Long gone are the days of having to lug around a hefty beast of a video camera. For the casual user who just wants videos fit for YouTube or needs a lightweight, portable device for taking on holiday, there are more options than ever before.
Flip has had a hold on the portable video market for some time now, offering consumers a way to snap up lovely HD footage on a dinky, pocket-size camera and upload to the Internet without the need for annoying cables or software. Back in April 2009 we gave the Flip Mino HD a very favourable review and were blown away by its simple functionality and superb performance, so we were interested to see whether the slightly more expensive Samsung U10 had anything more to offer.
Taking the Samsung U10 FlashCAM out of box, the first thing that strikes you is how unbelievably light it is. At first, we were rifling through the box thinking it still needed a battery inserting, but with an internal battery this is as light as a feather at a mere 95g: perfect for keeping the weight down when on the move. A slim and ergonomic body also means it’s compact enough to tuck into a pocket without any bulk at all.
Similar to the Flip Mino, the Samsung U10 FlashCAM operates with touchscreen buttons. These controls are responsive and easy to operate, but with some of the icons marked on a brushed surface, we found it a little difficult to see what was what in low light conditions.
The Samsung U10 FlashCAM has a much larger LCD screen than the Flip Mino, measuring a generous 2-inches. This gives you a lot more scope to compose or preview your videos and is a welcomed design feature. Underneath this screen there are also dedicated buttons for accessing video recording, playback or stills capture. This is the U10′s the most significant offering in comparison to the Flip: the opportunity to capture 10-megapixel JPEG photographs.
Unfortunately, after playing with the camera in a variety of different environments we came to the conclusion you have to think of the stills capture as an additional perk rather than a practical or indispensable feature. Because you don’t have access to good focussing facilities, and the number of dedicated scene modes is limited, the reality is you can only press the photo button and hope for the best.
It shows in the results. There’s no in-built flash on the Samsung U10 FlashCAM, which poses a problem if you want to shoot a photo in low light, but unfortunately all the photos we captured on the U10, even in bright daylight, were very disappointing. As well as finding it dreadfully difficult to get anything in focus, colours were washed out (we put this down to poor white balancing, but there’s no way to adjust this) and lacking in life. The minimum focal length is also quite a long 1.3m so any macro footage on this device is out of the question. We would have also appreciated a feature to snapshot a stills photo whilst simultaneously capturing video, as this would have really made use of the camera’s double function.
To test out the video capability we recorded footage in different set-ups with the Samsung U10 FlashCAM in one hand and the Flip Mino in the other. With the Flip Mino being the Samsung U10′s obvious competitor we felt this was the best way to a fair contrast. Unfortunately, there was no competition. Whilst the Flip managed punchy, seamless footage and coped miraculously well in all lighting situations, the Samsung U10 FlashCAM struggled to keep up with the pace. We were disappointed that a lot of the U10 footage lacked the detail the Flip gave us, although it managed just as well with sound quality which was clear and crisp.
It was absolutely essential to use a higher speed SDHC card in order to make use of the HD quality video. Unlike the Flip the Samsung U10 FlashCAM doesn’t have any internal memory and using a standard SD card meant playback often froze once uploaded to our computer. We didn’t mind using a card too much though: one of the main drawbacks for internal memory storage is you’re always worried about space. Here, as long as you have enough cards you can shoot away to your heart’s content. Unfortunately, an SDHC card isn’t included with the device so you would need to purchase one separately.
One Samsung U10 FlashCAM feature that did catch our attention was the Time Lapse recording function. This gives you the opportunity to set the camera to record for a fixed period of time (between 1 and 30 seconds) over a 24, 48 or 72 hour period. Just as long as you feel happy enough to leave your camera getting on with its job you can have great fun with entertaining and quirky time lapse footage. Of course, you will need to make sure the battery is topped up to the max so it doesn’t cut your plans short, but there’s also the possibility to thread the camera up to a tripod so you can capture steady and consistent footage.
The other creative movie option is slow motion video capture. However, the drop in quality of footage when in this mode is very apparent compared to the camera’s HD capture, and it’s just not enjoyable to watch at all.
One of the features we loved about the Flip Mino was the integrated pop-up USB stick that made it so easy to plug into a computer without the need for carrying around wires. Unfortunately, the Samsung U10 does need to use a USB cable so you would have to make sure you take this with you if you want to transfer footage to a laptop whilst you’re on the move.
As with the Flip, the in-built software on the camera gives you plenty of options to share your captured footage online to sites such as YouTube or Flickr or to prepare your file for email. However, Mac users won’t be happy as the software needed to do this is only compatible with Windows XP and Vista.
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