The Samsung Digimax L85 is a surprisingly functional 8-megapixel digital camera. Its chunky, retro design belies its very flexible, high-end feature set, including the unique ability to output HDMI . Granted, HDMI in a digital camera is more novel than utilitarian, but the wealth of manual settings and image features will be appreciated by anyone who wants to take solid photos. As long as you don't mind its propensity for fringing on edges and the lack of a fast burst mode, you'll find the Samsung Digimax L85 a versatile, quality shooter. In a market filled with credit card-size, ultrathin, chrome snapshooters, the Samsung Digimax L85's grippable, rubberized black body with matte-silver accents feels like an homage to yesterday's camera designs. Nevertheless, its chunky, 7.9-ounce, slightly-too-big-to-pocket chassis hosts a fairly standard control layout.
The top panel of the camera holds the power button, the shutter release, and a mode dial. The control pad works double duty, both navigating the camera's menu system and directly controlling the flash, the macro, the timer, and the voice annotation. Samsung couples the Digimax L85's 8-megapixel sensor with a 38mm-to-190mm (35mm equivalent) Schneider-Kreuznach lens that can focus as close as 3.9 inches in its Auto Macro mode or down to 0.4 inch in Super Macro mode. It's the first digital camera with HDMI compatibility, so you can plug it into a high-end television to show off your photos or your 30fps, VGA-resolution MPEG-4 videos (which it can record up to the capacity of the SD card). Unfortunately, you have to get the optional dock for the actual HDMI connector. The dock also comes with an IR remote for the camera and can act as a standard USB cable and charger, so it's a practical accessory, even if you don't have a high-end television.
More mundane but useful, the L85 offers several handy shooting features and settings. These include aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual exposure modes, as well as automatic, program, and several scene preset modes for hassle-free operation. A Motion Capture mode quickly snaps 30 VGA-resolution photos for motion analysis, such as when you need to overthink your golf swing, and the camera offers a 16:9 wide-screen mode. Unfortunately, the latter works only in automatic, and it simply letterboxes the normal 4:3 image, resulting in a top resolution of 5 megapixels. The program mode offers a few extra tricks, such as the handy Highlight, which displays guides for framing portraits; composition shooting, which combines multiple exposures so that you can be in the picture; and a handful of hideous photo-frame effects. Except for motion capture, all still-image modes can write TIFF as well as JPEG formats. You probably won't want to use all of the L85's features, but the different options grant the camera an appreciable flexibility.