As a camcorder, the VP-D6040i performed well in a variety of shooting situations. In both still and video modes, power-up takes a little less than four seconds, and autofocus responds quickly and accurately, even in dim light. The automatic exposure adjusts quickly to pans from dark to bright subjects. Battery life for the rechargeable lithium-ion cell was good, with a single charge lasting for over an hour of video shooting and reviewing, or more than 650 still shots.
The zoom control was smooth and precise at both fast and slow zooms. Though the still lens is very noisy when zooming, the camcorder lens zoom is virtually silent. Setting manual focus is easy and convenient, with a dedicated button and focus dial near the front of the camera. However, the smallish, 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD can make manual focus a challenge in camcorder mode, particularly in bright sunlight, where it can appear washed out. In still-photo mode, manual focus is easier, thanks to an overlay showing the current focus distance.
The still camera is a slow performer. It takes nearly 11 seconds to write a single picture to memory when shooting in uncompressed TIFF mode, and you can't do anything else until the operation completes. The camera is faster in JPEG mode, though still sluggish at more than three seconds between shots, but even the continuous-shooting mode captures only three images at full resolution before the camera must pause to finish saving the images to the memory card. This is not the camera to buy to capture stills at sporting events or to take candid shots of the kids in action.
It may have been an unlucky coincidence, but both of the VP-D6040is that we tested suffered from hardware defects. The first unit had a flash that wouldn't fire; the replacement had a dead microphone. The moral of the story: test your new camera before taking it on holiday.
The Samsung DuoCam VP-D6040i's digital-video quality was very good in a wide variety of lighting conditions. Outdoor scenes in both direct and indirect sunlight were sharp and properly exposed, and they featured accurate, saturated colour. Indoor shots in bright light were equally solid, but in dimmer room lighting, colour saturation suffers.
Overall video quality was very good, with sharp images in normal lighting conditions. However, if you plan to edit your videos on a PC, you should note that the white balance, which looks fine on an analogue display, looks excessively blue in digital. Similarly, artifacts that aren't quite so apparent in NTSC -- most notably, demosaicing problems -- become much more visible on a PC display.
As expected, video that was shot using the infrared Nite Pix mode is grainy and has a greenish cast. Slow Shutter mode is more useful, maintaining natural colours while brightening the image. The ability to easily switch between four shutter speeds makes this mode much more useful than the streaked, blurry footage typically afforded by these modes. Dropping to 30fps, for instance, brightens the scene with little perceptible difference in frame rate in typical social-shooting situations. Even 15fps looks surprisingly good with relatively static scenes; only dropping to the slowest, 8fps setting brings in the more typical surrealistic streaking and blurring.
The still images are decent for a camcorder, and print well up to 8x10, as long as you're not too picky. To a keen eye, colours look too saturated, and JPEG compression artefacts make many images look smeary. The camera blows out highlights more than most still competitors, which exacerbates the significant amount of purple fringing on those high-contrast edges. Noise becomes visible at ISO 125, but with enough light, you can drop down to ISO 75. Furthermore, the flash is very weak and doesn't do a good job of lighting objects more than about 2m away. Still, even the worst images look better than many stills we've shot using a typical camcorder.
Edited by: Lori Grunin
Additional editing by: Nick Hide