The world of budget camcorders just got a new contender – the Samsung SMX-F40. This compact all-digital camcorder records standard definition video to SD memory cards. What sets it apart from most other budget cameras is its 65x zoom (52x optical + IntelliZoom) and Schneider-Kreuznach lens.
On the outside, the camera looks like every other camcorder on the market – a wrist-strap, swivel LCD display, zoom controls on the top, and a battery on the back.
In this video clip, you get is bit if an idea what the quality is like – it is quite acceptable, as long as you don’t zoom in too much. Even though the camera features some basic image stabilization, when zoomed in all the way (65x), you’ll get a ton of shake. For close-ups like this, you’ll definitely want to invest in a tripod.
Audio is quite decent – it picks up a lot of weak noises, but sadly also a little bit of wind – still, I’ve seen much worse.
Photo quality is quite lousy – and only in 2 megapixels, so don’t expect to replace your point and shoot any time soon. Even mobile phones usually make better shots than this.
Thanks to a small joystick you can quickly navigate through the menus – and inside the menus are a ton of features. You get scene selections, resolution settings and a neat time lapse recording option. The lineup of features is surprisingly impressive for such a budget camera.
Behind the display is a flap to protect the SD card slot, video out connector, USB port and charging port. You can charge the camera using the included wall charger, or over USB using your PC.
With its weak photos and shaky zoom video, you’d expect a recommendation against this product – but it actually manages to rescue itself thanks to an insanely low price – you can find it online for as little as $159. The camera does not come with a memory card, so expect to invest an extra $20-$30 for an 8GB card. Battery life is rated at over 4 hours on a single charge.
The camera comes with a pretty decent software suite which assists with edits and one-click uploads to video sharing sites.
Now, this camera is obviously up against products like the Flip and Creative Vado HD camcorders – but none of those products offer an optical zoom lens. So, you need to decide whether you want to pay for an HD camcorder with limited features, or a full feature standard definition camera. Do keep in mind that in this price range, your camera will only work well outdoors – indoor shooting requires a camcorder with a much higher price tag.
Despite its shortcomings, $159 for a compact camera with these features is a tremendous deal, but you’ll need to spend some time determining your needs. One more thing to help decide is what you plan to do with the video – HD video is nice, but it takes up a lot of space and editing can require a beefy computer. If you just want some basic quality stuff to show friends and family, a standard definition camera could be exactly what the doctor ordered.