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Samsung HMX-W300 review:

Samsung HMX-W300

Low-light video, while noisy, is pretty good and much better than the results from the W200, which were distractingly bad. Also, Samsung includes a feature for backlit subjects that definitely helps keep what you're shooting from being too dark to see.

Still photos are never great from minicamcorders, but the W300 does all right here, too. You can shoot up to 5.5-megapixel photos in camera mode or capture up to 2-megapixel stills while shooting video, and you'll get results that are fine for Web use. It's slow to focus and capture in camera mode, though, which is typical for pocket video cameras.

Features Samsung HMX-W300
Inputs/Outputs None/Mini-HDMI, USB
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Tungsten
Scene modes Auto
Focus Auto
Filter effects Vignetting, Fish-eye, Retro, Classic, Negative, Dazzle, Noir, Western
Lens cover (auto or manual) None

The W300 has a good assortment of shooting features for its class. It records 30 frames per second at both 1080p and 720p, but that's it. There are no lower resolutions for easier uploading or playback on less powerful computers and devices, and no 720p-at-60fps setting for smoother video of fast-moving subjects. You can record video using a handful of creative filters, but the resolution is fixed at 720p and the results don't look good at larger screen sizes. It has electronic image stabilization, face detection, back-light correction, and an underwater mode; these all work well, so no problems with those features. However, all but the last are turned on and off in the menu system; the underwater mode -- the one you're probably least likely to use regularly unless you specifically buy this for diving -- is too easily triggered by pressing right on the control pad.

The minicamcorder has a 3x digital zoom that, like every digital zoom on these devices, degrades image quality and eats up battery life. On the upside, it doesn't completely suck, though you'll still want to use it sparingly. It has autofocus, but can only focus up to about 6 inches from a subject. Lastly, the W300 has a feature rarely seen on minicamcorders (and a big reason to buy it): a pause button. On other pocket video cameras, you can only start and stop recordings, which results in a bunch of clips. The pause button on the W300 allows you to quickly start and stop recording, but the result is just one clip.

Samsung's Intelli-studio editing and sharing software on the W300 is full-featured and, with practice, easy to use. Screenshot by Joshua Goldman/CNET

Should you want to do any editing, the embedded software on the W300 should be enough for most users. It's not overly simple, especially for those who've never edited video before, but it's not difficult to figure out either, and it has a very good set of editing tools. You can also use it for quick uploading to sharing sites including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, of course. Photos and videos can be tagged for uploading while in playback on the device, and the software will automatically ask permission to send them when you connect to a PC. What's also nice is that you don't even need to install the software on a computer; it can run directly from the device. To edit, you do need to transfer clips to a computer first, though.

There are still some very good reasons to pick up a minicamcorder like the Samsung HMX-W300. Even if the video and photo quality isn't significantly better than a higher-end smartphone, not everyone has one of those (yet). With its rugged construction, you don't have to worry about getting it wet or handing it off to someone else to use -- something you probably don't want to do with your phone. True, you can't instantly upload to the Web, but the embedded software and in-camera tagging let you do it quickly once you connect its built-in USB arm to a computer.

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