Samsung SCL850 Hi8 Camcorder

A Solid Box

SCL850 Hi8 Camcorder

($730)

Samsung Electronics America

105 Challenger Road

Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660

800-SAMSUNG

www.sosimple.com

The SCL850 is Samsung’s latest addition to their Hi8 camcorder line. At first glance, the rectangular box shape will not win any innovative design awards, but aesthetics aside, Samsung has packaged a solid, moderately priced camcorder that has all the automatic controls for easy point-and-shoot video and some more advanced features for more control. This camcorder is a nice starting point for the beginning videographer, but it also has some controls and features that the more advanced videographer will appreciate. Along with simple point-and-shoot operation, it provides a high-quality picture and an external microphone jack, both of which will allow some room for growth as the videographer gains more experience.

The Automated Basics

The biggest selling point this camcorder has is the high-resolution picture it’s capable of producing. With nearly 400 lines of horizontal resolution, Samsung has introduced a high-quality addition to its Hi8 line of camcorders. With Samsung’s SCL850, you get a solid box with a three-inch flip-out view screen. Its sturdy design makes for steady shots, which adds to its high picture quality. The adjustable screen flips 180 degrees, which makes it easy to record using different camera angles. The SCL850 also includes a small monochrome viewfinder that saves battery power.

The SCL850 has many point-and-shoot features that make it easy to operate. Its boxy shape gives the videographer a steady grip. For most conditions, the automatic settings will work just fine. The automatic exposure program offers six settings: auto mode for normal conditions, sports mode to eliminate blurred shots, portrait mode to bring the foreground into focus while blurring the background, spotlight for low light settings, sand/snow to compensate for reflected light and high shutter speed for fast-moving objects. It also includes a backlighting feature that does a fairly good job of compensating for backlit scenes. The controls are easy to access, though the view screen does need to be open to use the auto exposure program and digital effects. The zoom button is conveniently placed so the thumb can comfortably zoom in and out on objects. It also has an electronic image stabilizer, designed to eliminate shaky shots–though in the SCL850’s case, you’re better off using a tripod, as the image stabilization system is not adequate in every situation.

The automatic focus works well and does a good job of staying in focus while panning (pivoting the camcorder side-to-side). Two of the unit’s VCR transport buttons do double-duty as an awkward and difficult manual focusing mechanism. The zoom feature is described as pressure sensitive and is supposed to adjust its speed depending on the pressure you apply. It does vary the speed, but even when we pushed it as hard as we could, it was still slow. The SCL850 also includes seven digital effects that allow for some creative in-camera shots: makeup (which adds color), emboss, wide screen (16×9), cinema (film look), negative, mirror and mosaic. Though these effects are fun, they are not essential and only sometimes useful. Samsung also included a built-in light for low-light conditions, but like most built-in camcorder lights of this type, it tended to cast an unnatural, highly focused light directly into the subject’s face.

Some Advanced Features

One feature that experienced camcorder operators will appreciate is the SCL850’s external microphone jack. Two of the unit’s VCR transport buttons do double-duty as an inner focusing mechanism. Though the SCL850 has a nice on-camera stereo microphone that picks up ambient sounds clearly, the inclusion of the external mike jack allows for capturing better audio. Unfortunately, they neglected to include a headphone jack for monitoring audio while you record.

For those who like to edit in-camera, Samsung included a nice edit review feature that allows you to see the last three seconds or to go forward three seconds through the recorded footage. This is convenient when you want to see where you are on the tape or what you just recorded. The SCL850 also has a basic titling capability with a couple of preset titles included (Anniversary, Happy Birthday, Thanksgiving, etc.). The quality of the font is typical of most built-in camcorder titlers (poor), and it’s impossible to create your own titles–you’re stuck with the ones they provide you with. On the plus side, titles are offered in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian.


Wrapping it Up

The flip-out view screen makes for easy viewing while recording, and provides a great way to view what you just recorded. Though the three-inch view screen is small and its low-resolution LCD impairs the image quality, it serves as a quick and easy way to view your footage (and hear the audio with the built-in speaker).

There’s an S-video out jack and an A/V out jack that make it easy to edit to a VCR or view footage on a television. Unfortunately, there are no A/V or S-video in jacks, so you can’t record or edit from your VCR back to your camcorder. This is an inconvenient limitation if your only means of editing is from camcorder to VCR and back.

The Samsung SCL850 is a solid camcorder with all of the basic automatic features that make it attractive for beginners as well as a couple of advanced features that could entice the more experienced videographers. It has a few weak spots, but its rugged build and high quality picture make it a decent choice for the point-and-shooter who wants some room to grow.

-DC

Tech Specs: Samsung SCL850 Hi8 Camcorder

Format: Hi8
Lens: 22:1 optical, variable-speed (4.5-22 sec., 4 steps) power zoom; 440:1 digital, f=4.0-88mm, 46mm filter diameter
Image Sensor: 1/4-inch CCD, 470,000 pixels
Viewfinder: 3-inch color LCD viewscreen, monochrome viewfinder
Focus: Auto, manual
Maximum Shutter Speed: 1/10,000
Exposure: 6 auto exposure modes (Auto, Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Sand/Snow and High Speed Shutter)
White Balance: Auto
Digital Effects: 6 modes (Mosaic, Mirror, Negative, Emboss, Cinema, Makeup)
Audio: Stereo
Inputs: External microphone
Outputs: A/V jack (stereo audio, composite video), S-video
Edit Interface: None
Other Features: Backlight compensation, preset titles, electronic image stabilization, built-in speaker with volume control
Dimensions: 4 + (height) x 4 1/8 (width) x 8 + (depth) inches
Weight: (sans tape and battery) 2.1 pounds

Video Performance (Approx.)
Horizontal Resolution (camera): 390
Horizontal Resolution (playback): 350

Performance Times
Pause to Record: 1/3 second
Power-up to Record: 2 + seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (60 min. tape): 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Strengths

  • Mike jack
  • High quality picture
  • Flip-out screen

Weaknesses

  • Low-resolution LCD screen
  • No A/V inputs
  • No headphone jack

Summary
A nice (though flawed) entry-level camcorder that provides a crisp, clear picture and room for growth.

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