There are some features that are missing from the W300 that I would have really liked to see, including some sort of light or flash. More often than not, videos shot underwater come out a little on the dark side and an external light could have helped with that. The zoom is also weak, as its only 3x and digital, meaning it’s basically useless given how badly it pixelates the image. And finally, the digital image stabilization (DIS) doesn’t do much to help reduce camera shake; optical image stabilization is far more effective.
Credit where credit is due, however, as the W300 is as tough as advertised, easily handling the various drops and underwater trials I put it through (though admittedly, I never used it in any sort of environment that would have tested its “dustproof”-ness). Also, it charges surprisingly quickly and provides users with a respectable amount of battery life. Shooting over one hour of continuous video in one sitting before tapping out, it may not be the best battery life I’ve ever seen on a pocket camcorder, but it’s definitely solid.
Manual controls on the W300 are kept to a minimum, as it mostly opts for the usual “stupid simple” approach that most pocket camcorders take. This means that, aside from the handful of available filters, most of the settings are handled automatically (and can only be handled automatically), including focus, white balance, aperture, etc.
One of the few manual controls is the inclusion of an Aqua Mode. As the name suggests, it’s to be turned on while shooting underwater to help compensate for any blurry images or distortion. There is also the My Clip button, which allows users to tag specific scenes within videos so they can skip to them instantly later without having to fast forward or rewind.
A feature that is still missing, on the other hand, is the inclusion of a macro mode, an absence that the reviewer of the W200 addressed and is still not remedied in this iteration.
Possibly the most serious issue that the W300 has, however, is with the performance of the aforementioned autofocus. As subjects enter and leave the shot, the camcorder often takes an excruciatingly long time to adjust its focus accordingly. A surefire way for this to occur is if you’re taking video of some sort of landscape (or otherwise have the entire shot in focus), and then have a subject enter in the foreground close to the lens. First, the camcorder will take its time getting the foreground subject in focus while blurring out the background and establishing depth of field. But then once that close-up subject leaves the shot, the W300 struggles mightily to get the background landscape back into focus.
The same issues plague the W300 when trying to take still shots, too, as the camcorder will sometimes take a good two or three seconds to try to pull the picture into focus. And even then, photos still often come out blurry or just slightly out of focus.
Video, Stills, and Audio Performance
The W300’s video quality is pretty much par for the course as far as pocket camcorders go; its sharpness will leave you wanting, despite the fact that it shoots 1080p HD video. And its maximum 30 FPS shooting speed causes the video to look a bit choppy at times while also suffering a bit from motion blur.
Despite Samsung’s lauding of the W300’s BSI CMOS sensor, the low-light shooting abilities of the W300 are mediocre in common conditions, with graininess and noise occurring in most indoor shots unless the room you’re in is very well-lit.
However, its abilities tend to impress a little more in extreme circumstances; in very dark or shady areas, while you can still see a fair amount of grain, you can at least see your subject with a fair amount of clarity, and probably moreso than what you would see from competing pocket camcorders. Nevertheless, on the whole, I wouldn’t recommend buying this camcorder for its low-light shooting capabilities, which are easily outstripped by most point-and-shoots.
And shooting underwater, while fun, definitely does not produce ideal-looking video. The already-poor sharpness of the video is further blurred by shooting underwater?in fact, almost everything seems a little more muted when shooting underwater, including the brightness, focus, color quality, and obviously, the audio quality. The one thing it does have going for it is that distortion as a result of the water is kept to a minimum, regardless of whether or not Aqua Mode is on (truth be told, I couldn’t tell the difference between when it was on and when it was off).
The W300 takes okay photos for a pocket camcorder, but I’m definitely not as impressed with them as the reviewer of the W200 was with its stills. A major weak point is the oversaturation of colors, and photos look washed out to the point of appearing almost foggy. The stills could be a little sharper in my opinion, too, though I must say that I was impressed with the quality of the white balance, which almost always seemed to be spot-on.
Unfortunately, the audio quality of the videos taken with the W300 is not very good at all. The microphone is, inexplicably, located on the back of the device, so it’s never even facing in the direction in which the video is being taken. While this obviously disrupts pickup, the fact that it’s so small and covered to provide protection from the elements also works against you, resulting in audio that is weak, somewhat tinny, and subject to picking up a fair amount of ambient noise.
Operation and Extras
In terms of what ships in the box with the W300, it’s a pretty bare-bones affair. The camera ships with a wrist strap and?that’s it. No USB dongle extender, no HDMI cable, and the user manual is nothing more than a “Quick Start Guide” that’s only a few pages long. Granted, it does come with an 8 GB, Class 10 microSD HC card, but this more out of necessity than anything else, due to the fact that the W300 has zero onboard storage.
Though it would have been nice to see Samsung include a hard copy, the W300 unit does come preloaded with the Intelli-studio software — which launches upon plugging the camcorder into your computer via USB — for importing, minor editing, and sharing. It’s standard stuff for included camcorder software, but it certainly isn’t bad; the user-friendly interface for video editing and the included effect options are some of its high points.
But if you’d rather just stick to drag and drop, that’s an option too, as the W300 can be easily accessed as a mass storage device. Also making things simple is the fact that the W300 records video in MP4 and photos in JPEGs, so conversion is rarely necessary since those are generally accepted formats for just about anything.