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Samsung HMX-H300 Camcorder Review
Samsung didn't alter the design too much on the HMX-H300 as compared to last year's HMX-H200. The camcorder still has a fairly traditional, horizontal design, although Samsung did implement a few adjustments to make its figure more streamlined. This was primarily done by smoothing out the back side of the camcorder so the battery pack fits flush with the back edge of the camcorder's body. Samsung also increased the LCD by 0.3-inches (up to 3-inches), but this increase was done without making the H300 bulkier or less comfortable to hold. In fact, the larger LCD makes the touchscreen interface a bit easier to use.
In a year where many manufacturers are cutting back on hand strap quality, the Samsung HMX-H300's simple strap design is actually better than what most mid-range camcorders offer. The strap doesn't have much padding, but it has a soft, suede-like lining on the inside of the strap that feels very comfortable against the back of your palm. The strap is also easily adjustable, and its Velcro enclosure is tighter and stronger than what we've seen on other camcorders.
The HMX-H300 is a bare bones camcorder in many ways. Its lens doesn't have an automatic cover (you have to flick a switch to open and close the lens cover), and its body isn't outfitted with any special designs or unique functions. The grip on the camcorder isn't fantastic, and our fingers didn't always line up very well with certain buttons, but the H300's design is definitely more forgiving for those with small or medium-sized hands.
The Samsung HMX-H300 is compact, even when compared to other mid-range HD camcorders in its price range. It weighs a little over 1/2 a pound (280g) with its provided battery pack, which is a good deal less than botht he Panasonic HDC-TM90 and the Canon HF M40.
Of course, when you consider portability, you must remember the HMX-H300 has no internal memory. This means you must pack a memory card or two along with you on your travels. Memory cards don't add much weight (just a few grams), but they are easy to lose and/or forget about. Having internal memory improves portability because it makes for one less thing you have to remember to pack.
The Samsung HMX-H300 comes with a rechargeable battery pack that fits into the back of the camcorder. In our test, in which we let the camcorder record continuously without altering any controls, the H300's provided battery pack lasted for 177 minutes (that's just under 3 hours). This is an excellent battery life performance for a mid-range camcorder, as it is 70 minutes longer than the Panasonic TM90 lasted in this test and just over 50 minutes longer than the Canon HF M40 lasted. It also represents a half-hour increase over last year's Samsung HMX-H200, so it is clear Samsung made at least some changes to make its new camcorder more energy efficient. More on how we test battery life.
As we said earlier, the battery compartment on the H300 is on the back of the camcorder. It is also an open compartment, which means you can use larger battery packs with the camcorder if you need longer battery life. Three hours is a pretty long time for a provided battery pack to last, though, so you may not need much more than that.
Samsung increased the LCD size on the HMX-H300 to 3-inches (up from 2.7-inches on last year's HMX-H200), but everything else about the screen and LCD panel remained the same. The extra size does make the touchscreen easier to use, but the system is still somewhat aggravating. The screen isn't always responsive when you press it, and it is particularly sluggish in the moments right after you stop recording a video clip.
These complaints about the touchscreens are nearly universal for consumer camcorders, nearly all of which employ touchscreen systems this day in age. The system on the HMX-H300 isn't much worse than what you get on the Panasonic HDC-TM90 or the Canon HF M40, but you do see better touchscreen LCDs on certain high-end camcorders (like the Canon HF G10). Like most mid-range camcorders, the Samsung H300 does not have a viewfinder, so all your framing and recording must be performed using the LCD.
The HMX-H300 is equipped with an optical image stabilization (OIS) system, which is a feature found on just about half of all mid-range camcorders. Many low-end camcorders include digital stabilization systems instead of optical ones, as they are cheaper to implement, so it's good to see Samsung went with an optical system instead (OIS doesn't result in image degradation like digital stabilization can). More on how we test stabilization.
Results from our stabilization test were very good for the camcorder. In our low shake test, unwanted movement was reduced by 62% using the H300's OIS system. In the high shake test results were nearly identical, with the OIS cutting down 59% of the shake. These are both very good scores that come in slightly under what the Panasonic TM90 showed us with its OIS system. The Samsung H300 does not have multiple stabilization settings like you see on Panasonic, Canon, and Sony models, but its regular OIS mode worked perfectly fine in our testing regardless.