First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
- Affordable price, bundled extras, 34x optical zoom
- Average video quality, poor still image quality
The VP-D371Wi is a low quality MiniDV camera that fails to impress on a variety of fronts -- but then, what do you expect for $399? Provided your family isn't a bunch of snobby videophiles, it should prove an ideal stocking-stuffer come Christmas morning.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
Buy now (Selling at 12 stores)
They say that change is inevitable, yet it appears Samsung's camcorder division never got the memo. While its pioneering rivals battle it out in the HD arena, the Korean conglomerate has been happy to remain in the sidelines; plodding along at its own technological pace. Consequently, its current line-up of cameras consists solely of MiniDV and DVD offerings, with nary a hard-disk, high-def or hybrid device in sight. Some might call this suicidal stagnation, while others will congratulate the manufacturer for remaining loyal to a tried-and-tested format. Whatever your viewpoint, it's hard to argue with a super-low price tag; which is the main (and possibly only) advantage of this affordable low-end model.
With its uninspiring 0.8-megapixel sensor and rudimentary feature set, the VP-D371Wi was never going to appear on any video enthusiast's wish-list. However, for a camcorder that costs $399, there really isn't too much you can complain about. By and large, this is a simple product designed for simple tasks -- shooting family gatherings and zero-budget YouTube clips are its primary fortes.
We tested this camera's shooting capabilities under a variety of settings and found that it performed about as well as we expected. In other words, it will get the job done to a reasonable degree, but only in optimum conditions. Bright lighting is basically essential; otherwise colours will appear dim and washed out. In particularly dark environments, our footage became unbearably grainy; a problem which the included night mode did little to alleviate.
While it has become customary for entry-level camcorders to sport powerful magnification abilities, we were still impressed by the VP-D371Wi's 34x optical zoom. While a little on the slow side, it will ensure you always get nice and close to distant action, making it ideal for spectator mums and dads (expect outdoor sporting events to fare better than school plays).
The camera's still image function, which records frames directly to tape, was predictably unimpressive. With a picture resolution lower than most camera phones, we can't imagine any conceivable purpose it could be used for. On the plus side, if you ever feel a compulsion to take grainy pics of your friends, at least the option is there (this is not something that can be said of every camcorder in this price range, such as the Sony DCR-HC38).
In terms of build quality, the VP-D371Wi is one fearsomely cheap looking unit. Sporting the traditional handycam shape and black-and-silver finish, it's about as 'beige' and boring as you can get. However, with only a handful of buttons to play around with and limited menu options, it should at least prove easy to operate. We were also quite pleased by the inclusion of a viewfinder in addition to the LCD display -- this is something that many vendors are removing from their entry-level units, so its inclusion here is worth noting. Our only criticism is the superfluous inclusion of two menu buttons, which may confuse novice users.
For a sub $500 camera, the VP-D371Wi comes packaged with a surprising amount of extras, including two lithium batteries, a remote control, carry bag, and a pair of mini DV tapes so you can start shooting right away. This is more than the average high-end model gives you, and thus, significantly adds to its excellent value.
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