Samsung PL120 DualView Camera Review

We review the ultra compact Samsung PL120 - the budget camera features a 1.5 inch screen on the front.

| Samsung PL120 in Compact Cameras

Samsung PL120 DualView Camera Review: Samsung PL120 Front

Samsung released the PL120 in January 2011 adding to their range of compact cameras with screens on both the front and the rear of the camera. The camera is one of the cheapest Samsung cameras available with dual screens, and is available in pink, purple, and silver (shown here). Nb. Due to similarities in the cameras, parts of this review are based on the Samsung PL170 review.

Samsung PL120 DualView Camera Review: Samsung PL120 front

Samsung PL120: Features

Despite the ultra compact size, on the rear of the camera is a 2.7inch LCD screen, and another 1.5inch LCD screen on the front making it easy to take self-portraits. There is a button on the top which easily switches the front screen on. When taking pictures of children the front screen can show a video designed to capture their attention, ensuring their best smiles (it also works for adults!).

Jump Shot is another feature than utilises the front screen - select this and the display shows a count down so your subject knows the right time to perform an action, such as jumping! The camera will take three shots so you can choose the best action shot.

The lens is a wide angle 5x optical zoom which is the equivalent to 26 - 130mm in 35mm terms, ideal for wide landscape pictures and zooming in to distant subjects.

Picture taking is made easy by Smart Auto and Auto modes as well as Night Shot, Beauty Shot and a large range of scene modes: Magic Frame, Object Highlight (Object highlight is designed to blur the background, increasing the appearance of depth-of-field and produce DSLR style images), Landscape, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight and Beach & Snow.

Samsung PL120 DualView Camera Review: Samsung PL120 Back

Features designed to make shooting easy are Object Tracking, Smart Face Recognition and Perfect Portrait System. There are several "magic" filters to choose from: Miniature, Vignetting, Soft Focus, Old Film 1, Old Film 2, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish-eye, Defog, Classic, Retro and Negative. Some of these filters can be used when shooting videos. Videos can be shot at 720p HD at 30fps and the camera also allows the use of the 5x optical zoom during recording.

Key Features:

  • Dual LCDs with 2.7inch rear and 1.5inch front LCD
  • 14 Megapixel sensor
  • 5x optical zoom 26mm - 130mm equivalent wide-angle lens
  • Smart Filter with Creative Special Effects
  • 720p HD Movie recording
  • Magic Frames
  • Smart Face Recognition
  • Object Highlight
  • 5cm Macro mode
  • Perfect Portrait System
  • Digital Image Stabilisation
  • ISO80 - 3200
Samsung PL120 DualView Camera Review: Samsung PL120 Top

Samsung PL120: Handling

The camera feels and looks good in the hand with the buttons well laid out and easy to press, although there isn't much grip at the front of back, so using the provided wrist strap is highly recommended. Instead of the usual mode dial, there is simply a mode button to switch between the various camera modes. Further settings within each mode are easily accessed via the fn button, also placed on the rear, although unfortunately to access additional photo functions you have to go into the menu, where you can also adjust contrast, sharpness, and saturation.

Samsung PL120 DualView Camera Review: Samsung PL120 Bottom Battery

The rear screen works well indoor and outdoors, however, the front screen can be difficult to see in bright sunlight due to the bright chrome effect on the front of the camera (the other colours may be better). The menus are quite well laid out and easy to navigate. The camera is ready to take pictures within a couple of seconds of switching on and is quick to focus. Without the flash the camera takes around three seconds from shot to shot, with it taking about five seconds when charging the flash. Samsung do not state the CIPA test results for the battery but during testing the battery appeared to be capable of plenty of shots as I was able to take 220+ photos before the battery went flat.

Samsung PL120: Performance

Wide-angle shots retain more detail towards the centre of images, but look blurry around the edges when viewing at full size, particularly in the corners. In bright sky there is some chromatic aberration in the trees and a hint of purple fringing in places. At telephoto, detail is consistent throughout the image.

Wide-angle   Full optical zoom
Full optical zoom with cropped zoom, 3mp   Flowers (original image used for playback filters)

At ISO80 noise is unnoticeable, but at ISO100 the images are not as sharp as at ISO80. Noise slowly gets worse through ISO200 and ISO400, but good images are still produced. At ISO800 significant amounts of detail is lost, again worsening at ISO1600. There is plenty of noise at ISO3200. Images produced at ISO1600 and ISO3200 are likely to be best suited for small prints and for use on the web.

ISO80 ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200 (at 3mp)  

The PL120 produces well exposed images with excellent colour reproduction. Despite only being able to focus up to 5cm, pleasant macro shots are possible. Thanks to the cameras Beauty Shot mode, portrait shots are easy to take with pleasing skin tones. Using the Perfect Portrait System, you can change the Face Retouch and Face Tone levels, although the sharpness of images suffer.

Macro   Portrait with flash

The PL120's auto white-balance performance was good and proved perfectly capable under our fluorescent and incandescent studio lights. Using the fluorescent preset under the fluorescent lights gives a slight green cast in the image, the AWB preset does a much better job.

Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting    Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light
Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light   Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light

Magic Frames (Photo mode)
There are a large number of frames available while taking photos, some of them better than others, the range is shown below:

Smart Filters (Photo mode)

Below are example shots taken using each of the filters, the fish-eye mode being particularly interesting as it appears to be showing the raw image from the sensor / lens, including real vignetting, and distortion, giving an even wider view than the specifications suggest.

Original (No Filter)  Miniature  Vignetting
Half Tone Dot Sketch Fish-eye
Defog Classic Retro
Negative Custom RGB  

Smart Filters (Playback editing)
There are even more magic filters available in playback mode, again, some of them are better than others.

Miniature Vignetting Soft focus
Old film 1 Old film 2 Half Tone Dot
Sketch Fish-eye Defog
Classic Retro Negative

Video Mode

Videos can be recorded at 1280 x 720 (30/15fps), 640 x 480 and 320 x 240. There are also a large number of filters available when recording videos, these include: Palette effect, 1, 2, 3 and 4, Miniature, Vignetting, Fish-eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative and Custom RGB.

Value For Money

The Samsung PL120 can be purchased for £99, making it one of the cheapest cameras available with dual screens. The camera compares very closely to the Casio Exilim Z5 and Z10Nikon CoolPix S3100, Canon Powershot A3200 IS (with optical image stabilisation), Samsung ST95Panasonic Lumix S3, and FS16 (also with optical image stabilisation), although only the Samsung ST95 features a dual screen like the PL120. 

Samsung PL120: Verdict

The Samsung PL120 is ultra compact, features two screens, and offers very good value for money, however, even when scoring highly for value for money, it's simply not enough to bring the overall rating higher than 3/5, as the rest of the camera is mostly average. Sure it's a nice little camera, and looks good, but the image quality disappoints. If you just upload to facebook and other social sites, then you may not be too concerned the the dual screen is ideal for indoor self-shots of you and your friends. The abundant filters, frames, and other easy modes could be appealing too.

Samsung PL120: Pros

Very compact design
Screens on front and rear
Good colour reproduction
Good value for money - cheapest camera with dual screens
Optical zoom available when recording videos

Samsung PL120: Cons

Some purple fringing and chromatic aberration at times
Images lack detail, especially in corners
Quite high noise at ISO800+


Samsung PL120: Specification

Price £99
Optical zoom 5x optical zoom f = 4.7 - 23.5mm (35mm film equiv: 26 - 130mm), f/3.3 - 5.9
Resolution 14.2 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3in
Sensor type CCD
Max image size 4320x3240
Aspect ratio 4:3, 16:9, 3:2
Focusing system TTL auto focus
Focus points Multi AF, Center AF, Face Detection AF,Object Tracking AF, Smart Face Recognition AF
Focus distance 5cm
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO80 - 3200
Metering system Program AE
Metering types Multi, Spot, Centre Weighted, Face Detection AE
Exposure compensation ± 2EV (1/3EV steps)
Shutter speed range 2 - 1/2000 sec (8 seconds, night mode)
Image stabilisation Digital Image Stabilisation
Movie mode 720p HD video, 30fps, optical zoom available.
Monitor Rear Display: 2.7in TFT LCD (230K dots)
Front Display: 1.5in TFT LCD (61K dots)
Media type Micro SD/SDHC Card
Interface USB 2.0
Power Rechargeable battery: BP70A Adaptor: SAC-48, CB20U05A Connector Type: 20pin
Box Contents Wrist strap
Lithium Ion battery
User Manual
Software CD
AC Adapter
USB Cable
Size 94 x 54.5 x 18.8mm
Weight 110g (not including memory card and battery)

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Photographs taken using the Samsung PL120

My new hairdo :D

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