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|Product:||Samsung Pro 815|
Samsung Pro 815 Review - Samsung have a history of producing feature packed compact digital cameras at a reasonable price. In this review we take a look at the Pro 815 which is their first foray into the higher end of the digital camera market.
|Build and handling
The camera is large for a pro-sumer compact camera. In fact it's about the same size as many entry-level digital SLRs. Construction is mostly of plastic, though it does feel very solid, but not too heavy, especially when the lens' 15x zoom zoom range is taken into consideration.
Buttons for controlling the camera's various photographic and menu features are well laid out, but a touch small, which can make them difficult to operate.
The Samsung Pro 815 gives you a choice of three viewing screens to help you compose your shots.
The massive 3.5inch LCD screen on the back of the camera is very bright, clear and sharp. When using the camera I found that the screen does not display all of the picture taking area when shooting. This leads to pictures not being as tightly composed as intended.
Finally there is the electronic viewfinder, which again is bright and clear, but suffers from not showing all of the picture area taken.
The battery included with the Pro 815 is quoted as being, 'The world's largest capacity lithium-ion battery'. It does not disappoint, even when the large screen is used most of the time the battery seems to last and last. From a full charge I have taken over 400 shots with the camera and the battery indicator still showed the battery as being fully charged.
Menu and controls
Menu functions are well set out and easy to access, the giant display makes changing settings extremely easy. My only niggle is that the button to access exposure compensation is very small and sits right under where your hand holds the camera, making it difficult to access.
The click wheel aperture control located around the lens barrel is a good design touch. In the manual exposure mode it controls the aperture while the thumb wheel on the back controls the shutter speed. In all other exposure modes the click wheel controls exposure compensation when used in conjunction with the button on the back.
To review images previously taken the playback mode button is located on the bottom right-hand side of the camera body. Viewing back images on the massive 3.5inch screen is a pleasure, the screen is big enough to properly check the detail and sharpness of each image, although it appears to show up many more artifacts, including image noise, than are present when the images are viewed at full size on your computer screen or in print.
One of the main features of this camera is the 15x zoom lens which provides a decent wide angle and long enough telephoto for most peoples needs. The lens performs well at all focal lengths and apertures providing very sharp, detailed images. At the short end of the zoom the maximum aperture is f/2.2 which is great for low light shooting, however at the long end of the zoom the maximum aperture drops to f/4.6. The small maximum aperture at the long end of the zoom creates a problem, it means it can be very tricky to use in all but the brightest light and, as there is no image stabilization, a camera support is needed.
Samsung have provided a function in an attempt to reduce the effects of camera shake. On the side of the lens barrel there is a button marked HS, for High Speed. When pressed, this button raises the ISO sensitivity of the camera in an attempt to increase the shutter speed and reduce the effects of camera shake. Unfortunately I did not find it to be that effective, it did not seem to raise the shutter speed enough in most cases.
There are three main autofocus modes, single-servo, continuous-servo and manual focus. In single and continuous servo modes the camera is focused with the usual half press of the shutter button common to most cameras. I found that the focusing performance deteriorated the further along the zoom range you go. At the wide end of the zoom focusing is fast and responsive. When you reach about half way along the zoom the focus system hunts and often wont lock-on at all. At the long end of the zoom the camera very rarely focuses, even in bright light. This can be improved by using a camera support such as a tripod. My guess is that the amount of camera shake generated by such a long lens makes focusing hard work for the camera.
Manual focusing is controlled by a fly-by-wire focusing ring around the lens barrel. Getting a static subject in sharp focus is difficult even when using the huge LCD screen or the electronic viewfinder. When using the waistlevel finder screen, manual focus is virtually impossible as it does not give you any focus confirmation at all.
There are three macro modes to choose from, macro, super macro and auto macro. Macro allows the camera to focus a touch closer at all focal lengths. Super macro allows you to get the front element of the lens approximately 3.5cm away from your subject, so long as you are within the super macro zoom range marked on the lens barrel in green. Auto macro helps to choose whether you need macro, super macro, or no macro and is great for general purpose shooting.
The camera has four ISO settings to choose from ISO50, 100, 200 and 400. It also has several compression and image format settings. For the purposes of our test, all the following shots were taken in the large JPEG mode.
The camera's auto white balance performs well under most conditions, leaving a slightly cool colour balance in daylight, and warm under artificial light. Colour saturation is fairly neutral on the standard setting without being flat and the images are generally sharp and full of detail.
|1/50sec at f/3.2 on ISO200||1/160sec at f/2.8 on ISO200|
|The following images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting.
The image to the right is the full image. The crops below are taken from where the white square is.
As this is a pro-sumer camera, the sensor used to capture images is quite small, and this means that there is less surface area per pixel to react with light, which, in turn, causes image noise. At ISO50 images produced are fairly clean, displaying only small amounts of noise. When ISO100 is selected image noise is more apparent, but still not really a problem. At ISO400 the image noise is a problem, images are grainy looking and the colour saturation is reduced.
The camera's small pop-up flash is useful for adding a touch of fill-in light, the exception is in the macro mode where the extending lens barrel casts a shadow over the subject, even with the lens shade removed. The camera also has a flash compensation feature so that you can control how much power the flash emits.
|A dedicated TTL flashgun is also available for the Pro 815 guide No 26(ISO100/m) at the 28mm zoom setting. The RRP is £160.
Beside being more powerful than the built in flash, the dedicated flashgun has a bounce head so a more natural effect can be achieved by bouncing the flash off a white ceiling.
At ISO50 the camera produces clean images, even with relatively long exposures. Surprisingly even up to ISO200, the camera delivers acceptable results.
|0.5sec at f/2.1 on ISO50||1/8sec at f/2.1 on ISO200|
Images can be captured in the new Adobe Digital Negative RAW format (.dng) which can be processed by the included software or by Photoshop. Below are a couple of examples of images taken in RAW.
The Samsung Pro815 sports some very impressive specifications and some unique design features, such as the top mounted LCD screen, which are truly useful. The camera does have limitations though, the focusing at the long end of the zoom is slow and image noise at high ISO settings is fairly intrusive.
On the other hand it's capable of producing very high quality, detailed images.
If an all-in-one solution is what you need, and you are aware of the limitations involved then this camera could be a very good choice.
In summary the positive points of the Samsung Pro 815 are:
Massive zoom range
The huge 3.5inch LCD screen is very clear and sharp
Waist-level finder LCD is a great feature
Image quality at low ISO settings
The negative points are:
Noise at high ISO settings
Slow autofocus at long end of the zoom
Small maximum aperture at the long end of the zoom
Review by Gary Wolstenholme
The Samsung Pro 815 is available from the ePHOTOzine shop
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