Samsung HMX-W300 Review
If you're looking for a cheap, waterproof camcorder then your search is complete. Buy the Samsung HMX-W300.
Samsung’s waterproof pocket camcorder returns with the HMX-W300, successor to last year’s award-winning HMX-W200 (our pick for best budget model of 2011). Samsung didn’t change much with the new camcorder, so if you were hoping for wild innovation, you should prepare yourself for disappointment. But, like its predecessor, the W300 is still a very good camcorder with a budget-friendly price tag of just $159.
Design & Usability
Like its predecessors, Samsung's W300 is simple to use, but more innovation with the camcorder's rugged design would have been much appreciated.
The HMX-W300 comes in red, orange, or black, and has nearly the same dimensions as that of an iPhone. This means you shouldn't have any problem slipping the camcorder in and out of your pocket or carrying it around in a small purse. After long periods of underwater use, you do need to let the W300 dry out for a bit, and washing the camcorder off after taking a dip in salt water is a necessity. The camcorder can safely travel up to 16.4 feet underwater, and it can stay down there for about an hour before it needs to get a breath of fresh air. This is about six feet deeper than last year's HMX-W200 could travel.
The look of the camcorder is mostly unchanged compared to last year's Samsung W200, but a few changes to the button design did make them more "water-friendly." The new buttons are coated in a layer of plastic, a design I like to call "membrane buttons," that eliminates any gaps that would normally exist between the button and the body of the camcorder. This helps keep water and debris out, which is always a good thing for a rugged cam.
Not many video features here. At least the camcorder is waterproof down to 16.4 feet and drop-proof up to 6.5.
If you’re not looking for a waterproof camcorder, then you probably shouldn’t be researching the HMX-W300 at all. That’s the camcorder’s niche, and it’s the primary reason it is a successful device. Samsung won us over with last year's HMX-W200, the previous incarnation of the company's rugged-cam, and the HMX-W300 has a tad more going for it. It can travel a bit farther underwater, it has a better button design, and there are a few extra filters and white balance presets to play around with. What the camcorder doesn’t have is manual exposure or focus controls of any kind, so if you want a model that offers more fine-tuning you should look elsewhere.
Good low light performance and impressive sharpness for a cheap, ultracompact camcorder.
Like the W200 before it, the HMX-W300 earned some very good numbers in our video performance tests. Sharpness was particularly key to the W300’s performance, although the camcorder did not increase on the wonderful numbers obtained by last year’s W200 from Samsung. Low light capabilities were also excellent—far better than the $160 price tag suggests—and bright light performance was good compared to the competition. The camcorder did need to make use of its white balance presets in order to obtain good color accuracy, however, and that's something most users of this model may not have the patience for.
If you’re planning to spend less than $200 on a camcorder, you can’t do much better than the Samsung HMX-W300.
The HMX-W300 is not for people who want top-notch image quality, nor is it for anyone who requires access to manual controls. This is a simple pocket-cam that is great for capturing poolside activities or passing off to your kids during a picnic. The W300 is also not a huge upgrade over Samsung’s previous waterproof ultracompact camcorder, the HMX-W200. Let’s be clear, if you own a functioning W200 camcorder, then it is not worth upgrading. The updates Samsung made to the W300 are minimal, although they are worth mentioning. The new camcorder can safely travel six feet deeper underwater, it has a better waterproof button design, and it has a few extra controls (like white balance presets). The W300 isn’t a trailblazer in the waterproof camcorder market, but it’s one of the best so far this year (in a field that is full of duds).
If you want to spend a little more, say in the $300 – $400 price range, and you care more about underwater photography instead of video, then you should check out our 2012 Waterproof Camera Showdown.
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