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Samsung W300 Waterproof Camcorder
Sunday, August 26, 2012  
As more and more smart phones offer improved video capabilities, one wonders what market remains for mini-camcorders. Samsung apparently feels that by offering a rugged, waterproof case, the market will appear. At its core, the W300 is a point-and-shoot video camera that is about the size of the average smart phone. What makes it special is that it is waterproof up to 16 feet, shockproof from more than 6 feet and dustproof.

The 5-megapixel CMOS sensor offers better low-light performance than previous models. You can record movies in full HD (1,920x1,080/30p resolution) in MPEG-4 AVC format. Images are captured through the fixed focal length f2.2 lens and you can frame your shots using the 2.3-inch LCD screen. There is a handy flip-out USB connector allowing you to recharge the camera from any computer, as well as offload images. Files are recorded to a microSD card. Ours was equipped with an 8gb card for testing.


The W300s menu system is intuitive and the OS is fast. The product has a very short learning curve. One real concern is that the photo and video quality is not any better than what you would get from a typical high-end smart phone (iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, etc.). What you get is a purpose-built camcorder for use in places where you would not want to expose your smart phone to the elements. So, you can take the W300 to the beach, or into the water for that matter. If your kids drop it on vacation, it is not likely to shatter into 50 pieces; in fact, it probably won't even suffer any damage. So, for only $159, you can have a decent camera/camcorder that you can take with you virtually anywhere.


The design of the W300 is an improvement over the W200 we tested last year. The control buttons are now completely covered in a rubber material that will not allow water or sand to enter, and the interface is improved, too. Unfortunately, the LCD screen is still difficult to see in bright light. The camera feels rock solid in your hand and it is built like a tank, so it should withstand the abuse as advertised. The power button on the side has been enlarged making it easier to locate and operate, especially if you have gloves on (I wear gloves while riding a motorcycle, so that is a nice feature.) The flip-open doors covering the USB connector and the microSD card/USB port are rubber sealed and feel sturdy.
It should be noted that when connecting the W300 to my laptop using the flip-out connector, I have to unplug all other devices because the width of the camera takes up all the space for adjoining USB ports. A short cord extending the USB connector would be a better design.

When you turn the W300 on by pressing the power button, the LCD jumps to life quickly and defaults to Movie mode. If you want to snap still photos, you must press the Movie/Photo mode button. A small icon on the screen indicates which mode you are currently in. However, each time you turn off the camera, it will go back into Movie mode. Recording video or snapping photos is as simple as pressing the OK button. To stop recording, press OK again. A Playback button allows you to view your video clips and photos. Pressing the Playback button again puts the unit back into record ready mode. It really could not be more intuitive. And for something rather tricky, if you are shooting video and want to snap a photo without stopping your movie record session, just press the Playback button and a photo will be captured. Pretty cool.


There are some pretty neat sharing software capabilities built into the W300, as well, that make it easy to upload clips to your favorite website.


The video quality is comparable to other cameras in this price range and class. Of course, it cannot compete with full-fledged camcorders or even some pocket digital cameras with CMOS sensors. The small lens and sketchy electronic image stabilization are its achilles heel. A steady hand is going to provide the best video. The low-light capability is improved over the W200, which was really pretty bad. There is also a backlight compensation option that helps out quite a bit in backlit situations: Think inside a cruise ship with windows bringing in bright sunlight.


Even some of the still photos came out okay, but we had mixed results. In photo mode, the W300 captures a 5.5 mp image. If you snap a shot while shooting video, you will get a 2 mp image.



I was a little disappointed to see no option for 60fps at 720p which would give smoother playback of fast moving subjects. Both 1080p and 720p are offered at 30fps. The unit does offer a variety of clever filters, but only at 720p.


The 3X digital zoom is pretty useless as it really makes the images grainy.


The coolest feature of all is the record pause button. If you press the pause button during a recording, you can resume recording to the same video clip. On most camcorders, you can only start and stop recording which creates a new clip with each record/stop sequence. The pause button allows you to combine several recordings into a single clip. Very cool.


Concerns

Even though I would never personally use this camera underwater because I don't spend time underwater, the "waterproof" claim could certainly lead someone to purchase this camera for such a use. Some may consider using the W300 when SCUBA diving or snorkeling. I came across another YouTube video review of the W300 by "The Concerned Explorer" that does expose a potential design flaw in the waterproof doors that protect the USB port/microSD card and USB connector. If you are considering this camera for serious underwater use, you may want to watch his video first.

Conclusion

The Samsung W300 is a great addition to your camera arsenal, even if you have another camcorder or smart phone. This is especially true if you shoot photos or video in wet conditions. I ride a motorcycle and like to keep a camera around my neck when riding to shoot video or photos as I ride. If it starts raining, I don't want to have to worry about ruining the camera.

For $159 it is a no-brainer. Just get one!

What I Like:

  • Decent video and photo quality for its class
  • Rugged design, should take abuse
  • Good interface and menu system
  • Pause/Record feature
  • Price

What I Don't Like:

  • Flip-out USB connector needs a cord
  • Security of watertight doors/latch is questionable (see concerns)
  • LCD still hard to see in bright light
  • microSD card is difficult to eject

SAMPLE PHOTOS

Click on the thumbnails below to see the full-size image.

Low-Light, anti-shake ON Low-light anti-shake ON
Outdoor wide angle Outdoor 3X Digital Zoom
Outdoor wide angle Outdoor 3X Digital Zoom
 
Outdoor wide angle Outdoor wide angle

VIDEO REVIEW


Samsung W300 Waterproof Camcorder Review from Cruisereport on Vimeo.

SAMPLE VIDEO CLIPS

     
     
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