A 5x zoom mid-range compact for less than £110, the Samsung PL55 boasts a decent spec and stylish design. The WDC Samsung PL55 review finds out how it performs
One of Samsung’s newest models is the Samsung PL55. South Korean industrial giant Samsung is the world’s largest conglomerate corporation, with subsidiaries making everything from satellites to supertankers.
This means that its consumer electronics products, including digital cameras like this Samsung PL55, are made entirely from components sourced from within the company, and therefore cost Samsung far less to make than equivalent products made by other companies, who have to source components such as LCD screens, li-ion batteries and lenses from third-party suppliers.
The Samsung PL55 is a mid-range point-and-shoot compact camera featuring a 5x optical zoom lens (equivalent to approximately 35-175mm), a 12.2-megapixel CCD sensor and a 2.7-inch LCD monitor. It has a solidly made all-metal body and is available in black, silver or the Fuchsia pink seen above. The specification may not sound that remarkable, but when you consider the Samsung PL55’s price of just £105 it offers a lot of camera for the money.
The Samsung PL55 has an oddly mixed-up design, with as many bad points as good ones. In some ways it’s very good, for example it looks cool and stylish, the build quality is excellent and the shape of the body looks like it should be comfortable to hold. However, the control layout on the back leaves no room for the thumb, and the shiny gloss finish is very slippery and difficult to grip securely. The sharp LCD monitor has a fast refresh rate, but it has a restricted angle of view and is very prone to reflection and glare, making it difficult to see in sunlight.
Similarly the start-up time is very quick at around 1.5 seconds, and the shot-to-shot time of approximately 1.8 seconds is also impressive, but the autofocus system is slow and extremely unreliable, with virtually non-existent low light performance despite the AF assist lamp. Even in bright daylight it frequently failed to focus on normal high-contrast subjects for no apparent reason. The impression is that the Samsung PL55 might have started out as a good design, but a few too many corners have been cut to save money, resulting in something very disappointing.
The same is true of the picture quality. Exposure metering is reasonably consistent although with a tendency to over-expose, and well-controlled image noise at 400 ISO, but images are massively over-sharpened and colour rendition is very inaccurate, rendering a blue sky as duck-egg green. The lens is also very prone to blurred corners in wide-angle mode, and suffers badly from chromatic aberration.
The Samsung PL55 features a new menu system which is a big improvement over previous models. Instead of three different menu systems it just has one main menu for major camera settings and a live function menu for frequently used shooting settings. The two menus are attractively designed, easy to navigate and are well integrated to work together. It’s a big improvement and makes the camera a lot easier to use than older models which could be annoyingly fiddly. It’s just a shame that the nice new menu wasn’t attached to a better camera.
Although it offers a lot of camera for the money, with good build quality and stylish design, the Samsung PL55 has too many faults and problems, particularly the slow and unreliable AF system and the poor final image quality.