BUILD AND DESIGN
It seems Samsung deliberately bucked the ‘small and light’ trend because the HMX-H300 is larger and heavier than I would have expected looking at the spec sheet. It feels surprisingly solid and built for daily use. It’s not ruggedized and shouldn’t be tossed around, but I can see it easily surviving the rigors of daily family wear and tear. It measures 1.95 x 2.23 x 4.71 inches and weighs half a pound, so it’s no heavyweight, but it is heavy enough for comfortable and stable shooting. I have issues with extremely light camcorders and ‘camera shake,’ since it seems as though something as faint as a pulse could cause it. That’s not the case with the H300.
The H300 features the typical camcorder build, but it tapers upward on the top toward the rear of the device, where the zoom lever and photo button sit. On the front of the H300 sits the lens and manual lens cover over the left and right on-board stereo microphones. Opposite that on the back sit the lithium ion battery, record/stop button, charge light, mode indicator light, and a slot hiding the DC-in jack.
The side to the left of the lens houses the Velcro hand strap, SD/SDHC slot, and a manual lens cover switch. The display dominates the right side and opens 90 degrees to reveal the power button, information icon toggle button, optical image stabilization button, and Smart Auto button. Underneath those sit the HDMI, USB, and AV jacks.
The H300 top houses the zoom lever, photo button and mode button. Tripod receptacle and battery release switches are located on the bottom.
Ergonomics and Controls
All told, it has a good feel with just the right thickness for shooting, but it’s not without problems. The manual lens cover is awful, and not just because it’s manual (and I too often forget about it). On more than one occasion, it failed to close all the way, remaining open just a crack. The buttons tucked under the display also present issues as they are recessed and can be tough to push, and they provide limited feedback, making it difficult to tell if they are actually pressed. In addition, the zoom lever is a bit loose for my liking, but it is still possible to maintain a steady and controlled zoom.
And this is a minor gripe that still irked me, but the SD card slot should be on the other side of the H300. It’s on the palm side, meaning that if you are shooting with the H300, you are covering it up. I shouldn’t have to take the camera off my shooting hand to swap cards.
Menus and Modes
All menu items can only be accessed through the touchscreen. Simply tap the “menu” icon to bring it up, and the up and down arrows to navigate. Both still and video options are lumped together and overall the menu is easy to navigate.
The actual menu items can be confusing to those unfamiliar with cameras and camcorders however, as there is little to no explanation or information as to their function. Compounding this is the fact that the H300 offers more manual picture controls than the average family camcorder and a handful of non-intuitive features like “Super C. Nite.”
Menu items include:
- iScene: auto, sports, portrait, spotlight, beach/snow, food, candle light, indoor
- Video resolution: 1080/60i, 720/60p, 480/60p
- Video quality: super fine, fine, normal
- Photo resolution: 4.9 megapixels, 2 megapixels
- Photo sharpness: soft, normal, sharp
- White balance: auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten, custom WB
- Aperture: auto, manual
- Shutter: auto, manual
- Super C. Nite (adjusts shutter speed for low light shooting): off, normal, super
- Focus: auto, manual, touch point
- Antishake (OIS): off, on
- Digital Effects: off, black and white, sepia, negative, art, ghost, dazzle, noir, western
- Fader: off, in, out, in-out
- Tele macro: off, on
- Cont. shot: off, on
- Wind cut: off, on
- Digital zoom (up to 300x): off, on
- Self timer: off, 10 seconds
- Time lapse record: off, on
- Quick view: off, on
- Guide line: off, (three guideline options)
There are also the standard playback and general camera settings options, including power management, HDTV connection, and content protection features.
The H300 has a 3.0-inch touchscreen display, which I’ve long maintained is the minimum size for touch controls. It opens 90 degrees and rotates 270. There are information icons cluttering up the edges, but those can be easily toggled on and off with the push of a button. The 230,000 pixels is a little low, but I don’t think anyone will have issues with monitor fidelity.
Unfortunately, the H300 lacks any type of display control in the settings, so there is no way to brighten the screen to help cut through glare from, say, the sun. So outdoor shooting can be problematic. Also, the touch input is not all that sensitive, and it requires a decent amount of force for any touches or taps to register.