Samsung PL210 Review
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It was only a few years ago that the idea of a 10x optical zoom in a digital compact camera that was only 19mm deep would be scoffed at as impossible. However, that dream is realised in the Samsung PL210. Along with the 27-270mm focal range, it also boasts a 14.2 megapixel CCD sensor, HD video, face recognition and special filter effects that include a miniature effect, sketch and half tone dot effects as well as the more well known toy camera. Priced at a modest level, the PL210 certainly appears to be a good option for families with young children or proud grandparents thanks to its easy to use auto scene selection which takes the pain out of which mode to put the camera in. The Samsung PL210 is available in silver, black, blue and pink and retails for £179.99 / $199.99.
Ease of Use
If looks were the be all and end all of a camera then the Samsung PL210 wouldn't fly off of shelves but luckily, that's not the case. At least not to everyone. For those of you that aren't swayed simply by whether the camera looks pretty, the PL210 has a host of other features inside the simple silver box. One of the major features that the camera boasts is the 10x optical zoom which pushes the lens barrel out by half a centimetre or so. The second big feature of the PL210 links nicely in with the first because the camera is only 19.5mm from front to back. Not bad for a camera that has a focal range of 27 – 270mm in 35mm terms. A slim flash and AF assist bulb are all that accompany the lens on the front with all the action happening on the back.
The way that the Samsung PL210 is designed on the back does look very similar to a Pentax camera. It's no secret that the two companies have worked together in the past in the DSLR department with the K10D/GX10 and the K20D/GX20 cameras. So are Samsung and Pentax working together with the digital compact cameras?
The PL210 has the now typical offset feet that makes the camera tilt back slightly. This could be useful for those self portraits and family shots where the top of the head is just missed off, however, it always looks as though it's about to fall over. The top of the camera has been cut into to give it a slanted edge that balances the look of it. The front has a brushed metal finish with a shiny silver metal strip around the edge. The back is made of black plastic and has a two-tiered effect of contrasting nicely with the silver and keeping costs down.
Of the four buttons that surround the navigation pad on the back of the Samsung PL210, three of them are used for accessing menus. The top mode button accesses which mode you'd like the camera to be in from the five selections of smart auto, program, dual IS, scene and movie. The scene modes are the usual suspects found in many digital compact cameras with the exception of a few such as the magic frame which adds a surround to the frame and object highlight that takes two photographs in quick succession, one blurred and one sharp. It then uses the background of the blurred picture to place behind the sharp subject from the other picture.
If you're new to photography and you want a digital compact that does everything for you, then you'll like the smart auto feature of the PL210. It works by looking at the image you've composed. It then changes the mode of the camera to suit the picture. For example if you have a person in the frame, it automatically enables portrait mode, switches on face detection and gets the flash with red-eye reduction ready. Short of pressing the button to take the picture and zooming in if need be, the PL210 will do it all for you.
There are four tabs for shooting, sound, display and settings. The shooting tab is the carbon cop of the function menu which we'll cover in a moment. The sound functions adjust the volume and sound of areas such as the start up, shutter, beep and AF command. The display options are for the screen and alter the information on it, whether you get shooting descriptions and a start up image. You can also change the brightness of the display, how long you look at the picture for after it's been taken (defaulted to 0.5sec unusually) and whether you want the power save to kick in or not. It depends on whether you have the tendency to leave your camera switched on or not.
The settings tab is the more in-depth menu option and will let you change the language of the camera, the date & time, which time zone you're in, what video mode you're going to be viewing in (defaulted to NTSC), as well as formatting the card among other options. The main menu button is situated just below the mode button and this accesses the core features of the camera. That and it acts as a secondary point to get into the function menu which is the third menu button on the Samsung PL210 digital compact camera.
For a camera starting at the £120 mark, the PL120 is surprisingly well built. Samsung generally give the cameras a good construction but we expected something lower than what we have here. Apart from the back and tripod bush, the camera is a metal build. One area we're particularly impressed with is the battery door. Sometimes, digital compact cameras can have very flimsy, bendable battery doors but the PL210 is stiff, strong and even sports a lock.
Within the battery bay, the Samsung PL210's lithium ion battery resides alongside the MicroSD card. For the uninitiated, MicroSD is a card format much much smaller than normal SD. Technically speaking, it shouldn't bear the SD title because it's not secure in the same way SD is. However, they usually come with an SD card adapter for use in a card reader or another camera and this adapter does have the locking switch.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
On the right side of the PL120 is a small port for linking the camera to the charger. The battery can remain in the camera for charging and the cable can be unplugged from the mains plug doubling it up as a USB cable. If you decide to download pictures this way, the camera will charge while it's plugged into the computer.
The 3 inch TFT LCD screen looks pretty big on the Samsung PL210 which is odd considering it's not a small camera in itself. It's bright and clear though and brings out the best of the 14 megapixels on the 1/2.3 inch CCD. Pressing the disp button on the navigation pad will scroll between either having the photo information on the screen or off. Turning it off will still keep the battery and number of pictures left on the screen though. Pressing the disp button in playback reveals the shooting information such as ISO, aperture value, shutter speed, size of the image and date.
Despite what we said about it not being much of a looker, it's got it where it counts. The Samsung PL210 is fast in start up and pretty good in focusing speed too. The screen is nice and bright meaning it's easier to see the menu which is well laid out although we think having three menu button is just greedy. It's well built with strong parts that are normally flimsy and the 10x optical zoom is a major benefit in a budget camera such as the PL210.
In the box comes the standard equipment consisting of a driver CD, quick start manual, battery, wrist strap and battery charger. The great thing about the charger is that the cable unplugs from the main unit and doubles up as the USB cable. You can also charge the Samsung PL210 from a computer.