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Samsung PL-210 Camera Review
Wednesday, April 20, 2011  

Samsung is not the first name that pops in most people's heads when considering a digital camera. Maybe that should change. When I received the Samsung PL-210 for testing during a recent two-week long motorcycle trip through Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, I was anxious to tear into the box and see what the boys (and girls most likely) were doing over at Samsung. This was my first experience with a Samsung digital camera, but I have come to respect the brand a great deal for quality hi-def televisions (we own a 50" Samsung in our home) and other electronics. Even our new washer and dryer are made by Samsung. Needless to say, I am very satisfied with the brand, but what about cameras?

At first glance, the PL-210 feels very good for a pocket digital camera. The body is solid and slim enough to easily slip into a shirt pocket. The 10X zoom lens extends from the camera body quickly as soon as the camera is turned on and the camera is ready shoot very quickly. The power button is very small and slightly recessed, which prevents it from accidentally being pressed, but also makes it a little tedious to activate when you want to. The 3-inch LCD on the rear of the camera is not the brightest we have seen, but it is adequate. The setup menus are logical and generally straightforward. The scant printed manual is basically only designed to get you started, so you should rely on the User Manual CD included in the box for detailed information.

A Mode button lets you select between shooting modes via the LCD screen. While this is a little more clumsy than a mode dial, once you get used to it, it is not a huge distraction. Even though a dedicated VIDEO or MOVIE button would be a nice addition. Beginners will most likely do most of their shooting in Smart Auto mode which lets the camera make all the necessary settings depending on shooting conditions. I found the Smart Auto mode to work very well 80% of the time, and, the Flash button allows you to force the flash OFF so that you can use Smart Auto even when you don't want the flash to fire (like in a museum). To gain more manual functionality, there is a Program Mode. When the camera is in this mode, pressing the Fn (Function) button will bring up an overlay menu of manual settings that you can adjust such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, Focus area, Metering, Drive, and image stabilization. Again, this is all pretty intuitive, even for a novice.

The PL-210 offers 10 Scene Modes:


  • Magic Frame
  • Beauty Shot
  • Object Highlight
  • Night
  • Landscape
  • Text
  • Sunset
  • Dawn
  • Backlight
  • Beach & Snow
You can select a Scene Mode after having chosen SCENE in the Mode menu. Note: When shooting in Smart Auto, the camera attempts to choose one of the Scene Modes automatically based on the shot you are taking. The Magic Frame mode is a clever way to have the camera apply a decorative frame to your photos, however, using Magic Frame automatically sets the camera to a maximum resolution of 2 megapixels. The Beauty Shot mode also offers some interesting features that attempt to smooth out skin and "retouch" images automatically. I did not get the chance to test these features.

The DUAL IS mode operates basically like the Program Mode, but employs both Optical and Digital Image Stabilization to further reduce the occurrence of blurring due to hand shake.

The last mode is MOVIE which turns the little camera into a capable 1280 X 720 HQ video camera. When in MOVIE mode the Fn button allows you to set the Frame Rate (30fps or 15fps), 1280/640/320 resolution, exposure, white balance, smart filter (which offers some pretty cool video effects), metering, OIS, noise reduction and Smart Scene Detection.

SHOOTING PHOTOS AND VIDEO

Over the course of a couple of weeks, we shot a few hundred photos and several minutes of video footage with the PL-210. The camera is very easy to use and quality of the photos and video rival what we get from our own Panasonic Lumix ZS7. I kept the PL-210 hanging around my neck for most of the day using a lanyard. Photo quality, clarity and color are superb coming from the 14.2 megapixel sensor. Video footage is also good for an inexpensive pocket digital camera. Where the camera falls short is in the area of speed. It can take awhile for the camera to acquire focus before the shutter will fire, and the time it takes to record images to the memory card is pretty significant too. I am not sure if it was because we were shooting 14mp images, or the JPEG compression routine the camera was applying, but the time between shots could get annoying. We were using an 8gb class 4 Micro SD memory card. Which brings me to another pet peeve, the use of a Micro SD card. While the micros are smaller and more compact, they are also more expensive and are not always as readily available as standard SD cards. Also, I do not have a Micro SD card reader in my computer. Not a huge deal, but something you should consider.

As with any small camera, the best shots are taken outdoors with plenty of light. However, the Samsung performed better than most competitors indoors when using the built-in flash. I should also mention that the 27mm wide angle lens is a real plus for shooting landscape shots when you want to get a lot into the photo. And, the 10X zoom works smoothly and the lens produces good images, even when fully zoomed in.

The battery is very small and is charged in the camera using the supplied USB cable. The downside to this setup is that you cannot use the camera and charge a second battery at the same time. The upside is that there is one less piece of hardware to carry with you when you travel (e.g. battery charger). Fortunately, battery life on the PL-210 is excellent. We never experienced the battery life to be an issue, and it recharges very quickly. The USB cable can recharge the battery from any USB port on a computer, or using the supplied AC to USB adapter. The USB cable can also be used to copy images/video clips from the camera to your computer.

IMPRESSION

I like it. If I were in the market for an inexpensive, very capable pocket digital camera I would put the Samsung near the top of the list. Notwithstanding the speed issues, the image quality is as good as we have seen from any camera in this category. This will make an excellent travel companion for anyone looking for a compact, lightweight "do-it-all" camera. And, at around $150, you can't beat the price!

The Samsung PL-210 is an inexpensive digital camera that we can feel good about recommending to our readers.

Samsung PL210 features:


  • 14-megapixel, 1/2.3" CCD image sensor
  • 27mm Wide angle, 10x optical zoom lens
  • Dual IS system (Optical & Digital Image Stabilization)
  • 3.0-inch LCD (230K)
  • HD Movies (720p@30fps)
  • Smart Auto (Still & Movie)
  • Smart Filter 2.0
  • Sound Alive recording technology
  • Smart Face Recognition & Face Tracking
  • Smart Album
  • Blink Detection & Smile Detection
  • Beauty Shot (1,2,3 Steps)
  • Dimensions: 100.4 x 58.5 x 19.7mm
  • microSD/SDHC card slot
  • Li-ion battery

What I Like:

  • Good build quality, solid feel
  • Better than average photo quality
  • Good zoom range
  • Nice 27mm wide angle lens
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent value/price

What I don't like:

  • Slow to shoot, slow to record
  • No separate battery charger included



SAMPLE PHOTOS

To see a larger image, click one of the thumbnails below:

 
 
 
 
   



SAMPLE VIDEO FOOTAGE






Reviewed by Chris Dikmen
Managing Editor of CruiseReport.com
     
     
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