Samsung released the PL170 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 available in black, silver, purple and pink from around £145.
Samsung PL170: Features
On the rear of the camera there is a 3in LCD screen but unusually you'll also find a 1.5in LCD screen on the front making it easy to take self-portraits. There is a button on the top which easily switches between the screens. When taking pictures of children the front screen can show a video designed to capture their attention, ensuring their best of smiles.
Jump Shot also 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 a jump! Even if the subject slightly mistimes their action, the camera takes three consecutive shots.
The lens is 5x optical zoom which is the 35mm equivalent of 26 - 130mm, ideal for wide landscape pictures and zooming in when at parties.
Picture taking is made easy by Smart Auto and Auto modes as well as Night Shot, Beauty Shot and Dual IS modes. There are a range of scene modes available: Magic Frame, Object Highlight, Landscape, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight and Beach & Snow.
Other features designed to make shooting easy are Object Tracking, Smart Face Recognition and Perfect Portrait System.
For extra creativity there are several 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 even 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. HDMI out lets you connect the camera to a HD TV to view your videos and images.
Dual LCDs with 3in rear and 1.5in front LCD
16 Megapixel sensor
5x optical zoom 26mm wide-angle lens
Smart Filter with Creative Special Effects
HD Movie recording
Smart Face Recognition
HDMI Cable port
Perfect Portrait System
Dual Image Stabilisation
ISO80 - 3200
Samsung PL170: Handling
The camera feels and looks good in the hand with the buttons well laid out and easy to press. There is a dial on the rear which makes it easy to switch between the various camera modes. Further settings within each mode are easily accessed via the fn button, also placed on the rear.
Both monitors are clear to view in all lighting conditions. The menus are 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 between charges.
Samsung PL170: Performance
At its widest, the PL170 retains more detail towards the centre of the images, but looks blurry around the edges when viewing a full size. In bright the bright sky there is some chromatic aberration in the trees and a hint of purple fringing in places. At its longest, detail is consistent throughout the image.
Wide-angle, ISO80, 1/500, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Full optical zoom, ISO80, 1/350, f/5.9, 23.5mm
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 amount of detail is lost, again worsening at ISO1600. There is plenty of noise at ISO3200. The pleasing aspect is that although more detail gets lost through the ISO range, colours are unaffected. Images produced at ISO1600 and ISO3200 are likely to be best suited for small prints an use on the web.
ISO80, 1/3, f/5.9, 23.5mm
ISO100, 1/4, f/5.9, 23.5mm
ISO200, 1/8, f/5.9, 23.5mm
ISO400, 1/15, f/5.9, 23.5mm
ISO800, 1/30, f/5.9, 23.5mm
ISO1600, 1/60, f/5.9, 23.5mm
ISO3200, 1/125, f/5.9, 23.5mm
The PL170 produces well exposed images with excellent colour reproductions. 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. In Landscape mode the camera takes images with excellent blues and greens.
Macro, ISO80, 1/350, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Beauty shot, ISO200, 1/20, f/5.1, 20mm
Landscape, ISO80, 1/180, f/9.4, 4.7mm
Object highlight, ISO100, 1/30, f/3.3, 4.7mm
During testing the PL170'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, ISO100, 1/10, f/4.7, 9mm
Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light, ISO100, 1/3, f/4.7, 9mm
Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light, ISO100, 1/3, f/4.7, 9mm
Below are example shots taken using each of the filters.
Miniature, ISO80, 1/500, f/4.4, 14.7mm
Vignetting, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Soft Focus, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Old Film 1, ISO80, 1/180, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Old Film 2, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Half Tone Dot, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Fish-eye, ISO80, 1/2500, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Defog, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Classic, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Retro, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Negative, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm
Clips can be recorded at 1280 x 720 (30/15fps) High Quality, 1280 x 720 (30/15fps) Standard Quality, 640 x 480 (30/15fps) and 320 x 240 (30/15 fps).
Value For Money
The Samsung PL170 can be purchased for £145.99. The camera compares very closely to the Canon Powershot A3300 IS which scored four out of five in our recent test. The A3300 IS has a 16 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom and a mode dial and is available for £122.00. Other cameras to consider are the Sony Cybershot W570 at £149.00, Fujifilm FinePix AX350 at £99.99 and the Fujifilm FinePix Z900 at £199.99, all of which have around 16 megapixel sensors and 5x optical zoom.
Samsung PL170: Verdict
At first glance the images produced by the PL170 look great with excellent colour reproduction and are certainly going to look fine when sharing via sites such as Facebook and Flickr. When viewed at full size the images lack in detail and look blurred around the edges particularly when using the lens at its widest. If you are looking for a compact which makes creativity easy then the range of filters won't disappoint. The front screen is a nice idea and therefore self-portraits are easy.
Samsung PL170: Pros
Screens on front and rear
Excellent colour reproduction
Samsung PL170: Cons
Some purple fringing and chromatic aberration at times
Images lack detail