Review: Samsung SMX-F34 flash memory camcorder

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Short Version: Samsung has put out another well-priced, nicely-featured camcorder in the SMX-F34. If you’re looking for a little more than a simple handheld flash memory camcorder but don’t want to pay top dollar for a high-definition video camera, this model deserves a closer look thanks to marathon battery life, good image quality, 16GB of built-in storage, and a 34x optical zoom all at under $300.

Overview and Features

The Samsung SMX-F34 features the following (full specs here):

  • 1/6-inch CCD image sensor
  • 30mm lens with 34x optical zoom
  • 2.7-inch swivel LCD
  • 16GB of built-in storage, plus support for SD(HC) and MMC+ memory cards
  • H.264 video codec (MainConcept AVC/AAC — .MP4 files) at up to 720×480 resolution (see sample file below)
  • Up to 3 hours of battery life
  • MSRP of $299.99, but it’s available for around $250 just about everywhere

If you’ve seen my review of the SC-MX20, the SMX-F34 is similar except that it’s got built-in memory, longer battery life, and has a few new features like time-lapse recording and the ability to shoot still images.

Video Quality

Video is shot using the MainConcept AVC/AAC H.264 codec, which produces .mp4 files. The files are easy to work with using most popular video editing software. I personally use Sony Vegas, which handles the files just fine. I’ve had trouble with files from similarly-equipped JVC and Panasonic camcorders, though. The last thing I want to do before editing video is to have to convert it to a usable format first. The files from Samsung camcorders have been usable straight off of the camera — no fuss, no muss.

Here’s an unedited sample file that shows off the 34x zoom and that you can use to see if this camera will work with your video editing software. The file was shot about two hours before dusk, full zoom, with image stabilization turned off.

Sample Video File (8.3 megabytes)

Files can be read directly off SD or MMC cards or transferred via USB. Transfer time for a 500-megabyte file takes about three minutes.

Battery Life

Samsung pegs the battery life at three hours. I was able to shoot video continuously for two and a half hours, so that three-hour claim likely factors in multiple shots with breaks in between. Whatever the case, I never travelled with the power cord as the battery life was always long enough that I didn’t worry much about it at all.

Additional Features

Aside from just recording video, the SMX-F34 features still image capture, face detection, time-lapse recording, various scene modes, YouTube uploading, image stabilization, windscreen, and more. The camera’s handle swivels 180 degrees, which makes it easy to hold at most angles.
swivel

Here’s a short clip of the time-lapse recording function:

http://blip.tv/play/grExgYnhNAA

Recommendation:

I think Samsung’s line of flash memory camcorders still represent the best value for the money thanks to the long battery life and good codec support. If you don’t need or want an HD camcorder and you like the idea of having 16GB of on-board memory in case you forget an SD card, you want to take still photos, and you like the time lapse feature, then the $249 street price of the SMX-F34 is pretty tough to beat.

Otherwise, if you can find the SC-MX20 for around $200, that’s a great deal too. You just lose the still images, the time lapse, and you’ll need to supply a memory card.

Samsung SMX-F34 [Samsung.com]

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