Samsung’s HD camcorder is light (5.0 ounces) and unassuming. Shaped more or less like a soda can, the HMX10 creates 720p video (1280 x 720) compressed to the H.264/MPEG-4 codec and stored either on the internal 8GB of flash memory or to SDHC/MMC+ cards. With a minimal control layout, it's a user-friendly camcorder, but it won’t be so appealing to serious shooters. The video output has enough flaws that the cam is strictly for weekend warriors.
In terms of physical design, the HMX10 is very easy to use. The rear side is decorated with Record and Mode Select buttons, a power switch, and an Easy Settings button (which sets white balance, exposure, focus, shutter, and stabilization to ‘auto’), with photo shutter and zoom controls riding on the camera’s top side. The LCD—from which we’d like to see a bit more brightness in sunlight—handles all the UI menus through a touchscreen interface. While some on-screen buttons are small, the screen responded well, and the menu system was generally easy to use.
We have a few small complaints. The swivel grip, located on the right side, seems fragile and generally unnecessary. We’d like a better lens cap option; what appears to be an electronically controlled slider is actually operated by a switch located inconveniently at about five o’clock when viewing the camera from the rear. Finally, we’d like a mode-select dial instead of the single electronic button, which requires waiting for the camera to load each mode (photo, video, playback) before you can select the next.
In full daylight, subjects were extremely natural in appearance. Details were sharp and colors rendered with a neutral cast. But clips were arguably dull; a little saturation bump wouldn’t hurt. Because the MPEG-4 codec is not as adroit with shadow detail as AVCHD, darker details tended to fall away in bright light; fine colors and detail were also out of the camera’s range, again due in part to limitations of the codec.
The HMX10’s progressive shooting mode is good for moving shots and subjects, as you’ll see less blur and more detail per frame than shooting in an interlaced format. Low light introduced significant noise and pronounced contrast. We also had problems obtaining and keeping focus and noticed more compression artifacts due to the contrast. The cam’s mic captured realistic, very clear audio in all our clips. Samsung rates a full battery charge at 90 minutes for “continuous shooting,” but when using zoom functions and other options you can expect about 50 minutes of use.
The combination of average video quality and minimal controls decidedly make this a camera for casual shooters. However, comparably priced models from Canon and Sanyo deliver much better results. Families looking for a simple HD solution will do well with the HMX10; others should look to more robust options.