Design and Usability
Compared to the Flip UltraHD, the Samsung HMX-U10 is a fair bit slimmer and shorter, but about the same width. The U10 is roughly the same size as the Flip MinoHD, though I did not have one on hand for a side-by-side comparison.
The layout of the buttons is quite a bit different, however. There is still the power button on the side, but the main controls are not the same. There are three hard buttons underneath the LCD display and these are used to access the three primary functions: video, playback, and photo.
Unlike the Flip where you hit the big red button to start recording, you have to reach your thumb over to the smaller video button on the U10 to do so. This is not as intuitive. The five-way pad (along with the four additional buttons) is touch-sensitive and used primarily for menu navigation.
The slightly angled body and the placement of the video recording button left something to be desired, but I did find the tripod mount to be quite interesting. Instead of having the tripod slot located on the bottom, Samsung placed it on the side.
As a result, you have to use the included plastic adapter to offer a vertical tripod mount. This is not nearly as convenient nor as sturdy as a single metal screw mount in the base of the unit. I would have really preferred if Samsung used a more conventional design.
Still Photo Quality
One of the critical features that separates the Samsung HMX-U10 from many of its other pocket camcorder competitors is that it can take still photographs in addition to high-definition video. This can come in really handy when you just want a picture and not a movie.
However, you should not expect much out of this secondary functionality. Unlike even the cheapest of point-and-shoot cameras, you will not find any optical zoom here. There is also no flash whatsoever, so taking pictures in the dark can be a major pain.
The white balance is off too, and the lens is anything but wide angle. Don’t even think about taking any macro shots. Even from a wider angle, I found the picture quality to be about on par with mid-range camera phones.
As mentioned, since there is no flash and no real stabilization features, it is incredibly difficult to take decent pictures under low-light conditions. The above shot was taken in the evening under street lights in Downtown Vancouver.
The orange glow of the street lights really overpowers the picture, and the “fuzziness” can be attributed to lack of image stabilization.