Samsung Digimax 350SE Review
By Movable Type Admin
The Samsung Digimax 350SE is a reasonably small (pocket-sized) digital camera featuring 3.2 MegaPixel resolution, 3x lens, Compact Flash (CF) card storage and AA battery power supply. It offers a combination of good outdoor image quality with point-n-shoot ease of use. It has a movie mode that records at 320 x 240 with sound in a standard AVI format and the only limit to the length of movie is the remaining space on the CF card, not limiting recording to 15 or 20 seconds. It can also attach a ten second audio clip to an image. As you've heard me say many times: the start to a great digicam is to start with a great lens. The Samsung people went the extra mile to include a Schneider 3X Varioplan Zoom Lens, 7-21mm (34-102mm 35mm equivalent). Schneider optics have long been looked up to as one the better optics in the photo industry. But that is only a beginning.
When powered up the lens rachets out, powers the flash and is ready to take the first picture in less than 5 seconds. Shooting in 3.2 MegaPixel (2048 x 1536) / Super Fine mode, the camera shoots, processes and stores an image in less than 9 seconds. This makes the shot-to-shot cycle time also about 10 seconds. The total shutter lag (time from pressing shutter to actually capturing) must include prefocus time. The camera will not function if you mash the shutter release button all the way down, you must prefocus by a half- press of the shutter and wait for the green focus light before pushing the release the rest of the way down. This process does insure you are not jerking the camera by punching the release but it does make the shutter lag time about 4 seconds. These times are with the flash enabled so they include flash cycle time where applicable. There is no sequence mode. These times are below average for competing 3x Zoom and 3.2 MegaPixel cameras. With sound effects turned on the 'shutter release' sound plays about a 1/2 second before the camera actually captures the image so the tendency can be to start moving the camera before it really takes the picture.
The outside bright sun photos are what this camera is all about, the metering, focusing and color management systems do a very respectable job. Upon attempting a indoor flash picture in moderately low light, a warning displays across the LCD reads "low luminance" and can't focus. A focus assist lamp would have readily taken care of this problem as Sony and Canon have done on almost every recent production camera, even the $249 Canon A30. According to spec's the 350SE's flash working range is 8 inches to 9.8 feet in wide angle and 8 inches to 6.5 feet in telephoto but I found 4 feet too far for the flash when shooting the sample photos indoors of the M&M man at almost full telephoto and in full wide angle the camera over-exposed. It seems the camera fails to throttle the flash output up or down to properly expose at all distances. I was able to get very acceptable images out of both shots by taking it into Photoshop and adjusting levels.
The overall ergonomics of the 350SE are excellent. The camera controls are well located and clearly labelled. The 4-way selector lets you navigate menus in record and play modes with the center functioning as the OK button to accept selections. This is one design I believe is not as good as it could be. All too often I didn't get exactly in the center before pressing "OK" and ended up moving the cursor, not entering the selection. An "OK" button not on the nav. control is far superior. I find a larger camera much easier to control and this is one. Regardless of hand size it's easier to operate then a miniature camera. The size is not to be overstated as the 350SE is designed to be 'pocket-able' and by no means is it in the micro- digicam category.
Power is supplied by four AA type batteries, or two non-rechargeable Cr-V3 lithium packs. High- capacity NiMH rechargeable type are strongly recommended as they give considerably more operating time and are more environmentally friendly. The camera can be powered by alkaline type batteries in a pinch but don't expect much runtime from them. Keep the four AA-alkalines Samsung includes in the package as your back-ups.
The Samsung Digimax 350SE has a great lens but that is only the beginning. It takes image and exposure control to back up a great lens. It is a good camera when used outdoors but most consumers want an all around digicam. It's priced at a MSRP of $549.00(June 2002), a little pricey when compared to other 3.2 megapixel cameras with 3x zoom in the very competitive marketplace of today. I am confident the consumer would make a considerable step up in overall image quality for less money by looking elsewhere like the Minolta S404 with a 4 megapixel imager, 4x zoom that is priced very competitively at $499.
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