It's easy to assume that all budget camcorders look alike. They're all small, inexpensive miniDV devices with 25x to 35x zoom lenses, sub-megapixel sensors, and very few bells and whistles. Because of this, you might be tempted to assume that they're all the same. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Under every cookie-cutter camcorder are countless variables that separate the good budget models from the bad ones. The Samsung D372, unfortunately, is one of the latter.
Even for a budget miniDV camcorder, the D372 feels very small and light. It weighs just under 15 ounces, even with battery and tape, and at fewer than 5 inches long and just over 2 inches wide, it can be carried around almost anywhere. A standard 0.68-megapixel CCD and 34x optical zoom fits within its small, light frame.
A mere five buttons, including an extremely awkward-to-press Menu button, let you navigate the D327's various settings. Q.Menu, OK, and telephoto/wide-angle buttons sit on the left side of the camcorder's 2.5-inch 16:9 flip-out LCD. You use the telephoto and wide-angle buttons to browse the camcorder's different menus, and hit the OK and Q.Menu buttons to backtrack or confirm your choices. This minimalist interface feels even more awkward than it sounds, reminding me of trying to change a television's settings without a remote control. There simply aren't enough buttons for it to work very well. Besides these controls, a set of rewind, fast forward, stop, and playback buttons sit on the camera's body next to an Easy Q switch that activates the camcorder's automatic, image-stabilized video mode.
Like most modern camcorders, you can record both 4:3 and 16:9 wide-screen video with the D327. Shooting in standard 4:3 looks fine in both the LCD and the viewfinder; the viewfinder is 4:3, so it automatically fits, and the LCD letterboxes the image to keep proportions accurate. Unfortunately, 16:9 wide-screen display doesn't work as well. The viewfinder squishes wide-screen video to fit, so any video you watch through it looks uncomfortably narrow. This doesn't affect the resulting video, but it still looks awkward while you're shooting.
Even for a budget camcorder, the D372 produces some ugly video. Indoors, under both incandescent and fluorescent lighting, grain and noise consumes the picture and produces a fuzzy mess. Outdoors, under any amount of sunlight, highlights blow out, colors fade, and fine details simply disappear. Regardless of lighting, white and near-white objects display a fuzzy, colored fringe whenever they're in the frame.
You can't expect too much from a budget camcorder, but even with lax expectations, the Samsung D372 falls short. Between its disappointing video quality and its awkward control scheme, the D372 simply doesn't work very well. If you're looking for a decent budget camcorder, consider instead the Canon ZR850, a miniDV camcorder that outshines the D372 in every way.