Ease of Use: 3 / 5
Pricing: 1.5 / 5
Video Quality: 2 / 5
Photo Quality: .5 / 5
Features: 2 / 100
The HMX-F800 (also known as the HMX-F80) is an entry-level video camera from Samsung. It costs only R2000, shoots 720p video, 1.9MP photos and can zoom into infinity. So, I guess you are thinking the same thing, right? Is it any good?
On the outside:
This a diminutive camera in the usual form factor for camcorders nowadays. It is a stylish little camcorder, looking all suave in its glossy and matte black finish.
It has only the necessary buttons. There’s the obligatory zoom button dial at the top with the playback and menu buttons situated on the LCD flip-out screen.
Talking of the LCD screen, it is bad. There’s no wide viewing angle or decent legibility in direct sunlight. At least it is rotatable, so you can shy it away from the sun. And the worst, the resolution, which was atrocious.
The lens-cap manually opens and closes, as befits an entry-level and shoots to SD card, which is very convenient, as SD cards are freely available just about everywhere.
On the inside:
The menu system is basic with just the bare minimum settings. It’s not flashy and doesn’t look very impressive, but to be honest, it’s easy to navigate and find your way around in. This is a barebones system.
The photos are only 1.9MP, which is tiny and basically unusable, except for jumbo prints. Apart from that poor size, the photos are terrible quality. The photos aren’t sharp, there’s not a lot of details, tremendous amounts of artifacting and very noisy. At ISO 360 the photos are totally terrible, details are mushy and noise is very high.
The video also wasn’t of the highest quality I’ve seen, especially from a dedicated camcorder. The zoomed footage on this camera was shocking. Zooming past halfway just killed any hope of trying to get focus, as you will see in the sample video. Only once zooming out does some semblance of focus come back to the footage.
As you’d expect from a camera with such an extreme zoom lens, the lens itself isn’t good. It has extreme chromatic aberrations when aimed into high contrast scenes. At least it doesn’t distort too badly, and at F/1.8 has quite a fast aperture at the wide end.
And for a camera with such an extreme zoom, stabilisation should be good, but unfortunately the digital stabilisation just cannot keep up with the extreme zoom demands. That together with the lack of focus at the long half of the zoom range, makes half of the cameras “usable” specs redundant. You don’t want to zoom a lot with the camera. Things get more out of control the further you zoom.
This led me to wonder what the point of this camcorder is. Is it worth spending R2000 on this camcorder? And the kicker: Is it any better than what you can shoot with your cell phone, that you get for free with your contract anyways? I put this camera up against another camcorder from the Samsung stable, the Samsung Galaxy S2 cell phone. Now the S2 was the hot cell phone two years ago, but has already been replaced, yet, it’s always been seen as a decent phone camcorder/camera.
The F800 has a 2.7” LCD screen with a low resolution, can only shoot video at 720p and photos at 1.9MP, shoots at around 7MBps and can zoom extremely far.
The Galaxy S2 has an excellent 4.3” Super AMOLED screen, can shoot at 1080p at around 18MBps and photos at 8MP and can fit in your pocket.
In the photo department the Galaxy S2 rips the F800 a new one. Its 8MP vs. the FB800’s 1.9MP is just an unfair fight. The quality of the photos are also worlds apart. The F800’s photo quality is atrocious, whereas you get well developed photos with lots of details and low noise on lower ISOs from the Galaxy S2.
The Galaxy S2’s video resolution had to be dropped to 720p to match that of the F800. Yes, you read that right; the cell phone’s resolution had to be dropped to match the dedicated camcorder. The Galaxy S2 outguns the F800 resolution wise. At 720p the Galaxy shoots at around 18MBps, around 11MBps more than the F800. Video from the Galaxy S2 is much more detailed, less noisy and overall in much better shape than the F800, plus it easily fits into your pocket without making people stare, and even make calls with it.
So, is the F800 worth any money above and beyond your (above) average, two-year old cell phone? In short, no.
With the advances in cell phones’ ability to shoot video and photos, entry-level cameras and camcorders are becoming an extinct species. The only way cameras and camcorders can differentiate themselves from cell phones nowadays, is by being much better than them. Unfortunately this F800 doesn’t stand out as far as quality goes. In fact, a two-year old cell phone mops the floor with this camera as far as quality goes.
This camcorder just doesn’t have a place anymore.
Here’s a sample gallery of photos taken with the HMX-F800:
And a sample video of footage taken with the HMX-F800: