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Samsung HMX-H104 review

Ben Pitt
5 May 2010
Samsung HMX-H104
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
377
inc VAT

Keenly priced, but suffers compatibility issues with editing software and does little else to stand out

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Specifications

1/4.5in CMOS sensor, 1,920x1,020, 1,280x720, 720x576, 10.0x zoom, 380g

The H104 isn’t an AVCHD camera but its video specifications are very similar. Video is recorded at resolutions up to 1,920x1,080 at 25fps in AVC format, just like cameras bearing the AVCHD logo. Audio is recorded in AAC rather than Dolby Digital format, but the quality of these two formats is indistinguishable.

The lack of AVCHD certification does have some ramifications, though. We didn’t experience the same incompatibility problems that we found with this camera’s predecessor, the HMX20C, whereby some clips refused to work in editing software. However, the interlacing method used in clips was incorrectly recognised by Sony Vegas software, which meant that exported DVDs and Blu-ray discs suffered from juddery motion. Meanwhile, Adobe Premiere mistook the camera’s clips for non-widescreen footage, while Premiere Elements stretched it the other way to make it ultra-widescreen.

We also found that the soundtrack was two frames out of sync from the video - late in Vegas and Premiere Elements and early in Premiere Pro. All of these problems can be fixed manually for each clip but only if you know how, and it’s pretty laborious. It could be that the software rather than the camera is at fault, but either way, we’d prefer to use a camera that doesn’t throw up these kinds of problems.

The 16GB of internal memory provides room for around two hours of video at the default quality, but continuous recordings are broken up into 1.8GB files, lasting around 15 minutes each. We found that the camera took a break for around six seconds between each 15-minute clip, leaving sizeable gaps in the footage. This is sadly quite common among solid-state and hard disk-based video cameras, but whereas other cameras skip a frame or two, six-second gaps are much harder to stomach.

Otherwise, the H104 is a capable, but not outstanding video camera. The 10x zoom range isn’t huge, but we’re glad to see that optical image stabilisation is included. The touchscreen interface includes a touch-for-spot-focus option, but it’s odd that there’s no way to lock the exposure. There are aperture and shutter-speed controls but setting one switches the other back to automatic. 720p and standard-definition recording modes are available as well as the top-quality 1080i mode, but there’s no 1080p progressive scan option.

The time-lapse record mode is a fun diversion, though, capturing a 720p frame at intervals from one to five seconds and playing back at 50fps for 50x to 250x fast motion. Battery life is excellent at 127 minutes and recharging is quick at 88 minutes. Opening the screen starts the camera automatically but closing it puts it into a sleep mode rather than powering down completely, so it’s best to use the power button to avoid draining the battery.

Whereas the HMX20C had an unusually large 1/1.8in sensor, the H104 uses a more typical 1/4.5in sensor with six times less surface area. As a result, the H104 doesn’t replicate the excellent low-light performance of its predecessor, instead exhibiting muted colours and suppressing fine details in an attempt to reduce noise. It fared much better in bright light, exhibiting rich colours and plenty of detail. The soundtrack was recorded very loud and bass-heavy, and in quieter environments picked up a lot of noise.

Ultimately, picture quality is on a par with similarly priced AVCHD cameras that offer better features and no software compatibility problems. For only £16 more, you could buy Panasonic's excellent HDC-SD60.

Basic Specifications

Rating**

Recording

Optical zoom10.0x
Digital zoom100x
Sensor1/4.5in CMOS
Sensor pixels2,200,000
Widescreen modenative
LCD screen size2.7in
Viewfinder typenone
Video lampNo
Video recording formatAVC
Video recording mediaflash memory and SDHC
SoundAAC 48KHz stereo
Video resolutions1,920x1,020, 1,280x720, 720x576
Maximum image resolution2,880x1,620
Memory slotSDHC
Mermory supplied16GB internal
Flashyes

Physical

Digital inputs/outputsUSB Hi-speed
Analogue inputs/outputsAV out, component out, mini HDMI out
Other connectionscharge jack
Battery type7.4V 850mAh Li-ion
Battery life2h 7m
Battery charging positioncamcorder
Size61x59x129mm
Weight380g

Buying Information

Warrantyone-year RTB
Price£377
Supplier
Detailswww.samsung.com/uk

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