Review: Samsung SC-MX20 digital memory camcorder

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At $249, the Samsung SC-MX20 falls delicately between cheap flash-based camcorders and more expensive hard drive-based camcorders. It strips down some features that may not be necessary in the first place – high definition video, still photos, etc. – but adds something that most less expensive flash camcorders don’t have: an optical zoom. A big optical zoom, too, at 34x. That, coupled with long battery life, user-friendly codec support, and relatively low price make the SC-MX20 a winner.

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Details and Specifications

The MX20 uses SD memory cards up to 32GB. There’s no on-board storage, but my review unit came packaged with a 1GB card, which is good for almost twenty minutes of video at the highest quality setting. The camcorder shoots up to 720×480 video at 29.97 frames per second using the MainConcept AVC/AAC H.264 codec (.MP4 files).

There are four quality modes: TV Super Fine, TV Fine, TV Normal, and a special YouTube-friendly Web & Mobile setting. Other settings include iScene (Sports, Portrait, Beach, Snow, High Speed, etc.), White Balance, Exposure (auto/manual), Face Detection, Anti-Shake, Digital Effects, 16:9 or 4:3 mode, Wind Cut, and stuff like that.

Pros

Battery life is good for around three hours on a single charge, which is a really nice touch for a camcorder that costs under $300. Also, video and audio quality are crisp and clear, the 34x optical zoom is outstanding, and the $249 price tag makes it seem like you’re getting a ton of value for what you’re paying.

The video codec that this camera uses is great, too, as it works right out of the gate with most popular editing software. Some cheaper camcorders use weird codecs that output video files that need to be converted before you’re able to edit them. That defeats the purpose of a grab-and-go camcorder. I’m able to directly edit the files that the MX20 creates with Sony Vegas – something I’ve been unable to do with JVC’s Everio series, for instance.

Cons

People who want to shoot high definition video or take still photos will want to look elsewhere, as the MX20 just handles straightforward 720×480 video. You’ll also probably want to supply your own large-capacity SD memory card if you don’t already have one. That’s not a deal-breaker by any means but it could add another $100 to your bottom line if you were to pick up, say, an 8GB SDHC card at retail.

Conclusion

The Samsung SC-MX20 is now my go-to camcorder. The size, quality, battery life, and low price make it hard to pass up. I can whole-heartedly recommend this camcorder if you’re looking for an inexpensive video camera that (unlike most other inexpensive camcorders) shoots great video and has an optical zoom.

Video Sample: Click here to download (17mb .MP4 file)

Samsung SC-MX20 Digital Memory Camcorder [Samsung.com]

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