With its wide angle lens, Face Detection technology and Samsung's new World Tour Guide, taking good pictures with the L74W should be foolproof, but how far does it meet expectations?
Samsung L74W Specifications:
- Sensor: CCD - 7.2Mp
- Image Size: 3072 x 2304 pixels
- Optical Zoom: 3.6x
- Lens range: 28-100mm, f/2.8 – 5.8
- Focus: TTL Auto
- Macro mode: 5cm
- White Balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Florescent_H, Florescent_L, Tungsten, Custom
- Exposure: Program AE Metering, Multi, Spot. Centre Weighted
- Metering: Spot, Multi, CW, Face Priority
- Shutter speed: 2–1/1000sec in Auto, 15–1/1000sec in Night mode
- ISO range: 80 -1600
- Monitor: 3.0in. TFT LCD touch-screen
- Movie Mode: Yes
- Scene Modes: Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Macro, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Firework, Beach/snow, Self-shot, Food, Cafe
- Other Features: Face Detection technology, World Tour Guide
- Storage: SD/SDHC/MMC, 512Mb internal
- Batteries: Li-Ion rechargeable
- AC Adaptor: Included
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 105 x 62 x 22mm - 174g
- Transfer: USB
Competitors also featuring a wide angle lens are the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100 (£289) and the Ricoh GX100 (£349), both of which are considerably more expensive than the L74W. Competitors within a similar price range to the L74W include the Canon Powershot A630, (£169) Olympus FE-240 (£169) and Nikon Coolpix S200 (£179).
Samsung L74W Modes and Features
Firstly is the main selling point of the camera, the wide angle lens, meaning you can alternate between telephoto and wide angle shots. Secondly is the touch-screen interface to replace the usual cluster of buttons on the back of the camera, and thirdly is the supersize 3in. LCD screen to aid use of menus and make playback easier. Another feature of the L74W is the Advanced Shake Reduction (ASR) which, activated by the mode wheel, reduces the blur effect of camera shake by using high ISO and fast shutter speeds. Alongside this is the Face Recognition AF and AE technology which can be easily activated or de-activated by selecting the face icon in the menu. When the shutter is half-pressed, a green square appears in the screen which is the camera detecting where it thinks the the face (or faces) are. It will then focus automatically on that area regardless of the composition or backlighting and adjust the brightness for better portrait pictures. Occasionally though, the camera will focus in the wrong place, and has to be re-focused until it correctly identifies the facial area.
The most unusual feature of the camera however has to be the World Tour Guide, a new technology from the people at Samsung. The idea here is that you can access information on photographic locations throughout the world from a database within the camera. Information is not readily available on the camera however, and has to be downloaded via the Samsung website or alternatively, you can use it is a kind of photo album, storing your own pictures from the locations there. 450Mb of internal memory is reserved for this feature, which can also be used as additional picture memory should you require it. One thing I was quite surprised to see in the Tour Guide was a spelling mistake, where the word Europe was actually spelt as 'Eroupe'.
Metering modes offered here are Spot, Multi-Zone and Centre-Weighted, and the white balance options are comprised of Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Florescent_H, Florescent_L, Tungsten and Custom. The selection of scene modes offered is also quite extensive and include Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Macro, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Firework, Beach/snow, Self-shot, Food and Cafe.
Samsung L74W Build and Handling
At 105x62x22mm, the L74W isn't particularly compact, and weighing 174g, isn't especially lightweight either, but it does feel very sturdy and well built with a stylish black metal outer casing. The touch-screen interface prevents the clutter of buttons that occurs with some compacts and the back of the camera actually looks very minimal with only two buttons and a zoom rocker. The screen itself is an exceptionally large 3in. to make menu operation easier and, of course, it also improves the quality of the image playback function.
On the top of the camera is the power button, mode wheel and shutter release, with battery and card compartments located in the base alongside the tripod bush. Battery charging is carried out by a direct lead connection which is quicker and less hassle than having to remove the battery and charge in a separate device.
Menus are well laid out and simple to follow, and feature Flash Animation GUI (Graphical User Interface) for easy use of the World Tour Guide.
Samsung L74W Flash Options
Working range of the flash varies from 0.3-5m in wide angle to between 0.8 and 2.4m in telephoto mode. Flash options featured in the camera include Auto flash, Auto with Red eye reduction, Fill-in flash which fires regardless of the available light, Slow synchro for use with slow shutter speeds, flash off and Red-eye fix which will detect Red-eye and reduce the effect immediately.
Samsung L74W Performance
The colour chart test shows a quite considerable difference between the image and the chart itself. For starters, the blues are much brighter and the reds are much pinker. The browns also appear to be much darker and this also affects the resulting mixes such as skin tones. Yellows are quite accurate though. The landscape shot shows good, accurate detail and there is only mild colour fringing where the skyline meets the landscape, for example at the tops of the trees. The portrait shot taken in program mode retains good detail in the hair and eyebrows, while in the portrait mode skin and features such as eyebrows, are softened slightly and there is a slightly healthier tanned glow to the skin.
Battery life was one of the weakest points of the camera, and I found the battery life quickly deteriorating after fully charging the battery just hours previous, and I also noticed there was a bit of a lag between pressing the shutter and the getting the image, which became fairly annoying. On the up-side, the LCD screen was easy to see in bright sunlight with the obvious perk of being 3in. in size.
The camera managed 11 continuous shots in the 10 second test, which is an extremely high rate for compact. The zoom was also quick to kick into action, moving in a swift continuous motion, with the quality of image at the end of the lens being pretty impressive also.
In the colour chart test the reds and blues are
both much brighter, and skin tones are different too.
This shot demonstrates the bright blue
colours rendition of the L74W, but shows
good detail, exposure and sucessful
Taken in program mode, the portrait shot retains fairly good detail and the face detection has worked well, focusing on the correct area.
Taken in portrait mode, the portrait shot makes the skin appear a lot softer and gives a slightly tanned look.
There is only mild colour fringing in the
landscape shot in the contrasty areas
between the trees and the sky.
Samsung L74W Noise Tests
At ISO80 to ISO400 images are sharp and clear with good colour rendition and no noticeable pixelation. There is then a jump to ISO800 and the quality has deteriorated noticeably, with graininess and visible noise occurring around the grey card and petals area. At ISO1600 most of the detail has been lost in the petals and the grey backing is hardly even visible.
The ISO80 test
The ISO100 test
The ISO200 test
The ISO400 test
The ISO800 test
The ISO 1600 test
Samsung L74W Verdict
Overall the camera scored well, performing impressively in the burst mode test and producing images sharp, clear images that retain good amount of detail. The build of the camera is stylish, and the touch screen features of the L74W combined with the supersize LCD screen made menus easy to use. There were certain areas where it let itself down though, for example, the reds and blues were noticeably brighter when compared in the colour chart test, the Face Detection technology often focused on the wrong part of the picture, and the fact that the battery didn't seem to retain much power.
Large LCD screen
Impressive in burst mode
Smooth zoom motion
Sturdy and well built
Battery runs low quickly
Reds and blues brighter than chart
Face Detection sometimes struggles
The Samsung L74W costs £169 is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.
All product images in this review were taken with the Canon EOS 400D.