Review Date : Fri, 23 Jan 2009
Author : Cliff Smith
With 13.6MP resolution, this is Samsung’s top-of-the-range compact
|Pros:||Features, price, build quality|
|Cons:||Performance, image quality, complicated controls|
The L310W is Samsung's highest resolution compact camera, featuring a 13.6-megapixel 1/1.72in CCD sensor. It also has a 3.6x zoom lens with a 28mm-equivalent wideangle setting, a 2.7in 230k LCD monitor and optical image stabilisation. Considering its current street price is around £165 that's a very impressive specification for the money, offering more megapixels per pound than any other camera on the market.
The controls are quite complex for a point-and shoot camera, including an eight-position mode dial on the top-plate offering the usual full Auto, Program exposure, scene mode and high-ISO mode, but also a useful and surprisingly comprehensive camera guide, a nice 'Beauty Shot' mode that softens and warms skin tones, and even a limited manual exposure mode, with full control over shutter speed and minimum or maximum aperture. The rear buttons include three different menu systems, which is more complicated than it needs to be, and the buttons are poorly labelled and difficult to see in low light. The monitor screen is also surprisingly poor, with a slow refresh rate and limited angle of view.
The L310W's appearance is unassuming, with a simple but attractive round-cornered design. The body is half plastic, half aluminium, and the overall build quality is very good. It is available in the matt black finish shown here, a well as silver, brown and ?hot' pink, all with the same chrome trim. It is quite small and light, measuring 91.6 x 61.3 x 23mm, and weighing approximately 150g.
The L310W has is one of an increasing number of digital compacts that can be charged from a USB socket, so if you have your laptop and a mini-USB cable you don't need to remember to take the battery charger.
The camera's overall performance is quite fast, with a quick start-up and reasonably fast shot-to-shot time of three seconds. The autofocus system is fast and accurate, and its low-light performance is especially good. It has a very bright AF assist lamp and will focus quickly and reliably even in total darkness at a range of several metres. The face detection system is also good, tracking even poorly lit faces quite reliably.
The image stabilisation system is very good on wideangle shots, but camera shake blurring is present on telephoto shots at 1/30th of a second, which is a bit disappointing.
Picture quality is adequate, but in terms of overall detail there seems to be little advantage to the extra resolution when compared to a good 10MP camera. Exposure is accurate, colour reproduction is good and although dynamic range is limited it is better than one might expect. The Auto Contrast Balance feature, which helps to preserve shadow detail in high-contrast shots, works well but should only be used when needed. Lens performance is good, with minimal distortion, but image noise is a bit of a problem, and is visible at all ISO settings.
Noise is an issue, but the Samsung L310W offers an impressive specification for a reasonable price.