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Samsung PL170 Digital Compact Camera Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Samsung PL170, a digital compact camera with a screen on both the rear and the front!

|  Samsung PL170 in Compact Cameras
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Samsung PL170 front lens

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 rear

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.

Samsung PL170 top

Key Features:

  • 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
  • Magic Frames
  • Smart Face Recognition
  • Object Highlight
  • HDMI Cable port
  • Perfect Portrait System
  • Dual Image Stabilisation
  • ISO80 - 3200
Samsung PL170 battery

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.

Samsung PL170 wide angle   Samsung PL170 full optical zoom
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.

Samsung PL170 ISO80 Samsung PL170 ISO100 Samsung PL170 ISO200 Samsung PL170 ISO400
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
Samsung PL170 ISO800 Samsung PL170 ISO1600 Samsung PL170 ISO3200  
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.

Samsung PL170 macro   Samsung PL170 beauty shot
Macro, ISO80, 1/350, f/3.3, 4.7mm   Beauty shot, ISO200, 1/20, f/5.1, 20mm
Samsung PL170 landscape   Samsung PL170 object highlight
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.

Samsung PL170 Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting   Samsung PL170 Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting, ISO100, 1/10, f/4.7, 9mm   Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light, ISO100, 1/10, f/4.7, 9mm
Samsung PL170 Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light   Samsung PL170 Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light
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.

Samsung PL170 Miniature Samsung PL170 Vignetting Samsung PL170 Soft Focus
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
Samsung PL170 Old Film 1 Samsung PL170 Old Film 2 Samsung PL170 Half Tone Dot
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
Samsung PL170 Fish-eye Samsung PL170 Defog Samsung PL170 Classic
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
Samsung PL170 Retro Samsung PL170 Negative  
Retro, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm Negative, ISO80, 1/250, f/3.3, 4.7mm  

Video Mode

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

Mode dial
Screens on front and rear
Excellent colour reproduction

Samsung PL170: Cons

Some purple fringing and chromatic aberration at times
Images lack detail


Samsung PL170: Specification

Price £145.99
Optical zoom 5x optical zoom f = 4.7 - 23.5mm (35mm film equiv: 26 - 130mm), f/3.3 - 5.9
Resolution 16.1 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3in
Sensor type CCD
Max image size 4608 x 3456
Aspect ratio 4:3
Focusing system TTL auto focus
Focus points Multi AF, Centre 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
Image stabilisation Dual IS (OIS + DIS)
Movie mode Recording time: 20min Size: 1280 x 720 (30/15fps) High Quality, 1280 x 720 (30/15fps) Standard Quality, 640 x 480 (30/15fps), 320 x 240 (30/15 fps) Zoom: Optical 5x
Monitor Rear Display: 3.0in 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 95.3 x 57.3 x 19mm
Weight 153.3g (not including memory card and battery)
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