Product Type: Samsung digital cameras
Newest Review: ... you can still buy them. You can also get them online at Amazon or other electrical retailers. On the top side of the camera there is an o... more
Crash, Bang, Wallop...What a Picture
Member Name: sandemp
Advantages: Easy to use, excellent picture quality as long as the lighting conditions are good
Disadvantages: Not so good in dark situations
After spending some time checking out various websites comparing cameras, I decided that the Samsung PL50 fitted the bill perfectly. At the time of purchase this camera cost £79.99, but this was two years ago and it no longer appears to be available new (it is still available used on Amazon and Ebay). Having used this camera very regularly for the last two years, I feel that although I am in no way an expert when it comes to cameras, I do have enough experience to give my opinion on it's suitability for taking family snapshots and short videos.
==First Impressions - What's In The Box, Looks and Installation==
The camera came packed in a relatively small box along with the battery, power lead, installation disc, carry strap and instruction manual. You do not get either a memory card or carry case so these need to be bought separately. Although the camera was available in several colour schemes including pink and grey, our is the black version, which is the same very glossy lack I'm beginning to associate with recent Samsung electronic products.
Even at the time of purchase this was neither the smallest or thinnest of digital cameras available, but at 8.9cm by 5.7cm and 2.2cm deep it fits nicely in the hand without being too chunky and at 116g (excluding battery and card) it is light enough to not drag on the neck if used with a neck strap. Looks-wise the camera is really nothing special, the front is dominated by the motorised lens (which makes a very satisfying noise as it emerges) which is surrounded by gun metal detailing. The very small flash takes up a tiny corner and the only other decoration on the front is the Samsung labelling along with a legend telling us this is a 10.2MP camera. The rear of the camera is dominated by the 2.7" (6.9cm) TFT LCD screen that is labelled as being "intelligent". The zoom, menu and function buttons are also placed together on the rear of the camera, along the right hand side. The power and shutter buttons are arranged on the top surface of the camera, while there is a tripod fixing on the bottom along with a compartment that slides open to reveal the battery and memory card. The power/USB connection is hidden behind a small flap on the right-hand edge. All in all I would say that this is in no way a stylish camera and has been designed for functionality rather than looks.
I particularly like the power lead, which rather than being in one piece comes in two. The actual plug adapter and a USB lead that connects into this. I find this means I have fewer wires hanging around and as the battery can also be charged by connecting it via USB to a computer, I only need to carry the USB lead rather than the whole adapter. What would have made this even better is if the USB connection had been of a standard type, similar to that used in more recent Samsung phones as then I would have needed even fewer wires.
Installing the camera via the supplied installation disc was a relatively simple and painless affair on my Windows 7 laptop and along with the drivers you get a couple of programs that should in theory make transferring, manipulating and printing your photos easier. One of these programs, Samsung Master, is a rather nice effort that allows basic adjustments to be made to photos, including red eye removal, effects, cropping and re-sizing before sending them to your printer and is something that I still use regularly. The other program, New PC Studio, is an over-bloated affair that regularly freezes my computer and is something I know refuse to use.
Although a memory card is not included, the range of cards this camera accepts was something as a novelty. Rather than being restricted to a single type, this camera can use various types including SD (up to 2GB), MMC plus (up to 1GB) and SDHC (up to 8GB), meaning that it is more likely that you are able to reuse a card from an older camera. Personally we are using this in conjunction with a 4GB SDHC card and are able to fit several hundred photos at top quality along with some videos.
==Picture Perfect? - General Use==
If bought new the battery and memory card obviously have to be installed before first use and what I like about this camera is how easy it is to install them. The compartment is easy to open by way of a sliding switch and the battery simply clicks into place. The memory card is similarly just slid into place until it clicks, although I will say there is nothing to indicate which way round it goes. The "hatch" concealing this compartment has stayed as secure as the first day even with it being opened on an almost weekly basis to remove the card. The battery also needs to be charged before the first use, and I find it generally takes anything up to two hours for this with the battery holding it's charge well. There have been days where we have taken almost 100 photos and there is still a tiny amount of battery power left. The only real problem with the battery is that occasionally there is no real warning that it is running out and it will suddenly go flat, although this is something that's we've only noticed in the last couple of months, so it could be that the battery is nearing the end of it's life-span.
The time frame from pressing the power button to the camera being ready to take a picture is somewhat unimpressive. I've not timed it exactly but it takes a good couple of seconds. During the first few months ownership the fascination of watching the lens whirr into view was enough to compensate for this wait, but now it's become downright annoying. Although there is a vast range of different setting to play about with, I must admit I don't bother with these and so can barely comment. The two main setting I use are the auto and smart auto, where the camera decides everything for you.
When taking a picture the first big problem (for me at least) is that there is no optical view finder. While the LCD screen is large, clear and gives an accurate view of the frame, it is also prone to glare from sunlight. I also find that there are occasions when the picture looks a little blurry on the screen but the resultant photo is perfect. Once ready to take a photo the shutter lag (or time it takes from pressing the button to it actually being taken) depends on which mode the camera is in and lighting conditions. In the very best lighting conditions (where there is no flash needed) it takes under a second, but in the worst it's nearer to three or four. This means that this really isn't the camera for off-the-cuff snaps of moving objects (children, animals, etc) as the subject has very often moved before the picture is taken. Although it is possibly as much down to the memory as the camera, writing time seems very quick, with the camera being ready to take another photo instantaneously if the flash is not used and under a second if it is.
Although it is possible to change the photo quality settings from a paltry 1MP through various setting to the full 10MP, I have to admit I've only ever used the highest setting. I've found that photo quality depends greatly on a number of factors including light conditions. In the best possible conditions, where the flash is not required, photos are, indeed, excellent, with the resulting file being easily good enough to print out at A4 size (even after cropping). For those photos where the flash is required the quality is nowhere nearly as good, red-eye seems almost inevitable, even when using the red-eye setting (which increases shutter-lag). The flash doesn't seem to have a particularly long reach either, if the subject is more than a couple of metres away the resultant photo is dark, grainy, with a lot of noise and no amount of photo enhancement software will help make anything worth printing. Really I would say that the camera is only really suitable for photos taken in fair to excellent lighting conditions and to be prepared to spend time removing red-eye when using the flash.
As well as photos the camera has a basic video recording function, which isn't at all bad, as long as again the lighting conditions are reasonable. As well as the video, it also records sound, although I must say that video fair eats into memory. While perhaps not the best medium for recording an important event, I have found it perfect for such things as memorialising first steps and then sharing over social networking. As well as being able to view and edit your photos on a computer you can do this on the camera itself. Viewing and deleting photos is simple enough, but anything more than this is fiddly to say the least and rather than replacing the photo it duplicates it. The camera can also be connected to a TV for viewing photos and videos, but I've never bothered with this option.
The PL50 has survived the last couple of years quite well, only beginning to show it's age in the last month or so. The once pristine detailing has started to flake making the camera look a little shabby. But the major problem we've encountered is that the lens cover is now a little stiff and doesn't always open when the camera is switched on. At the present this doesn't present an insurmountable problem, as a tap with the finger is enough to persuade it to open, but I would imagine there will be a time in the not so distant future when this may not be enough. So if you are buying this second hand I would suggest switching it on and off a few times before buying it in case it has the same problem.
Although I'm beginning to feel that the battery is coming to the end of it's life span it is still able to hold it's charge. Should it start losing that ability then replacements are still available on such websites as Amazon.
Although in no way perfect, the Samsung PL50 is not a bad camera for those that simply wish to take snapshots. It is an easy camera to use and reasonable results can be achieved when using the automatic settings. It is, however, possible to change many of the settings, but I find this disproportionately fiddly for the improvements reached. As this is no longer available new, I can't recommend you buy it as such, but as a second hand camera at around the £40 mark, it's really not at all bad and would make a good camera for someone who wishes to own a digital camera but doesn't want to bother with all the settings.
Summary: Was a pretty good camera for it's time, superceeded now.
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