Samsung may not be a go-to camcorder brand in the U.S. like Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and JVC are, but at least it's trying to differentiate its lineup. The HMX-R10 is a perfect example. It's compact and reasonably priced for a full HD camcorder (though its 1080p video results aren't as good as its other resolution options). It also has a lot of shooting features and, in an attempt to make use more comfortable, Samsung angled the R10's lens at 25 degrees to reduce strain on your wrist. If you can adjust to shooting like this, it works well; however, Samsung made some other design choices that miss the mark. In the end, the R10 is at its best as a point-and-shoot camcorder, a step up from pocket minicamcorders, but not as capable as prosumer models.
|Key specifications||Samsung HMX-R10|
|Dimensions (WHD)||1.5x2.2x5 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||9.3ounces|
|Storage capacity, type||None; SD/SDHC|
|Resolution, sensor size, type||9-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution||2.7-inch touch-screen LCD, 230K dots|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f3.5-16, 76.4-382mm (35mm equivalent)|
|Minimum illumination||15 lux|
|File format (video, audio)||H.264 MPEG-4 (.MP4), ACC stereo|
|Resolution (video/photo)||1,920x1,080 (60i or 30p)/3,456x2,592|
|Recording time at highest quality||6 minutes per 1GB (approx.)|
|Image stabilization type||Electronic|
|Battery type, rated life (continuous)||Lithium ion rechargeable, 1 hour and 30 minutes|
The R10 definitely has an eye-catching design. Its capsule-shaped body--available in silver and black versions--is slim enough to slip into a large pocket or small bag. The lens is immediately noticeable as different. Angled up 25 degrees, the camcorder is meant to be used with your wrist straight instead of cocked back. It makes for more natural positioning for shooting video and photos, but if you're used to a traditional camcorder positioning, it takes some time to adjust. The right side is curved in so your palm fits into the body. There is no traditional hand strap on the R10, only a wrist strap. This is perhaps because of the angled lens, but regardless, it makes for a less than secure grip on the camcorder made worse by the fairly slippery body material. You'll certainly want to use the wrist strap and shoot with two hands (left hand on the left edge of the display) as much as possible.
As for its controls, they're both good and bad. On top is a shutter release for photos and that's all. Moving to its back is a Mode button for switching between capturing still images or video, a vertical zoom rocker for the modest 5x optical zoom, and a record button. (Below these controls is a covered panel with Mini-HDMI port, DC in, and proprietary USB/AV jacks.) While larger hands should have no problem using these controls, smaller ones will probably struggle to reach them and keep a secure, steady grip when recording. Especially when using the zoom rocker, which should be moved to the top. (By the way, the HMX-R10's image stabilization is electronic only. In my tests, it didn't appear to work well.)
Flip open the 2.7-inch touch-screen display and you'll get a second set of record and zoom controls (necessary if you have an overhand grip on the R10) as well as a Q.Menu button that lets you program up to four of your most regularly used shooting features (focus, white balance, resolution, exposure, and so on) for fast changes. In the LCD cavity are three more buttons: power, Easy Q, and display/iCheck. When the camcorder's on, the display/iCheck button toggles the onscreen information on or off; however, when the R10's off, the button gives you gauges for remaining battery life and storage capacity. Easy Q is Samsung's simplified automatic mode with little access to adjustments.
The touch screen is used for changing settings, including manual adjustments to focus, shutter speed, and aperture should you choose to do so. Unfortunately, the screen isn't the most responsive, so making these changes can be trying. Also, there's no option to calibrate the touch screen. However, on the upside, you get a touch focus option that lets you focus the camcorder on the correct person or object with a simple touch.
On the bottom of the camcorder is the battery and memory card compartment. The Samsung doesn't have internal memory storage, so you'll need to supply an SD/SDHC card. Also, because the compartment is covered, there's no opportunity to get a larger, longer-life battery. Luckily, its battery time is very good for its class, but you may still want to invest in a backup pack. There is a built-in flash on the front of the camcorder; however, but it can't be used as a video light. There's no accessory shoe nor are there jacks for adding an external mic or headphones. This isn't so much a surprise as just something to be aware of if you're in need of those things. What is a surprise is the complete lack of lens protection. The R10 comes with a protective case to slip the entire thing into, but as far as just tossing it in a bag goes, you'll have to be very careful not to scratch the lens.