Samsung TL500 review: Samsung TL500

If Samsung had to make lens compromises to extend the reach I might be a little more forgiving about the artifacts. But Panasonic manages a slightly bigger focal range at just a fraction of a stop slower, f2 versus f1.8, and with a sensor this size the depth-of-field and exposure differences are probably minimal.

As for performance, all of the cameras in this class are disappointingly slow--not because of the focusing systems, but because of abysmally sluggish file processing and card operations--and the TL500 is right in the middle of the pack. It powers on and shoots in a relatively quick 1.8 seconds. Like the rest, it focuses and shoots in about 0.4 second in high-contrast conditions, and delivers a decent 0.7 second in low-contrast ones. But it runs 1.8 seconds between two sequential JPEG shots (1.9 seconds for raw), which bumps up to 2.5 seconds with flash enabled. It can burst at 1.5 frames per second, but you really don't want to use continuous shooting on a camera like this without an optical viewfinder or even an optional EVF, anyway.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Nikon Coolpix P7000
2 
2.8 
2.1 
0.6 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot G12
2.1 
2.5 
2.2 
0.6 
0.4 
Samsung TL500
1.8 
2.5 
1.8 
0.7 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot S95
2 
2.6 
2.3 
0.7 
0.4 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
1.6 
1.7 
1.4 
0.8 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The camera also has a tendency to freeze if you get impatient and start pressing buttons while it's "Processing." I had to pull the battery twice. And, yes, the firmware was current as of this review.

  Canon PowerShot G12 Canon PowerShot S95 Nikon Coolpix P7000 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Samsung TL500
Sensor (effective resolution) 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD 10-megapixel CCD
1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.7-inch 1/1.63-inch 1/1.7-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 100 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded) ISO 80 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 3200
Lens 28-140mm
f2.8-4.5
5x
28-105mm
f2-4.9
3.8x
28-200mm
f2.8-5.6
7.1x
24-90mm
f2-3.3
3.8x
24-72mm
f1.8-2.4
3x
Closest focus 0.4 inch 2.0 inches 0.8 inch 0.4 inch 2.0 inches
Continuous shooting 1.1fps
frames n/a
1.9fps
frames n/a
1.1fps
n/a
2.5 fps
JPEG/n/a raw
1.1fps
n/a
Viewfinder Optical None Optical Optional OVF or EVF None
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
99-area
Contrast AF
23-area
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256-segment matrix n/a
n/a
Shutter 15-1/4,000 sec 15-1/1,600 sec 60-1/4,000 sec 60-1/4,000 sec 16-1/5,000 sec
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes No Yes Yes Yes
LCD 2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch articulated AMOLED
920,000 dots
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video (best quality) 720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
720/30p AVCHD Lite
Monaural
30fps VGA H.264 MP4
Monaural
Manual iris and shutter in video No No No Yes No
Optical zoom while recording Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Mic input No No Yes No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 390 shots 220 shots 350 shots 400 shots 350 shots
Dimensions (WHD) 4.4x3.0x2.0 inches 3.9x2.3x1.2 inches 4.5x3.1x1.8 inches 4.3x2.6x1.7 inches 4.5x2.5x1.8 inches
Weight 14.2 oz 6.8 oz 12.6 oz 9.2 oz 13.1 oz
Mfr. price $499.99 $399.99 $499.95 $440 $449.99
Availability September 2010 August 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010

Overall, the TL500 has an attractive, functional design that I like. About the same size as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, it's a little heavier and just as solidly built. I'm not sure why Samsung's specs choose to exclude the lens from the camera depth, claiming the camera is 30mm (1.2 inches)--essentially as deep as the S95, which it obviously isn't. There's an oddly slippery rubberized grip in the front that I wish were either bigger or smaller; it's not deep enough for comfortable single-handed shooting but not shallow enough to force you to change the way you hold the camera. A horizontal jog dial embedded in the grip controls exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture, and so on (depending upon mode). It's hard to differentiate the wheel from the grip by feel. That means it's hard to find when you want it, but it's also hard to tell if you've accidentally pressed or turned it. I ended up accidentally shooting a group of photos with the exposure compensation bumped up because of it.

On top there's a typical mode dial with the usual collection of manual, semimanual, and automatic options (dual IS combines electronic with optical image stabilization) along with a not-so-typical drive mode dial with continuous shooting, self timer, and bracketing settings. The small power button sits in the middle.

The back has a traditional control layout, of which the highlight (for me, anyway) is a dedicated metering button. A Fn button pulls up shooting settings such as quality, white balance, and focus area, which you navigate via the scroll dial. The navigation dial doubles as buttons for ISO sensitivity setting, flash, macro, and display settings. The ISO button on the right edge of the camera and the dedicated movie record button under my thumb posed some problems, as I would accidentally hit them while simply holding the camera.

I love the bright, saturated, flip-and-twist AMOLED display, but that's not quite enough to lift the camera's feature rating. It has almost all the essentials--a hot shoe, a screw mount for add-on lenses, and zoom capability during movie capture. For those who care, there's Smart Face Recognition, which allows you to mark up to 12 faces as favorites that then take focus priority when shooting with face-detection enabled. The camera also offers three underwhelmingly implemented effects--miniature, vignette, and fisheye--and a two-shot HDR mode called Smart Range that pulls back some of the highlights that normally get blown out in high-contrast shots. But it lacks the ability to autorotate vertical shots, it only shoots VGA video (though you can zoom), there's no EVF option, and while I'm not a zoom fanatic, the lens is just a little too short. While the camera offers manual focus, it's quite cumbersome to use, nor does it magnify the subject sufficiently to accurately gauge focus. (For a complete rundown of the TL500's features and operation, you can download a PDF version of the manual.)

Conclusions
I really wanted to like the Samsung TL500 more than I did, and if Samsung comes up with an updated version that at least offers better, more consistent image processing and some slight design tweaks it could potentially make a huge difference. And in its current incarnation, it's certainly a solid camera that many people will happily shoot with. But any one of several competitors offers a more compelling option.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Samsung TL500

Part Number: ECTL500ZBPBUS Released: Sep. 1, 2010

MSRP: $499.99

See a price from Amazon.com

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep. 1, 2010
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 10.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/1.7"
  • Lens 24 - 72mm F/1.8