The budget and mid-range camcorder market may not be booming, as it was during the heyday of the Flip, but major players are still in the game. In fact, not only are manufacturers still releasing new devices annually, the camcorder makers are now stuffing formerly high-end features into budget devices to better compete with smartphones.
The Samsung HMX-QF30 is a perfect example of this trend. This small camcorder runs about $300 at the time of this review, and sports optical image stabilization, 20x optical zoom, Wi-Fi, touchscreen LCD, and full HD recording. It's also small, compact, and almost pocketable. A few years ago, baked-in Wi-Fi was unheard of in consumer-grade camcorders, and an HD camcorder could cost double what the HMX-QF30 now costs. But a few years ago, smartphones weren't also able to shoot decent HD video, and weren't nearly as widespread.
Build and Design
There's no doubt this is not a high-end device. The HMX-QF30 build is heavy on the plastic. It only weighs 7.5 ounces with an SD card and the battery inserted, and measures 4.1 x 1.5 x 1.1 inches (LHW). It will likely survive a drop or two, but is by no means rugged, and should not be employed to document any whitewater rafting trips or ski vacations.
The Samsung HMX-QF30 is the standard camcorder oblong shape, with the Samsung lens (f=2.6-52mm, F1.8) and manual lens cover in the front, and the controls on the back, just under the DC-in charging slot, which is covered by a small latch. The controls are simple, and only consist of a record button, tele and wide zoom control, and two options for marking favorite spots while recording clips.
The camcorder mic is on the top, and the tripod receptacles are on the bottom, in front of the latch-covered battery and SD card compartment. The HMX-QF30 takes SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards up to 64GB.
One side of the HMX-QF30 houses a handstrap, just behind the manual lens shutter, while the 2.7-inch LCD display emerges 90 degrees from the other, with the speaker underneath. The display is touch-enabled and rotates 180 degrees. It features an indicator light and home button, and covers up a small latched area that includes the micro USB, HDMI and AV outputs.
Ergonomics and Controls
The HMX-QF30 is easy to hold, thanks to its small size, and the record/snap pic button is accessible for even those with small hands. It's also just heavy enough that it's not too light, and comfortable to operate. This Samsung HD camcorder is also designed for both left- and right-handed users. It's a design feature unique to Samsung camcorders, and all users have to do is flip it around for left- or right-handed operation. The camera defaults for right-handed users, so lefties will have to use it upside down, and the zoom function does not readjust, so it may just be easier to keep it in the right hand. Still, I'm sure the lefties out there appreciate the thought.
Like many other budget camcorders, the HMX-QF30 has a manual lens cap and it's a pain. Specifically, it's a pain to remember to close it when finished shooting.
This camcorder has a 2.7-inch LCD display with 230,000 pixels. It's large enough and bright enough for users to see even on bright days. It's also touch-enabled, and most controls are accessed through it (you can toggle recording and zoom through it as well). The problem is that it's resistive touch technology, which is vastly inferior to the capacitive displays featured on most every smartphone. Resistive displays require a small bit of pressure to register the press, and the user needs to be very accurate. It works best on the QF30 via a fingernail, or even pen cap or other type or plastic pick; but even then, it doesn't work very well.
Menus and Modes
The UI has smartphone elements, and includes swipe-based navigation. Too bad the resistive touchscreen makes it so difficult. There are three shooting modes, for both stills and video:
Other menu options include:
Under settings, users can set the recordings and stills resolution. Those video options includes:
The HMX-QF30 actually has an impressive set of options. The camera filters are fun, and the manual controls are surprisingly deep for a budget device. Still, they are all controlled via the clunky touchscreen, and near impossible to set on the fly. But for framed, tripod shots, they could serve a user well, if only to teach him and her a bit about manual picture controls.
As for recording settings, the resolutions are nothing special. We're still waiting for 1080/60p recording to make its way from the more expensive camcorders to the bottom of the line.
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