Camcorder Review: Samsung SC-L810 Hi8
$230

Samsung Consumer Electronics USA

105 Challenger Rd

Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660

(800) SAMSUNG

www.samsungusa.com

With video stores filled with digital everything, Samsung keeps the analog dream alive in the moderately priced SC-L810 Hi-8 camcorder. Listing at $230 the SC-L810 is a good novice shooter’s intro-to-video device. Point-and-shoot simplicity make the SC-L810 a great beginner’s buy.

Steady
The SC-L810 is comfortable to shoot with and the limited buttons and menus are easily accessible to the operator. Although the SC-L810 is by no means a pocket cam, it is very well balanced in the hand and feels less awkward than many of the Mini-DV cams out there that are designed as though smaller is always better. This camera aids the operator in keeping the shot steady not only with digital image stabilization but also with its design.

What You See and Hear
The lens on the SC-L810 is a respectable 79mm and the camera seems to follow focus well in auto mode. The manual focus wheel pulls the camera into focus in graduated steps easily but the operator must rotate the wheel with the free hand if manual focus is engaged. Shutter speeds range from 1/60th to 1/10,000th with selectable auto-exposure modes for any foreseeable situation.

The SC-L810 does well shooting in low light situations and has a video light up front to help on no-light occasions. We shot footage in various light environs, outdoors and indoors, and we’re pleased with the SC-L810 handling of difficult light temperatures: for example, gymnasium lighting at a basketball game and typical living room light. The video light is a nice addition but we felt the light focused in too small a spot. It would be nice if the lamp cover diffused it more. Plus, the focused hot spot was bit low in the frame at short distances. The SC-L810 has a rather small 270,000 single CCD. While its color saturation was fair, the detail was lacking when viewed on a large monitor during playback.

The SC-L810 has a very admirable 22x optical zoom and a silly 880x digital zoom. As soon as a manufacturer has the bravery to take digital zoom off their product line and put a usable camera feature in its place the praise they’ll receive in print will get some exec a big fat promotion. Just sayin’. Anyway, the SC-L810 has a noticeable zoom motor and tape deck sound. It’s not too distracting when there is moderate level ambient sound, but in very quiet situations, it is very noticeable.

The LCD measures a mere 2.5 inches but with 112k pixels it gives a sharp image. It rotates 210 degrees and flips for self-taping.

The SC-L810 has a single capsule mike in the front of the camera and no input for an external mike or headphones for monitoring; but this is not a budding filmmakers’ camera one can grow with. The SC-L810 is made for those with simple needs and goals.

Nice PAL
The composite output of the SC-L810 is both NTSC and PAL compatible, which may be of use to some travelers. There is an S-video output as well, but the SC-L810 can’t be used as a recorder, taking a video signal from an outside source. While the S-video jack is placed on the back low and next to the battery, the A/V output jack is above the hand on the deck side of the SC-L810 in a slightly annoying position. With such a large camera body, it seems to us that the outputs could have been clustered in one area.

What’s on The Menu?
The SC-L810’s claim to fame is the Easy and Custom Q buttons in front of the LCD screen. The Easy button places the camera in auto mode and won’t let you change any image setting, even manual focus. It’s all done for you. One touch and your picture looks pretty darn good. The Custom Q button below the Easy calls up the user preset that was last selected in the menu. If, for instance, you know that you’re going into a situation that calls for a particular setting–and you don’t want the SC-L810 constantly readjusting the settings–you can use your Custom Q setup. You can then quickly revert to Easy mode if the environment changes and you don’t have time to go through the menu settings. Along with a back light compensation (BLC) button there are eight digital effects to play with -Sepia, B/W, Negative, Mirror, Art, Mosaic, Wide16x9 and Cinema.

Battery Included
The Lithium Ion provided with the SC-L810 is not adequate to give you any significant time shooting (especially with the video light on), so factor a battery upgrade into the purchase price. We did not handle this camera with a larger battery so we can not say whether there is any significant handling difference with a more substantial power source.

While the SC-L810 is not the most innovative model on the market, it certainly has a place of value for the video newbee. It produces a very respectable image at a good price. The SC-L810 equals or stands above other models in the low-price pack. Give it a careful look.

Bruce Coykendall is a professional video editor and audio recording engineer.

TECH SPECS

Format: Hi8 NTSC video recording, NTSC PAL playback

Imaging Device: 270,000 pixels CCD

Minimum Visible Illumination: 0.3 lux

Shutter Speed: 1/60 – 1/10,000 second

Monitor: 112k pixel 2.5: TFT active matrix

LCD Viewfinder: B/W

Effects: Sepia, B/W, Nega, Mirror, Art, Mosaic, Wide, Cinema.

Worldwide AC Adapter: (100V-240V, 50/60Hz) enables camcorder operation and battery

Multi-System Output: offers both NTSC and PAL outputs.

Video Light

Power Consumption: 5.4W

Dimensions: 4" x 4 1/8" x 6 7/8"

Weight: 1 3/4 lbs.

STRENGTHS

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to hold
  • Good picture quality

    WEAKNESSES

  • Awkward placement of focus wheel and A/V output jack

    SUMMARY

    A good analog camera for the novice at a fair price.

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