Samsung PL50 Digital Camera

Samsung's PL50 digital camera features a 10.2MP sensor and is designed for ease of use

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Samsung PL50
  • Samsung PL50
  • Samsung PL50
  • Samsung PL50
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Vibrant colour, useful night mode, built-in help files, relatively clear photos

Cons

  • Slow performance, inaccurate focusing, not good for macros

Bottom Line

Samsung's PL50 is easy to use and produces good colours. It has a good range of scene modes and built-in colour modes, but it is slow camera and sometimes struggle to focus properly. Nevertheless, it's especially handy for taking pictures that are destined for Flickr, MySpace or Facebook.

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Samsung's PL50 is a compact digital camera with a 10.2-megapixel sensor and a 35-105mm zoom lens. The camera is simply designed and it includes a bunch of automatic features, such as scene modes, face detection, smile and blink detection, and beauty mode. It's also has a dedicated 'help' mode on the dial, which should be of assistance to anyone new to photography.

It's one of the few cameras we've tested that includes a built-in help mode, and a guide that can describe various shooting scenarios and problems — a boon for novices. For example, it can tell you what actions you need to take when your shots are out of focus, or what setting you should use when shooting in low light. Basically, it shows you how to use all of the camera's features and even lets you have a practice run.

To start shooting, you can use the Samsung PL50's auto, smart, scene, or program modes. These all work adequately to produce photos that are rich in colour and relatively clear when viewed at a smaller size than their original 10-megapixel size. If you view them at 10-megapixels, then you do notice a lot of feathering along lines and overall softness in the image.

Its focusing wasn't always spot on in our tests, as it sometimes focused on the background rather then the face in the frame — but when the face detection feature is switched on, this issue was fixed. However, even face detection wasn't completely accurate, as it sometimes lost the face in the frame, and its smile shutter wasn't accurate. The smile shutter feature is meant to automatically take the picture when the person in the frame smiles, but even the biggest smiles sometimes failed to trigger it. There is a blink shutter, too, which can inform you if your subjects blink, and this works, but it can't be used simultaneously with the smile shutter, it's either one or the other.

Portraits can also be taken using the beauty mode, which manipulates the image in the camera to remove wrinkles and other blemishes. It's a little aggressive in the application of the setting. In our tests, it made out model's face look like it was completely airbrushed; it got rid of her freckles and made her look too fake. However, it can be a fun setting to use if taking snaps of your friends and family while you're at a party — as everyone is usually super critical of the photos and inspects them to make sure they are perfect.

Taking photos in low light will produce noisy images as the camera selects a high ISO speed, and the images will turn out blurry unless you use the camera's digital image stabilisation (DIS) mode. This mode helps to make the images as sharp as possible, and it works quite well when taking photos indoors — but it does require some processing time after each image is captured. It would be useful if image stabilisation was present in all modes, but understandably its omitted as it slows the image processing time.

Physically, the Samsung PL50 is 8.7cm long, 5.5cm wide and 2cm thick. Its shutter button is comfortable to press, and it has a distinct feel when it focuses the lens before taking the shot. Its zoom button is a little awkward to use, as it needs to be moved up to zoom and down to take a wide-angled shot. The digital camera has a 2.6in screen to frame your shots, but the images on the screen didn't always match the shots we captured.

When shooting scenery at night, the PL50 produced pleasing results. Using its night mode — and keeping the camera still — it produced very rich colours and its long shutter gave us nice light trails and a wonderful overall luminance. In night mode, you can actually increase the shutter time up to eight seconds, and also select one of two apertures, so there is some scope to tweak the settings.

In daylight shooting, we found many of the bright areas in our shots came out over-exposed, and the images tended to look a little too soft. Nonetheless, the images produced were sharp and didn't suffer from chromatic aberration. In our tests we couldn't position the Samsung PL50's lens close enough to the subject to illicit a high-quality macro shot, and it also often missed the focus point. We were able to take macros from up to 8cm away from the subject, but not any closer.

The pictures taken using this camera produces images ideal for printing at up to 6x4in, but the shots are not suitable for enlargements, as they are not well defined when viewed at their largest size.

We like its built-in colour modes, which allow you to be creative with sepia tones, black and white, and 1960s-style yellow tones, without having to play with the photos on your computer. Don't get carried away and forget that you've changed the colour mode, otherwise you'll end up with shots featuring a different colour tone to what you were expecting.

In our tests of other Samsung compact cameras — such as the Samsung L210 and Samsung L100 — we have found the image quality lacking, but Samsung's PL50 digital camera does produce decent photos and with rich colours and good clarity. It's easy to use, has a useful night mode, but it might struggle a little on bright days.

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