One of the first things we do with a camera, before we get down to the nitty gritty reviewing process, is just spend fifteen minutes snapping shots of whatever catches our fancy. It is an attempt to get a beginners feel for the camera, before putting on our testing hat. The L55W produced some very colourful pictures during this period. The sun was bright, grasses were green and the trees were purple. No, that wasn't a mistake - they were purple, in part anyway.
- Massive battery life, nice features
- The pictures are simply horrible, big
A camera that offers quite a bit, and would have scored well, but it is let down by pictures that are absolutely horrible. The purple fringing is like nothing we have ever seen before, and makes it impossible to recommend no matter how well implemented some other features are.
Price$ 649.00 (AUD)
From the opening few photographs we discovered something extremely wrong with outdoors shots. We snapped off about ten photos of some random foliage, and every one had bars of purple fringing around parts of the picture, in some cases several millimetres wide. This was most noticeable on dark, dull areas, such as tree branches, but it extended all the way to the edges of leaves. It only occurred for us in highly exposed situations but every other camera that comes through our offices is tested the same way, and never have we seen anything like this before. Even the brightest shot in the most open outdoors environment would not be expected to produce results like this.
The shots had other flaws as well, most notably an oversharpening of detailed areas. Leaves for example, when shot against a sky background looked almost like cut outs, or cell shaded artwork, as opposed to a photograph. We often rave about the necessity to have sharp edges, but it can also go the other way. Too sharp makes pictures look cheap, almost hand drawn.
Thankfully colour saturation was well balanced, with clear, even tones present across most of the shots. Image noise not much of a problem either, compared to many other cameras, but it was still noticeable in lower light conditions. Despite these things, the fringing problem, combined with overly sharp edges mean it is almost impossible for us to recommend this camera for any sort of serious photographer.
That is not to say the camera doesn't have a good side. Samsung are pushing a single big selling point with this unit, the 2.8" widescreen LCD, which occupiesswallows a huge amount of real-estate on the camera's back. The screen is a beautiful piece of work. It is one of the clearest, most responsive LCDs around at the moment, and it really helps line up your shots. The ability to shoot in widescreen, as well as in a regular aspect ratio, is a nice touch as well.
The big problem is that the L55W has to be an extremely large camera, just to accommodate the screen. It also sports a 4.8X optical zoom, which will take up a bit of space, but we're betting if not for the massive LCD, this camera could have been significantly smaller.
It is not the biggest camera we've seen, but it is far from the smallest. Measuring nearly 100cm across, and with a jutting right side that balloons out a little from the rest of the body, it is bulkier than most of the competition. That said, the jutting right side gives a slightly better grip, and the body is light, weighing roughly 170 grams. It looks quite good from the back, with the 2.8" screen really lending a professional feel to the camera, but the overall design won't win any awards for aesthetics.
The keys are mostly easy to access, except perhaps the directional pad, which requires an awkward thumb bend. We really disliked the mounting of the top two keys, which control the aspect ratio and Ppictbridge. They required some serious pressure before they begun to shift even the slightest, and were all but impossible to use on a regular basis.
If speed is your game, you'll be pleased to hear the L55W was an impressively quick camera. Power-up was barely a second, just long enough for the lens to extend, and shutter lag was virtually non-existent at one tenth of a second. Writing images to the memory took just over a second each, and was noticeably quicker than many of the competition.
It also comes with an army of features that will satisfy everyone short of professional photographers. In addition to the standard ISO, white balance and exposure settings, there are colour controls (for red, green and blue) and a sharpness option. There are also a number of picture effects such as framing a shot or tiling several together. The continuous shot function further impressed, taking a very rapid two shots per second, but unfortunately it stops after just four shots. There is even an exposure bracketing feature, which is often only found on more advanced models.
We were expecting the massive screen on the L55W to draw a lot of power, and so had low expectations with regards to battery life. Thus, we were absolutely blown away when we managed a mammoth 900 shots before battery ran empty. That is an absolutely huge total, surpassed only by several SLRs, and those don't use the LCD as a viewfinder.
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