Samsung L77 Review
The first "Life" series mode we have seen from Samsung's (as of7/2007), the L77 is a compact point-n-shoot
digicam that includes a 7-megapixel imager, 7x internal optical zoom lens, High ISO capabilities (up to
1600), VGA movie mode, 2.5-inch LCD, etc. With fully automatic operation, the L77 is ideal for beginners or
anyone who doesn't want to fuss with many controls of menu options. You can use Auto, EPS, or one of 11 pre-
programmed scene modes. There's also a Program exposure mode with more advanced settings like ISO, White
Balance, Metering, Sharpness, Contrast, etc.
The L77 is well designed. The enlarged hand grip on the right-hand side offer a comfortable feel in your hands and one-handed shooting is a breeze. This is a very compact model that can be tucked away in most pants pockets or purses. The controls are simple and well placed, while the menu is easy to navigate. I like the Fn or function onscreen shortcut menu that allows you quickly change settings (image size, quality, ISO, etc.) without entering the main menu. Its 2.5-inch LCD offers a good amount of resolution at 230K pixels, and works well in various lighting conditions. Outdoors, the display does have some angles which reflect the sun, but overall I had no problems framing. In marginal lighting, it gains up nicely, which is very important when trying to frame a subject in these conditions.
Shooting performance was very good. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 1.7 seconds. Shutter lag when pre-focused was less than 1/10 of a second and only 2 - 3/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot to shot time averaged 2 seconds between frames without using the flash and from 2.5 to 3.5 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. The Continuous Shooting mode allowed me to capture 4 frames in approx. 1.9 seconds before filling the buffer. It then takes about 2 seconds to clear it and begins shooting another sequence. The LCD briefly shows the last image captured, so following a moving subject will be difficult. All tests were done using an high-speed (50x) 2GB SD card, quality/size set at 7M Superfine, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality was ok. While most of our samples are sharp, and show good exposure and color balance, I did see above average amounts of barrel distortion and chromatic aberrations. The internal 7x optical zoom lens offers much more versatility over the typical 3x zoom on most consumer compacts. Covering an equivalent zoom range of 38 - 266mm, it favors the telephoto end, however the 38mm wide angle extreme will afford decent interior and landscape photos. The 266mm telephoto end of the zoom range is perfect for bringing distant subjects up close as well as close-up portraits.
Our indoor were not the greatest. The L77 does have the ability to capture ok portrait images as long as you are with in the limits of the flash (approx. 16 feet at wide angle, ISO Auto). Our portrait samples look good when viewing them at full screen (about 25 - 30%) and the camera's LCD, however upon further inspection at 100%, facial details are not as sharp as I'd like and there' plenty of noise in the background (even at ISO 100.) i was also disappointed in the AF system's low light performance. This model does not feature an AF assist lamp, and I found the AF system fails in lower lighting more often than not. So be sure you have plenty of ambient light when framing your subject, even if you plan on using the flash.
Nowadays more and more digicams are featuring high sensitivity settings, like ISO 1600 on the L77. With that said, it is important to understand why camera manufacturers are using the high ISO ranges and how they truly affect the average photographer. First, high ISO settings give a photographer the ability to capture sharper, blur free images in marginal lighting as well as extend the flash range. This allows you to capture usable photos free of camera shake and motion blur, that you would not be able to get with a camera that does not have these abilities. The noise issue seen in most digicams when set at a high ISO is to be expected, and as long as you are not going to do a lot of cropping or create prints larger than say an 8x10, this shouldn't be an issue. With the L77, I started to notice noise at ISO 400, and surprisingly 800 and 1600 are usable.
Movie mode records video at resolutions of 640x480 or 320x240 with a selectable frame rate of 15 or 30 frames per second. Unlike most digicams that record audio, you can use the zoom while recording, and the L77 also features movie stabilization. I found our movie samples were good, with very little compression noise.
Power is supplied by a 3.7V 660mAh proprietary battery pack that Samsung claims is good for 180 shots. I had no problems capturing most of our samples (about 70 shots) and concluding many of our other tests on a single charge, with power to spare.
Bottom line - Samsung has created a nice compact digital model with some appealing features like its 7x internal optical zoom lens. While it can capture good images, is a robust performance, and can be used buy just about anyone, i was disappointed with the AF system in dim lighting. That said, with a street of $259 I feel it offers an Ok value for a compact 7-megapixel model in this category.
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