Up till now, camcorders (and if you think about it, DSLRs too) are designed for right-handed users: you hold the camera with your right hand and have a grip belt over the back of your hand. Major controls such as the power and record buttons, the mode and zoom dials are placed within close proximity of your right thumb and index finger. During recording, the non-dominant left hand is often free, or is relegated to secondary tasks such as fiddling with the angle of the flip-out LCD, and adjusting of settings if it’s a touchscreen LCD. The reason why electronics makers don’t develop more products for left-handed users? Probably because only about 15% of the world’s population are left-handed.
The HMX-Q10’s Switch Grip provides the much needed answer to those who use their left hand as their dominant hand. The implementation is so simple that we wonder why it took so long for someone to do it. A magnetic sensor residing in the camcorder detects how the camera is held, and then turns the LCD display accordingly. Of course, this alone wouldn’t be enough. Samsung has also made a few design decisions to make the transition feels natural. For example, you’re not going to find a power button. You turn on the camcorder by flipping out the LCD screen. The top of the camcorder has neither an accessory shoe for attachments, nor controls. Besides the connectors, the side facing the LCD screen is no home to buttons too. As the battery compartment is located at the base, the rear of the HMX-Q10 sports only a zoom dial with a start/stop button in its center.
In other words, Samsung has styled the camcorder in such a way that it looks (and feels in the hand) the same even when held upside down, which is what will happen if you were to you grip it with your left hand. From a purely handling point of view, Samsung has succeeded in making the HMX-Q10 an easy-to-hold camcorder for either hand.
With almost no buttons on the body, the burden of changing settings is left to the 2.7-inch touchscreen LCD. A misstep in the user interface (UI) design of the menu system could undo all the good work Samsung has done so far. This task is however made easier due to the fact that the HMX-Q10 is an entry-level camcorder: compared to a high-end camcorder, it has lesser features; and by extension, fewer number of settings that needs to be incorporated into the menus.
On the left of the LCD is a Home button. Pressing it anytime would bring you to the Home menu screen with five rather self-explanatory icons. For beginners, you’d want to select the Smart Auto mode. As the name suggests, the camcorder would detect the scene you’re shooting in (be it landscape or macro, daytime or nighttime) and adjusts the settings for you automatically to get the best possible image. Under Manual mode, an additional row of icons would appear at the bottom. They provide adjustments for white balance (custom white balance is possible), exposure value (-2.0 to +2.0), backlight compensation, self-timer (10 seconds) and continuous shooting (eight frames per second) for still photos, as well as focus selection. As you’d see from the screen shots below, the icons line up along the left and bottom of the screen, overlaying the image. However, touching anywhere else would dismiss these graphical elements, leaving you with only a recording indicator and a full view of the image.
While it’s easy to alternate between video recording and photo taking modes, or to quickly jump into playback mode simply by pressing the appropriate icon on the left, the only way to switch from Smart Auto to Manual mode is via the Home menu. Remember too that if you were to let the camcorder auto power off (five minutes is the only option) with the LCD screen opened, the only way to turn it back on again is to close and open the screen.
The HMX-Q10 also has a specialty shooting mode called Art Film mode. It consists of three effects: fader (image and sound fade in at the start of the sequence and fade out at the end), time-lapse recording (at 0.5 to 5-second intervals), and digital effects (namely Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Art, Noir, Western, Dazzle, and Ghost). As far as we could tell, Art Film is a mode by itself, which means that the special effects chosen can’t be implemented together with the settings adjusted in Manual mode. For example, the exposure value increase that we’ve set in Manual mode was disregarded the moment we entered Art Film mode, thus thwarting our attempt to create a high-key black-and-white video. Put another way, Art Film mode is Smart Auto mode with special effects.