I'm a miserable old git.
I'm ashamed to say it's been a **** very **** long time since I reviewed my "trusts", have sought to rectify this by going through every review I've written in the past couple of years, if you feel hard-done-by, drop me a note.
Members who trust:32
About as cheap as camcorders get
Lightweight, inexpensive, plenty of spares on Ebay
Tendancy to break down
Ease of use
Value for money
Range & quality of featuresGood
Remote controlVery poor
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The VP-D351 offers unsophisticated 'point and shoot' functionality at a relatively low cost, which is absolutely fine for family outings, or mildly hazardous environments and where loss of the camcorder wouldn't be an entire disaster.
It is no longer a 'current model' - and good examples can be found on the likes of Ebay for about £50.
My may reckoning, this puts it into the 'commodity camcorder' bracket. There have to be worse camcorders on the market, only I've not had the mispleasure of owning one.
This is about as 'low end' as it comes, the only saving grace is that it uses mini-dv format tapes, and is remarkably inexpensive.
I own a bunch of camcorders, various formats, and in various states of disrepair. I have some which I keep for 'good' and others I let the kids play with, or do stupid things like use them on my motorcycle. (I may even be tempted to try it out on my 'power kite' on account of it's light weight)
The VP-D351 was the lowest-specification camera in Samsung's 35n series camera, and the cheapest. It's easy to see why.
The unit fits comfortably in the hand, is noticeably 'light' but the overall feel is 'plasticy'.
Two viewers are supplied; a 'pull out' eyepiece which is handy in low light conditions, or when you have bright sunlight to contend with, and the ubiquitous 'fold out' LCD screen.
A basic number of features are supported; fade, backlight, some digital effects (why anyone would want to use them instead of post-production on the PC is anybody's guess!) stereo microphones, a 20x optical zoom range, and image stabilisation. Output connections include s-video, composite video and sound, and Firewire (IEEE 1394)
Absent are a hotshoe for accessories, video input, USB socket, memory stick and remote control.
The power supply has a proprietary square-shaped connector, although genuine Samsung units can be had for about six quid on Ebay.
Other cameras in the 35n range offer more features, such as remote control, memory stick slots and USB connectivity, but as I'm not interested in that, the absence isn't a great loss.
My VP-D351 cost me about £25 - I bought a couple of 'spares or repair' units second hand, replaced the ribbon cable for the LCD screen, and transplanted the lens and sensor assembly to make one working unit.
The one saving grace of the camcorder is the tape mechanism. As it's Mini-DV, new media is nearly always available at a reasonably low cost, to the extent that I no longer re-record tapes.
I actually quite like Mini-DV, if a tape is damaged, you only have to wind it on a bit and it continues to work, unlike mini-DVD, where one speck of dust can lose your entire days filming.
Hard Disk recorders are all fine and good, but misplace the camera and all your footage is gone, unless you're one of those people who take the laptop on holiday!
My computers using Windows-XP and Vista both support the camera without additional software or drivers, and it supports tape control functions with most editing software.
The battery looks similar to those used on previous models, but are unfortunately slightly smaller than the ones on my other Samsung (a VP-D130) - if you're buying this to re-use your old power cells, best to check to see if they're compatible.
I CAN confirm that the camera will happily replay footage taken on other brands of mini-dv cameras, so if you just want a cheap means of transferring tapes to PC this is a worthwhile means of doing it. Navigating the menuing structure is reasonably straightforward - a combination of 'menu' buttons and 'left/right/push' thumbwheel controls.
Most of the important things such as 'manual focus' and 'Image stabilisation' are reasonably easy to find once you know where to look. Image resolution is pretty fair, I did notice on occasions that shadows were underexposed when shooting scenes with a clear late-October sky, although switching it to 'backlight' would probably have sorted that out.
Either Samsung sold this model by the container load, or they have an inherent weakness - most of the units I see on Ebay require some sort of repair, notably in the LCD display.
If you're not frightened to open it up, the unit is reasonably easily maintained, if you want entirely trouble free operation then get a more expensive camcorder.
Overall, a cheap camera, made cheaply and costing not very much. Did I mention it was cheap?