The powerful 21X zoom lens works very well, capturing sharp shots and offering a 35mm equivalent range of 23 - 483mm. The only downside here is you'll notice some distortion at the edges on wide-angle shots; which is actually quite common with super-zoom cameras.
At wide angle, the lens boasts a maximum aperture of f/2.8, but this narrows to f/5.9 at full telephoto.
At full telephoto, the 21X super zoom lens will get you sharp handheld shots in bright light, aided by the optical image stabilization. In dimmer situations, due in part to the smaller maximum aperture of f/5.9 at full zoom, the camera must resort to a higher ISO setting, which results in increased digital noise.
The 460,000-dot resolution of the screen is middle of the road - no wow factor there, but not distractingly muddy either. The big deal here is its touch screen navigation - in combination with a number of dedicated buttons that let you navigate however you're most comfortable.
Along the top panel, the Direct Link button launches a user-selected wireless function. This feature makes it easy to share files, transfer files to your PC or smart phone, or display images on an AllPlay device. Above the Direct Link button is the built-in microphone, and to the right you can see the power button.
Atop the hand grip sits the shutter button, surrounded by the zoom ring, an eight-position mode dial, and the flash release button.
Mode dial positions:
- Auto (also called Smart Auto)
- Aperture-priority, shutter-priority, manual
- Smart mode (13 scene mode selections)
- Best Face mode
- Magic Plus mode (3 effects, 12 filters, plus photo editor)
- Wi-Fi (MobileLink, remote viewfinder, auto backup, email, SNS & cloud, AllShare Play)
Having the four-way control and dedicated buttons on the back panel eases navigation on this camera. You can use the touch screen when convenient, and use the buttons when needed. The menu button at top left sends you to the main shooting or playback menu. The return button at right (U-turn icon) is a helpful way to backtrack to the previous menu page, while the function button (Fn) takes you to adjustable camera settings (depending on the mode) for quick adjustment.
Using the dedicated movie recording button at top right, you can record 1080p HD video. But if you use one of the Movie Filter options in the Magic Plus mode (which you select on the mode dial) your video resolution is limited to a maximum of VGA (640x480).
The function button menu looks like this when in Program mode (note that shutter speed and aperture settings at top are grayed out - in full manual mode these would be adjustable). This menu changes, depending on the mode. For example, when using the filters under the Magic Plus mode, it pulls up the list of filters and their parameters.
In this screen shot the bottom right icon indicates you can navigate through the menu options using the zoom ring.
In this crowded environment, I found the buttons and zoom ring easier to use than trying to swipe and tap my way through the smaller icons - particularly with slide bars, such as the highlighted exposure compensation adjustment.
Some menus, like the photo filter shooting menu above, scroll across the screen as preview icons, which you can navigate with the four-way control or by swiping your finger on the touch screen.
Note at bottom center that pressing the OK button will remove these scrolling icons (or, panel). They also go away after you've pressed the shutter button halfway to lock focus.
The pop-up flash is small, and it springs upward when you press its release button on the top panel, beside the mode dial. Though it has a specified range of almost 11 feet at wide angle, I found its comfortable range to drop off at 6 to 8 feet, giving uneven results in shots of people at varying distances. This was true even when only using it as a fill-in flash, where other ambient light was lighting my subjects.
Flash mode menu:
- Auto & red-eye reduction
- Fill-in flash
- Slow sync
- Flash off
- Red-eye fix
There are two ports: USB/AV and HDMI. A USB cable comes in the box, but no HDMI or A/V cable are included.
The camera stores files on an SD Card. Online specs do not specify which SD formats are supported, but I had no trouble shooting with a Class 10 SDHC card.
The rechargeable Li-ion battery must be charged in the camera, and the USB cable plugs into a power adapter to do so. In my testing, battery life was adequate - I took roughly 280 photos and 28 movies (varying from 10 to 30 seconds) on one charge.