Samsung PL120 Review

September 23, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


From a distance, the Samsung PL120 is an unassuming digital compact camera that could get lost amongst the swathes of other similar models on a shop shelf. Closer inspection, though, reveals some interesting features for a camera at this budget price point. Take, for example, the 14.2 megapixel CCD sensor, face recognition, 26mm wide-angle lens, 720p HD movies, special filter effects, digital frames and a small LCD monitor on the front of the PL120 for self portraits or pictures of the children. The Samsung PL120 is available in grey, purple and red priced at £149.99 / $149.99.

Ease of Use

A few years ago, Samsung introduced a small screen onto the front of the camera to aid with self portraits and taking pictures of children. They've continued to use this exciting little innovation by adding it to the new PL120.

The specification of the Samsung PL120 is fairly typical of any other of this level. It sports a 14.2 megapixel 1/2.3 inch CCD, 5x optical zoom, 2.7 inch LCD screen and face recognition. Unusually, it doesn't have an optical image stabiliser, with Samsung preferring the digital variety instead. The design of the PL120 is a standard box rectangle and aside from the unusual slant when it's sat on a table, the design and layout is reminiscent of other digital compact cameras and certainly other Samsungs.

The usual buttons are all in place with the addition of the F. LCD button. This button is used to activate the 1.5 inch LCD screen on the front of the camera and pressing this button brings up four options. The first is simply to activate the front screen. The second option brings up the self shot mode which will use face detection while the third is used for photographing children.

When you use this mode, it brings up a cartoon sequence on the screen along with some funny sounds to make children smile and laugh. The final option is called jump shot. It counts down from 5 and then takes two photographs in succession. It's not a quick burst mode, it actually takes the pictures slowly. In fact, we struggled to think of an occasion when you would need to use it other than to make small two frame animations or simply to get a safe shot.

Samsung PL120 Samsung PL120
Front Rear

On the back of the Samsung PL120 next to the 2.7 inch LCD screen are several buttons which make the camera look busy. A small, thumb operated zoom switch sits at the top with four direct buttons surrounding the navigation pad. The curved edges feel nice when the Samsung PL120 is being held and without it being weighty, it still feels solid. Start up time is fast, smooth and the lens displays only the expected amount of play when it's moved.

On the bottom of the camera is a plastic tripod bush and the battery door. The Samsung PL120 takes a dedicated lithium ion battery and next to this sits the memory card. Not an SD card as you'd expect, but in fact a MicroSD card of those found in (Samsung) mobile phones. Adapters can be bought for these cards that convert it to a normal sized SD card for use in a card reader or even another SD compatible camera.

The Samsung PL120 is relatively smooth with only a few bumps here and there to accommodate the lens, screen and shutter release button. All other areas flow into each other making the camera pleasing to hold.

There are 3 menus on the PL120. The main menu is accessed quite appropriately by pressing the menu button. It brings up the standard Samsung menu screen with the main options tabbed to the left and the sub sections to the right. Pressing right or the ok button will take you into the sub menu of whichever tab you're on. It's easy to understand and make your way around without getting lost or changing modes and settings you don't think you should've changed.

Samsung PL120 Samsung PL120
Top Front LCD Screen

Next to the menu button is the mode button. Pressing this takes you into the mode menu and has 4 options to choose from. Smart auto is Samsung's version of the intelligent auto modes that are popping up on all cameras at the moment. It works by analysing the scene, working out the correct mode then enabling it on the camera. For example, if you have a person in the shot, it will see the person's face, put the camera in portrait mode, switch on auto flash with red-eye and  face detection.

Finally the function menu is a fast access menu for all your most used features such as resolution, ISO, white balance and face detection. It's also in this place that you'll find all the cool little effects filters that we're going to look at next.

Like intelligent auto modes, filter effects are also cropping up on cameras these days and the PL120 is no exception. There are ten options to choose from such as miniature, fish eye, defog, retro, negative and custom RGB, but the more interesting ones are new. They're called half tone dot and sketch. With the sketch filter, imagine an A-Ha video and you get the idea of what the end result looks like. The half tone dot filter gives the same effect as a newspaper photograph looks when viewed under a magnifying glass.

In the Samsung PL120's playback menu, there's still plenty to do. You can edit the pictures easily because the camera allows you to resize, rotate, add a smart filter or adjust the image which is a sub menu within a sub menu. In this menu, you can remove red-eye, smooth skin and add contrast, brightness, saturation and even noise. It's a great idea for anyone using the camera that doesn't have or understand Photoshop but it's nowhere near as precise. The thing we like most about the editing though is that it's non-destructive. What that means is that it doesn't lay the new editing over the existing picture, it creates a copy so if you change your mind and don't like it, you've not lost anything.

Samsung PL120 Samsung PL120
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Considering it's a simple point and shoot camera, the Samsung PL120 certainly does quite a lot. We've always liked the idea of the front monitor for self portraits and the use of cartoons to make children smile is inspired. Despite the basic look of the camera, it's pretty to look at and the functions are easy enough to use even though there are too many on the back.

Compared to some cameras, the PL120 looks cluttered but it has no more on it than other digital compact cameras in the same price point a year ago or so. It does nothing innovative, there's no new miracle feature and it doesn't have a fashionable new design. It's a camera that panders to the type of person that simply needs something to take pictures with. The 5x optical zoom will cope with most situations that a typical day out or holiday will ask of it.

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 PL120 directly from a computer.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14.2 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb.


Image quality at ISO 80 is exceptional, we were really impressed. This good quality continues through ISO 100 but at ISO 200 it starts to drop. Only slightly though so it's not something that needs to be worried about. After all, edge definition is actually still pretty good. Salt and pepper noise begins to creep in at ISO 400 in the darker areas of images and by ISO 800 coloured blobs start to appear in mid-range parts of the picture.

At ISO 1600 noise control is working as hard as it can to reduce the problems that the high setting produces. If you have to use ISO 3200, do it sparingly because in a final bid to improve image quality the camera knocks the resolution down. Noise is still present through the picture but we've seen much worse on higher spec cameras and there's a degree of edge definition still present. What this means is that despite its faults, the noise control is very good on the Samsung PL120.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Images straight out of the Samsung PL120 are very good. They're nice and sharp but getting a little extra help in an editing suite boosts the sharpness that bit more.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Samsung PL120 has 3 different image quality settings available, with Superfine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options.






Chromatic Aberrations

We had some real trouble finding any chromatic aberration (CA) in the pictures we took in the test. That's not to say it isn't present, we did notice it but on occasions when we thought there would be some, it wasn't there.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


Pictures in the Samsung PL120's macro mode are extremely sharp. That sharpness starts to fade as you move out to the edges though and although only mild, the wide-angle lens gives some barrel distortion.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


Using flash in general use will eliminate a lot of the natural vignetting that the lens produces but it's still present at the very far corners of the frame. Moving to the top end of the zoom range and the vignetting becomes more definite. There are 6 options with 2 of them dedicated to red-eye reduction.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (130mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (130mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Along with the red-eye preflash, there's also a red-eye fix system which uses software to locate red-eye in the picture and remove it completely. However, in our tests we found that the Samsung PL120 doesn't leave red-eye in normal circumstances. We got it with animals but the problem with that is that the camera doesn't have programming for yellow eye.


Auto (100% Crop)

Red eye fix

Red eye fix (100% Crop)


On one of the night shots, we used an ISO 80 rating for an ultra long exposure and we found that we started to get noise in the dark areas of the shot. The reason is due to the pixels. During a long exposure, the pixels are being used for a lengthy amount of time. As the seconds pile up, they begin to heat up and this causes noise on neighbouring pixels. Some noise reduction systems can cope with this and reduce or eliminate it but the Samsung PL120 doesn't seem to be able to do this.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung PL120 camera, which were all taken using the 14.2 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample video from the Samsung PL120 camera at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 21 second movie is 83.4Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung PL120

Front of the Camera

Samsung PL120

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Samsung PL120

Front of the Camera / Front LCD On

Samsung PL120

Isometric View

Samsung PL120

Isometric View

Samsung PL120

Rear of the Camera

Samsung PL120

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Samsung PL120

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu

Samsung PL120

Rear of the Camera/ Main Menu

Samsung PL120

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Modes

Samsung PL120

Rear of the Camera / Playback Menu

Samsung PL120

Top of the Camera


Samsung PL120

Side of the Camera

Samsung PL120

Side of the Camera

Samsung PL120

Front of the Camera

Samsung PL120

Battery Compartment

Samsung PL120

Memory Card Slot


For such a small camera, there's a lot going on with the Samsung PL120. In fact it could be argued that there's too much going on, especially on the back. It only has a tiny body and to have all those buttons on the back, especially three menu buttons, is a little too much.

The main feature of the Pl120 is the front screen for easy self portraits and to help get better children shots. It works brilliantly for self portraits, the flash test was one of the easiest we've done because we could frame it without any help. We tried the animation on our children and while it attracted their attention, it didn't make them smile which is unfortunate. Saying that, there are more animations that can be downloaded from the Samsung website.

Build quality is nice and the Samsung PL120 feels solid which is great considering they're selling for around the £100 mark at the moment. We expected to see more plastic at this level but even the plastic bits such as the battery door don't feel weak.

The Samsung PL120 takes good enough pictures. Don't expect to be blown away but the pictures are sharp enough, the colours are realistic and the sensor has a decent dynamic range. For the average happy snapper that has a family and regular holidays, the Samsung PL120 is a great option. The 5x optical zoom is good enough for most situations that you'll find yourself in.

Be under no illusion that the PL120 is only for families, though. The young, tech-savvy social networker will also enjoy the self-portrait screen and the face recognition system for pictures of family and friends before uploading onto the internet. The only downside is that it doesn't have a direct upload to popular network sites that some other cameras use.

The Samsung PL120 is a camera that can be taken out and about and if it gets damaged then because of the reasonable price it doesn't matter as much. The simple design, while not breaking any new ground, won't make you ashamed to take it out in a crowd. If you're one of these people then you need to take a look at the Samsung PL120.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Samsung PL120 from around the web. »

It would be easy to dismiss the Samsung PL120's dual-screen feature as a gimmick but it's actually pretty useful for taking self-portraits. If that's not something you tend to do, though, there are better cameras available at a similar price.
Read the full review » »

Samsung released the PL120 in January 2011 adding to their range of compact cameras with screens on both the front and the rear of the camera. The camera is one of the cheapest Samsung cameras available with dual screens, and is available in pink, purple, and silver (shown here). Nb. Due to similarities in the cameras, parts of this review are based on the Samsung PL170 review.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor

Sensor Type 1/2.3″ (Approx. 7.76mm) CCD
Effective Pixel Approx. 14.2 Mega pixels Approx. 14.2 Mega pixels
Total Pixel Approx. 14.4 Mega pixels


Focal Length Samsung 5x Zoom Lens f = 4.7 ~ 23.5mm (35mm film equivalent: 26 ~ 130mm)
Digital Zoom - Still Image mode: 1x ~ 5x, (Optical x Digital: 25x), Play mode: 1x ~ 13.5x (depends on image size)
F Value F3.3 (W) ~ F5.9 (T)

Image Stabilization

Mode DIS * Digital Image Stabilization
Image Stabilization DIS(1)


Features Main Display: 2.7" (6.9cm) QVGA(230K), Front Display: 1.5" (3.8cm) 61K TFT LCD


Type N/A


Type TTL auto focus (Multi AF, Center AF, Face Detection AF,Object Tracking AF, Smart Face Recognition AF)
Range Normal: 80 cm ~ ∞ (W), 100cm ~ ∞ (T), Macro: 5cm ~ 80cm (W), 100cm ~ 150cm (T), AutoMacro: 5cm ~ ∞ (W), 100cm ~ ∞ (T)

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed Auto: 1/8 ~ 1/2000 sec., Program: 1 ~ 1/2000 sec., Night: 8 ~ 1/2000 sec., Fireworks: 2 sec.


Control Program AE
Metering System Multi, Spot, Center Weighted, Face Detection AE
Compensation ±2EV (1/3EV steps)
ISO Equivalent Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (3M)


Sharpness Soft+, Soft, Normal, Vivid, Vivid+

White Balance

Mode Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, Tungsten, Custom
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, Tungsten, Custom

Still Image

Edit - Image Edit: Resize, Rotate, Trimming
- Smart Filter 2.0: Miniature, Vignetting, Soft Focus, Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish Eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, Custom RGB
- Image Adjust: Face Retouch, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Red Eye Fix, ACB, Add Noise
Effect - Smart Filter 2.0: Miniature, Vignetting, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish Eye, Defog, Retro, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB
- Image Adjust: Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation (5 steps)
- Image Adjust: Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation
Shooting - Mode: Smart Auto, Program, Scene, Movie
Front LCD (Hot Key)
- Easy Self Shot: Front LCD (hot Key): Self Portrait, Jump Shot, Children mode
Front Mode Setting Tap: Smile on / off, Children Smile on / off, Children Sound, Front Display demo
Smart Auto: Portrait, Night Portrait, Backlight Portrait, Night, Backlight, Landscape, White, NaturalGreen, BlueSky, Sunset, Macro, Macro Text, Macro Color, Tripod, Action, Fireworks
Scene: Magic Frame, Object Highlight, Beauty shot, Night, Landscape, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Back Light, Beach&Snow
- Drive: Single, Continuous, AEB, Motion Capture
- Self Timer: Self-timer: 2sec., 10sec., Double (10sec., 2sec.) (Front LCD will be turned on when selecting Self timer)

Image Play

Single image, Thumbnails,Smart Album, Advanced Slide show, Movie Clip * Slide show : Slide show with Effect & Music - Smart Album Category: Type, Date, Color, Week, Face (External Memory card is needed for Sorting the photos by Face)

Voice Recording

Voice Recording (max. 10 hours), Voice Memo in Still Image (max. 10sec.)

Date Imprinting

Date&Time, Date, Off (user selectable)

Movie Clip

Recording With Audio or without Audio - Zoom mute on / off option: zoom mute off is default (Max Recording time 20min)
Effect - Smart Filter2.0: Palette Effect 1, Palette Effect 2, Palette Effect 3, Palette Effect 4, Miniature, Vignetting, Fish Eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, Custom RGB
Edit Pause during recording, Still Image Capture, Time Trimming


Media - Internal memory: 30MB
- External memory: Micro SD Card (up to 2GB guaranteed) Micro SDHC (up to 8GB guaranteed)
File Format Still Image: JPEG (DCF), EXIF 2.21, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0
Movie Clip: AVI (Video: MJPEG, Audio: AAC)
Image Size 14M: 4320 x 3240, 12M P: 4320 x 2880,10M: 3648 x 2736, 10M W : 4320 x 2432, 5M: 2592 x 1944, 3M: 1984 x 1488, 2M W: 1920 x 1080, 1M: 1024 x 768


Digital Output Connector USB 2.0
Audio Microphone: MonoInternal Speaker: Mono
Video Output AV: NTSC, PAL (user selectable) SCC-AV20
DC Power Input 4.2V 20Pin


Power Source Type Rechargeable battery: BP70A, Adaptor: SAC-48, CB20U05A, Connector Type: 20pin(2)

Physical Specification

Dimension Dimension (WxHxD) 94 x 54.5 x 18.8mm
Weight 110g
Operating Temperature 0 ~ 40 °C
Operating Humidity 5 ~ 85%


Application Intelli Studio

Special Feature

- 14 Mega-pixel
- 5x 26mm Slim Optical Zoom Lens
- 2.7” Main Display (230K), 1.5" Front Display (61K)
- Image Stabilization: Digital IS
- Front Display: Self Portrait, Children mode, Jump shot, Easy Self Shot (User can change the flash file of children mode by downloading new file from Samsung Website or making with Intelli Studio)
- Self Timer (Front LCD On: 2sec., 10sec., Double (10sec., 2sec.)
- Smart Face Recognition (Register 8 people manullaly and 20 people automatically / My Star: 8 people who are registered manually )
- Face recognition AF, Face List, My Star (Register manually), Smart Album (Face)
- Smart Auto, Smart Movie
- Smart Album (Smart Album Category: Type, Date, Color, Week, Face)
- Perfect Portrait System (Face Detection, Smie shot, Blink Detection, Smart Face Recognition, Beauty shot, Self Portrait - Front LCD)
- Beauty Shot (1, 2, 3 Steps)
- Object Tracking AF
- High Definition Movie Recording: - 720p Resolution @30fps / MJPEG
- Multi Slide Show

System Requirement in General

For Macintosh Not support
For Windows Intel Pentium 4, 3.2GHz or later / AMD Athelon 2.6GHz or later, Minimum over 512MB RAM (1GB recommanded), Windows XP / VISTA / 7250 MB (Over 1GB recommanded), CD-ROM Drive, USB 2.0, Microsoft 9.0c or later, Over 1024 x 768 pixels, 16 bit color monitor or later (1280 x 1024 pixels, 32 bit color recommanded), Over 64MB video card (nVIDIA Geforce 7600GT or later, ATI x 1600 series or later)


Mode Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash off, Red eye fix
Recharging Time Approx. 4 sec.
Range Wide: 0.2m ~ 3.4m, Tele: 1m ~ 1.9m, (ISO AUTO)

Usage note

  • (1) Digital Image Stabilization
  • (2) Included battery may vary depending on sales region.

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