Affordable standard-def camcorder optimised for YouTube uploads and video blogging.
- H.264 AVC recording, fun Interval/time-lapse mode, pretty cheap (for a camcorder)
- No still images mode, sub-par image quality, pretty expensive (for a Net-cam)
Despite its prominent YouTube branding, the VP-MX20 is not really a Net-cam; at least, not in the traditional sense. Nevertheless, it should prove adequate for casual users who require a cheap point-and-shoot camera.
Price$ 529.00 (AUD)
Alongside sad and obsessive Facebook freaks, video bloggers are fast becoming the number one scourge of the Internet. It feels like everyone and their grandma are uploading video diaries these days, ranging from giddy kneed Zac Efron crush-gushing to slavering political diatribes. Some people are even making real money from their online ventures, with Web sites like YouTube offering cash incentives for popular blogs. All you need to get started is a bit of free time and a compatible camcorder, which is where the VP-MX20 comes in.
Keen to capitalise on this burgeoning market as swiftly as possible, Samsung has upgraded its VP-MX10 camcorder and slapped a YouTube logo on the front. The result is a Net-cam with a difference — sporting a 720×576 image resolution and a gargantuan 35x optical zoom lens, it can be used for a variety of non-Web purposes, including TV playback. This makes it a good option for people who want a fully fledged camcorder with blog-like trimmings. Of course, with an RRP of over $500, it’s not really a Net-cam at all. There are far more affordable options on the market for those who are only interested in Web uploads, so check out the competition before laying down your cash.
The VP-MX20 records in the H.264 AVC format rather than MPEG 4. This is a newer video codec that is more typically associated with high-definition camcorders. Other improvements over the MX10 include an improved Schneider Kreuznach lens, face detection technology and a curious time-lapse recording mode. Otherwise, this is much the same product that we reviewed last year, with an identical 1/6in CCD sensor and 800k gross pixel-count.
As you’d doubtlessly expect from the above specifications, image quality isn't one of the VP-MX20’s strong points. During testing, its performance was on equal footing with the VP-MX10 — which is to say it gets the job done, but not very well. Digital artefacts, ghosting and noise all reared their heads at one point or another, though the colour balance was fairly accurate (if a little on the dark side). The autofocus was also a bit erratic, especially in dimly lit environments where it would sometimes take a few seconds to lock onto a subject. That being said, the results are more than adequate for casual viewing and will look absolutely fine on YouTube. Provided you aren't expecting crystal-clear resolution, you shouldn't be disappointed.
Apart from a flashy YouTube logo, the VP-MX20 is physically indistinguishable from its older brother, with identical dimensions and barrel-like shape. Samsung’s celebrated swivel-grip has also made a welcome return. Some people seem to dislike this feature but we can’t get enough of it — it allows you to rotate the camera through 135 degrees without using your wrist. Unfortunately, the unit’s ultra-compact size means that it can be a chore to hold steady while shooting. This is exacerbated by the lack of an optical image stabiliser (instead, an inferior electronic variant is used). But as they say: practice makes perfect.
Being a budget camcorder, the VP-MX20 is pretty short on additional modes and features. Surprisingly, this extends to still image capture, which is something almost every other camcorder on the market offers (not to mention the humble webcam). While it's unlikely the VP-MX20's output would have been worth the effort of making prints, it’s still a frustrating omission. External microphone and headphone jacks are also absent, though this is somewhat more forgivable.
One interesting feature on this camcorder is Interval recording. As its name suggests, this is a time-lapse mode that captures solitary frames at fixed intervals (between one and 30 seconds). This is a great tool for nature videos and experimental art clips – we tried it out on the street outside our window and were impressed by the constant bustle of cars. Bear in mind that you’ll need a tripod to get the most out of this feature.
To record video, the VP-MX20 uses SD/SDHC memory cards, which currently have a maximum capacity of 64GB. You can expect to store around four hours of footage on a 4GB card (provided you’re shooting in Web & Mobile mode). There are four separate recording modes in all: TV Super Fine, TV Fine, TV Normal and Web & Mobile.
In conclusion, we’d have to say that the VP-MX20 is an average camcorder masquerading as a Net-cam. If your interest in video is limited to Internet blogging, then go for Creative’s Vado Pocket Video Cam (pink) — it will get the job done for less than a third of the price.
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