Samsung SC-D6040 DuoCam Review
By Movable Type Admin
Samsung's DuoCam SC-D6040 is the first true Video Camcorder / Digital Camera combo we
have worked with (as of 9/2005.) When using the digital camera side, you'll
notice it includes many features found on typical consumer digicams, like a
4-megapixel imager, 3x optical zoom, MPEG-4 Movie mode, plus a swiveling 2.5-inch LCD.
It operates like a standard point-n-shoot so anyone in your household should be able
to use it. Beginners will benefit from its EasyQ mode, which is fully automatic with
very minimal exposure options. Program mode is also automatic, but gives you access to
more advanced settings like ISO, white balance, metering, sharpness, etc. You can
also choose from ten different scene modes that are programmed for a variety of
shooting conditions. When the photo enthusiast wants to be more creative, there are
the Aperture priority, Shutter speed priority and full Manual modes that give you
total control over the exposure process.
The SC-D6040's ergonomics were good, it fits very well in your hands, but I am sure that many used to today's "tiny" camcorders might call it bulky or huge. The controls are well placed with your fingers falling naturally over the still image shutter release and zoom controls, while your thumb is positioned directly over the movie record shutter release and power dial. Its menu system was very easy to navigate, allowing us to change camera settings quickly. The swiveling 2.5-inch LCD offers versatility with viewing angles that are just not possible with normal fixed LCDs. I found it worked well outdoors, even in bright sunlight. You can also opt to use its eyelevel EVF (Electronic Viewfinder), which is basically a tiny LCD inside the eyepiece that displays the live image. The EVF moves in and out to clear the larger optional battery pack but it does not tilt up or down. When shooting in dim lighting, the image does not "gain up", however, like we have seen on other digicams, the metering system is very sensitive, allowing you to see with the slightest amount of ambient light.
Shooting performance was average for a 4-megapixel camera. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 4.5 seconds. Shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release and capturing an image, was 2/10 of a second when pre-focused and about 8/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting a sequence of still images, the shot to shot delay averaged 2 - 3 seconds without the flash and 3 - 6 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. Using the SC-D6040's continuous capture (burst mode), I was able to capture 3 frames in just 1 second. Both the LCD and EVF go blank during burst mode, making it very difficult to follow a moving subject. Switching from record mode to playback or vice versa takes about a second. All of our tests were done using a Lexar 1GB SD card, with the image size/quality set at 4M SuperFine, Program Auto mode, preview off with all other settings at default (unless noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera setting, media, etc.
We were very pleased with image quality results when using 4M SuperFine mode. The 3x optical zoom lens produced sharp images throughout its 35 - 105mm equivalent range, exhibiting the usual amount of barrel distortion at wide angle and slight pincushioning at full telephoto. Outdoors, it consistently produced properly exposed images with nice color balance. Noise levels were average for a 4-megapixel digicam, more noticeable in high/low contrast areas. However, you can't see any traces unless you view an image at 100%, and it is very unlikely you'll notice anything in your prints. The SC-D6040 allow users to "dial in" that certain look with various color effects and the ability to increase or decease sharpness. You can record QVGA (320x240) sized MPEG-4 movies at either 15 or 30 fps with audio. The zoom cannot be used while recording, but you can preset the focal length before. While these movies are no where near as nice as the MiniDV side of the camera, they are useful especially when wanting to transfer movies to the computer. The smaller file sizes also make them great for posting on web sites or inclusion in emails to family and friends. Overall our movie samples were sharp with good crisp audio, showing the usual amounts of compression noise.
Indoors it also performs well. The flash has an average range of about ten feet (at wide angel and ISO Auto), which is sufficient for most interior shooting. The autofocus system had no problem focusing in low-ambient lighting thanks to the inclusion of an AF-assist lamp. We achieved the best indoor results when shooting portraits of individuals. The SC-D6040 actually did very well in the field of portrait photography. Our people photos were sharp with natural skin tones and good flash exposure. When shooting close-up (macro) shots, it "throttled down" the flash output nicely for near perfect exposures every time.
Power is supplied by a SB-LS110 7.4v 1100mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery, which is charged either in-camera or with the supplied AC adapter. Samsung claims it will allow the DuoCam to record up to 90 minutes. They do not however specify how many images can be captured. I would have to say that the battery life was pretty good, we were able to capture a large majority of our sample images (over 85 shots and about 15 ten second movie clips) before the battery was exhausted. We recommend purchasing an extra battery pack just in case. You can also opt to purchase the larger SB-LS220 battery pack, which extends the recording time to approx. three hours.
Bottom line - the Samsung SC-D6040 DuoCam is a good hybrid MiniDV Camcorder / 4-megapixel digicam that produces high-quality MiniDV movies and good quality still images that can be printed up to 8x10" size. We aren't a camcorder review site but I have had some experience with video capture devices - the DuoCam's video side is good except for its low-light performance. It lacks a video "headlight" or infrared illuminators so the video gets pretty grainy in dim lighting. In average to good lighting the video quality is on par with other camcorders in its class. See our "Second Opinion" links below for other reviewer's conclusions. We have looked at a number of camcorders with still image capture in the past and they were disappointing, creating only low-resolution still images and having to use the camera's small video imager and lens. Even the current camcorders that claim to capture high resolution stills don't do as good a job as a $200 digicam. This isn't a problem for the DuoCam, by combining the electronics of both a camcorder and a digicam, each with its own imager and optics, you have the best of both worlds. Note that Samsung has updated this camera recently, the current model is the DuoCam SC-D6550, now with a higher resolution 5-megapixel digicam and better low-light video.
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