Samsung S1050 Review
Yet another Samsung model for 2007, the S1050 currently (as of 7/2007) holds the top of the
line spot in their "Designer" series of versatile compact digicams. The S1050 offers some
powerful features, included 10-megapixels of resolution, a 5x optical zoom lens, 3.0-inch LCD
screen, 800x592 (20fps) movie mode with movie stabilization, all wrapped in a stylish and
durable shell. While offering several Automatic exposure modes (like Auto and 11 scene
modes) for beginners, more advanced users will appreciate settings like Aperture priority,
Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes. There's also ASR (Anti-Shake Reduction) mode,
which will help you capture better images in lower lighting where the flash can not be used.
The ergonomics of the S1050 are great. While this is what I would consider compact, as it can fit in large pockets and small handbags, the enlarged hand grip offers a very comfortable feel. This also allowed for effortless one-handed shooting. The various controls are well placed, easily accessed by your finger tips. The onscreen menus are logically organized, and like its sibling (the L77), we especially liked the function shortcut menu. It allows you to quickly change various settings, like image size, quality, ISO, metering, white balance, exposure compensation, etc. I also found the "Low Light!" message very helpful by alerting you when you try to capture an image without the flash in lighting that is too dim, which will lead to more occurrences of camera shake. The large 3.0-inch LCD is a very nice display, with plenty of resolution (230K pixels.) While it does not feature a non-reflective coating, I found it worked well outdoors in bright sunlight, and also gains up nicely in lower lighting. The only issues I found were the tripod socket is Very shallow, I couldn't even use my inexpensive Merkury Innovations tripod, and the display is very prone to fingerprints - nothing your T-shirt can't take car of.
The S1050's shooting performance was good for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 3 seconds. Shutter lag when pre-focused was about 1/10 of a second and 2/10 of a second including autofocus time. The shot to shot time averaged 2.1 seconds between frames without using the flash and from 3.1 to 4 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. The Continuous Shooting mode was a little disappointing. I was able to capture 5 frames in approx. 4.9 seconds. The LCD goes blank when shooting in this mode, so following a moving subject will be difficult. All tests were done using a Patriot Memory 2GB SD card, quality/size set at 10M Superfine, image review off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was pleased with our image quality results when using the 10M SuperFine mode. Outdoors in captures nice images that show very little edge softness, good exposure and accurate colors. The 5x optical zoom lens offers and above average zoom range, covering 38 - 190mm (in 35mm equivalence.) While it favors the telephoto end with only a moderate 38mm wide angle field of view, I had not problems capturing interior portrait shots (close-up and group) as well as nice landscapes. At 180mm, you won't be bringing distant subjects up close and personal, however it does help shorten the distance and works great for close-up portraits and macro photography. Overall I noticed average amounts of barrel distortion and pincushioning, however, purple fringing (aka Chromatic Aberrations) was very well controlled.
Nowadays more and more digicams are featuring high sensitivity settings, like ISO 1600 on the S1050. 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 S1050, image noise is very low from ISO 200 and below, becoming more noticeable at 400. ISO 800 us still usable, however 1600 looks horrible and you'd be lucky to be able to create a good looking 4x6-inch print.
When a picture just won't do, you can opt to use movie mode. It records video at resolutions of 800x592 (20 or 15fps only), 720x480, 640x480 or 320x240 with a selectable frame rate of 30, 20 or 15 frames per second. Unlike most digicams that record audio, you can use the zoom while recording, and this model also features "movie stabilization". I found the 800x592 mode is a bit choppy due to the slower frame rate, however the wide format 720x480 mode as well as the standard 640x480 modes look good thanks to their real time (30fps) frame rate. The only issue I had was the exposure system puts a reddish/pinkish strip from top to bottom where there is extremely high contrast - like bright sunlight bouncing off of white vinyl siding, etc.
The S1050 is powered by 2 standard AA type batteries, which means you can use Alkalines (what Samsung supplies), Rechargeable NiMH cells (what we recommend), or one-use lithium cells. We like to see cameras that are powered by theses, as you can pick them up almost anywhere. However, we only recommend using Alkalines if you are in a bind - they offer terrible battery life and just wind up in the local landfill. I was able to capture about 75 samples as well as conclude many of our other test on a single set of POWEREX 2700 mAh NiMH cells.
Bottom line - the Samsung S1050 is a nice 10-megapixel digital package. With great image quality, average performance, and loads of useful features, I feel the S1050 will make a great choice for anyone who is in the market for a well rounded, compact and versatile digicam. With a street price of $299 or less, it offers a good value, just be sure to check other manufactures offerings in this price range or category as well. See our samples page to judge the S1050's image quality for yourself.
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