Samsung Digimax U-CA 5 Review

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Samsung Digimax U-CA 5

Steve's Conclusion

The Samsung Digimax U-CA 5 is the 2005 upgrade of last years U-CA 3. It includes many of the features found on its predecessor, but increases resolution to 5-megapixels, adds a larger 1.8-inch LCD, uses SD memory cards, and records MPEG-4 video. This compact and stylish digicam offers point-n-shoot simplicity for the new or less-experienced users with an "Auto"matic exposure mode, and allows for somewhat more creative shooting with its Scene and Manual modes.

Ergonomics are good. The controls are well placed and the menu system was easy to navigate. Its 1.8-inch LCD is used for shot composition, image review, and displays the onscreen menus. Outdoors it works well with few angles that reflect the sun. When shooting in dim lighting, the display does not "gain up" to aid in framing. However, the AF-assist lamp does help by illuminating your subject for a brief moment.

Shooting performance was good for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 3.8 seconds. Shutter lag when pre-focused was about 2/10 of a second and 7/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot to shot delay averaged approx. 1.7 seconds between frames without using the flash and from 2.5 to 4 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. Using the Continuous capture mode, I was able to capture 7 frames in approx. 4.7 seconds. The LCD goes blank when shooting in this mode, which makes following moving subjects next to impossible. All tests were done using a Transcend 60x 512MB SD card, with the LCD on, quality/size set at 5M/Super Fine, image review off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary dependent on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The overall image quality in 5M/Super Fine mode was also average. The majority of our outdoors samples were relatively sharp and well exposed. However, the flesh tones in our outdoor portraits were way too cool and images were a bit overexposed when using its forced (fill) flash mode. I noticed above average amounts of noise in high/low contrast areas, with images looking grainy when viewed at 100%. You should have no problems focusing in low-ambient lighting conditions, thanks to the AF-assist lamp. It does an excellent job when focusing on subjects within 3 to 6 feet. Indoors you will have to work with the limited flash range of about 9 feet. It's sufficient for most portraits of individuals or small groups, but does not have the power to illuminate large open rooms. Unlike our outdoor portraits, flesh tones looked very natural and the fill flash did well on subjects closer than 5 or 6 feet.

Movie mode allows you to capture VGA (640x480) sized MPEG-4 movies with sound at either 30 or 15 frames per second. It also features various color effects as well as a Stabilizer that helps reduce camera shake. Overall, our movie samples were sharp, with average amounts of compression noise. Like most digicams that record sound with video, the zoom can be preset before recording, but not used during.

The U-CA 5 is powered by a single SLB-1137 3.7V 1130mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery pack, and Samsung claims you can capture up to 200 shots with a full charge. We had no problems capturing our sample images (about 90 shots) and concluding our other tests before the battery was exhausted. Samsung includes a handy docking cradle that charges the battery in-camera. You can also connect it to your TV set via the supplied Audio/Video cables to show friends and family your images.

Bottom line - the Samsung Digimax U-CA 5 is an affordable compact digicam that produced mediocre results. While it is a speedy performer, I was a little disappointed with the amount of noise present in its 5-megapixel Super Fine images. With a street price of around $249, it does offer a good value, especially for those who are just entering the digital world. However, if you're in the market for a 5- megapixel consumer camera, we suggest you also take a look at some other models like Kodak's CX7530, Casio's QV-R51, or the HP PhotoSmart R707.

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