Samsung takes a step further towards its goal of world gadget domination in the form of the SMX-F40, and this cherry-red digital camcorder decided to take a short detour and knock on our door for some playtime.
This definitely isn’t your mom and pop’s ancient camcorder. At 220g, the Samsung SMX-F40 won’t weigh you down, making it appealing to guerilla-style shooters. One-handed operation is the norm with most video recorders, and it’s just the same with the F40; the power, zoom, record, and mode switch buttons can all be accessed with just a slight movement of your fingers.
Moving the 2.7-inch swivel LCD outward will reveal additional buttons for the Smart Auto mode, LCD enhancer, back light settings, and Menu access, along with the combined zoom/navigation controls and redundant Record button. A small flap on the bottom inside portion covers the USB and charger ports plus the SD/SDHC slot, while the battery pack accounts for a small protrusion at the back part of the unit. Of course, the camcorder’s “eyes,” the Schneider Kreuznach Varioplan f/1.8 lens, is front and center.
A 2GB SD card will give you only around 78 minutes of video recording time and 1,539 1.6MP photos, so it would be best to get an SDHC card with a maximum capacity of 32GB if you plan to love this camcorder a long time.
Tinkering with the F40’s menu gave us a wealth of choices. Each video recording can be tweaked with 9 scene modes; 5 TV and web resolution settings (from super fine to normal); 2 photo-resolution settings; the usual options for aperture, shutter speed, EV, white balance, image stabilization, digital effects, and focus; and handy extras like fader, wind cut, and time-lapse recording functions. Samsung is proud of its 65x Intelli-Zoom feature, but you can also opt for a 52x optical zoom if you don’t want to move closer to your subjects.
So far, so good, and there seems to be nothing wrong with the F40. That is, until we noticed the slow response time. Pressing the Record button would take the camcorder from standby to recording mode in 4 whole seconds. The same thing happens when pressing the button again to stop recording. In environments with rapidly moving subjects (for example, running kids or sporting events) and simultaneous occurrences, this 4-second lag is an eternity.
Also, the bottom right portion of the camcorder warmed up considerably after a few minutes of recording. We attributed this to the body heat from our right hand, at least until we took out the SD card and found it to be a little toasty as well.
If you think you can do without expandable memory, however, Samsung dashes all hope by not providing internal storage for the F40. The protruding battery pack was also a slight hindrance; it’s not a big deal, but it can annoy those who don’t want to feel the pack’s edges during operation.
The good news is that the pros outweigh the cons. Capturing MPEG4 videos with a 720 x 480 size was a cinch, and you don’t have to wait until you get home to divide or combine your footage. Well-lit environments won’t pose any problems, while poorly lit ones will call for some trial and error before getting the best settings. Your videos might not win you an Oscar, but the quality’s good enough for most situations.
Zooming in and out can get a little jerky at times, and maxxing out the 65x Intelli-Zoom will give you a headache (too bad for the pasmado stalkers), but that’s a common downside with camcorders, anyway. The swivel LCD lets you see what you’re recording and indulge your vain side as well. Interactive thumbnails will give you a preview of each video, taking away the usual guessing game during playback.
The F40’s batteries (which doesn’t quite meet the claimed 4-hour and 10-minute lifespan, but still has enough power for most special occasions) can be juiced up in 2 ways: via bundled battery charger or USB. Plugging it via USB will launch the Samsung Intelli-Studio software stored inside the camcorder, which will load all of the data in your SD/SDHC card (not just those taken with the F40), sort them by date, and let you add more effects (fine-tuning, transitions, additional text and sound, playback speed, etc.) to your footage. Screenshots and sharing functions for YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and e-mail will also be handy for many users.
Overall, the Samsung SMX-F40 will do what it’s meant to do, and without the added bulk. It has features that meet the demands of typical consumers, and a few extras to keep the hard-to-please at bay.
Click here to see the Samsung SMX-F40 in the Buyer’s Guide.