Samsung HMX-W300 Waterproof Camcorder Review
Lens & Imaging System
From what we can tell, the Samsung W300 has the same lens as its predecessor, the HMX-W200. It's an f/2.2 lens with no optical zoom and a fixed 4.3mm focal length. But just because the lens is "fixed" doesn't mean the W300 has no autofocus mechanism—it does. The camcorder will make slight focal adjustments, which are certainly noticeable if you look closely, as you point the W300 at subjects of varying distances (much like the autofocus on a iPhone camera).
The sensor on the W300 also looks identical to the one found on the Samsung W200, at least judging by the specs. It's a 1/3.2-inch BSI CMOS imager with an effective pixel count of just over 4.3 megapixels. Those specs are in line with what we see on most cheap, pocket-cams.
On the back of the W300 is a stationary screen for viewing your video clips and framing your content, but there's nothing special about the specs of this LCD. It's a small 2.3-inch screen with a limited resolution of just 230,000 pixels. Those numbers are consistent with other camcorders in this price range, but that doesn't mean they're worth applauding. It's simply not a great screen. Samsung does offer brightness control for the LCD, however, but there are only two settings (bright and normal), so even that function is very limited.
The HMX-W300 isn't just a small camcorder, parts of it are actually tiny enough to be called micro. Instead of a standard mini-HDMI port, the Samsung W300 includes a micro HDMI terminal (one of the few differences between the W300 and last year's W200 when it comes to ports). Next to the micro HDMI port is a MicroSD card slot, which is the same slot found on the W200 camcorder.
We know Samsung is trying to cut down in size by including these two "smaller" port options, but we don't like this choice. Samsung was able to squeeze in a mini HDMI port on last year's W200 just fine, so we're sure one could've been included on the W300 as well. Why are we upset about this? Well, micro cables and memory cards are harder to find than regular SD cards and mini HDMI cords. The small size of the MicroSD cards also make them far easier to lose than their slightly-larger cousins. All we're saying is we'd rather have the larger ports than the frustration of having easier-to-lose memory cards and harder-to-find cables.
For connecting the W300 to a computer, as well as charging the camcorder, you'll find a built-in USB arm on the bottom of the device. Open the waterproof door cover and out will pop the small USB arm. This isn't the best design ever, as the arm doesn't extend very far from the camcorder's body. So, if you have a computer with a USB input that is difficult to access, you're going to have trouble connecting the W300. Our suggestion: buy a USB extender cable to give yourself more flexibility when connecting the W300 to a computer. They're cheap and you'll definitely use it.
Changing the battery on your camera or camcorder is something most of us are familiar with, but you shouldn't expect to be able to do it on the HMX-W300. Because of its waterproof construction, Samsung locked away the battery compartment so it is not accessible unless you completely dismantle the camcorder. In other words, if you're having battery trouble you'll probably have to get a whole new camcorder. Find out how the performed in our battery life test./r:link_to_content
On the left side of the camcorder, behind the locking port cover, there is a MicroSD memory card slot. This tiny slot fits all types of MicroSD cards, which include MicroSDHC and MicroSDXC memory cards. MicroSD cards work the same way as regular SD cards, but they're about a quarter of the size. This makes them easier to lose, break, and harder to find in stores than regular-sized SD cards (which are already as small as a postage stamp). If you can't tell already, we aren't huge fans of MicroSD cards, and we'd rather have Samsung make the W300 a bit larger if it meant the presence of a regular-sized SD card slot. Read more about the advantages and disadvantages of various media types.