Samsung PL210 Review

June 17, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


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.

Samsung PL210 Samsung PL210
Front Rear

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.

Samsung PL210 Samsung PL210
Side Top

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.

Samsung PL210 Samsung PL210
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.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.


Noise performance is varied on the Samsung PL210. There are 7 steps available from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. At the 2 lowest settings, there's little to no noise showing but unfortunately, that starts to change at ISO 200 where there's a slight drop in image sharpness and mild salt and pepper noise starts to creep in.

At ISO 400 coloured noise begins to appear in shadow areas but the overall picture retains its natural colour. That all changes at ISO800 as noise reduction starts to fail and pictures get a cool cast as purple colour takes over most of the frame.

By ISO 1600, edge definition starts to degrade and noise reduction tries damage control by smoothing out the image. The final setting is high in noise and low in image definition.

We don't like to see noise on pictures at all, so even the smallest amount is annoying to us. However, for everyday use the noise performance is good enough. We think for happy snappy pictures the sensitivity settings up to and including ISO 400 will be sufficient. Most people try to avoid flash to retain natural colours but unless you're really close, the flash on the camera gives natural looking light which means you can avoid raising the ISO.

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)


Focal Range

The Samsung PL210's 10x zoom lens offers a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




We're happy with the sharpness of the pictures straight from the Samsung PL210, but as you can see in our sample pictures, small writing is defined better when employing a little boost from Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

We tried multiple times to get some chromatic aberration (CA) to register on the pictures but we had some real trouble. We found a very mild amount of it on very high contrast images but in everyday cases, pictures were ok.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


Macro pictures are good on the Samsung PL210. The camera can focus close enough at 5cm and although there is a degree of barrel distortion, it's not too excessive. Centre of frame sharpness is exemplary with edge of frame definition blurring out.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


There are 6 flash modes on the Samsung PL210 with 2 of them dedicated to red eye reduction. The first is a simple red-eye reduction preflash but the second is an actual red-eye fix that uses software to black out pupils that are suffering from red-eye.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Auto - Wide Angle (270mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (27mm)

Auto - Telephoto (270mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

However, we found that red-eye isn't a problem for the PL210 anyway. Saying that it could be worth using it to better safe rather than sorry. Bear in mind that if you decide to use the flash, it takes a long time to recycle the charge and the camera freezes while it does it.


Auto (100% Crop)

Red eye fix

Red eye fix (100% Crop)


The night scene is an intriguing feature on the Samsung digital compact cameras. Preset modes are generally designed to do everything for you and it will do but there's also the chance to over-ride the aperture and shutter speed. It's not the most versatile that we've seen but to have this level of control on a camera at this level and price point is very good. The quality of the night scene pictures is actually pretty good. ISO and white-balance are set automatically and there's no option to over-ride these, however the camera chose a low sensitivity of ISO 80 to achieve a long exposure with low noise. There's a small amount of noise in the dark areas but this will be generated from neighbouring heated pixels because of that long exposure. There's lots of detail and although a little warm, the white balance is also a good performance.


Night (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung PL210 camera, which were all taken using the 14 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 PL210 camera at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 79.4Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung PL210

Front of the Camera

Samsung PL210

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Samsung PL210

Isometric View

Samsung PL210

Isometric View

Samsung PL210

Rear of the Camera

Samsung PL210

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Samsung PL210

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu

Samsung PL210

Rear of the Camera / Settings Menu

Samsung PL210

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Mode Menu


Samsung PL210

Rear of the Camera / Effects Menu

Samsung PL210

Top of the Camera

Samsung PL210

Side of the Camera

Samsung PL210

Side of the Camera

Samsung PL210

Front of the Camera

Samsung PL210

Memory Card Slot

Samsung PL210

Battery Compartment


You can look at the Samsung PL210 in two ways. The first (and arguably the wrong) way is that this is a high spec camera full of top end features such as the 10x optical zoom in an ultra slim body, face recognition and the unique frames. If you look at it this way, the image quality isn't all that clever for the type of camera that this fits in with.

The correct way to look at this camera is that it's priced around £130 on the high street and for that price, you get some high spec features. The Samsung PL210 is slim, sexy and fast (apart from the aforementioned flash cycle) to use which makes it desirable to use in most situations.

The biggest surprise is the colour. We thought silver cameras were falling out of favour for more traditional black or bolder colours but here's the PL210 with a silver metal front. The back is in black because of the plastic to keep the cost down.

The picture quality is great for a camera at this price point. Colours are recorded nicely and realistically. Noise is an issue at mid-range levels but it's not undesirable and we think that the point and shooter will be more than happy with the Samsung PL210 's performance.

We think that this camera is suitable for families and grandparents looking to get pictures of the children and grandchildren on holiday or on special occasions. The flash is sympathetic to skin tones as long as they're not too close and the focusing is fast and sharp. Not to mention that the face recognition will ensure that your family is prioritised in the frame. The camera is slim enough to fit into a pocket when it's not being used but that 10x optical zoom will be very useful for holidays and the odd bit of wildlife.

This is a camera that will appeal to consumers who want a high zoom option without all the gadgets and gizmos that a Panasonic TZ series has. If that's you then you'll be pleasantly surprised with the Samsung PL210. Just be aware that it uses MicroSD which is the tiny mobile phone style memory card. It means more initial outlay but it will be fully interchangeable with a Samsung mobile phone as well as some other makes.

4 stars

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

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Samsung PL210 from around the web. »

The Samsung PL210 is a high-zoom digital compact camera, released in January 2011. The camera is available in silver, black and pink with an RRP of £179.99 but can be found on the internet for around £148.00.
Read the full review » »

Point-and-shoot cameras aren't known for high caliber zooming capabilities, but Samsung is announcing two new pocket-sized cameras aimed at customers who love capture images from afar. The cheaper of the two, the sub-$200 PL210, features a 14-megapixel image sensor behind a 10x optical zoom (35mm film equivalent: 27-270mm) lens. Housed in a compact, pocket-friendly casing, the PL210 offers dual image stabilization (digital and optical) and a large 3.0-inch LCD screen.
Read the full review »


Image sensor Type 1/2.3" (Approx. 7.76mm) CCD
Effective Pixel Approx. 14.2 Mega pixel
Total Pixel Approx. 14.5 Mega pixel
Lens Focal Length Samsung Lens f = 4.85 - 48.5mm  (35mm film equivalent : 27 - 270mm)
F No. F3.3 (W) - F5.9 (T)
Digital Zoom Still Image mode : 1.0X - 5.0X (Optical x Digital : 50.0X), Play mode : 1.0X - 13.5X (depends on image size)
Focusing Type TTL auto focus (Multi AF, Centre AF, Face Detection AF, Object Tracking AF, Smart Face Recognition AF), Movie AF (CAF)
Range Normal : 80cm - infinity,  200cm - Infinity (Tele)  Macro : 5cm - 80cm (Wide), 150cm - 200cm (Tele) Auto Macro : 5cm - Infinity (Wide), 150cm - Infinity (Tele)
Exposure Control Program AE
Metering Multi, Spot, Centre-weighted, Face Detection AE
Compensation ±2EV (1/3EV steps)
ISO Equivalent Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200 (Full Size)
Flash Modes Flash Off, Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Red-eye fix
Range Wide : 0.3m - 3.3m (ISO Auto), Tele : 0.5m - 1.8m (ISO Auto)
Recharging Time Approx. 4 seconds
Storage Media External memory: Micro SD Card (up to 4GB guaranteed) Micro SDHC (up to 8GB guaranteed)
Internal Memory : 30MB
File Format Still Image : JPEG (DCF), EXIF 2.21, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0
Movie Clip : AVI (MJPEG)
Audio : WAV
Image Size 14M : 4,320 x 3,240, 12M P : 4,320 x 2,880, 10M W : 4,320 x 2,432, 10M : 3,648 x 2,736, 5M : 2,592 x 1,944, 3M : 1,984 x 1,488, 2MW : 1,920 x 1,080, 1M : 1,024 x 768
Interface Digital Output Connector USB 2.0
Audio Microphone : Mono, Internal Speaker : Mono
Video Out AV : NTSC, PAL (user selectable)
DC power input 4.2V
Physical Specification Dimensions (WxHxD) 100.4 x 58.5 x 19.7mm
Weight 148g
Operating Temperature 0 - 40°C
Operationg Humidity 5 - 85%
Image Stabilization Image Stabilization Dual IS (OIS + DIS)  (1)
Display Type TFT LCD
Feature 3.0" (7.62cm) 230K
Shutter Speed Shutter Speed Smart Auto : 1/8 - 1/2,000 seconds, Program : 1 - 1/2000 seconds, Night : 8 - 1/2,000 seconds
White Balance White Balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, Tungsten, Measure : Shutter
Still Image Shooting - Mode : Smart Auto, Program, Dual IS, Scene, Movie
- Smart  Auto
? White, Macro Colour, Portrait, Night Portrait, Backlight Portrait, Backlight, Landscape, Action, Tripod, Night, Macro, Macro Text (with Smart Guide), BlueSky, Sunset, NaturalGreen, Fireworks
- Scene
?Magic Frame, Beauty Shot, Portrait Highlight, Night, Landscape, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Beach & Snow
- Drive : Single, Continuous, AEB, Motion Capture
- Self-timer : Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds, Double
Effect - Smart Filter : Miniature, Vignetting, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish Eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, Custom RGB
- Image Adjust : Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation (5 steps)
Edit - Image Edit : Resize, Rotate, Trimmin
- Smart Filter : Miniature, Vignetting, Soft Focus, Old film 1, Old film 2, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish Eye, Defog, Classic, Retro,
 Negative, Custom RGB
- Image Adjust : ACB, Red Eye Fix, Saturation, Face Retouch, Brightness, Contrast, Add Noise
Movie Clip Recording - Size : High Quality 1,280 x 720 (30fps & 15fps)
- Per one file : Max. 4GB Standard Quality 640 x 480 (30fps & 15fps), 320 x 240 (30fps & 15fps)
- Zoom : Optical 10X (W / LDC)
? Smart Movie : Landscape, Blue Sky, Natual Green, Sunset
? Due to the noise while optical zooming, user can select to record sound or not.(Voice recording selectable : Sound Alive On / Sound Alive Off / Off)
? Max Recording time : 20 minutes
? Setting : OIS On / Off
Effect - Smart Filter 2.0 :  Palette Effect 1, Palette Effect 2, Palette Effect 3, Palette Effect 4, Miniature, Vignetting, Fish Eye, Defog,
 Classic, Retro, Negative, Custom RGB
- Setting : OIS On / Off
Edit Pause during Recording and Playing, Still Image Capture
Voice Recording Voice Recording Voice Recording (max. 10 hours)
Voice Memo in Still Image (max. 10 seconds)
Special Feature Special Feature - 27mm Wide angle, 10x zoom
- 14.2Mege Pixels
- Optical Image Stabilisation & Digital Image Stabilisation
- 3.0" LCD (230K)
- HD Movie(720p@30fps)
- Smart Auto (Still & Movie)
- Smart Filter 2.0
- Sound Alive
- Smart Face Recognition & Face Tracking
Sharpness   Soft+, Soft, Normal, Vivid, Vivid+
Date Imprinting   Date&Time, Date, Off (user selectable)
Power Source   Rechargeable battery : BP85A
Charger : BC1UA5
Connector Type : 20pin (2)
System Requirement in general For Windows Intel Pentium 4, 3.2GHz or higher / AMD Athlin 64FX, 2.6GHz or higher
Windows XP service pack2 / Vista
Minimum 512MB RAM (1GB and above recommended)
64MB or greater video card
(nVIDIA Geforce 7600GT or higher / ATI X1600 series or higher recommended)
For Macintosh 1.8GHz Power Mac G5 or 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo or faster Macintosh computer
At least 256MB of RAM
64MB or greater video card

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