Samsung PL70 Review

December 8, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Samsung PL70 (also known as the SL720) is a 12 megapixel compact camera with a wide-angle 5x, 28-120mm zoom lens. The largely point-and-shoot PL70 also features a large 3 inch LCD screen, optical image stabilisation, ISO 3200, Smart Auto Mode, Blink and Smile Detection, and Samsung's Perfect Portrait System which includes a Beauty Shot mode. For keen movie-makers, there's a 720p HD movie capture with Pause and Re-record functionality and HDMi connectivity. Available in red, pink, black and silver, the Samsung PL70 / SL720 costs £199 / $229.99.

Ease of Use

Constructed out of robust plastic with a metallic finish and shiny silver detailing, the Samsung PL70 is a fairly stylish if somewhat chunky compact camera. This is mainly due to its 5x optical zoom lens, which extends to provide a 28-140mm focal length, versatile enough for anything from landscapes to candid head and shoulder portraits. The PL70 does have a few similarly-sized rivals that provide an even bigger zoom range though, most notably the Panasonic TZ series.

Although it hasn't got an 'HD' suffix in the model name, as indicated in our introduction the Samsung PL70 nevertheless offers High Definition video clips, though at 1280x720 pixels rather than the Full HD 1920x1080. In what Samsung is claiming as a first for digital compacts in its class, these can be paused mid-recording then re-started. The user can therefore perform rudimentary 'editing' as they shoot, a clever idea that hasn't yet been picked-up by other manufacturers. Fortunately the full extent of the optical zoom is also accessible when shooting movies.

As expected, the large lens dominates proceedings at the front of the PL70. As the lens takes up the full height of the face plate, the built-in flash bulb is shifted over to the left out of harm's way. On the right of the lens is a small porthole-style window for the AF assist/self timer lamp. Unusually for a pocket compact, running top to bottom at the left hand side of the front plate (if viewed lens on) is a narrow plastic strip with leather effect detailing. This strip provides some purchase for the fingers when gripping the camera, as does the fact that the same side of the PL70 curves outward slightly in effect forming a rudimentary grip. This makes the camera more comfortable to hold, and steadier too when shooting handheld at the extremities of the zoom.

Looking down on the camera's top plate we find 5 controls set into a wide mirrored strip that lends the Samsung PL70 a modicum of style. Starting at the left when veiwed from the rear, there are holes for the microphone and built-in speaker, acting as an accompaniment to video clips, a small Power button and a large tactile shutter button.

Samsung PL70 Samsung PL70
Front Rear

The rear of the PL70 is dominated by the large 3-inch LCD screen, which in the absence of an optical viewfinder is the only way of composing your images. Disappointingly the screen has an average resolution of 230k dots - we've been rather spoiled by some recent competitiors with higher-resolution screens. That said, we didn't have too many problems viewing the PL70's screen in all but the brightest sunlight conditions.

The PL70 has a rather plasticky but responsive rocker switch for operating the zoom. Controlled by a protruding lip that falls naturally under the forefinger, the zoom takes around three seconds to travel from maximum wide angle to full telephoto - which is pretty much par for the course for its focal range. We did find on occasion that said zoom took a moment or two to 'wake up' - and that its transitions are sound-tracked by a low mechanical blur; but said sound is low enough to avoid being off-putting.

Once you've zoomed in and got your composition how you want, with a half press of the shutter button the Samsung PL70 is commendably swift to determine focus and exposure, the AF point highlighted in green and an operational 'beep' confirming you're good to go on and take the shot. With little noticeable shutter lag, at highest resolution setting an image is committed to memory in just under two seconds, the screen blanking out briefly, which isn't bad at all.

Underneath the zoom lever is a familiar bottle-top style dial which provides quick access to the shooting modes. This feels firm to the touch and well implemented, in that the user can't accidentally slip from one setting to the other. Ranged around the dial are the expected Auto and Program settings, plus Samsung's own 'Smart Auto' mode. As it sounds, this is the manufacturer's equivalent of the intelligent auto modes on competitors from Panasonic (its Lumix range), Sony (the latest T-series Cyber-shots) and Canon (Digital IXUS family). Namely you point the PL70 at a scene or subject that hopefully the camera recognizes, automatically adjusting its settings to deliver optimum results. This means that it's not necessary for the user to manually delve into scene modes to call up the likes of 'landscape' or 'flower'; the PL70's operation is merely a case of point and shoot.

Incidentally, as you turn the shooting dial, a virtual version with the same eight settings rotates in tandem on screen, highlighting and explaining each one as you select it. Also found on the dial are a 'Dual IS' mode, which offers both optical image stabilization and the ISO boosting digital variety. In terms of light sensitivity the Samsung WB550 offers a very respectable range, stretching from ISO 80 up to ISO 3200. We'll of course be examining how well it does at its higher settings in the 'Image Quality' section of our review.

Samsung PL70 Samsung PL70
Front Front

Continuing around the dial we discover Samsung's 'Beauty Shot' mode, useful for both acne-d adolescents and those of us who have over-indulged by automatically retouching out spots and blemishes. Spotlighting the PL70's intended audience as the family, Samsung clearly wants its users to have to spend as little time post-processing images as possible - if any. Adjacent to the beauty mode is a dedicated scene mode, with the various settings helpfully displayed on the LCD screen as icons with accompanying explanatory text. Along with 'Night', 'Portait', 'Children' and 'Landscape' we get 'Text', 'Sunset', 'Dawn' and 'Backlight', with 12 choices in all.

The adjacent setting on the dial is for video mode. Here users get the opportunity to either shoot at top resolution, a less memory hungry 640x480 pixels, or 320x240 pixels; choice dependant on intended use (whether playing back on an HDTV or merely posting on the Internet). Maximum frame rate at 1280x720 resolution is 30fps, with a reduced 15fps rate also selectable with a press of the button marked 'Fn' (or 'Function') on the camera back. Should users however plump for the very lowest picture quality, a faster frame rate of 60fps is selectable.

Directly underneath the shooting dial is a small Menu button, which provides a range of selectable options, the brevity or otherwise of which is dependant on the particular mode the user is in. Let's assume, for example, we're shooting in Program mode. An icon illustrated vertical list provides access to four menus - Functions, Sound, Display and Settings. These include the ability to tweak operational sounds, LCD display, plus access to a setting menu, enabling memory to formatted or previously selected functions reset.

Underneath the shooting dial is a four-way directional control pad with an OK button at its centre. This will be familiar to just about anyone who has ever used a digital compact before. It provides a means of selecting flash modes, self timer options, macro mode or changing the on-screen display to show a nine zone compositional grid, all shooting information or just the very basics (i.e simply the number of shots remaining).

A thumb press of the pad on the setting for macro mode when shooting video meanwhile allows the user to pause and play/resume the recording - the feature which Samsung is highlighting as one of the PL70's unique ones. It works, though whether most of us would actually need/use it is a moot point.

Samsung PL70 Samsung PL70
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Below the control pad are two buttons. The obvious Play button also doubles up as a means of earmarking selected images for direct printing. The Function button allows quick access to some of the camera's key settings. As expected the amount of information and options accessed via a press of 'Fn' varies dependant on which shooting mode is selected. For example in regular auto mode the user merely has the ability to adjust image size and resolution. Twist the dial around the program mode however and there's the ability to change the EV, choose metering modes, change from single shot to continuous capture, choose from the range of ISO settings, adjust white balance, set the photo style or turn the ubiquitous face detection mode on or off. Like its rivals, Samsung also allows user access to blink detection and smile shot in this mode. The Function button also handily doubles up as a delete button in playback mode.

There are no controls on the left hand side of the PL70 (if viewing from the rear), and just a small camera strap eyelet on the right side. On the bottom we find an included HDMI port for hooking the camera up to an HDTV. Increasingly common for DSLRs that also shoot movies, it's still a comparative rarity to find such on a digital compact, even if it does shoot HD video. Like the aforementioned remote control, the required HDMI cable is an optional extra though, so bear in mind if you're on a budget. The HDMI port also doubles up as the means of re-charging the camera, with the battery left in the camera itself, either from an electrical socket or or alternatively straight from a USB port connected to your computer. This is fine if you only have one battery, but obviously ties the camera up, so there's little point in buying a spare. Also in the box is a quick-start guide as a hard copy, the full manual on CD ROM, plus a wrist strap.

Completing the bottom of the camera is a screw thread for attaching a tripod and alongside that a sliding cover for protecting the compartment that jointly houses removable SD or SDHC media plus the provided battery. Battery life is good for approximately 280 shots from a full charge - adequate if not incredible.

Use of the Samsung PL70 is fairly intuitive, with nothing here to fox or confuse the camera's core target audience of the less experienced user.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12.2 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Samsung PL70 produced images of above average quality during the review period. Noise is the main problem, being obvious at the relatively slow speed of ISO 200 and then becoming progressively worse at the faster settings of 400 and 800. ISO 1600 and 3200 are only to be used as a last resort.

Chromatic aberrations were virtually non-existent, with just some limited purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 12.2 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, as you can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Macro performance is quite good, allowing you to focus as close as 5cms away from the subject. Commendably barrel distortion is well controlled even at the 28mm wide-angle focal length. The built-in flash worked fairly well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate overall exposure.

Anti-shake works very well when hand-holding the PL70 in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. The maximum shutter speed of 8 seconds allows the camera to capture enough light for most after-dark situations.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Samsung PL70. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

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 PL70's 5x zoom lens offers a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft and ideally benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Samsung PL70 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Samsung PL70 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 5cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Samsung PL70 are Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash Off, Red-eye fix. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (28mm)

Forced Flash - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (140mm)

Forced Flash - Telephoto (140mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Auto setting or the Red-Eye Fix option caused any red-eye.


Auto (100% Crop)

Red-eye Fix

Red-eye Fix (100% Crop)

Night Shot

The Samsung PL70's maximum shutter speed is 8 seconds, which is fairly good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 8 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Samsung PL70 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/4 / 24mm
1/2 / 120mm

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung PL70 camera, which were all taken using the 12.2 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 PL70 camera at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 23.5Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung PL70

Front of the Camera

Samsung PL70

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Samsung PL70

Isometric View

Samsung PL70

Isometric View

Samsung PL70

Rear of the Camera

Samsung PL70

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Samsung PL70

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Samsung PL70

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Samsung PL70

Top of the Camera


Samsung PL70

Bottom of the Camera

Samsung PL70

Side of the Camera

Samsung PL70

Side of the Camera

Samsung PL70

Front of the Camera

Samsung PL70

Front of the Camera

Samsung PL70

Battery Compartment


The Samsung PL70 / SL720 is a competent if rather uninspiring compact camera, with an aggressive price-tag being its saving grace.

This point-and-shoot camera ticks all the right boxes, especially for beginners, without really excelling in any one area. Video performance is the stand-out hightlight, with the ability to record, pause and restart 720p footage whilst also being able to use the full zoom range something that most rivals can't match. Unfortunately still image quality is not so hot, with noise at low ISO speeds blighting what are otherwise acceptable pictures. There are lots of similarly-specced cameras that deliver better images than the PL70.

What the PL70 does have firmly on its side is its price. Less than £200 / $250 is very competitive, and that's just the official RRP - we're sure you can find the PL70 for an even better deal with a bit of shopping-around. You'll struggle to find a 12 megapixel, 5x zoom camera with HD video and a wealth of hand-holding modes at this level, making the PL70 a great buy if you can't stretch your budget.

Which leaves us with an affordable camera that's well-suited to its target audience, especially in these financially challenged times - just don't expect anything from the Samsung PL70 / SL720 to be top-of-the-class.

3.5 stars

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


Image sensor Type 1 / 2.3'' (Approx. 7.79mm) CCD
Effective Pixel Approx. 12.2 Mega pixel
Total Pixel Approx. 12.4 Mega pixel
Lens Focal Length SAMSUNG Lens f = 5 ~ 25mm (35mm film equivalent: 28 ~ 140mm)
F No. F3.4 (W) ~ F5.8 (T)
Digital Zoom Still Image mode: 1x ~ 5x
Play mode: 1x ~ 12.5x (depends on image size)
Focusing Type TTL Auto Focus (Center AF, Multi AF)
Range Normal: 80cm ~ infinity
Macro: 5cm ~ 80cm (Wide), 50cm ~ 80cm (Tele)
Auto Macro: 5cm ~ Infinity (Wide), 50cm ~ Infinity (Tele)
Exposure Compensation ±2EV (1 / 3EV steps)
Control Program AE
ISO Equivalent Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (upto 3M)
Metering Multi, Spot, Center-weighted AE
Flash Modes Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash Off, Red-eye fix
Recharging Time Approx. 5 sec. (Depends on battery condition)
Range Wide: 0.3m ~ 4m (ISO AUTO), Tele: 0.5m ~ 2.4m (ISO AUTO)
Effect Color Effect Photo Style Selector: Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB
Storage Media Internal memory: Approx. 76MB
External memory: SD Card (up to 4GB guaranteed)
MMC plus (up to 2GB guaranteed, 4bit 20MHz)
SDHC (up to 8GB guaranteed)
File format Still Image: JPEG (DCF), EXIF 2.21, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0
Movie Clip: MP4 (H.264)
Audio: WAV
Image Size 12M: 4000 x 3000 pixels, 10MP: 3984 x 2656 pixels, 9MW: 3968 x 2232 pixels, 8M: 3264 x 2448 pixels, 5M: 2592 x 1944 pixels, 3M: 2048 x 1536 pixels, 2MW: 1920 x 1080 pixels, 1M: 1024 x 768 pixels
Image Play Editing Resize, Rotate, Photo Style Selector, Image Adjust
Photo Style Selector: Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB
Image Adjust: Off, ACB, Red-eye Fix, Face Retouch, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Add Noise
Type Single image, Thumbnails, Multi Slide show, Movie Clip, Smart Album
Interface Digital output connector USB 2.0
Audio Microphone: Stereo
Internal Speaker: Mono
Video Output AV: NTSC, PAL (user selectable)
HDMI 1.2: NTSC, PAL (user selectable)
DC Power Input Connector 4.2V
Power Supply Power Source Rechargeable battery: (SLB-10A, 1050mAh)
Connector Type: 34pin
Adaptor: SAC-48, Charging Cable: CB34U05, AV Cable: SCC-AV34 TBD
Physical Specification Dimensions (WxHxD) 95.8 x 59.5 x 23.9mm
Weight 149g (except for a battery)
Operating Temperature 0 ~ 40°C
Operating Humidity 5 ~ 85%
Software Application SAMSUNG Master, QuickTime Player 7.6, Adobe Reader
Image Stabilization Image Stabilization Dual IS (OIS + DIS) (1)
Display Type TFT LCD
Feature 3.0" (7.62cm) 230K
Shutter Speed Shutter Speed Auto: 1/8 ~ 1/2000 sec., Program: 1 ~ 1/2000 sec. (AEB, Continuous: 1/4 ~ 1/2000), Night: 8 ~ 1/2000 sec., Fireworks: 4 sec.
White Balance White Balance Auto WB, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, Tungsten, Custom
Image Adjust Sharpness 5 steps
Contrast 5 steps
Saturation 5 steps
Movie Clip Feature Movie Size: 1280 x 720 High Quality, 1280 x 720 Standard Quality, 640 x 480, 320 x 240
Frame rate: 60fps at a selected size (320x240), 30fps, 15 fps
Format: H.264 (Max. Recording time: 20 min.) with stereo recording
Voice (On/Off), OIS(On/Off), Color style selectable
Movie Editing Pause during recording, Still Image Capture, Time Trimming
Voice Recording Voice Recording Voice Recording (max. 10 hours)
Voice Memo in Still Image (max. 10 sec.)
With Stereo Recording
Still Image Scene (Mode Dial: Smart, Auto, Program, Dual IS, Photo Help Guide, Beauty Shot, Scene, Movie)
Frame Guide, Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close-up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Firework, Beach & Snow
Continuous Single, Continuous, Motion Capture, AEB
Self-timer Off, 10 sec., 2 sec., Double (10 sec., 2 sec.), Motion Timer
Special Feature Special Feature - 12.2 mega pixels, Optical 28mm wide 5x zoom lens
- 3.0" 230K TFT LCD
- Dual Image Stabilization (Optical + Digital IS)
- 720p HD Movie Recording / H.264 Format
- Anynet+(CEC) (optional)
- Smart Mode: Scene & Face Recognition
- Perfect Portrait System: Face Detection, Smile Shot, Blink Detection, Beauty Shot
- Smart Album

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