Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Samsung Digimax S500
- Extremely cheap, Attempt at manual features
- Awful low light compensation, Horrible battery life
If the battery life was a little better this would be an outstanding product, but as it stands at this price for a 5 megapixel model you really can't go wrong.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
When we first got our hands on the Samsung Digimax S500 we were left feeling like what we had was another run of the mill point and shoot; that is however until we glanced at the press release and spotted the price. For this kind of money, the S500 is incredible value. Whilst it doesn't beat many other cameras in terms of the overall package, at this price it is hard to pass up.
After having recently looked at the Samsung V700 we were dreading opening up our S500 test shots. When we finally mustered up the courage however, we were greeted with some fairly reasonable 5 megapixel photographs. Colour balance was the strength of this model. We found everything to be well saturated under most lighting conditions, with great balance across blues, greens and flesh tones. Reds proved to be the only problem, often coming across a little stronger than normal.
That said, we found the S500s compensation for low lighting to be atrocious. We commented that the V700 had some of the warmest shots we'd seen in certain circumstances, but even they pale in comparison to some of those we took with this camera. With two tungsten lights on the target but no flash, our shots came out looking like they'd been pulled straight from the fiery depths of hell. There is no way we could recommend using this model if you want to shoot in these kinds of conditions.
We found a similar problem with the camera's auto focus. Most of our shots were crisp and clear, in fact the sharpness was above average for a 5 megapixel model, but every so often one of our pictures came out a little fuzzy. It didn't occur too regularly, but it definitely had trouble adjusting to certain circumstances.
There was also some noticeable purple fringing. This is one of Samsung's most notorious flaws around the office, and sadly this model continues that trend. Whilst it was better than some of their previous offerings there are still very evident purple strips around edges in high light situations. One can normally ignore them unless the shots are blown right up, but in this situation we noticed them even at smaller sizes. Don't let that discourage you however. Great colour saturation combined with quite clear shots means the S500s pictures are nothing to sneeze at, especially at this price.
What surprised us even more than the picture quality was the attempt at including some manual features. Whilst their implementation is fairly weak, according to the price tag and design this is a bottom end, compact point and shoot, so it is a valiant effort by Samsung to put any on at all. They take the form of a single manual mode where you can shift between two aperture settings (2.8 and 7.1) and an array of shutters speeds ranging from 1/1500th of a second to 8 seconds. It doesn't quite compete with the latest D-SLR but under the circumstances it left us suitably impressed.
Aside from that the rest is standard camera fare; ten preset shooting modes, video recording, ISO levels up to 400 and white balance settings. The continuous shot mode was better than expected, far outdoing that on the supposedly superior V700. We managed to snap about 15 shots off before it began to slow down at a rate of about .7 shots a second.
Whilst performing other functions however the S500 was not quite as speedy. Shutter lag was roughly .12 to 1.5 of a second which is above average and shot to shot time varied from 2 to 3 seconds. Power-up however zoomed along making us wait a mere 1.5 seconds until we could take our first picture.
Where the price of the camera really starts to make sense is the design. For this kind of money you can't expect a rugged, aluminium build. The S500 is almost entirely plastic. It reminds us of some of the cheaper Kodak models, with a bulbous, jutting grip on the right hand side and a basic, matte silver finish. Aesthetically it is not unattractive but if you're shopping for style then browse elsewhere. This is utilitarianism at its best.
The buttons follow the now standard Samsung design, although in a simplified form. A single face button gives you access to all the manual features, but some of them are actually missing from the main menu on this unit, and are stashed away in this sub-menu that may be quite difficult to locate for some people.
Battery life was the other extreme weakness of this unit and ultimately dragged the score down. We managed a pitiful 60 shots before the AA batteries we were using died. We went through nearly three sets just in our testing process alone. That is simply not good enough in a world where many cameras come with a rechargeable battery capable of several hundred shots on the go. Obviously not including a battery helped to keep the price down, but it would have been worth the extra money to improve the overall package.
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