Samsung PL120 review: Samsung PL120

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Secondary screen useful for composing self-portraits; wide-angle 5x zoom lens; relatively cheap; small and shiny.

The Bad Average performance; unintuitive interface; no HDMI socket.

The Bottom Line It would be easy to dismiss the Samsung PL120's dual-screen feature as a gimmick but it's actually pretty useful for taking self-portraits. If that's not something you tend to do, though, there are better cameras available at a similar price.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall

The Samsung PL120 compact camera stands out from its rivals thanks to its zany front-facing screen, which promises to let you snap self-portraits without having to hand your snapper to a stranger -- and we all know that most strangers are opportunistic thieves. But is the extra display really enough to warrant £110 of your hard-earned cash?

Double dip

We've all been there. Rather than trusting a passing stranger with your camera when you want a photo of yourself, you flip the camera around, hold it at arm's length and shoot blindly, in the vain hope that you catch something more than just the top of your head.

Rarely does this trick yield satisfactory results, which is presumably why some cleverdicks in Samsung's design team came up with the wizard wheeze of including a secondary screen on the front of the PL120. Point the lens at yourself and you can use the front-facing display to compose your shot. Suddenly, self-portraits aren't quite as hit and miss as they used to be.

The second screen isn't very big -- in fact, it's only 1.5 inches across, with a resolution of just 61,000 pixels. But it doesn't need to be huge -- it just has to be large enough to let you line up shots of yourself that actually include your face. There's a much larger, 2.7-inch screen in the usual place on the back of the camera for standard, non-narcissistic use.

In our standard test shot, the PL120 does fairly well, although we wouldn't say that the colours are particularly natural (click image to enlarge).

At a glance, the camera doesn't actually appear to have a front-facing screen at all. When the front display is switched off, you can barely notice it's there. Press a certain button on the top of the unit, though, and it will turn on after a couple of seconds.

The screen has a secondary use too. Select the 'children' mode and the front screen displays a droll clown cartoon designed to get the kiddiewinks looking at the camera -- a sort of 'watch the birdie' for the digital age.

Run of the mill

Aside from its unusual dual-display feature, the PL120 is fairly typical of the current crop of mid-range compact cameras. It has a 14.2-megapixel image sensor and a 5x optical zoom lens with a good wide angle -- equivalent to 26mm -- which comes in handy when you're taking pictures of yourself, as it means you can fit more in the frame. You'll notice plenty of lens distortion around the edges of your shots, though.

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