Samsung SMX-C14 Flash/SD Card Camcorder Review

Simple Synergy

Gone are the days of spending hours getting video off your camera, onto the computer and published to the web. Companies such as JVC are pumping out camcorders that are able to upload video onto YouTube with the click of a button, and Samsung’s SMX-C14 is a solid addition to the market for those looking to quickly edit and publish their daily gag reels or family reunions. But these benefits come with a few tradeoffs, because the camera doesn’t shoot great video or ship with many adjustable settings.

Ergonomically Yours

The first thing we noticed was the unusual angle of the lens. Rather than being perfectly straight, it’s angled 25 degrees up, a new ergonomic design by Samsung. This feature makes it so you don’t have to bend your wrist quite as much to get a perfectly straight shot.

The C14 is also small. It measures about 1.5″ wide, with a length of about 4.5″ and a height of just more than 2″. It’s almost shaped like an eyeglass case, and the lens reminded us of HAL 9000 with its distinctive alien eye look. There is also a barely-there-but-noticeable streak of red across the top length.

The camcorder flips open on its left side to reveal a 2.7″ LCD screen. The menu, navigation (doubling as a zoom control) and record buttons are located on the edge of the screen, while the power, play, quick upload and USB port are on the inside. The setup is convenient, because it is almost impossible to accidentally turn on or shut off the camera. The zoom and still picture buttons are on top. The rear flips open with a gentle push and provides easy access to an SDHC memory port, the charger jack, A/V plug and internal battery.

Plug-‘n-Play

We wondered if the new Active Angle lens design would confuse or aggravate buyers. But after several hours of shooting, we got used to the feel of it and actually preferred it. We think Samsung may really be onto something here.

Another key feature of the unit is built-in editing support. In playback mode, all the videos appear as moving thumbnails that can be spliced together or put in a storyboard sequence on the camera itself. More impressive is Intelli-Studio, a built-in application for file transfer and YouTube upload. Simply plugging the camera into a PC via the USB cable will automatically launch the studio and prompt the user to import all the new videos. This process is very quick and efficient, but, best of all, it does not require any software installation or wait time before getting down to business.

Once the files have been imported, you can simply log in to your YouTube account in the studio and upload the files to the website.

Quality Control

The video quality is a bit disappointing, reminding us of footage from an average analog camcorder. We shot some daytime footage through a car window, and playback on a Sharp CRT-based TV was on par with VHS tapes. However, the camera was very sensitive to light sources, such as street lamps and neon signs, at night. The unit tracked objects in motion nicely and picked up color and detail fine. Stability was OK overall, but we had a hard time maintaining good shots at high optical zoom and noticed some jerkiness in the frame.

Adjusting focus manually is a chore. You can get into the manual focus by clicking the middle of the control stick, pushing the control stick down and clicking the middle again to select the focus mode (from this little menu, you can also access exposure value and the scene menu), but when we moved the stick back and forth to adjust the focus, we often ended up back at the manual control menu. The face detect mode seems to work fairly well, though; so if you are shooting a talking head, it’s worth a try to make the focusing job easier.

It’s worth noting that the quality drops off sharply on newer televisions and computer monitors. The video took on a pixelated look, and digital noise was more apparent.

The camera had a similar issue with taking still pictures. We conveniently snapped off a few shots in the park at its 1696×960 resolution, and they were pixelated, both for distance and closeup images. (This is because the camera achieves its high-quality mode through interpolation; its actual resolution is lower.)

The camera’s iScene auto-AE modes did a good job of adjusting to low-lit and indoor environments. It’s also possible to switch to manual focus, adjust the exposure and apply digital effects, but this is really where the customization ends. And many of these settings are a pain to reach, as they are in menu only.

The audio was okay. The mic captured sound clearly during our voice test at a distance of about 50 feet before dropping off, although it also recorded the operator’s breathing, as well as some annoying beeping when we used the zoom. There is no port for an external mic, so what you hear is what you get. The internal speaker is useful for reviewing footage.

The 16GB of internal memory is reasonably large and can hold six to 10 hours of video. It can also be expanded to 32GB with a memory card. The battery lasts for 160 minutes.

The C14 is an easy-to-use camera. It’s great for shooting for fun and broadcasting it to the world with minimal hassle. The ergonomic design is a welcome new feature that distinguishes this from other video cameras.


TECH SPECS

Recording Media: 16GB Flash memory, SDHC/SD memory card (rear-loading)

Video Format: H.264, 480i, 29.97 frames/sec. (3-5.5Mbps)

Audio Format: AAC, stereo, 24kHz (128kbps)

Image Sensor: 1x 1/6″ CCD; 680K pixels

LENS

Interchangeable Lenses: No

f-Stop: f/1.8

Optical Zoom: 10x

Focal Length: 2.4-24mm

Filter Diameter: Not threaded

Focus: Auto, manual (menu)

Max Shutter Speed: 1/10,000

Image Stabilization: Electronic

Internal ND Filter: No

VIDEO FEATURES

Shutter Speed Control: Auto, program

White Balance: Auto, program

Direct Iris/Gain Control: No

Zebra Stripes: No

Histogram: No

Viewfinder: No

LCD monitor: 2.7″, 16:9

Face Detect: Yes

Color Bar Generator: No

AUDIO FEATURES

Standard Microphone Input: No

VU Meters: No

Level Controls: No

Headphone Jack: No

Speaker: Yes

VIDEO INPUT/OUTPUT

Analog Video In: No

Analog Video Out: Composite

Digital Video I/O: USB

MISC

Wireless Remote: No

Battery Charging: On-camera

Form Factor: Standard, angled

Onboard Video Light: No

Battery Type: Lithium ion

Accessory Shoe: No

Strengths

  • Comfortable design
  • One-touch YouTube upload
  • Very user-friendly

Weaknesses

  • Low-quality video and still pictures
  • Short on manual adjust settings

Summary

A good, user-friendly camera, but it falls short in settings and quality.

Evan Burt is a journalist and published author writing in Northern California.

Samsung America, Inc.

100 Challenger Rd.

Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660

www.samsung.com/us

$300

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