Samsung HMX-S15BN Camcorder Reviewby Michael
There was a time when making a movie or documentary was restricted only to those who could afford an expensive camcorder over $5,000. This is no longer the case with the arrival of high definition camcorders. The Samsung HMX-S15 is a Full HD (1920 x 1080 resolution) digital camcorder with exceptional features. We had the opportunity to test the Samsung HMX-S15BN.
Samsung HMX-S15BN Features
The Samsung HMX-S15BN is fiited with a Schneider Kreuznach 15X optical (4.8 – 72 mm) Varioplan-HD lens.
Its 18X Intelli-Zoom allows you to go past the 15X optical zooms without allowing image quality to suffer.
To ensure image stability and to compensate for shaky hands and body movement, the camcorder comes with an optical image stabilizer, the Smart OIS.
The Samsung’s 1/2.33″ 10 mega-pixel BSI CMOS imaging sensor absorbs twice the amount of light than conventional sensors. That means, you can record in low light conditions with less image noise and distortion.
The Samsung HMX-S15BN stores the images in its enormous internal 32GB Solid State drive.
The advantage of SSD is that there are no moving parts, which makes the camcorder more durable and resistant to shock and vibrations.
You also have the option of storing the images in a SD or SDHC memory card.
It has a large 3.5″ WVGA Touch LCD screen.
If you want to adjust the focus, exposure and shutter speed manually, you can do so with the Manual Control.
The Samsung HMX-S15 allows you to shoot in super-slow motion with speeds of 600 fps at a resolution of 192×112 or 300 fps at a resolution of 368×208.
It’s perfect for recording the fall of a water drop or the burst of a balloon.
You can record a single image at a pre-selected interval, either 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, or 30 seconds, and view them all in one single movie file.
This enables you to watch the blooming of a beautiful flower and the rising of the sun.
It also allows you to do stop motion animation with objects, a popular past-time with photographers these days.
Perhaps one of its most interesting feature is its wireless networking capabilities.
You can transfer the recorded movies or photos wirelessly with its integrated Wi-Fi and DLNA to PC.
It means you can also watch your movies on wireless enabled HDTV instantly without any cable connection.
REVIEW OF SAMSUNG HMX-S15BN CAMCORDER
Our first impression of the Samsung HMX-S15BN is that the camcorder is very light (less than 470 g) and comfortable to hold.
The moment you open up the LCD screen, the camcorder switches on. When you close it, it remains on for some time (stand-by mode) depending on the power setting before it switches off. You can also directly turn it off by pressing the ON/OFF button for about a second.
Recording is possible using the keys on the LCD panel or using the included remote control.
The LCD screen displays a lot of information and if you find it distracting, you can switch the info off very easily by simply pressing a button.
The touch screen is sensitive and we have no difficulty navigating through the different settings even though some of the touch areas can be quite small.
In bright sunlight, it is somewhat difficult to view the LCD screen. Indoors, the screen is very bright.
You can record movies in one of the 6 video resolutions:
- 1080/60i Extreme Fine
- 1080/60i Super Fine
- 1080/60i Fine
In our tests, we shoot the same scene with all the different formats and view them on a 50″ HDTV through the HDMI connection. The images are very good, and those from 480/60p were much better than expected.
It’s hard to differentiate between the Super Fine, the Fine and the 1080/30p (all 1920X1080). However, there’s no doubt that the Extreme Fine setting gives the best quality pictures.
If you absolutely want the highest picture definition, shoot in the Extreme Fine resolution. It’s important to remember that there are different video formats for TV and your TV may not be able to reproduce that high a definition.
The Samsung HMX-S15BN’s 15X optical zoom is very powerful and is more than enough for general use. At 15X zoom it is difficult to hand hold the camcorder and maintain a steady image while shooting. The slightest hand movement is magnified and, in spite of the Optical Image Stabilizer, you will not be able to get a shake-free picture. It is best to use a tripod if you intend to shoot at maximum tele.
The optical zoom performs very well. The image stays sharp even at the highest magnification. With the digital zoom, as expected, the image resolution degrades and appears blurred. It is best to restrict yourself to use only the optical zoom.
How good is the Optical Image stabilizer?
It definitely makes a great difference with the Image Stabilizer on. The resulting images are more steady. We recommend using it all the time unless you use a tripod (when you need to turn it off)
One major problem facing most home camcorders is the recorded wind noise. The Samsung HMX has a Wind Cut feature that reduces the sound of the wind though we find that it does not eliminate it totally.
We recommend using the Wind Cut feature at all times. For the absolutely best sound, purchase and use an optional external high quality microphone with built-in wind shield.
The sound from the internal microphone can be adjusted to 3 levels. We like it at the highest level when there is no background sound. Set it at the lowest level when there is strong wind. The Voice Reduction function also reduces the nearby sound.
There is also a Zoom Mic feature, which zooms in the sound according to the optical zoom.
Low Light Shooting
For a low-light test, we wait for the sun to set and shoot street scenes with only the street lights on. We find the image to be a little grainy but quite acceptable.
Inside the house, with the regular light bulbs on the ceiling, the images are surprisingly good and sharp. The white balance can be adjusted manually to reproduce very accurate colors. It seems that the BSI CMOS imaging sensor does fulfill its claims to give better low light image quality.
To test the slow-motion feature, we record the drippings of tap water at 300 fps and at 600 fps. The video formats are much smaller and sound is not recorded.
It is quite impressive to see the water drops falling in slow motion and breaking up along the way.
The usefulness of this feature may be debatable for regular home movies as the image size is very small (192X112 for 600 fps), but would certainly earn junior a great grade in a science project.
The Samsung HMX-S15BN has a photo mode which enables you to take 10 megapixel pictures. It also allows you to take continuous shots if you choose to.
Our test pictures at 5 and 10 megapixels show picture quality almost comparable to those taken by a digital camera.
There is a separate button for taking still pictures. You can take pictures in the photo mode or during the video shooting.
The default photo size is 5 megapixels. You can adjust it from VGA (640X480) to 10 megapixels (4224×2376).
We find the location of the photo shutter release button a bit arkward to reach. Your index finger falls naturally on the zoom lever and the thumb on the recording button. We would have preferred the photo shutter release button to be nearer the movie recoding button, allowing the thumb to easily activate it.
We did not test the wireless feature for, as much as we tried, we were unable to connect our PC to the camcorder through a wireless network. We were also not able to get our hands on a TV with DMP (Digital Media Player) feature based on DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) during the test period (to play the recorded images wirelessly).
The Samsung HMX-S15BN is a high definition camcorder with a lot of practical features.
It is extremely easy to use while also giving you control over many settings which you can adjust manually (Focus, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, EV, light metering, etc. ).
The camcorder allows you to edit video clips and upload them to YouTube, Facebook and Flickr.
We like the the Samsung HMX-S15BN. It will allow you to record memorable home movies with HD image quality good enough for TV documentaries.