So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Cheap 'n' mildly cheerful
- Low price tag, 35x optical zoom, nifty swivel handgrip
- Bereft of features, cheap build quality, image quality failed to impress
The VP-MX10 offers an adequate (if somewhat average) performance for the asking price. If you’re after a bargain-basement camcorder that’s tiny and easy to use, the VP-MX10 should fit the bill. Otherwise, go for something a little more expensive.
Price$ 429.00 (AUD)
The VP-MX10 is a flash memory–based camcorder that records standard-definition video to SDHC memory cards. It can be viewed as a devolution of Samsung's high-def VP-HMX10 (XSA), which shares identical build quality and many of the same features. The only real difference is in the resolution stakes — 1280x720 vs. 720×576. Unfortunately, the VP-HMX10's high-def capabilities were the best thing about that camera; otherwise, it was a decidedly average product. This leaves the MX10 with next to nothing to recommend it, other than its SD card slot and low price tag. Nevertheless, it should prove adequate for casual users who require a cheap point-and-shoot camera.
SDHC media and its assorted equivalents are considered the Next Big Thing in the camcorder industry due to their high storage capacity and convenience. At present, up to 32 gigabytes can be stored onto one SDHC card, which is the same amount of memory found on many hard disk–based camcorders. However, higher capacity cards are still quite expensive compared to DVD and MiniDV, with a 32GB card costing upwards of $800. This makes the VP-MX10 slightly less budget-friendly than its price tag would suggest.
In addition to its SD card slot, the VP-MX10 comes equipped with 4GB of internal memory. This will net you an additional 8.5 hours of recording time when shooting at the lowest video quality. However, it's important to note that not all versions of the VP-MX10 come with onboard memory. Confusingly, Samsung has decided to release several different versions of the same camcorder, each with a slightly different price tag. The only discernible difference is in the amount of onboard memory, ranging from 8GB to none. If the inbuilt hard drive is important to you, make sure you don't pick up the wrong model!
Being a budget camcorder, the VP-MX10 is pretty short on extra modes and features. All the latest gimmicks and trends, such as Face Detection and Slow Motion, are naturally absent. More surprising is the absence of a still image mode — this is something that practically every camcorder on the market offers. While it's unlikely the VP-MX10's output would have been worth the effort of making prints, it is still a frustrating omission.
The overall design of the VP-MX10 reminded us a bit of Gary Coleman from Diff'rent Strokes (from afar, it's quite cute, but the closer you get, the uglier it becomes). It is painfully obvious that Samsung has cut some corners to keep the cost of the camera down, which makes for a singularly unattractive product. The large, plastic buttons have the ring of 'el cheapo' about them, and the hand strap is one of the most uncomfortable we've used. The lens cover is just a piece of plastic that needs to be manually removed whenever you fire up the device. The camera's peculiar barrel-like shape is also something of an eyesore, though we did like the funky swivelling hand-grip (this allows you to rotate the camera through 135 degrees without using your wrist).
On the plus side, the unit is incredibly small, with the included felt carry bag looking remarkably like a sunglasses case. Of course, this can be a double-edged when it comes to shooting video, with the lack of weight affecting the ability to capture smooth, shake-free footage. You'll therefore need plenty of hands-on practice if you want your footage to look anything other than amateurish. The camera also lacks an optical image stabiliser, which doesn't help. Consequently, you may need to invest in a tripod to make the most of the impressive 34x optical zoom.
We've almost reached the end of the review and we've yet to mention the VP-MX10's video performance. Sadly, we haven't been saving the best till last. Throughout testing, the image quality of this camcorder was decidedly sub-par. Digital artefacts, colour fringing, occasional ghosting and of course, noise, all reared their ugly heads at one point or another. The autofocus was also a tad erratic, especially in dimly lit environments where it would take up to five seconds to lock onto a subject. That being said, the results are not unwatchable by any means — provided you aren't expecting crystal-clear resolution.
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