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Samsung Digimax L50 Digital Camera

Samsung Digimax QuickLook
Review Date
5/15/2006
User Level
Novice to experienced amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
digital camera Design
Point and Shoot, some manual control
Picture Quality
Very Good, 5.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
11x17s or 8x10s with heavy cropping
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$199.95

Samsung L50 Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories

Test Results

Specifications
Conclusion
Camera Overview

Samsung's Digimax L50 digital camera is compact, stylish and capable. It's surprisingly affordable, too.

On the plus side, Samsung wisely opted for a sharp, 2.5-inch LCD on the L50. LCDs are like diamonds: the bigger the better. Why lenses aren't like diamonds escapes us. The lens on the L50 is the size of the thumbnail on your pinky, typical of a $200 digicam.

On the down side, the zoom range is a bit shorter than its competitors (but not much, really). There's no optical viewfinder (not unusual). And the battery isn't latched into the body, so it's easy to drop when you open the compartment door. Pretty minor stuff.

Back on the plus plus side, the L50 is encased in aluminum, sports a 30-fps 640x480 MPEG-4 movie mode with image stabilization, makes a nifty voice memo recorder, and includes 11 scene modes.

Let's take a closer look at the L50 to see what makes it tick.

 

User Report

Samsung is still a relatively new player in the US digital camera market. If you're looking at the Samsung company site, you'd think they didn't have digital cameras at all (this threw us for awhile), but if you look at the bottom of the L50, you'll see that they have a special site dedicated to cameras, whose name they printed right there for all to see (http://www.samsungcamera.com). Their newness to the US market makes for an interesting feature set, adding audio and video options others tend to ignore. On the other hand, it can drive you nuts trying to find a feature you know must be there, but remains hidden in a confusing menu system.

The Interface Issue. Here's an example. The first two times I took it for a spin, I couldn't find the Exposure Compensation feature anywhere. It wasn't on any of the menus and I couldn't find it on the navigation button, where it usually resides (probably because Samsung puts the voice memo option there). Turns out it wasn't on a menu but it was right under my nose on another button. It took the manual to show me, though, because the particular button Samsung chose to put it on is also the Delete button. An odd pairing.

But that's not the end of this story. I found a few other treasures that had eluded us there on that button, too. Like the ISO setting. So what happened the next time we took the L50 out and pressed the +/- button? I didn't get Exposure Compensation. I got ISO. It remembers what you last looked at. That's not a bad idea because you may want to reset what you just changed. The bad idea was dumping all those functions on a single button that has to cycle through the collection, which appears as a stack of icons starting in the lower right corner of the LCD.

It isn't just the little (essential) things, either. I was utterly confused about what the main shooting modes are. There's Still & Movie, Full, and Custom. Turns out those aren't really modes. They're Mode menu modifiers affecting what the Mode button does. Still & Movie lets it toggle between Movie mode and a preset Still mode. Full lets it toggle between Movie mode and all the Still modes. And Custom toggles between Movie mode and a subset of the Still modes you select.

In short, I found the interface more of a shell game than it should be. But I'm a jaded reviewer, not a new owner who can spend a few days making the quirks second nature.

DSCN9405.JPG
Case Included

Design. The camera body itself is quite attractive. About the size of a pack of cards, the aluminum shell easily slips into even a small shirt pocket. But Samsung includes a stylish silver weave camera case with a belt loop and an opening for the included wrist strap so you have no reason to leave it behind no matter how you want to carry it. In fact, I kept picking it up to take with me long after I'd amassed enough shots for a sample gallery. We bonded.

DSCN9406.JPG
The Shutter & Power Buttons
Power is recessed, Shutter raised
Just one of the attractions of the L50 is the control layout. It's surprising how many manufacturers can design confusing Power and Shutter buttons. The L50's were both exactly right: a small recessed Power button you don't need to find all the time with a not-quite-adjacent, raised and large Shutter button you can always find by touch. It's right where you expect it to be.

The back of the camera was also cleanly laid out, with the familiar zoom toggle up top and the common four-way navigator below. There are only four other small buttons to figure out. Even if it takes a while to figure out what's on the +/- button or what the Mode button is doing!

DSCN9407.JPG
Clean Control Layout

The SD memory card format is common on compact cameras, and well implemented here, tucked into the battery compartment like many other digicams. Unfortunately, there's no latch on the proprietary lithium-ion battery, so you'll want to open the camera only when it's upside down to avoid dropping the battery.

There is about 26MB of flash memory built into the camera, which is an increasingly common alternative to including a uselessly small memory card. And since it's always in the camera, it's a life saver when you run out of room on your memory card.

Shooting. Power on and power down don't set any speed records, but they don't introduce annoying delays either. They're genuinely average. I quickly got a feel for the roughly two seconds it takes for the camera to get ready. And, of course, you can always overcome that by setting the Power Save feature to one, three, or five minutes, so just a tap on the Shutter button brings the L50 back to life.

DSCN9409.JPG
No Latch So ...
the battery falls out

The LCD (the L50's only viewfinder) is bright and spacious, a delight to use. It's also resistant to smudging and scratching, it seemed to me. I didn't have to clean it nearly as much as some other digicams.

The familiar Auto mode is joined by the less common but even more useful Program mode (that offers more Effects than Auto does). And there are 11 Scene modes available, as well, including Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close Up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, and Beach&Snow. Those scene modes are each distinct from each other (you won't get confused about which to use) and cover the gamut of difficult shooting situations, with one exception: I'd have liked to see a Museum mode with a high ISO, no flash and 1/30 shutter speed for those times when you can't use flash indoors.

With five megapixels, there's plenty of resolution to get great prints up to 11x14. Even if you crop the image, you can still get a very nice 8x10.

Effects. The Effects button shows the benefits of Samsung's fresh perspective with four fun options. All options are available in Program mode but only Color Effect is available in Auto.

The Color Effect option offers Black and White, Sepia, and Negative modes. But it also offers Red, Green, and Blue modes, which are a bit more subtle than they sound, more like using different White Balance modes.

The Preset Focus Frames Effect provides four focus targets to choose from, including center focus, landscape-oriented portrait, double portrait and portrait-orientated portrait.

The Composite Effect lets you combine the next two to four shots in one image. Select any one of its four layouts and it prompts you to fire the shutter for the first image in the layout. Then it leaves that image on the screen, while prompting you for the next shot, turning that pane of the layout into the active view so you can line the two shots up. You can actually have quite a bit of fun with this, mixing and matching scenes.

The Frame Effect lets you select one of nine cartoon-like borders to surround your image. This is kind of cute, and certain to appeal to younger photographers with a sense of humor. Others might be slightly nauseated by the predominantly cutesy designs.

DSCN9410.JPG
Easily Held
And a pleasure to use

The L50 is a compact digicam with personality. Its voice memo feature is handy for recording notes to yourself or even lectures (with a one hour maximum) but its cartoon-like frames make it fun for kids, too. It has a healthy selection of Scene modes to go with its easy-to-use Auto mode and more options in its Program mode. At just $200, the L50 is more than just a bargain. It's a steal.

Basic Features

  • 5.0-megapixel CCD delivering images as large as 2,592 x 1,944 pixels
  • 2.5-inch color LCD monitor
  • 2.8x, 39-109mm (35mm equivalent) lens
  • 4x digital zoom
  • Auto, Manual, and Scene recording modes, with 11 preset "scenes"
  • White Balance with seven settings, including a custom option
  • Maximum aperture of f/3.2 to f/5.4, depending on lens zoom position
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to one second, depending on exposure mode (as long as 15 seconds in night mode)
  • Built-in flash with five modes
  • 26MB internal flash memory
  • SD/MMC card storage
  • Power supplied by one rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack or optional AC adapter
  • Digimax Viewer, Digimax Reader, and ArcSoft PhotoImpression Windows software included; no Mac software

Special Features

  • Movie and Audio recording modes, with image stabilization for video files
  • Double exposure mode
  • Color effects settings, plus a range of special effects
  • Adjustable ISO from 100 to 400, with an Auto setting
  • Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release, plus a Double setting
  • Image sharpness adjustment
  • Macro (close-up) and Auto Macro lens settings
  • Aluminum body
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge compatibility
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included)

Recommendation
As compact as a deck of cards, the Samsung Digimax L50 has a lot of wild cards. Though it is primarily a point-and-shoot digicam, the L50 can make WAV voice memos and shoot AVI movies with an unusual pause feature that stores the entire shoot in one file. The 5.0-megapixel CCD captures high-resolution images, and the L50's very large 2.5-inch color LCD monitor is a welcome inclusion. The lack of Mac software really shouldn't discourage OS X users because QuickTime can handle WAV audio and AVI movies (with an AVI codec like the DivX codec provided free with the trial version of DivX 6). Most noteworthy though, is the camera's small size and low profile, making it a very pocket-friendly travel companion. We took it everywhere.

 

Design

Smooth and compact, with limited controls and practically no protrusions, the Samsung Digimax L50 is among the most pocket-friendly digital cameras currently available. It measures only 3.67 x 2.05 x 0.88 inches (93.2 x 52.1 x 22.3 millimeters), and weighs just 5.08 ounces (144 grams) with the battery and memory card loaded. A wrist strap comes with the camera for added security when shooting, as does a soft camera case to help protect the attractive aluminum silver finish.

The Samsung Digimax L50's front panel is dominated by the SHD zoom lens whose automatic lens shutters slide out of the way when the camera is powered on. Above it to the left is the small flash and to the right two small holes for the microphone. The self-timer/AF assist lamp is also above the lens, even further to the right. A small chrome bar serves as a finger grip, but you'll want to keep that wrist strap securely in place whenever the camera is in-hand.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is the plastic cover to the USB port and the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless.

On the camera's top panel are the large Shutter and small Power buttons, as well as a tiny speaker.

The Samsung Digimax L50's few control buttons share the rear panel with the large 2.5-inch color LCD monitor, and a small series of raised bumps that serve as a thumbrest. A two-way Zoom rocker button crowns the top right corner to the right of a small Camera status lamp, with the Mode/Album button just under the lamp. The Effect button sits just above and to the left of the four-way navigational button with a central "OK" button. Below the navigational button is a Play mode button to the left and the Exposure Compensation/Delete button to the right.

The L50's bottom panel hosts the shared memory/battery compartment and the metal tripod socket. A sliding, hinged door covers the memory/battery compartment. Inside, the battery and memory card slots line up side-by-side, making the most of the small space. The tripod mount is just off center but too close to the hinged door to leave the camera mounted when you have to access the compartment.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Still Record Mode: A camera icon on the LCD screen indicates this mode is active. In this mode, the camera records still images. Within Still record mode, you can select Auto or Manual (Program AE) exposure modes, or access one of the 11 preset Scene shooting modes (Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, and Beach & Snow).

Movie Mode: Indicated by a movie camera icon on the LCD, this mode records 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 128-pixel resolution movies with sound, at either 30 or 15 frames per second.

Audio Mode: Accessed by pressing the up arrow of the Four-way navigational rocker button twice, this mode records up to one hour of audio only. Recording stops and starts with a press of the Shutter button.

Playback Mode: Accessed by pressing the Playback button, this mode lets you review captured images and movies, as well as manage files.

Record Menu: The following menu items appear when the Menu button is pressed in Record mode. However, not all menu options are available in all modes.

  • Mycam: Sets startup image, startup sound, and shutter sound.
  • Setup Menu: (see below)
  • Mode: Offers Still & Movie, Full and Custom options, dictating which modes are available through the Mode button on the rear panel. If Still & Movie is selected, the Mode button accesses only Still and Movie record modes. If Full is selected, you can choose between Movie, Auto, Program and the 11 Scene modes (Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, and Beach & Snow). Custom lets you select between Movie, Auto and any of the other modes enabled by the Mode Set menu option.
  • Mode Set: Enables the 11 Scene modes (Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, and Beach & Snow) in Custom mode, as well as Auto and Program exposure modes.
  • OSD (On-Screen Display) Information: Controls the level of information displayed by the LCD monitor. Choices are Full, Basic, or Save Mode. In Save Mode, the screen shuts off to conserve battery power if the camera is idle for 30 seconds.
  • Size: Sets the resolution for still images. Choices are 2,592 x 1,944 pixels, 2,272 x 1,704 pixels, 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, 1,600 x 1,200 pixels, 1,024 x 768 pixels, or 640 x 480 pixels.
  • Size (Movie): Sets the video resolution to 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 128 pixels.
  • Quality: Sets the JPEG compression to Super Fine, Fine, or Normal.
  • Frame Rate (Movie): Sets the Movie frame rate to 30 or 15 frames per second.
  • Metering: Changes the camera's metering mode to Multi or Spot.
  • Shooting: Selects Single, Continuous or AEB (automatic exposure bracketing in half step increments) drive modes.
  • Sharpness: Controls the in-camera sharpening, with options of Soft, Normal, or Vivid.

Effect Menu: Activated by pressing the E button.

  • Effect: Activates the camera's color effects. Options include Normal, Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Red, Blue, and Green.
  • Special Effects: This menu option enables more in-depth special effects, with the following choices:
    • Highlight: Turns on the Highlight option, which displays four different preset focus frames. Each focus frame shows the outline of a person or persons, so that you can line up shots more easily. One of the focus frames is simply an expanded central AF area.
    • Composite: This option lets you combine up to four pieces of separate images into one composite image.
    • Photo Frame: With this option, you can add one of nine graphic "frames" around an image file.
  • Stabilizer (Movie only): Turns the image stabilization utility on or off. Image stabilization is only available in Movie mode.
  • Setup Menu: Displays the following Setup options:
    • File: Specifies whether the camera numbers images files in series or restarts with each new memory card or card format operation.
    • Power Save: Sets the period of idle time before the camera shuts itself off. Choices are 1, 3, 5, or 10 minutes.
    • Language: Sets the menu language to one of 21 options.
    • Format: Formats the memory card or internal memory, erasing all files.
    • Date & Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar, as well as the LCD display style.
    • Imprint: Sets whether the date and time are imprinted on an image together, or just the date, or turns the imprint off.
    • AF Lamp: Turns the AF assist lamp on or off. If on, the lamp illuminates automatically in low lighting.
    • Sound: Controls the camera's sound volume, with options of Off, Low, Medium, or High.
    • LCD: Controls the LCD backlight, setting it to Dark, Normal, or Bright.
    • USB: Sets the purpose of the USB connection, either Computer or Printer.
    • Video Out: Sets the video signal to PAL or NTSC.
    • Quick View: Activates the post-capture image display or turns it off. Display times are 0.5, 1, or 3 seconds.
    • Reset: Returns all camera settings to their defaults.

Playback Menu:

  • MyCam: Sets startup image, startup sound, and shutter sound.
  • Setup Menu: Displays the same settings as under the Record menu.
  • Rotate: Rotates the displayed image left or right 90 degrees, or 180 degrees.
  • Resize: Resizes an image to any of the available resolution settings, except for maximum resolution.
  • Protect: Write-protects a selected image or all images, preventing images from being accidentally erased or manipulated (except via memory or card formatting). Also removes protection.
  • Delete: Lets you delete selected images or all images.
  • DPOF: Offers a range of options for setting up images to print. You can choose Standard or Index print styles, and select a print size.
  • Copy to Card: Copies files from the internal memory to the SD card.
  • Slide (brought up by pressing Mode button): Enables a slide show of captured images, with user-adjustable intervals between images. You can also select whether images repeat or choose an effect for transitions.
  • Effect (brought up by pressing Mode button): Applies an effect to the captured image. Choices are Black & White, Sepia, Negative, Red, Blue, or Green.

 

In the Box

In the box are the following items:

  • Digimax L50 camera
  • Camera case
  • Wrist strap
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger and cord
  • USB cable
  • AV cable
  • Use manual, warranty and software CD

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Specifications

See the specifications sheet here.

 

Picky Details

Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the Digimax L50 Sample Pictures page.

For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Samsung Digimax L50 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Digimax L50 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!

Lens

Zoom
A bit short of the typical 3x optical zoom range at 2.8x but with good performance.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
37mm
109mm
4x Digital Zoom

The Digimax L50 zooms over the equivalent of a 37-109mm range, just a bit short of the typical 3x zoom range for its class. The 4x digital zoom takes it out to nearly 12x total with the loss of quality that digital zoom creates.

Macro
A small macro area with good detail and high resolution. Flash throttled down surprisingly well at this range, but an external flash is always preferred for macro shots.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Digimax L50's macro setting performs well, capturing a small minimum area of 1.19 x 0.89 inches (30 x 23 millimeters). Detail is strong and resolution high, with only a moderate amount of softening in the corners from the lens. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) The flash doesn't throttle down well and doesn't evenly illuminate the field. (Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the L50.)

Distortion
Average to low barrel distortion.

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel--usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion--usually at telephoto). The L50's 0.62% barrel distortion at wide angle is lower than average. At the telephoto end, the EX-L50's barrel distortion is undetectable.

Barrel distortion at 37mm is 0.62%
Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Barrel distortion at 109mm is 0.00%
Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image

Chromatic aberration
Noticeable at wide angle, very slight at telephoto.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Wide: fairly bright, top left @ 200% Wide: fairly bright, top right @ 200%
Tele: quite low, top left @200% Tele: quite low, top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is apparent but slight at wide angle, showing several pixels of moderately bright coloration on either side of the target lines, but decreases to very low levels at telephoto focal lengths. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness
Some softening in only some corners; otherwise quite sharp.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Wide: Soft in the lower left corner Wide: Sharp in the center
Tele: Soft in the lower left corner Tele: Sharp, but a little less
contrasty in the center than at Wide

The Digimax L50 produced soft corners at the bottom of the frame, worse in the lower left at both telephoto and wide.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Slightly cool cast with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. Best shots used no exposure compensation, which is rather unusual.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Auto White Balance 0EV Incandescent WB 0EV

Color balance indoors under Auto was just a bit cool but pleasing. Incandescent was excellent. The Digimax L50 did best with no exposure compensation. Overall color well-balanced and hue accurate. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

Outdoors, daylight
Good color balance, very bright colors. Better than average exposure accuracy.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure with slightly blown out highlights. Shadow detail also tended to fall apart, but nothing that would raise an alarm for a consumer digicam. Sunlit shots showed high contrast and oversaturation while overcast scenes managed a more accurate portrayal. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera requiring less exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,100 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,100 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,500. (The camera did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) 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. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Strong detail to 1,100 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,100 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Very sharp images.

Good definition of high-contrast elements. Some edge enhancement visible against the blue sky and roof line Subtle detail: Hair. Clear evidence of noise suppression in the hair, but still not bad

The Digimax L50's images are a bit soft generally, but without any strong over-sharpening or edge enhancement on the camera's part. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Evidence of noise suppression is evident even at ISO 100. 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. (The level of detail loss wouldn't be all that obvious on prints 8x10 inches or smaller though.)

ISO & Noise Performance
Increasing noise at the higher ISO settings, but surprisingly well-controlled.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
ISO 50 ISO 100
Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
ISO 200 ISO 400

At ISO 50, the Digimax L50 was relatively noise-free, as well as at ISO 100. Image noise was apparent at ISO 200, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. At ISO 400 noise was significant, but chroma noise was kept under control (evident by brightly colored pixels occurring at random). You can also see the color saturation reduce as ISO increases, resulting in a far flatter image at ISO 400 than at 50. In this case, skin tones suffer dramatically.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast and limited shadow detail. While it can expose properly down to 1/4 foot-candle, autofocus works only to four foot-candles, quite a bit brighter than typical city night scenes.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Normal +0.5EV +1.0EV

Sunlight:
Now, we will be the first to tell you to not take a picture in this kind of lighting, because it's extremely unflattering, but we know that this shot is taken in back yards and at amusement parks probably every second of every day as the noonday sun travels around the world, so we've developed this test to show you how much information your camera will retain in the highlights and shadows if you do take a shot like this and want to fix it. The truth is, we haven't seen a camera that makes this shot look good, but we have seen a few that can leave enough detail in shadows and highlights for some kind of after-capture rescue. This is a very tough challenge for most digital cameras, so we suggest that all readers either learn about their camera's Fill Flash setting, or move your subjects into the shade for far better shots. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Digimax L50 had a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Noise suppression is visible in both shadows and highlights as well, contributing to the loss of detail, made more severe in these areas. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
50
Click to see L50LL03.JPG
2 sec
f3.2
Click to see L50LL04.JPG
3 sec
f3.2
Click to see L50LL05.JPG
9 sec
f3.2
Click to see L50LL06.JPG
10 sec
f3.2
Click to see L50LL07.JPG
11 sec
f3.2

Low light:
Our low light testing revealed some limitations in the lens and sensor's ability to gather and process light. While the Digimax L50 can expose properly down to 1/4 foot-candle, autofocus works only to four foot-candles, about four times brighter than typical city night scenes. That's an important limitation in typical after-dark shooting conditions.


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.

Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly oversaturated color (especially reds and blues), very typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
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. The Digimax L50 follows this trend, though it tends to overdo the strong red tones a bit. 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. The L50 did render skin tones a bit on the pink side in most cases, but our sense is that most consumers would find the L50's bright color very appealing.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the Digimax L50 did quite well. Like most digicams, it shifts cyan colors toward blue, to produce better-looking sky colors, but the rest of the hues were reasonably accurate.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image

Our random "Gallery" shots showed very pleasing color across a wide variety of subjects. (See our Digimax L50 Photo Gallery for more shots taken with the camera.)

Viewfinder

Coverage
Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
37mm eq., LCD monitor 109mm eq., LCD monitor

The L50's LCD monitor showed 102% at wide angle and 100% at telephoto. The L50 has no optical viewfinder.

Flash

Coverage and Range
The L50's small flash has a limited range, produces a slight blue cast in combination with typical incandescent room lighting. Our standard shots required more exposure compensation than average.

Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
37mm equivalent 109mm equivalent
Samsung Digimax L50 digital camera image
Normal Flash +0.9EV

Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle but very good at telephoto.

Even at eight feet, our closest test range, the flash did not quite illuminate the DaveBox target adequately. This agrees with Samsung's own spec of six feet for flash range, a bit on the short side, although not uncommon for a compact camera model.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see L50FL08.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see L50FL09.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see L50FL10.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see L50FL11.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see L50FL12.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see L50FL13.JPG
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f5.4
ISO 100
Click to see L50FL14.JPG
1/50 sec
f5.4
ISO 100

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, very usable 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are very soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, great at 4x6.

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 Samsung i9900 studio printer, and on the Samsung iP5000 here in the office. (See the Samsung i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Digimax L50, we found that it had enough resolution to make very crisp 8x10 inch prints. At 11x14, its prints were a bit softer looking, but more than adequate for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check, but at the cost of rather soft and slightly desaturated images. ISO 200 photos still hold together when printed at up to 11x14 inches, and even ISO 400 images would do a passable wall display, except that the colors come out of the printer looking aged. Color-wise, the Digimax L50's images looked slightly less vibrant overall than they do onscreen. Users who prefer more subdued, technically accurate color saturation levels may find the L50's images about right, but most consumers will probably want to run the photos through a photo editing program to enhance the colors a bit before printing.

Timing and Performance

Digimax L50 Timing
Average speed for an entry-level consumer camera.

Startup/Shutdown:
Power On to first shot 2.20 seconds
Shutter response (Lag Time):
Full Autofocus Wide
0.87 second
Full Autofocus Tele
0.91 second
Prefocused
0.26 second
Cycle time (shot to shot)
Normal large/fine JPEG 2.91 seconds
Flash recycling 4 seconds
Continuous mode 1.50 second
0.67 frames/second
(1 large/fine frame)
Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0 3,196 KBytes/sec

The L50's performance is average across the board. Start up speed is not quick, but not annoyingly slow. Shutter response is much the same whether at wide angle or telephoto and both are average. If you "prefocus" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure, it's much faster but still only average. Shot-to-shot cycle times and continuous mode speed are also average. The flash takes just four seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is quicker than average, but the flash is not very powerful with just a six foot range. Connected to a computer, download speeds are fast enough that you probably won't feel a need for a separate card reader. Bottom line, the L50 is responsive enough (particularly at wide angle lens settings) to handle most family photo opportunities.

See full Picky Details page.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Good battery life with the LCD on.

Operating Mode
Battery Life
Still-image capture mode
LCD on
110 minutes
Images captured
with flash every 2 times
190 images
Movie mode
640x480, 30fps
90 minutes

The Digimax L50 uses a custom rechargeable 3.7 volt Lithium Ion battery for power. According to the manual, the camera will shoot for 110 minutes, capturing 190 images. Conditions are roughly equivalent to CIPA standards, though Samsung calls it "Samsung Standard." "Using the fully charged battery, Auto mode, 5M image size, Fine image quality; shot-to-shot interval: 30 sec. Changing the zoom position between the Wide and the Tele ends every 1 shot, using the flash every two times."

Storage
No SD memory card is included with the Digimax L50, but it does include 26MB internal flash memory.

Image Capacity with
26-MB internal flash memory
Fine
2,592 x 1,944 Images 9
File Size 3.0MB
2,272 x 1,704 Images 11
File Size 2.3MB
2,048 x 1,536 Images 15
File Size 1.9MB
1,600 x 1,200 Images 23
File Size 1.1MB
1024 x 768
Images 58
File Size 467K
640 x 480
Images 125
File Size 217K

I strongly recommend buying at least a 128MB card, preferably a 256MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings.

See full Picky Details page.

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Attractive design, well-built, very compact, has a solid feel to it
  • Huge 2.5 inch LCD display
  • Excellent macro capability
  • Good assortment of Scene modes
  • Better than average exposure control for a subcompact
  • Super-fast USB 2.0 interface (extremely fast downloads)
  • Good VGA (640x480 pixel) 30 frames/second movie mode, very efficient compression for compact movie files
  • Lens zoom is enabled during movie recording, with very little zoom motor noise (unusual, very welcome feature)
  • Voice memo recording
  • Menu system is very different from most other digicams, can be confusing
  • Images are a bit on the soft side
  • Rather slow shutter response
  • Continuous mode is quite slow
  • Not the best for low-light shooting, mediocre focusing, LCD is hard to use for framing in dim lighting
  • Weak flash, "Safety Flash" doesn't help much in dim lighting
  • Very close flash/lens spacing makes the camera more prone to producing red-eye
  • No support for the Macintosh. Samsung includes no OS X software, although QuickTime can play back the audio WAV memos and AVI movies

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The Samsung Digimax L50's good looks and small size make it a welcome companion, and its big 2.5-inch color LCD monitor makes it an entertaining one, too. Though primarily designed for the point-and-shoot consumer interested in both style and portability, the L50 has some useful audio and video features as well. The 5.0-megapixel CCD captures high resolution images usable up to 11x14 inches, but they're really sharp only to 8x10. The L50's 2.8x optical zoom lens covers the most common shooting uses. We did have a few quibbles with it, mainly its enigmatic menuing system. It was a little slow focusing on kids indoors and out, unfortunately, and its low light and flash performance were weak. Though chroma noise and detail held together at high ISO, color washed out noticeably, making for a sickly look in photos of people. Still, we enjoyed shooting with the Samsung L50. It's not a Dave's Pick, but it is an impressive showing by Samsung in the subcompact arena.

 

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