of use and impressive zoom but poor low-light performance
The new Samsung HMX-H304 is a handy, little camcorder for
recording Full-HD video. It improves upon its predecessor the HMX-H200 in many
ways, but also falls short in others.
Before we continue, you should know that the Samsung
HMX-H300 and the H304 are identical camcorders, except where the H300 needs to
record to a memory card, the H304 comes with 16GB worth of built-in memory in
addition to the memory card slot.
You have to manually open and close the
H304’s lens cover
The first thing you’ll notice about the H304 is its manual
lens cover. You’ll need to manually open and close the lens, which becomes a
hassle when you forget to do the former before shooting and becomes a risk when
you forget to do the latter before chucking the H304 into a bag with your keys.
Manual lens covers aren’t uncommon on budget camcorders, but it would be nice
to have an auto one anyway.
The H304 is comfortable to hold, sitting nice and light
in your hands. Handling is mostly a breeze if you prefer to set the H304 to
automatic. There are limited manual options but they’re not as easy to get to.
For example, shutter and aperture priority modes exist, but to change either
setting is at least a five-tap process.
Settings are accessed via the touch Menu on the large 3”
screen (which has been enlarged from the H200’s 2.7” screen), and is as
responsive as capacitive screens go. 230,000 pixels don’t always form a clear
enough picture for you to check of you have an accurate focus lock though. The
H304 comes with a welcomed 30x optical zoom, but a further zoom means more
chance of camera shake. Here’s where the optical image stabilization of the
H304 kicks in, and it works quite well at correcting camera shake and making
your footage steadier.
Video footage in good light is acceptable, it not
exceptional, lacking a certain sharpness and vibrancy. Some corner softness can
be seen in some shots. The real test of a camera is in low light, and the H304
falters at it. Video in low light is riddled with image noise, as are photos
taken in low light. Sound recording is a little tinny and none too bright.
Motion is recorded clearly, but there are limited
frame-rates available, 1080/50i for PAL shooters is the only Full HD option,
while you can shoot 50p at a lower resolution of 1280x720. One saving grace is
that the video is recorder in .MOV files, which are easier to copy and view
than videos shot in the popular AVCHD format which records to a complicated
The other is the H304’s long battery life – internal
storage gave out first after recording 135 minutes of footage with the battery
still at three over four bars. You can only record up to 15 minutes per clip at
full resolution though, so no long movies (the H304 will automatically continue
recording to a next clip).
While the Samsung HMX-H304 wins points for its
affordability, ease of use, excellent image stabilization and impressively long
zoom, it loses points for its soft images and poor performance in low-light –
the most important points needed for a camcorder.
At a glance
Optical zoom: 30%
Image sensor: 1/4”
BSI CMOS sensor, 1.76MP effective pixels
cover, f/1.8 (W)-2.8 (T)
1/4" BSI CMOS sensor, 1.76MP effective pixels
Audio recording: AAC
audio format, 2 audio recording channels
Video recording: H.264
1080/50i, 720/50p, 720 x 576/50p
Image stabilizer: OIS
Stills recording: JPEG,
USB2.0, Component, Video HDMI, SD/SDHC memory card slot
built-in, SD/SDHC memory card compatible
230k pixels screen