Samsung’s SMX-C14 is a standard definition camcorder that records 720 x 480 video in the H.264 format to 16GB of internal flash memory. It costs $279.
Its most unique feature is what Samsung dubs an “active angle lens” – a 10x optical zoom lens that is angled upward to relieve pressure on the arms and keep the camcorder’s LCD out of your line of sight while filming.
Video samples from the SMX-C14 are available here.
Samsung SMX-C14 At a Glance
The Good: Nice quality video, sleek design, unique lens, good feature set.
The Bad: Low quality still photos, slightly cumbersome record button.
Samsung also offers the less expensive SMX-C10 for $199. It has most of the features of the C14 except the 16GB of internal memory. Instead, you’ll have to use an optional SDHC memory card to store video.
The SMX-C14 uses a 1/6” CCD sensor with 680K pixels to record 720 x 480 resolution video. At the highest quality setting, you can store 6.5 hours of video to the 16GB worth of internal memory. Add an SDHC card and you can boost recording times still further.
There’s no flash or video light to aid in low light video recording or photography, but there are a pair of low light scene modes to boost performance in dim light. These work well enough, but will result in some pixelation and color shift when you use them. You can also adjust the exposure to increase brightness.
The C14 can also snap still photos, but at a low resolution of 800 x 600 – basically good enough to email and not much else. You can edge up the quality a little – to 1600 x 1200 – by interpolation.
Active Angle Lens
One of the major selling points of the C14 is what Samsung dubs its “active angle” optical zoom lens. Its 10x magnification is pretty common, but the placement of the lens is unique. As you can tell from the product photos, the lens is angled skyward – not straight ahead as with most camcorders.
This peculiar placement delivers two benefits. First, it allows you to hold the camcorder without raising your elbow, which reduces the strain on your joints from holding the camcorder aloft. Second, since the camcorder is lower, the LCD is not in your line of sight, leaving your view unobstructed.
In practice, using the active angle lens takes some getting used to. If you, like me, are habituated to traditional camcorder lenses it will take a while before you get into the natural rhythm of correctly positioning the camcorder for filming. However, once you do, you’ll find that it does minimize the strain of longer recording sessions.
The C14’s design is well-executed. Samsung, almost along among camcorder manufacturers, obviously understands the value of large, accessible buttons. On the exterior, you’ll find a zoom control, photo shutter and record button. Flip open the 2.7-inch LCD display and you’ll find buttons for power, playback, easy mode, display and upload.
The C14 is very compact and lightweight at 5.7 oz with battery.
The only knock on the design is the placement of the record button. As I held the camcorder, my thumb only grazed the lower portion of the button and sometimes when I thought I had pressed it, I hadn’t.
The SMX-C14 is well stocked with features including face detection, 14 scene modes, and direct uploading to YouTube when connected to a PC. You can focus manually using the joystick on the LCD to control the lens, although it's a tad cumbersome.
There are a couple of notable goodies in the C14 including a time lapse recording mode. You can set it to record every one, three, five, 10, 15 or 30 seconds, to capture long exposures over time. Another very nice feature is the ability to recharge the camcorder’s battery either by AC power or when connected via USB.
The menu interface on the C14 is simple enough to master. One nice touch is found in playback. The camcorder will not only display thumbnail clips of all the movies you’ve recorded, but when you highlight the clip, the thumbnail will play on the LCD. This gives you a better sense of what the scene is all about.
Setting a Standard
Samsung's SMX-C14 is an excellent standard definition camcorder for the price. The lens positioning will take some getting used to, but the combination of portability, features, video quality and design make the C14 a stand-out model in its class.