Steve's Conclusion & Sample Photos

By

Steve's SnapShot
Samsung SGH-i997 lying down_crop.jpg
  • High-resolution 4.5-inch touch screen
  • 8-megapixel camera
  • 4x digital zoom
  • HD 720p video with HDMI playback
  • 1.3-megapixel self-portrait camera

Pros
  • Large 4.5-inch screen is sharp and colorful
  • Touch screen makes menu navigation easy
  • Ultra-thin body measures just 0.35 inch
  • Built-in photo-sharing widgets
  • GPS capabilities
Cons
  • Small flash is sometimes inadequate
  • Image quality is not the greatest
  • Performance of shooting modes is mixed
  • No optical zoom
  • Placement of lens and flash makes them easy to block with fingers
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 40 seconds
  • Select camera app to image captured = 3 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused =  0.4 second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = 0.9 second
  • Shot to shot delay w/o flash = 0.4 second
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = N/A (flash can't be turned on in continuous mode)
  • Burst = 2.5fps
All tests were taken using the pre-installed microSD card, Auto mode, default image quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at factory defaults unless noted otherwise.

Bottom Line
The Infuse 4G is a great fit for someone who wants an ultrathin camera phone with a vivid display that makes photos look sharp and vibrant. Sharing photos is easy with the included apps, and the camera is generally quick to perform, but a weak flash, less-than-stellar image quality and digital-only zoom limit its appeal for serious shooting. 
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for an ultra-thin camera phone with a big, vivid display and you can tolerate the lower image quality resulting from a tiny flash, small lens, and digital-only zoom. 
The most enjoyable part of taking pictures with the Samsung Infuse 4G is looking at them. That's true in part because it has a very large screen, measuring 4.5 inches, which is a lot of screen real estate.  But more importantly, the Super AMOLED Plus touch screen displays very sharp details and produces rich colors that are bound to make your photos look attractive. It appears that the device is geared to produce oversaturated colors, based on what I saw -- the colors in my photos looked dramatically less saturated on a PC monitor. 

The Infuse 4G is very thin and slides easily into a pocket. It's a perfect companion for instant uploading of your photos on the go, offering a number of widgets for sharing thanks to various apps that are available on the Android Market; like Facebook, Gmail, Picasa, AllShare. You can also share files via Buetooth or multimedia text messaging.  

The touch screen makes navigating the menus and camera settings, for the most part, easy and intuitive. The screen didn't always respond to my swiping finger, but in general it is responsive and provides an elegant way to access settings and scene modes. 

The display also handily allows you to move the auto focus box -- a very handy feature when your subject is off-center. Five convenient menu options slide out from the left side, which you can slide off-screen if you choose: flash, self-shot, shooting mode (single, continuous, panorama, etc.), exposure compensation, and settings (such as focus mode, scene mode, ISO, resolution, white balance, and metering). Personally I would prefer to have many more of the adjustments listed under the Settings icon moved onto the main screen so I wouldn't have to dive into a multi-page menu just to access, say, the ISO setting. For one, I could do without the Self Shot icon being on the main screen, which turns on the rear-facing camera so you can take a photo of yourself while framing the shot on the screen. This camera also allows for front facing video, which can be sued with various apps like Skype. 

One potentially persistent problem with many smart phones is that the lens and flash are near the edge of the body, which can take a concerted effort to keep your fingers from blocking the lens or flash. This is easy to do when trying to stabilize the device with your left hand -- and not drop it -- while operating the touch screen and shutter button with your right hand. Also, the power button sits on top of the left side (when held horizontally), so it's easy to accidentally turn off the phone when taking pictures. These drawbacks are not unique to the Infuse 4G, and are common when handling an ultra-thin device; but different placement of the power button and the lens could help matters.

In addition to its primary 8-megapixel camera, the Infuse 4G sports a 1.3-megapixel rear-facing camera for taking self portraits and video. This feature is handy because you are looking at the screen while framing your shot. The downside, obviously, is the dramatically smaller resolution of the images it takes. Not surprisingly, the 1.3-megapixel self-portraits I shot suffered from obvious distortions and somewhat blurry edges; the files were only 960 by 1280 pixels versus 2448 by 3264 pixels created by the 8- megapixel camera (both at 72 dpi).  

Speaking of lower-resolution files, you will not get full-resolution files from the primary camera when shooting in continuous mode. When trying to capture fast action, the camera produces images of 640 by 480 pixels, versus full resolution images of 2448 by 3264 pixels. 

The Infuse 4G offers a standard smattering of shooting modes, adjustments, and scene modes. In addition to the typical Single Shot and Continuous shooting modes, Samsung includes Add Me, Smile Shot, Panorama, Action Shot and Cartoon.

Action Shot, unfortunately, is an odd, unintuitive feature. I mistook it for a conventional sports mode that would use fast shutter speed and/or heightened ISO to freeze fast action. Instead, what it does it capture multiple shots and combine them. So, for capturing a moving object, preferably moving in a continuous direction, you pan to follow the subject and you get a series of multiple subjects on a background that is presumably stitched together to appear seamless. I tried this out on a passing car, which was repeated across the frame, but the background was inelegantly stitched together, showing seams and in one instance the car was cut in half. Presumably this feature is best used on a subject with a straight trajectory: If your subject zig-zags or goes backward, you end up with a confusing collection of overlapping subjects.

Panorama mode lets you take 8 photos at 400 pixels tall at 72 dpi. Unfortunately this mode produces some of the same unattractive stitching of images as the Action Shot mode. The seams between separate frames were often obvious. Another drawback is that the camera produces smaller panorama files than even a single-frame shot in a regular scene mode: panorama files end up being only 400 pixels high, or just 160Kbyte to 260kbytes in size. 

The same is true of shooting in continuous mode to freeze fast action. The camera creates photos of only 640 by 480 pixels at 96 dpi. Even so, the camera was not sensitive enough in late afternoon light to freeze the action of fast-moving soccer players, and the photos tended to look blurry.

I also found the Smile mode to promise more than it could deliver. It was slow to respond to my subjects, which can easily result in a forced-looking smile. In the case of my two-year-old son, the camera took a photo before my son had smiled -- in fact, he looked like he was crying. Regardless of which mode I used, I had difficulty getting a sharp shot in early evening and into dusk, once direct sunlight disappeared -- something I had not expected considering the camera can use up to ISO 800. 

Some of the more typical effects delivered attractive results, such as sepia, which produced an antique brown tint. I found the "Add to Me" shooting mode a little odd. I had expected that it would overlay a person on a background to actually make them appear to have been someplace in another shot. However, the camera merely splits the frame in two and creates a blurry border between two side-by-side shots. That's not to say that this could not be a useful feature for certain subjects, but it's not the type of sophisticated effect to sway a purchasing decision.

The most attractive scene mode perhaps is Fall Color, which created vibrant, oversaturated reds and yellows on autumn maple leaves. Don't expect the same level of vividness to translate to your PC monitor, however. It seems the Infuse 4G is tailored to oversaturate colors, which makes them really "pop" on its 4.5-inch screen. But you will likely have to bump up the saturation in an image-editing program to make them look that way elsewhere.

The built-in GPS allows you to geotag your photos. However, you can't view the geographical coordinates on the Infuse 4G -- you'll need to do that later on a PC with software that displays geotags. Speaking of data, this camera phone does store EXIF data (camera settings) for most images, but does not store EXIF data when shooting in continuous mode.

Given the small size of the flash on this smart phone, it is not surprising that the results are not always adequate. In a shot of retreating subjects, it is unlikely you get a helpful amount of extra light cast on anything more than a few feet from the camera. The flash also can be problematic when taking portraits because the pre-flash is on longer than the typical red-eye burst on point-and-shoot cameras. This can be disorienting to the people looking into it, and tends to ruin shots when they're having to hold an extended "Say, cheese" smile; particularly small children.

If you are in a situation where the light is behind your subjects, you will need to navigate to the third page of the scene mode menu and select the Backlit mode, which will force the flash the fire. When I took the same picture using the Portrait mode (which is two taps closer on page 1 of the scene mode menu), the camera did not fire the flash and my subjects were obscured in shadow.

One of the biggest drawbacks of this smart phone camera compared to just about any point-and-shoot is that it lacks an optical zoom. Its 4x digital zoom simply crops a full-resolution image; what you get is a low-resolution image lacking sharp detail. When I zoomed in close to a building across a two-lane street, I ended up with a noisy image sorely lacking details and sharpness. This haziness was even obvious when I viewed the image at roughly 8 by 10 inches on a computer screen.

The Infuse 4G is generally responsive to getting off a shot. Selecting the camera app, which is conveniently located on the main screen, and taking a shot takes about three seconds. Shutter lag with the camera pre-focused is about 0.4 second. The only case of serious molasses is in its startup: Powering up the phone, selecting the camera app, and taking a shot will take you about 40 seconds.

Bottom Line - the Infuse 4G is a great fit for someone who wants an ultrathin camera phone with a vivid display -- the 4.5-inch screen makes photos look sharp and vibrant. The camera has photo sharing apps, GPS capability, and is usually quick to perform. However, its less-than-stellar image quality, weak flash and digital-only zoom limit its appeal. While smart phones have come a long way, even some of the most affordable point-n-shoots are still leaps ahead in image quality. 


Sample Photos

All samples taken in Auto Mode, flash off, unless otherwise noted.
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3264x2448
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2005-01-01 18.50.11.jpg
2005-01-01 18.50.11.jpg
3264x2448
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2005-01-01 19.17.33.jpg
2005-01-01 19.17.33.jpg
3264x2448
3,300.07 KB
Flash on
2005-01-01 19.17.57.jpg
2005-01-01 19.17.57.jpg
3264x2448
2,444.45 KB
ISO 416
2005-01-01 19.33.34.jpg
2005-01-01 19.33.34.jpg
3264x2448
3,746.58 KB
2005-01-01 19.34.09.jpg
2005-01-01 19.34.09.jpg
1280x960
464.69 KB
Self Shot
2005-01-01 19.37.46.jpg
2005-01-01 19.37.46.jpg
3264x2448
2,300.62 KB
Digital zoom at 4X
2005-01-01 19.39.15.jpg
2005-01-01 19.39.15.jpg
3264x2448
3,567.98 KB
2005-01-05 21.06.16.jpg
2005-01-05 21.06.16.jpg
3264x2448
2,024.86 KB
2005-01-05 21.06.41.jpg
2005-01-05 21.06.41.jpg
3264x2448
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2005-01-05 21.07.46.jpg
2005-01-05 21.07.46.jpg
3264x2448
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2005-01-05 21.13.47.jpg
2005-01-05 21.13.47.jpg
3264x2448
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2005-01-05 21.26.14.jpg
2005-01-05 21.26.14.jpg
3264x2448
2,308.75 KB
2005-01-05 21.27.21.jpg
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3264x2448
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2005-01-05 21.28.20.jpg
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3264x2448
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2005-01-05 21.28.33.jpg
2005-01-05 21.28.33.jpg
3264x2448
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2005-01-05 21.29.08.jpg
2005-01-05 21.29.08.jpg
3264x2448
3,316.70 KB
2005-01-05 21.29.18.jpg
2005-01-05 21.29.18.jpg
3264x2448
2,316.73 KB
2005-01-05 21.29.41.jpg
2005-01-05 21.29.41.jpg
3264x2448
3,159.64 KB
2005-01-05 21.29.59.jpg
2005-01-05 21.29.59.jpg
3264x2448
1,862.71 KB
Digital zoom at 4X
2005-01-05 21.30.57.jpg
2005-01-05 21.30.57.jpg
2512x400
260.28 KB
Panorama mode
2005-01-05 21.31.55.jpg
2005-01-05 21.31.55.jpg
1888x400
241.68 KB
2005-01-05 21.32.50[0].jpg
2005-01-05 21.32.50[0].jpg
640x480
116.64 KB
Continuous shooting mode
2005-01-05 21.58.03.jpg
2005-01-05 21.58.03.jpg
640x480
132.61 KB
Continuous shooting mode
2005-01-05 21.58.48.jpg
2005-01-05 21.58.48.jpg
640x480
183.48 KB
Continuous shooting mode
2005-01-07 21.03.08.jpg
2005-01-07 21.03.08.jpg
1600x1200
1,073.71 KB
Smile Shot
2005-01-07 21.05.27.jpg
2005-01-07 21.05.27.jpg
2672x400
234.74 KB
Panorama mode
2005-01-07 21.08.49.jpg
2005-01-07 21.08.49.jpg
1600x1200
1,547.56 KB
2005-01-07 21.09.13.jpg
2005-01-07 21.09.13.jpg
1600x1200
1,694.63 KB
Fall Color Mode
2005-01-07 21.20.47.jpg
2005-01-07 21.20.47.jpg
800x464
108.12 KB
Action Shot
2005-01-07 21.22.30[1].jpg
2005-01-07 21.22.30[1].jpg
640x480
91.78 KB
Continuous mode
2005-01-07 21.23.48[0].jpg
2005-01-07 21.23.48[0].jpg
640x480
131.77 KB
Sepia effect
2005-01-07 21.26.58[6].jpg
2005-01-07 21.26.58[6].jpg
640x480
114.15 KB
Continuous mode
2005-01-07 22.01.03.jpg
2005-01-07 22.01.03.jpg
2368x336
166.20 KB
Action Shot
2005-01-07 22.01.41.jpg
2005-01-07 22.01.41.jpg
1216x464
144.75 KB
Action Shot

2005-03-13 13.06.31.jpg
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3264x2448
3,404.04 KB
2005-03-13 13.12.29.jpg
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