We bought this Samsung HMX H100 Camcorder about five months ago from Best Buy for $350 (original price $440). Since then its shelf life has ended and therefore it has come down significantly in price. The Samsung HMX H100 Camcorder is allegedly a full HD camcorder. This quite high resolution may be overkill for a home use video camera since the quality of the video taken depends on so many other factors that can easily go wrong (light, focus, motion, settings, amateurs holding the camera, etc). Also cheaper camcorders may not have very high quality lenses and noise reduction. On the other hand we wanted a camera that was as good as possible.
We are primarily using this camcorder to record our 10-year daughter playing soccer for a Division II team in Texas. We study her moves carefully to determine what can be improved. Soccer players move quickly and abruptly and you have to zoom in and out and you have to continuously move the camera when filming the fast paced game. Getting a sharp image in that situation is difficult. However, I believe this camera is a quite good match for our requirements. I should add that we naturally use this camera for any other purposes as well. General Overview of the Samsung HMX H100 Camcorder
This camcorder is quite compact, light and small. It has a leather handle and you hold it like a hot dog bun (swivel hand grip). It is slightly thicker than a hot dog bun but shorter. The touch LCD screen opens up from the side of the camera and you use this screen (and a few other buttons) to operate the camera as well as watch what you are filming. Due to the small size of the screen and glare this becomes an issue when you are filming outside in bright light.
You can film using three modes 1080/60i, 720/60p, and 480/60p (i=interlaced, p=progressive scan). As far as I know the fact that it does not use progressive scan in 1080 mode make it not qualify as being full HD, but it is still HD (this turned out to be wrong see comment). However, the camera has two labels on it stating "Full HD" which makes it misleading advertising.
The Samsung HMX H100 Camcorder uses SDHC memory
which is faster than the SD type of memory cards still used in many digital cameras and camcorders. We bought a 16GB SDHC memory card for the camera which is enough for about one and half hours of filming (1080/60i and 720/60p). I can add that movies are saved in MP4 format.
The camera has a 37mm wide angle lens which is wider than the more typical 40-50mm lenses. The lens is of high quality and corrects for chromatic aberration and distortion and the camcorder has an Optical Image Stabilizer. This in combination with the high resolution result in a good picture, at least if you film in day light.
The Samsung HMX H100 Camcorder has a lot of features including Easy Q mode, Anti-Shake, different photo modes, video modes, flash modes, playback modes, modes for recording (Auto, Sports, Beach/Snow, Indoor, etc) and a cool feature called Time Lapse Recording, and much more. Time Lapse Recording feature records images at specific intervals (you can set them) and plays them as one movie file (for recording clouds, blooming flowers, etc).
Included in the box you get a battery pack, a remote control, a users manual on CD, an AC Power adaptor, a component/AV cable (for TV), and a USB cable (for computer). However, you can also connect to the camcorder via an HDMI cable.Operation of the Camcorder
You operate the camera by pressing the record or photo button, the on/off button, the zoom-in/zoom-out button and by using the touch LCD screen. There is also an Easy-Q button (default/automatic settings), an anti-shake button, a flash button, and a Q.Menu button. The Q.Menu button displays a reduced easy to use menu on the touch screen.
The LCD screen displays what you are filming (or about to photograph) as well as a number of indicators and a menu icon in the lower right corner of the screen. When you press the menu icon (full menu) you are shown a scroll down menu from which you can pick a large set of configuration options. Sometime the menu icon is not shown. However, if you press the lower right corner of the camera it will come up. Since it is only one menu and the menu is only one/two levels deep and features one-touch options with well chosen explanatory labels in each case it makes it quite easy to use. Basically the touch screen is very intuitive.
However, if you can't read what it says on the screen it does not help that the menu is intuitive. The LCD touch screen is small and so is the text on the screen and it is difficult to see what is on the screen in the presence of sun light (lots of glare). Changing settings at the same time as you are filming in the sun light is quite difficult. You have to put the camcorder in shadow to do that (with your hand). I think this is a common problem with all small camcorders with LCD touch screens, but I thought I mention it. Luckily, important functionality that you typically use while filming, like the zoom-in/zoom-out button, and stop/start, have hard buttons.Viewing and downloading the movies
As mentioned we use this camcorder to film our daughter playing soccer. However, we also use the camera to take movies for other reasons both indoor and outdoor. We also use it to take photos. Sometimes we connect it to our Full HD TV's and watch the movies on the TV screen and sometimes we watch the movies on our full HD computer monitors.
When you connect to the TV you can use the included component/AV cable or an HDMI cable if you want a sharper picture. You can control your TV watching experience from the touch screen on the camcorder (just touch the thumbnails representing the stored movies) or the included remote control. All this is quite simple and straightforward. My 10-year old daughter figured it out in seconds (I needed longer time than that).
You can also connect to a computer using the included USB cable or insert the SDHC
card into the PC (Windows). This allows you to view and edit the movies as well as download them to the computer. The software for doing this is stored in the internal memory of the camcorder and this software is automatically downloaded when you connect to a computer. Therefore it is purely plug and play. It takes me about half an hour to download 16GB of video to the computer (that is one and a half hour of viewing for the 1080i mode).Video Quality
The videos that we have taken under good lightning and with image stabilization (sports settings) are without doubt incredible sharp. Using the sports settings outside in day light creates videos in which a soccer ball flying fast across the field does not leave any ghost image or fuzzy borders and you can see small details quite sharply. It seems like you get the sharpest video if you use the 720p setting rather than the 1080i setting.
On the other hand, if the light is a little dim, for example, when you are filming inside an indoor soccer arena the picture might turn out to be quite blurry and grainy. This is a problem with many cameras and camcorders. However, I think this camcorder does fairly poorly with indoor light that should not be that bad.Sound
The sound is pretty decent when using play back on the camcorder and it is very good when playing back on the TV or on the computer.Photo Quality
You can use two settings for the photo resolution 1920X1080 and 2880X1620. As for the photo quality it is pretty good when the light is good and grainy when the light is dim. My digital camera clearly does much better than this camcorder with indoor lightning (for photos).Miscellaneous
On occasion some video files has become corrupt and lost which is a pretty big bummer if you are filming something interesting. This happens especially often when you are filling up the entire SDHC card. I should say that even in these instances is not a common occurrence.
It takes about two hours to charge the battery which I think is decent. The camcorder comes with a quick setup guide but no user manual in paper format. On the other hand the user manual is stored as a PDF file on a DVD. The camcorder comes with a one year warranty.Summary of Opinions
The camera can deliver exceptional sports video under good lighting and the correct setting (sports setting / anti-shake). It disappoints when the lighting is a little bit dim. The camcorder has a lot of features but it is still easy to use and quite intuitive. It downloads to the TV and the computer easily and the editing software and the drivers will install on the computer automatically when you connect which is handy. It is very light and small and after five months of use we have not yet had any problems except the occasional corrupt MP4 file. I am waffling between three stars and four stars for this camera and considering the disappointing picture quality in dim light and the false advertising (full HD) I am somewhat reluctant to recommend it. However, considering that the price of the camera has come down quite a bit I think it still is a good deal. I say three and a half stars rounded up to four.