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Sleek, sexy and darkly alluring, but with a 7Mp punch, the L70 offers a combination of easy to use features and high resolution as Duncan Evans investigates.
- 7.2Mp CCD
- 35-105mm, 3x optical zoom
- f/2.8-f/12.4 aperture
- 5cm macro
- Spot or Multi-Segment metering
- 2.5" TFT LCD
- MPEG 4 movie mode
- MultiMedia, Secure Digital storage
- Li-Ion rechargeable battery
- AC Adapter included
- 96.8mm x 61.8mm x 26.4mm size
- Only 136g weight
The L70 has a street price of around £169, which puts it down into the cheaper end of digital cameras. Yet it possesses high build quality, great looks, a small and handy footprint and a handsome 7.1Mp resolution. This puts it up against the 8Mp Nikon CoolPix P3 and 6Mp S6, and the 6Mp Canon IXUS 60.
There's no two ways about this, the L70 is designed as a pain-free point and shoot camera. Something that's small enough to be carried anywhere, visually attractive and easy to use without undue thought. The top of the camera houses the power and fire buttons and the Advanced Shake Reduction mode button. This is a software processing function based around comparing frames, rather than a hardware implemented, optical stabilisation system like the Samsung NV7 OPS.
The lens itself isn't a cheaper, built-in option, but emerges from the body when the power is switched on. What's then surprising is that it's only a 3x optical zoom, but at this price point, that's hardly problematic.
On the back of the camera is the large 2.5” LCD, the zoom rocker switch and a keypad featuring touch and pressure sensitive buttons. And this is where things start to get confused. The NV7 uses a menu-free system with buttons all round the LCD. As this camera is a lot smaller, a Kylie-size to the NV7's Drew Barrymore, the space for buttons is restricted and as a result, a panel of nine of them have been placed in the bottom right corner. With a reduced feature-set, only a few of the buttons act in a touch-sensitive context at any one time.
There are options to change the ISO from 100 to 800, use exposure compensation at +/-2EV, select between zone metering and spot (no centre-weighted), three levels of quality (all JPEGs), a basic range of white balance options and resolutions from VGA and 1Mp up to 7Mp. Most of these are removed when switching to a scene mode, and strangely, only some are immediately accessible via the touch-buttons, the others requiring a trip into the menu system.
The great feature about the L70 is that it looks and feels a lot more expensive than it actually is. The front and main body are black matte metal, with lens is finished in silver and there's a glossy black backplate around the LCD. The buttons on the top are easy enough to use, and the zoom rocker has a positive feel, even if the zoom does go in steps rather than smoothly, when small adjustments are requested.
The only build-related problems is that the compartment that houses the battery also stores the removable SD card and this is so tight against the edge that it's difficult to get out. On a control basis, the menu panel is not very well implemented. It's half touch-selection like the NV7 and half menu operated, but some of the menu functions are accessed in idiosyncratic and unintuitive fashion. It makes selecting menu options irritating, when the camera is supposed to be all about ease of use. Fortunately, it's possible to set the camera in Program mode and not have to change anything all day. However, you would then be missing out on the processing options that come with the Scene modes as these tinker with the image to tailor it to the subject matter.
The built-in flash has quite a few options which is surprising. As well as auto and red-eye reduction, there's also slow sync for creative shots and fill-flash for more subtle ones. This is all good, but it's aimed at portrait photos because the range is quite limited at just 3m at wide angle and 2.2m in telephoto.
Despite have a lens that emerges from the body, the L70 is ready to shoot around three seconds from pressing the power button. The zoom operates reasonably quickly, but is less handy when making small adjustments as it does them in steps. The focus system is generally quick and efficient and only really struggles when there is little contrast on the subject.
The anti-shake system is a good idea but really, there's a small window of shutter speeds where it's going to make a real difference because it isn't a mechanical system. What is impressive is how well the ISO system stood up, making it higher ISO shots acceptable in low light.
What's not so good is that as this camera is basically point and shoot, to cater for specific photo types, the scene modes need to be selected, but these are almost entirely camera-controlled. This means that on say Landscape, mode, the exposure compensation cannot be changed, so if there's a bright sky, the picture comes out badly. As this is a mode optimised for landscapes, it's a bit stupid really. Instead, the program mode with EV compensation needs to be employed so that the bright tones can be captured.
The menu systems itself to switch between the modes is itself a halfway house between traditional menu operation and the NV7's one-touch button system. It doesn't work very well, which is a shame as everything else about this camera is high quality.
The primary reds and greens are pretty accurate here, though oranges are quite muted. The blues tend to dominate blue-green combinations .
In portrait mode the skin tones are a little reddish, and there's some noise, but nothing excessive.
The ISO100 test is a nice clean result, with some patterns in the grey card area, which has been rendered blue-purple incidentally. The petals are a vibrant red colour and there is plenty of detail. At ISO200 the patterns are slightly more noticeable and the red shade is slightly duller, but still, a good result. Moving up to ISO400, the single-tone area has noticeable noise and the petals are starting to lose details. At ISO800 some of the colour has bleached out of the petals, making them lighter, and the detail in the centre has disappeared. The grey area is now clearly mottled, but these results are substantially better than the L70s sibling, the NV7 OPS.
For a camera that's packing 7Mp into a very small body the results are quite impressive. You won't get incredibly sharp pictures, but they are no worse than any other compact like this, and while the Samsung NV7 does have sharper pictures, they are also considerably more noisy than the ones here. There's a tendency to make blue colours lighter than they should be, presumably to make lighter skies, but this means that blue-green colour mixtures move towards being shades of blue. Other than that, the details levels are good, and the performances of the camera is as good as any compact camera at this price point. What then swings things in the L70's favour, despite the awkward menu system, is the sheer build quality and looks. It's a well made camera, with a sexy finish and a large LCD to view pictures on. If you are in the market for a Kylie-sized point and shoot compact, you'll find this fits the bill.
Generally simple operation
Good flash options
Excellent build quality
Menu system could be better
Blue colours are a little bright
Scene modes allow little control
Only sRGB, no AdobeRGB