Gadling Gear Review: Samsung W300 Pocket Camcorder

Capturing 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.