The HMX-QF30 performs about as well as you’d expect a camcorder in its class to perform. That means it’s far from outstanding, and has a few annoying drawbacks to boot.
DigitalCameraReview found Samsung’s Smart Auto, or dummy mode, to be perfectly acceptable for nearly all shooting situation, which is good, considering how clunky the on-screen controls function. But even if the manual controls were easier to adjust, there is no on-screen indication to set proper levels. For example, higher-end camcorders will overlay “zebra stripes,” outlines, or a splash of color to indicate overexposed or out-of-focus areas, as it’s nearly impossible to eye this kind of thing on a small display. QF30 owners are out of luck however, and have to judge everything by what they see on the 2.5-inch screen.
That’s to be expected on a budget device, however. What’s not to be expected is the slow autofocus and time to power up. Both are noticeably slower than even less-expensive pocket camcorders, and it’s quite frustrating in practice.
Video, Stills, Audio Quality
It’s all subpar… all of it. In full light, the video lacks detail, the edges ill-defined, and the colors are drab. Areas are easily overexposed, and digital artifacts are constant. Even in moderately low light, noise creeps in, resulting in fuzzy footage. Compared side by side with the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, it’s tough to tell which is better. The colors certainly look better in the S4 footage, but the QF30 has better image stabilization. And it should, as the camcorder actually has optical image stablizaiton, while the smartphone does not.
With stills, it’s no comparison. The S4 is superior. The QF30 stills are barely acceptable, considering how far smartphones have come in this department. The QF30 does have a 20x optical zoom, however, giving it a momentary advantage over smartphones. But considering the specialized Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom has a 10x optical zoom, and smartphones are shipping with upwards of 41-megapixel image sensors that enable picture enlarging with no visible loss to image quality, it likely won’t be long before smartphones catch up.
The audio pickup is no worse than other video recording devices that lack an external mic input, but it’s still pretty bad. You simply can’t get decent audio from onboard mics. Kodak pocket camcorders had the option a few years ago, and it’s perplexing why more low-cost devices haven’t included the feature. After all, viewers will excuse a YouTube video of questionable video quality, but won’t long stand for tinny audio.
Here is a sample shot from the HMX-QF30:
And here is a sample shot from the Samsung Galaxy S4:
Operation and Extras
The QF30 ships with a removable battery, power adapter, USB cable, and AV cable. It does not include an HDMI cable. That’s lousy. Camcorder makers have long excluded the HDMI cable, for fear of upsetting retailers like Best Buy that make big bucks on absurdly marked-up cables (along with warranties, replacement parts, and other accessories). If you really want to view your footage directly from the camera, do yourself a favor and buy the cable dirt cheap online. An HDMI cable should never cost more than $10 maximum, and according to experts, the difference between the image and audio quality between cheapest generic cable and most expensive brand-name alternative is either indiscernible or nonexistent.
Of course, Wi-Fi is the key QF30 feature, and it works as advertised. Users can upload pics and videos to YouTube, Picasa, and Facebook directly from the camera. Though, punching in the network passwords and account information is a pain on the lousy touchscreen. It does not feature a QWERTY keyboard, but rather a number keyboard, 1 through 9, like and old cellphone. Users can also migrate the smaller resolution pictures and videos to smart devices via the Samsung Mobile Link app, and stream via DLNA to HDTVs. We were able to test the former successfully, but not the latter. Finally, those with a Ustream account can broadcast live and direct from the QF30 for the whole world to see.