Using a compact digital camera is a rarity to me these days. I can usually be found lugging around my Nikon D90 since it has all the high-end features I need for taking professional shots. The only time I would probably even think of taking my compact camera anywhere, would be to sneak it into a concert. The Samsung SL310W compact digital camera however does have features more commonly found on expensive digital cameras – like my Nikon D90 for instance.
For a fraction of the price, these features include a 13.6 megapixel image sensor, Dual Image Stabilization, a 3.6x wide-angle optical zoom lens, Perfect Portrait System, a 2.7 Intelligent LCD, and an Advanced Movie Mode with MPEG-4 Recording. That’s Not bad for a sub $200 camera that fits in the palm of your hand. It is also available in two different colors: Black and Silver. On the box it does depict that it was available in pink and brown but those two models are nowhere to be found.
The SL310W is pretty lightweight in your hand and the buttons are about average size in comparison to other cameras of this size. On the top part of the camera is where you will find the power button which displays a nice blue hue when turned on, the shutter button and a circular dial for you to choose your shooting modes. Shooting modes consist of Manual, Program, Movie, Scene, Beauty Shot, Dual Image Stabilization, and a Help Guide. The back of the camera has your Zoom T/W Button, LCD display, effect button, OIS button, Fn/Delete button, and Play(review) Mode.
It is extremely helpful to have the Function Descriptions and a Help Guide built into the camera. Not to mention that the paper manual included is pretty limp on any instructions on how to use the features. Without this on board Help Guide, the casual photographer probably would not take full advantage of what the SL310W has to offer. The Function Description automatically provides a short sentence as you scroll through the different shooting modes and menu options. The Help Guide is probably where you will spend most of your time till you get the hang of the camera. It provides easy to follow tips and on how to take better photos so you can achieve the best results, whether it be ISO levels or white balance. This is a great feature to have for the average consumer whom doesn’t know much about photography.
One of the other stand out features of the SL310W is the Dual Image Stabilization. It combines both Samsung’s advanced Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Digital Image Stabilization (DIS) systems. This is the perfect feature for those who have unsteady hands or taking a photo were there could be a sudden movement. The Dual Image Stabilization will help reduce blurriness and help shoot sharper images that could have been ruined.
Another nice feature is the Beauty Shot, which is basically the vanity portion of the camera. Taking pictures under this mode will enable the self portrait mode as well as the smile shot. This shooting mode takes photos that make people look good instead of scary photos with big red eyes or blemished skin. You even have the ability to clean up the skin and detect a smile. In smile shot mode, if the camera doesn’t detect a smile, than the camera isn’t supposed to take a picture. However, when I tried taking a picture of someone not smiling, the camera worked just the same despite being in smile shot mode. So honestly I don’t see the point of it.
Self portrait mode allows you to take a picture of someone and the camera detects the person’s face and automatically adjusts the focus and exposure for the best picture possible. This mode will only work if the subject is centered in the frame. Another nice feature is the blink detection option. When I selected the blink detection option – I had my subject blink incessantly and I have to say that feature did work! It managed to take a pic with their eyes open even if slightly.
The SL310W’s also boasts a maximum ISO of 3200, which is perfect for capturing images in low-light situations, especially when trying to catch your neighbor in the act without a flash. Unfortunately, blurriness is still a constant problem we encountered even with the Dual Image Stabilization technology that is built in.
I will say that I was disappointed with many of the SL310W images. Typically in the outdoors most compact digital cameras work tend to provide excellent photos. Sadly this wasn’t case. Again blurriness was a constant issue. To the SL310W’s credit, photos did tend to have very vibrant colors with enhanced reddish tones. However the images on the whole were not bright – even when taken in natural sunlight in the afternoon before dusk. Indoor images performed much better. In controlled environments you are able to adjust the white balance and select each setting that fits the image being taken. I was again impressed with the vibrant colors and the strong red tones for photos taken indoors, but the blurriness, even with the OIS enabled was still there ever so slightly. I was also impressed with the fact of their being very low noise levels on most of the photos. No matter what ISO setting I was using I could see very little graininess. I also appreciated the special effects that comes built in to the camera, and if you are looking to make some quick sepia toned photos, you will like the finished product.
This little guy also comes equipped with advanced movie modes featuring MPEG-4 video recording as well as in-camera editing controls. While using video mode you can operate the camera’s wide-angle optical zoom and engage the OIS and DIS while recording. Which again is extremely helpful when recording, if your hand tends to shake. However the video quality didn’t blow me away. The picture had a lot of noise in it and the mic didn’t seem to pic up much of the sound. In addition if you zoom in while recording video, the sound will mute until you stop zooming in or out. Then sound recording will commence once again.
The Samsung SL310W is an impressive camera from the outside that packs a lot of features into a little lightweight body. It’s also easy to use once you learn the features. The built-in help guide is convenient and a smart learning tool, we’d love to see it in more cameras. The colors that the SL310W produces are also vibrant and its special effects help make up for the subpar picture quality in many shots. Having 13.6 megapixels in an ultracompact is also very impressive for this price point. The SL310W is certainly a nice try at trying to shove everything into a compact camera for an affordable price but they should have focused on making picture quality better before anything else. The Samsung SL310W retails for $199.99 which is certainly cheap enough if you can deal with these issues.
The Good: Low noise levels for an ultracompact camera. Vibrant colors with very strong red tones.
Special effects modes are neat. High megapixel count – 13.6 is certainly worth the investment alone.
The Bad: Tendency for blurry shots. Facial recognition often doesn’t work. Lack of lighting, even in outdoor shots where there is plenty of natural light. Dual image stabilization seems to be overrated.