Waterproof and shockproof camcorders have become so ubiquitous and inexpensive that they are almost standard fare for active videographers, or even active types looking to document their adventures. Samsung joins the fray with the HMX W200 rugged HD camcorder, a $160 device offering full 1080p video that Samsung claims users should take “to the beach, pool, desert, mountain tops, anywhere your adventure takes you.”
Samsung faces stiff competition from the current king of ruggedized pocket camcorders, the second-generation Kodak PlaySport, along with a handful of other devices all up for the task of underwater shooting and absorbing moderate amounts of abuse. Is the W200 a tough and worthy beast, or should this rugged camcorder be roughed up and left behind in the woods/in the ocean/on the mountain?
BUILD AND DESIGN
The W200 is shockproof up to six feet and waterproof in up to 10 feet of water. Measuring 2.4 x 4.45 x .78 inches, it’s still small enough to fit in a pants pocket, though it’s bulkier than other camcorders in its class.
The W200 weighs only .3 pounds and feels lighter than it should, most likely due to its all plastic build. Still, it’s a bruiser and I dropped, kicked, slammed it with confidence that the W200 would successfully absorb the abuse.
From a design perspective, the W200 doesn’t deviate from the candy-bar-style camcorder norm. The front side features textured plastic and the lens is housed in a round protrusion in the upper half. The on-board mike sits just off to the upper left.
The 2.3-inch display dominates the back of the W200, and that sits about the stills/video button, and the record button, which is surrounded by a round d-pad that doubles as a zoom lever, as well as display information icon toggle and aqua mode shortcuts. There are four additional buttons on the back: play, trash, menu, and share. Underneath those, sits the tiny on-board speaker.
Looking straight on at the W200, the power button and charge indicator light sit on the left side, and a microSD card slot and the miniHDMI port hide behind a sturdy panel on the right side.
The rounded top of the W200 is bare and the tripod receptacle and wrist-strap slot sit on the bottom. Also on the bottom is a panel hiding a pop-out USB dongle.
Overall, there is very little to complain about in terms of the design and placement of the elements. Everything is in a logical spot, and the lens is slightly recessed in the protrusion, protecting it slightly from scrapes.
Measuring 2.3 inches, the W200 display is larger than the PlaySport’s by only a third of an inch. However, because screen size is measured diagonally, there is a noticeable difference, and the 230,000 pixels are more than adequate for the size. When recording, black bars at the top and bottom frame the screen, which cuts off about twenty percent of the visible space. Samsung fills the black with info icons, and the viewable area remains large enough to easily monitor any scene.
The W200 has two display brightness settings, normal and bright, and while that is one more than most other pocket camcorders, the bright mode does only little more to cut through the sun’s glare than the normal setting.
Ergonomics and Controls
The W200 is built for one-handed operation and users should have no issues recording clips and navigating the device this way. The all-plastic build might present issues, however, as it gets a bit slippery when wet. Even the textured front or notches on the side won’t stop the W200 from slipping around. Some rubberized grip points would have preferable.
Most of the buttons are also a bit tough to press, or more specifically, it’s hard to tell when they are pressed. They aren’t very crisp and there is no satisfying click, just a mushy depression. The record button has the opposite problem and is especially tricky, as it clicks halfway down and then again when actually pressed.
Menus and Modes
The H200 does not have an incredibly deep or complex menu system, which is as it should be. Pocket camcorders are designed for simplicity’s sake, after all. A tap of the menu buttons brings up the shooting options and settings, all aligned atop the screen with cute little icon representation. Shooting modes include:
The menu items are generally the same for the stills mode, which offers 5.5-, 3-, and 2-megapixel as well as VGA photo resolution.
I’m a bit disappointed the W200 doesn’t offer standard definition or LP video recording, or even the 720/60p setting offered by others in its class. That said, the filters are fun to try out and you can’t beat the menu’s simplicity.
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