-In Memory
  • SD/MMC Expansion Card Slot
  • LED Flash Light : Use the built in light to illuminate dark scene's for still photo's
  • 2" Trans-Ref 230k Pixel LCD
  • PC/Web Camera
  • 2" Trans-Ref 230k Pixel LCD
  • Electronic Image Stabilizer
  • Recording Time: HQ 4.5Mb/S Fine 3.0Mb/S Normal 2Mb/S
  • PC Mode / TV Mode Recording
  • 12 Digital Special Effects(Art, Mosaic, 1/2 Mirror, Full Mirror, Negative, Black & White, Emboss,Pastel,Wide,Red,Blue,Yellow)
  • Auto Exposure: 5 Modes ( Sand &Snow, Sport, Auto, Portrait, Spotlight)
  • MPEG4 ASP Recording (720 x 480 & 30FPS )
  • MP3 Modes: Play, Random, Repeat(All, Once, Off)
  • MP3 Formats: WMA / MP3
  • Selectable LED Colour ( Red, Green, Blue, Orange)
  • USB 2.0 Streaming
  • Li-Poly Battery 1200mAh
  • 70Min Recording Battery Life
  • 180 Min Playtime Battery Life
  • 240 Min MP3 Playtime Battery Life
  • Operating Systems: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS10 / Mac OS X
  • Dimensions: 61 x 93.7 x 30
  • Accessories: Software, Headphones, Quickguide, Manual, USB Cable, AC Adaptor, External Lens, AV Cable, Wrist Strap, Carry Case, Lens Cap
  • Carry on to the next page as we take a look at the menus and setup of this camera.

Download: SC-X210L In Action - "WooHoo" 


Menus & More:

Samsung claims that this is a 6-in-1 sport cam and we're going to look at all of the modes briefly.  We won't be spending a lot of time on the modes and settings, but the pictures below will give you and idea of what this video camera/camera/MP3 player/voice recorder/webcam/storage device is capable of.

SC-X210L - Modes
 SC-X210L - Modes

SC-X210L - System Settings
 SC-X210L - System Settings

SC-X210L - Free Space
 SC-X210L - Free Space

Starting above on the left you have a selection of modes that you can select by repeatedly pushing the "Mode" button.  Once you pause for a couple of seconds on the mode that is highlighted, it will enter that mode.  The modes listed above are (clockwise from left) Movie, System Settings, File Browser, Voice Recorder, MP3 and Photo.  You have the option in the System Settings to have the camera return to it's last mode when powered on, or automatically go to Movie mode.  When connected by the USB cable, the camera can function is several modes, Mass Storage, PictBridge, and PC-Cam.  These are useful for transfering files, printing pictures, and using the SC-X210L as a very good web cam.  In the picture on the far right, you can view the free space on the internal 1GB and your external SD Card.  Now that 4GB SD Cards are available, this unit has plenty of storage.

This next section of photo's shows off the Photo settings of this camera.  It takes photo's at a mere 640x480, but it has more features to capture, trick out, customize, and frame these pictures than more expensive cameras.  Of course you won't likely be using the Photo mode that much, but it's still worth a mention.

SC-X210L - Photo Mode
 SC-X210L - Photo Mode

SC-X210L - Photo Focus
 SC-X210L - Photo Focus

SC-X210L - Photo Shooting
 SC-X210L - Photo Shooting

The first picture above on the left shows a few of the different photo modes.  This camera can also be set to manually or automatically focus pictures.  The auto focus is very fast and works very well under well-lit conditions such indoors during the day, and of course outdoors.  The lux rating on this camera is 3 lux, and as such it doesn't perform very well with either video or photo's under low light conditions.  The last feature we showcase above is the continuous shot mode.  You can either take 1 picture at a time, or three pictures back to back.  If you're trying to catch some fast action, continuous shot is a nice touch.

Photo Quality
 Photo Quality

 

When it comes to shooting video with this camera, there are a lot of options available to customize your video just the way you want it.  For most people, out-of-the-box settings should work just fine, but if you want to tweak it, you have the power.

SC-X210L - Movie Format
 SC-X210L - Movie Format

SC-X210L - Movie Quality
 SC-X210L - Movie Quality

SC-X210L - Movie Resolution
 SC-X210L - Movie Resolution

A few of the features and options we'll touch on above are the format of the video.  You can choose whether the video is formatted for PC or TV viewing.  This adjusts frame rate and interlacing to match the profile you select.  The middle picture above shows the quality settings.  You can choose from Normal (1 hour + for 1 GB of storage @ 720x480), Fine ( 43 minutes + for 1 GB of storage @ 720x480), or Super Fine ( 30 minutes for 1GB of storage @ 720x480).  When I used the camera I used the Super Fine setting at 720x480 resolution for best results.  I found the quality to be very good, and the storage tradeoff well worth it.  If you need lots of footage, and quality is not an issue, you can record over 2 hours of video on the included 1GB of storage if you use normal mode at 352x240 resolution.

The last stuff we'll take a look at before we actually use this unit are the additional functions of this camera.  As we mentioned previously, it has a fully functional MP3 player, acts as a storage device and a voice recorder.  Check out the pictures below to see how they all work together.

SC-X210L - MP3 Player
 SC-X210L - MP3 Player

SC-X210L - File Browser
 SC-X210L - File Browser

SC-X210L - Voice Recorder
 SC-X210L - Voice Recorder

While you're not likely to use the SC-X210L as your main MP3 player, it does in fact work very well.  The LCD shows the ID information and displays graphics to boot.  Song info, artist info and track time are all displayed very clearly.  Samsung includes a decent set of earbuds to enjoy your music, or it can be played back through the camera's internal speaker. . . not really an option for some Petra.  Unfortunately, battery life is fairly short when playing back MP3's so unless you have a charger along on your trip, listening to too many tunes will kill your video record time.

The file browser allows you to view all of the files on both the internal and external memory.  Selecting the audio or video file results in playing back the file.  If the file is not audio or video, it merely displays the name.

The voice recorder features is just that - a feature.  Not many people will use it, but it does work well enough.  I recorded some audio of a group of kids I had during the 30 Hour Famine fundraiser.  It was a good time, and we captured some good laughs on the voice recorder.

Now that we've examined this camera a bit, let's head on over and do some testing.


Download: SC-X210L In Action - "WooHoo" 

General Usage:

The SC-X210L is very simple to use.  The controls on the main camera are well-placed and work very well.  For people with larger hands, they may be a little difficult to navigate due to the size of the camera itself. . . it's very small.  The picture quality is very good and the LCD screen is very bright and easily viewable even in daylight.  I've had several people over the years comment on how good Samsung's Digital Image Stabilization is, and I've got to agree.  When you pan quickly across a scene and stop quickly, there is a little bit of lag on the LCD screen as it processes the image for stability.  This is very key when using the external camera.

External Usage:

The external camera is rubber armored and is deemed "weather proof".  Basically, don't stick this in a pool, but it should stand up to some dampness.  The camera mounts to a rubber base that can be attached to almost anything using an included adjustable elastic strap.  I was able to mount this camera on a side mirror of my dad's GM Tracker as well as mount it to the roof rack.  The roof rack mount was not ideal, and the camera shifted a bit during recording.  If I'd taken more time on mounting the camera it would have been much better.

The camera can be turned on and off as well as start and stop recording by using a single button on the external camera cable.  This way you can place the main camera in a safe place and still start and stop your recording.  There is a large button and good indicator LEDs on the button so that you know what state the camera is in.  No LED = off, Blue LED = on, Red LED = recording.

Other Thoughts:

The camera does not do very well in low light conditions.  The picture gets grainy and color quality is quite poor at this point.  During broad daylight or in a well-lit house, this camera does very well however, and produces a better picture that my Sony Mini-DV cam.  One beef I have with the SC-X210L is how it handles really bright light.  In the video I've included below, the sun appears as a black ball.  I'm not sure why the camera displays the sun that way.  Other camera's I've used don't do that.  One thing I do like about the camera in general is the ruggedness of it.  I wiped the camera off of the tracker at 20MPH on a tree during testing and it didn't even have a mark.  Both the external camera and main camera unit appear quite "weather proof" as you'll see in part in the video.  I took the main camera into a lake to record some water polo action on a 30 Hour Famine event and it got a little wet.   By a little wet, I mean really wet.  I popped the battery out and dried the unit off with a towel and it still works perfectly.  Sweet.


BCCHardware - "WooHoo" Video
 

If you do nothing else with this review but download the video above, that's all I really ask.  The video is 7.69MB and WMV format so it should play for most of you just fine.  Download it and notice the image stabilization.  Also keep in mind that this was shot as the sun was setting here in Alberta so the color quality is not 100%.  It is better during broad daylight, but I only had one opportunity to take out the tracker for a little fun.  Enjoy.  I sure as heck did!  ;-)

Conclusion:

I had more fun and shot more video with this camera than I thought I ever would.  For general camcorder purposes, it does a great job - providing you've got decent light.  What separates this camera from the thousands out there is not it's general usage.  It's all about rugged usage.  Strap this sucker on your helmet or on your motocross bike or your boat for Pete's sake and have some fun with it.  At the end of the day you can browse your files, listen to some tunes, record commentary, and even take a picture or two.  If I had a supply of these cameras to sell, I could have sold about 6 of them to friends and other people who saw it in use.  It's wicked cool.

Pros:

  • Very small camera.
  • Good video quality.
  • Very weather proof.
  • Excellent Image Stabilization.
  • External Camera is very tough.
  • Features - MP3, Voice Recorder, Camera, etc.
  • Price ~ $600 around the web.

Cons:

  • Battery life is not that great.

Overall, I would highly recommend this camera to anyone who wants to rip it up and get their best moves on tape.  The price is very good as well, the only thing is you will likely want to spend a bit of money and grab a 2GB flash card at the very least.  This will give you a total of over an hour and a half at maximum resolution at maximum quality.  These cards are now less than $90CDN if you shop around.

I'd like to thank Samsung Canada for letting us take and use their camcorder for a month.  This was one of the most fun reviews I've pulled for a while.

If you have any comments, questions or feedback regarding this review, please feel free to post it at the comments link.  You will have to register to post, but registration is free fast and easy.