Samsung L210 Review
Samsung L210 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Less than accurate color with oversaturation in strong reds and blues.
Saturation. The Samsung L210 oversaturates strong reds and blues quite a bit, but this is fairly common among consumer digital cameras. Yellows are actually undersaturated a small amount. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. Here, with the color balanced properly for the light source, the L210's Caucasian skin tones had a slight pink cast, while darker skin tones were pushed toward yellow slightly. However, performance here is still pleasing. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Samsung L210 showed several color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, pushing cyan toward blue, red toward orange, and yellow toward green. Performance here is a little less than average, but overall color is generally good. Hue is "what color" the color is.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Best color with Manual white balance, pretty good exposure as well.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was warm and reddish in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting produced more of a greenish cast. Manual mode produced the most accurate overall color, though it too appeared just a little magenta in some places and overall slightly cool. Still, white values measure out to be almost perfect in Manual mode. The Samsung L210 required a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a bright exposure, which is about average. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Generally good color and exposure outdoors.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Samsung L210 handled harsh lighting pretty well, producing only slightly high contrast with pretty good midtones. Shadow detail falls apart, however, due mostly to noise and noise suppression efforts. The camera's adjustable contrast setting did help even out the exposure some, but also resulted in a brighter overall exposure. The Samsung L210 also has an Auto Contrast Balance mode, which automatically adjusts the contrast depending on the severity of conditions. It too tended toward a slightly brighter exposure, but results were definitely more even.
High resolution, 1,500 - 1,600 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,500-1,600 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,500-1,600 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,500-1,600 lines per picture height in both directions. While lines are distinguishable here, they aren't overly clear. Extinction began around 1,950 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Fine detail is slightly soft from noise suppression, though high contrast areas show noticeable edge enhancement.
|Definition of high-contrast
elements is affected by
noise suppression and there's
evidence of edge enhancement.
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Samsung L210 captures a lot of fine detail, though detail definition suffers from noise suppression. In high contrast areas, the camera produces bright enhancement artifacts, such as along the trim in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows moderately high noise suppression, with the darker areas of hair showing limited detail. Individual strands become lost even in the moderate shadows. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
ISO & Noise Performance
Good noise handling at the lower sensitivity settings, though even at the moderate settings, noise suppression becomes fairly strong.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
The Samsung L210 handles image noise pretty well at ISOs 80 and 100, which you'd expect. Starting at ISO 200, noise suppression efforts become strong, blurring detail quite a bit. By ISO 800, the entire image looks like a pastel drawing, with very little definition at all. At ISO 1,600, noise grain becomes more pronounced though noise suppression remains strong. The other side effect here is cooler color casts at ISO 200 and 400, the result of more blue noise pixels.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, though limited shadow detail. Slightly bright contrast, but still good results overall. Slightly limited low-light capabilities.
|Default Exposure||+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV|
Sunlight. The Samsung L210 performed well under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, as contrast wasn't so high that it appeared overly edgy. Contrast is slightly high, but results are still not too bad considering the light source. Shadow detail is a bit limited, mostly due to noise suppression. At +0.3 EV, the highlights on the white shirt are a tad hot, but the default exposure was too dim overall. The Samsung L210 features an adjustable contrast setting, as well as an Auto Contrast Balance mode. Both options lighten the overall exposure in their attempts to even out tones, but results are still pretty good. Be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low light. The Samsung L210 was slightly limited in terms of low-light performance, as not even the highest sensitivity setting produced what I would call bright results at the lowest light level. However, at ISO 200 and above, images were bright to about 1/8 foot-candle, and at ISOs 100 and 80, images were bright to about 1/4 foot-candle. The test target was visible at the lower light levels, just quite dim. Color balance was cool from the Auto white balance in many shots. The camera's AF system had trouble with low lighting, able to focus only down to just under the 1/8 foot-candle light level with and without AF assist enabled. Thus, the AF system doesn't keep up with the exposure system too well here.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
Modest flash power at close range, though coverage is fairly uniform. Exposure compensation has no effect on shots in the normal flash mode, though does help Slow-Sync mode.
|34mm equivalent||102mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash, Default Exposure||Slow-Sync Flash, +0.3 EV|
Flash coverage was only slightly uneven at wide angle, and actually pretty good at telephoto as well. In the Indoor test, the Samsung L210's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, but increasing the exposure compensation had no effect on overall brightness. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced much brighter and more even results, though with a slight warm cast from the background lighting. Though results are a bit warm, the Slow-Sync image seems more natural because of the ambient lighting.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle and ISO 100, flash intensity began to decrease from about 10 feet on. At telephoto, flash power maintained the same intensity to about 7 feet, decreasing in brightness at 8 feet and beyond.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the L210 almost performs as Samsung says it will, though it had to raise the sensitivity slightly at both wide angle and telephoto settings. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality at 11x14 inches. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are better at 5x7.
The Samsung L210 was able to produce good 11x14-inch prints at ISO 80 and 100. Though onscreen we saw an odd edge enhancement combined with detail smoothing that gives many objects a surreal, painted look, the same image looks pretty good printed at this size. Raising the print size to 13x19 inches results in much softer detail, but again the odd appearance that we see onscreen isn't as obvious in the print.
ISO 200 shots are pretty good at 11x14, but if you look closely you won't like the level of detail; at arm's length, it's not bad. ISO 400 shots really need to be printed at 8x10 to keep acceptable sharpness; and even then, some low-contrast areas will remain soft.
ISO 800 shots are decent at 5x7, with a very smooth softness that isn't offensive. If you're looking for detail, you'll be disappointed, but from a distance, it looks like a good print. ISO 1,600 shots are too soft for my taste, but the noise is very well controlled, making for an acceptable image in most cases. Again, low-contrast detail suffers terribly.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Samsung L210 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Samsung L210 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.