Aimed at the novice end of the market, the VP-DC161W is designed to ensure users spend less time figuring out how to use it and more time filming. And Samsung has done a pretty good job.
The layout heavily promotes automatic use and makes it one of the simplest DVD camcorders to operate. But while this may be great for most users, more adventurous types may feel restricted.
The Samsung is comfortable to hold, with most controls exactly where you would expect them. The 2.7in flip-out LCD is decently sized and makes for clear viewing, which is just as well, because the viewfinder is distinctly second-class in comparison. Its small dimensions and low resolution mean options are tricky to read. And while we're moaning, the dioptre adjustment is rather fiddly.
Like most camcorders, the Samsung has the sort of zoom digital cameras can only dream of: a whopping 33x optical. Zoom times are a touch slow, but should suffice for most situations. The down side to such a potent zoom range is camera shake, and while Samsung has included a digital stabilisation system (which isn't as good as an optical version), it struggles to cope at greater lengths.
The biggest shortcoming, however, concerns the software, or lack of it. Those wishing to edit or view footage on a PC will need to make additional purchases – a significant failing in a camcorder that clearly isn't aimed at high-end users.
General video quality was pretty good. Select the highest setting (XP) and a 1.4GB DVD will be stuffed with around 20 minutes of footage. Aim a bit lower and combine it with 2.6GB dual-layer media, and you could squeeze in up to 106 minutes.