All over the world, people know the Samsung name, and most people have either used or purchased a Samsung product at some point in their lives. In recent years, Samsung has had notable success in the HDTV market as well as the camcorder market. The Samsung SC-DC564, one of the newest camcorder releases, is a beautiful, miniDVD-capable unit that seems to be very budget-friendly at only $349 USD. Check out our hands-on review to see if the SC-DC564 is representative of Samsung’s good name or if it’ll be remembered as a shameful disappointment.
Features and Design
The Samsung SC-DC564 miniDVD camcorder is a very handsome device. The DC564 is sleek and somewhat modernistic. The gunmetal-grey color theme is beautiful to look at; everything feels sturdy, but equally ergonomic and light. Whoever at Samsung designed the exterior of the SC-DC564 deserves a raise and a firm handshake.
The SC-DC564’s controls are easy to learn, even for folks who are new to camcorders. On the exterior of the SC-DC564, there are only seven buttons to control the major functions of the camcorder. While seven buttons may sound like a lot, it’s really quite minimalist.
Upon opening the LCD screen from the camcorder body, the balance of the controls is revealed. Again, Samsung gets points for a simple and easy-to-learn layout. Along with the menu button and playback buttons, there’s a slyly hidden flap that conceals the charging connector, the USB data link, and the AV/S port for connecting the SC-DC564 directly to a television set.
One of the most alluring features of the Samsung SC-DC564 is the fact that it records video in a 16:9 widescreen format. Now that most modern televisions have broken the nearly 80-year tradition of being almost square, widescreen is the new standard. When a standard 4:3 camcorder recording plays on a 16:9 widescreen TV set, there are two typical results: either the 4:3 video is widened to fit the 19:9 screen, thus making the image look unnaturally stretched out, or the 4:3 image plays on the widescreen TV with undesirable black margins on the left and right sides of the screen. Recording natively in 16:9 provides the most natural end product.
The Samsung SC-DC564 comes with a remote control that’s nearly the same size as an iPod nano (though thicker). The remote control activates most important features, such as beginning and halting a recording, playback, and zooming toward and away from a subject. The remote has a decent range, too.
The Samsung SC-DC564 w/ Open LCD Display
Setup and Use
Setting up the SC-DC564 camcorder is very easy. Open the box, remove the camcorder body and battery from their plastic wrap, and attach the battery to the back side of the camcorder. Remove the charging cable and plug it into the wall. On the camcorder, open the LCD screen and look for the little hidden flap that says “> OPEN.” This is where you’ll find the charging connector. Plug the charging connector in and let the camcorder charge until the green light shines solid without blinking. This could take anywhere from 1 – 2 hours, depending on whether the battery had any charge from the factory.
Once the SC-DC564 is charged, insert a miniDVD into the drive bay. You’ll have to slide the “OPEN” button on the top of the camcorder to open the drive bay. Pop the disc into place and close the drive bay. The camcorder is now ready to record digital video onto the miniDVD.
To record video, make sure the camcorder is turned on and that the lens cap is off. Point at your subject and press the silver/red “Record: button. Press the same silver/red button to cease recording. Each time you record a clip, the SC-DC564 stores it on the miniDVD as a separate track that can either be linked together with other tracks or played separately, depending on the software and hardware you use.
When you have filled the miniDVD with video (or have recorded just what you want on a single miniDVD), use the simple on-screen menu to “finalize” the disc (a process that takes about 1 minute and makes the miniDVD readable by DVD players). It is highly recommended that you set the SC-DC564 on a sturdy table for this process. Any shaking, even the minute shaking of your hands, can render a faulty DVD.
To insert an SD card, simply open the LCD screen and the small flap that covers the SD card slot. Insert the SD card and close the flap. To record still images or video to the SD card instead of the miniDVD, just move the “DISC – CARD” button over to “CARD”. The camcorder will now direct all recorded content to the flash drive. To return to miniDVD recording mode, simply move the “DISC – CARD” switch back to “DISC”.
It’s that simple. The SC-DC564 camcorder is very easily controlled and will provide users will very little operational frustration.
The SC-DC564 has three recording modes: LP, SP, and XP. According to Samsung, the video quality between the three recording modes should remain constant. Each of the three modes provides a bit more recording time than the other. LP offers 60 minutes of recording on a 1.4GB miniDVD and about 106 minutes on a 2.6GB disc. SP mode (the default recording mode) offers 30 minutes of video on a 1.4GB disc and about 53 minutes on a 2.6GB disc. Finally, XP mode gives only 20 minutes of video for 1.4GB and upwards of 35 minutes on a 2.6GB miniDVD.
An important (and impressive) feature of the SC-DC564 is the 26X optical zoom. Some camcorders have low optical zooms and high digital zoom. Optical zoom is very important, because it provides the cleanest, most accurate telephoto results in your recordings. Digital zoom uses complex interpolation to “assume” what the zoomed image should look like. The result is often a very splotchy pixellated image. Optical zoom sidesteps this problem with analog accuracy directly from the lens glass.
The SC-DC564 has a built-in stereo mic at the front of the camera. Despite its forward mount, the mic records audio behind and to the sides of the camera quite well. One major surprise was the external microphone jack found on the rear of the camcorder. Typically, more expensive camcorders offer external mic recording capabilities. Samsung gets points for this useful feature.
The SC-DC564 comes with software and drivers for Windows 98SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and Windows XP, but there’s no word on Vista compatibility. The included software (DV Media Pro 1.0 and Ulead VideoStudio 9) allows users to record directly from the camcorder to their PC. Users can also extract video and stills from the camera using the included software and a USB cable. In all honesty, I didn’t find the software very impressive, but it certainly does what it says it does.
Mac users need not bother with this camcorder. Since most Macs have slot-loading DVD drives, the miniDVDs used by the SC-DC564 will simply not fit. If you manage to get one of the miniDVDs into your Mac, you may not get it out.
Additionally, Samsung does not provide any software for moving video from the SC-DC564 to a Mac. A couple calls to Samsung tech support (both in India and the USA) netted me nothing more than a heartfelt apology and a suggestion to either a.) use Windows XP, or b.) buy a Samsung camcorder that uses miniDV tapes and FireWire.
After having Samsung tell me to give up on the Mac, I got inventive with an external, tray-style DVD drive attached to a MacBook Pro. I was able to extract the VOB files from the miniDVD with little effort. I then converted the VOB files to various formats using VisualHub and Handbrake. All resultant files were of the same quality as those extracted with the Windows software provided by Samsung.
In short, Mac users could use such a workaround to extract video from this camcorder, but it’s really not worth the effort.
The Samsung SC-DC564 w/ DVD Tray Open
Video Playback in DVD Player
I made videos on two separate miniDVDs using SP and XP modes. After finalizing the discs in the SC-DC564 camcorder, I tested the miniDVD recordings on my home theater system. When the DVDs first loaded, a nice graphical menu of the DVDs’ video clips appeared on screen. I thought that was a very nice touch. I selected a clip and hit “play.” The video quality was good. Not great, mind you, but good. Colors were a bit washed out and there was some evident pixellation.
I was about to sign off on the playback as being acceptable when the DVD started to skip. The audio feed made little digital burps and tweets, sometimes sounding like one of those degraded audio signals in The Matrix. I ejected the DVD to make sure there wasn’t any dust on it. It was clean and scratch-free. I played the DVD again, this time selecting several different recorded tracks. All tracks selected were graced by the digital audio burps and tweets. The final clip on the first DVD had significant video distortion – large pink, green, and blue pixel blocks that would appear and melt away, only to give rise to another equally frustrating video anomaly.
The second DVD proved just as faulty. While the bulk of the video and audio was good, the intermittent squawks, blips, and burps made me shake my head in dismay.
Video Playback from SD Card
Given that numerous camcorders these days can record directly to a memory card, I thought the SC-DC564 would be able to bring some honor back to itself by recording better quality digital video on my 2GB high-speed SD card.
The results were less than stellar. More accurately, they caused me to mutter a few colorful curses. The AVI files looked as though they had been recorded on a camera phone.
As with most camcorders these days, the SC-DC564 can take still images. The stills are saved to the optional SD memory card. There are two possible sizes for photos: 1152 x 864 pixels and 800 x 600 pixels. Both are pretty low resolution. Even in “Super Fine” mode, the still images I took resembled something snapped from a cheap cell phone or an early webcam.
The 2.7″ color LCD display is average in size and, of course, follows the same 16:9 ratio as the video the SC-DC564 records. On the unit I’ve been using, the screen flickers constantly, like a cheap tube TV. Because I’m very picky, this flicker drives me nuts.
In my numerous video and still tests, the stock battery on the SC-DC564 ran out in less than an hour. Thinking I had failed to properly charge the battery when I first set it up, I recharged the battery overnight. Another round of recording videos proved that the battery aggressively bottoms out in record time. It’s like a 12-cylinder car going through a pint of gas. Poof – gone!
While the Samsung SC-DC564 miniDVD camcorder is a beautiful product to look at and would look terribly impressive in anyone’s grip, the overall performance truly disappoints. Still images looked like they came from a camera phone. Video clips recorded to the SD card looked badly pixellated and the colors were washed out. Videos recorded onto miniDVDs were certainly better, but they didn’t rise to the quality most people have come to expect in a newly-released camcorder. DVD playback on a standard DVD player proved troublesome. Of course, at an average price of $349 USD, the Samsung SC-DC564 is on the lower echelon of consumer-grade camcorders. Expectations shouldn’t be too high for $349 USD.
While I love most Samsung products (such as the very impressive LN-S2651D LCD HDTV), I cannot bring myself to recommend the SC-DC564 to anyone. It is not a camcorder I would find myself using on any occasion.
The SC-DC564 is a very unfair and misleading example of the great technology products Samsung is able to produce.
• Low comparative price
• Sleek physical design
• Poor quality video results
• Short battery life
• No sample media included