Gadling Gear Review: Samsung W300 Pocket Camcorder

Samsung W300 Pocket CamcorderCapturing our favorite travel memories has never been easier than it is in the modern age. The advent of digital cameras has made photography less expensive and more accessible to the masses, and similarly, digital camcorders have had the same effect for video. Gone are the days when travelers had to lug a bulky video camera, not to mention videotapes, with them on their journeys. Thanks to the use of digital media, such as hard drives and SD cards, today’s camcorders are small, lightweight, sleek and easy to use. That is certainly a fitting description of the new Samsung W300, a durable little pocket camcorder that was designed specifically with travelers and outdoor enthusiasts in mind.

Shaped more like a cell phone than a traditional video camera, the W300 manages to pack quite a few features into its diminutive shell. Its 5-megapixel CMOS sensor is capable of shooting full 1080p HD video at 30 fps while also capturing still photos too. It features a 3x video zoom, image stabilization, a 2.3″ LCD screen and a built-in USB plug for charging and transferring files. It even comes pre-loaded with background music and video editing software that is accessible when connected to a Windows PC. In short, Samsung’s latest entry into the compact camcorder market is a mini movie studio right in your pocket.

Of course, many of those features are standard issue on this type of camcorder and even many smartphones. What makes the W300 a good choice for travelers, however, is its rugged rubberized casing, which helps protect the device even under extreme conditions. The video camera is sealed to keep out dust and dirt, can survive a fall of up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) and is waterproof down to 16.4 feet (5 meters). That makes it a better option to take to the beach or a sporting event than an iPhone for example.Despite what appears to be an overwhelming number of buttons on the device, operating the W300 is actually a simple, intuitive affair. The control pad provides easy access to most of the things you’ll need, including the ability to start and stop recording, as well as adjusting the camera’s zoom feature. Tap the “menu” button to gain access to the camera configuration options, which are all laid out in a very easy to understand and self-explanatory fashion. Reviewing and managing video clips is also easy with playback occurring, complete with sound, on the W300’s screen.

Besides being simple to use, the W300 gets high marks for also being small, lightweight and highly pocketable. The device is just 4.4″ (11.2cm) in length and tips the scales at 4.9 ounces (139 grams), which makes it very easy to carry with you on any excursion. While using my test model, I regularly dropped it in a pocket as I headed out the door and often forgot that I had it with me. That said, the camera’s rugged case makes it feel heavier than it actually is, giving you the perception of heft when it is in your hand.

Not everything about this pocked camcorder is perfect, however, and it does have a few issues that potential buyers should be aware of. First, image quality is good but not great. I found that when I shot video without employing the use of the zoom it came out crisp and clear, particularly when I was close to the subject. But as soon as I added any level of zoom at all, quality dropped off very quickly. As someone who avoids the use of digital zoom at all costs, I was especially bothered by the lack of optical zoom on Samsung’s device, although I do understand that the limitations of the form hinder the inclusion of a true zoom option.

The other item that stood out when using this camera was the low-resolution screen. It is adequate for capturing and playing back video most of the time, but in bright sunlight it quickly becomes washed out and impossible to use. There were times when I had absolutely no idea what I was recording simply because I couldn’t see anything on the screen. It wasn’t until I could review the video back in a shaded environment that I could actually see what I had captured. Usually, it wasn’t good and far off from what I had actually intended.

Those two issues aside I have to say that the experience of using the W300 is just plain fun. Its simple style and small size, coupled with its durable body, makes it easy to take with you anywhere you go. The camera is quick and responsive, has a solid battery life (about 2 hours) and anyone can pick it up and begin capturing good quality video in a manner of moments. While testing the device I found myself shooting more clips than I expected just because the device was so enjoyable to use.

The W300 also happens to be very affordable. Samsung is selling it for just $159.99, which I felt was an extremely good price considering the overall quality of the product. Sure, I would have preferred a better zoom and yes the screen could be improved, but all told, this is one solid, well-built camcorder that is perfect for capturing simple videos to share with friends. If you know and accept its limitations ahead of time, I think you’ll be very happy with the camera.


New waterproof Kodak Mini Video Camera goes small – very, very small

Kodak just announced a new camcorder to their successful lineup, but did so without too much fanfare. Their new “Mini Video Camera” is not all that impressive in the specifications department (sticking to old fashioned non HD content), but what it lacks in specs, it makes up for in sheer miniaturization.

As you can see in the photo, their new camcorder is about the size of a credit card. Now, Kodak is by no means the first to make a really small camcorder, but they’ll probably be the first to mass market one.

Recordings are made to a 2GB MicroSD memory card (included) or to its internal 128MB of memory. Zoom comes from a depressing 3x digital zoomer and audio is mono – bottom line is that this camera is probably best for capturing things you’d miss if you left your real camera at the hotel.

Oh, and did we mention that it is waterproof? That completes the equation for “take it anywhere you go” – because it’ll be just as happy in the swimming pool as it is filming your drunken antics at the bar.

The camera is available in red and black, is expected to ship starting September 6, and retails for $99.95.

Daily Pampering: Panasonic’s new 3D camcorder

Oh, this is a sexy little piece of technology!

Panasonic recently unveiled its newest HD camcorder, the HDC-SDT750. Now, you can turn your boring old vacation videos into an experience even your friends will love (well, they’ll love it more than the old-school slides you used to show).

Endgadget recently reported on the debut it’s quite stunning. Thanks to a 3D conversion lens that is snapped onto the camcorder, you can unleash your inner-James Cameron on your next outing. When your filming is complete, view the 3D coverage on the camera or hook the 3D stills up to an SD card and play them off of AVCHD-compatible Blu-ray players. Note: 3D glasses not included.

The SDT750 will be available in October for a cool $1,399.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5 1080p HD camera review

The Sony Bloggie MHS-PM5 is a pocket HD camcorder with an impressive lineup of features (on paper at least). Inside the camera is a sensor capable of 5MP photos, 1080P “full HD” video, SD(HC) and Memory Stick Duo card support, one-touch uploads and a built in USB connector.

The Bloggie is Sony’s answer to the huge lineup of pocket HD camcorders that have invaded the market in recent years – a market that Sony used to dominate with their Camcorders.

The Sony Bloggie PM5 manages to stand out in the busy pocket camera market thanks to several neat innovations – its first (and easiest to notice) is a swiveling lens. Opening the lens also turns the camera on, which makes it easy to take some spur of the moment video clips.Controls and options

Controls on the Sony Bloggie are aplenty – you get a joystick for menu controls, play and menu selector buttons, a video and photo button and a power button, for when you want to do playback without opening the lens. All these buttons are in line with the long list of features found on the camera – while some pocket HD camcorders may only offer the most basic of options, the Sony Bloggie adds features like resolution selection, various playback options and of course, the ability to delete recordings, which is handy if you just recorded someone doing something you don’t want any records of.

Hardware

The Bloggie feels very “Sony-ish” – I’m not sure how to describe it, but even without seeing the brand name, most geeks will be able to determine that it was made by Sony. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just feels a little over-engineered. The battery and card slot are hidden behind a slide/tilt cover which just feels way too much for a budget camera.

Then there is the USB plug – it slides out, and is hidden by a flimsy plastic cover, something I just know will break off sooner or later. In the box is a short USB extension cable, which means you don’t have to have the Bloggie hang off the front of your computer (and risk breaking something).

In the hardware section, I’ve kept the worst for last – the screen. Oh my goodness what a disaster… The screen on the Bloggie only works well if you look directly at it – a few degrees to the left or right, and it is almost impossible to see what you are recording. This suddenly makes the swivel lens so much more convenient, because you’ll need to swivel up or down to keep the screen angled correctly.

Video and photo quality

This part is actually quite positive – both photos and videos are actually pretty decent – but you’ll need to make sure you stick to the middle of the road in quality. The 1080p setting (highest option) may sound great on paper, but in reality, the camera has a hard time keeping up with any kind of fast movement.

Of all the pocket HD cameras I’ve tested, I actually found the photo quality of the Bloggie to be the most impressive – it obviously won’t replace your day to day camera (no flash, no optical zoom), but it sure beats the quality of most mobile phones.


This clip was shot in 720p 30 frames per second – which is (in my opinion) the best setting for the Bloggie. In daylight the camera works surprisingly well – but you don’t want to use it in any dark rooms, as with most cameras in this class, the quality of dark shots is pretty poor.

The camera does feature a digital zoom, but frustratingly, it only works in the photo mode and the 720p video mode – a nice touch to include, but fairly useless in reality.

Final thoughts



There are several reasons to like the Bloggie, and several to dislike it – so lets start with its pros:

The swivel lens is actually pretty cool – it helps with shots above your head, or self portraits. I also like that the camera takes Memory Stick Duo and SD(HD) cards – this provides some flexibility, and allows you to use cards you may already have lying around. A slightly more expensive version of the Bloggie adds a nifty 360 degree lens – which allows you to make wacky fish-eye shots.

The removable battery is definitely a pro but spare batteries are $40. The upside is that the battery pack charges any time you plug it into a USB port, and that its battery life is really, really good.

The price is a tough call – it retails for $149.99, but that is without any memory cards – so expect to invest a bit more. At this price point, there are several other options, including several with 8GB of storage built in.

Now for the cons:

No HDMI output – I feel that this one is a real missed feature – even though you can hook the camera up to your TV for non-HD playback, or pop the memory card in your computer or PS3, the lack of HDMI is just a real shame. Then there is of course the display – I won’t waste any more words on that…

I find it tough to draw any conclusions about the Bloggie MHS-PM5 – I feel like I shouldn’t like it, but it really isn’t a bad camera – it is just a camera with a ton of competition – and some of that competition offers more value for money.

Bottom line:

Despite its shortcomings, I do like the Bloggie – it feels well made, and it doesn’t have the “toy factor” some other cameras suffer from. Bottom line – if you like the pros, go for it, but if the cons are too much to deal with, find something else, you have plenty to chose from.

Daily gear deal – JVC Everio GZ-MS100 digital camcorder for $180

Today’s daily deal is for the JVC Everio GZ-MS100 digital camcorder. This 35x optical zoom digital camera records directly to SD memory cards and has every feature you’d expect from a high end camcorder.

Inside the MS100 is a Konica Minolta lens, quick 1 second startup, built in lens cover, a touch-sensitive menu system and a handy video archiving/sorting system.

The camera comes complete with audio/video cables and a battery charger. A memory card is not included, so be sure to order one when you order the camera.

The Everio GZ-MS100 normally retails for over $300, but is currently on sale for just $179.99, with free shipping.

Click here to take advantage of this deal.