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HolidayBuyer's Guide

ISO comparison

Macro

Zoom range

Full zoom at 100 percent

Lens distortion

Fringe

Color

Photo Style Selector

Overall, the photo quality is very good from the Samsung PL200. There isn't a noticeable shift in quality until ISO 400, where subjects get visibly softer even at smaller sizes. In Smart Auto or if you have the camera set to Auto ISO, the PL200 seems to use ISO 400 as its ceiling, which is good for getting the best possible photo, but bad if you're shooting indoors or in low-light; the PL200 will go with increasingly slower shutter speeds, which means you need steady hands and still subjects. ISO 800 is somewhat usable for small prints and Web use, but colors look off. I don't recommend using ISO 1600 or 3200 as there are just too many problems with color, noise, and noise reduction to make photos worthwhile.

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Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
If you like taking close-ups, the PL200 does pretty well in Macro mode. It's able to focus as close as 2 inches from a subject. Macro can be entered automatically in Smart Auto mode or set to it in Program mode. And as long as you can keep the ISO low, you'll get reasonably sharp results with good fine detail.

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Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Though the lens isn't as wide or as long as some competing models, the PL200's has a pretty good range--especially for a camera that's 0.8-inch thick.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
This photo is just to give you an idea of what you can expect from this camera with the lens fully extended. It is a 100 percent crop of the inset photo, which was taken at ISO 100 (so not a lot of noise or softness from noise reduction) and I was about 15 feet from the subject. The results are typical for this type of camera: soft and mushy with little to no fine detail. Basically, they're good for small prints and Web use at small sizes. You probably won't want to do much cropping and enlarging, particularly when you get above ISO 200.

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Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
There is some slight barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top). There's no significant distortion when the lens is extended, though (bottom). Center sharpness is very good on this Samsung, and it's consistent edge to edge, except for maybe the very edges. There is visible softness in the corners that can make subjects look smeary when viewed at larger sizes.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Samsung seems to be correcting for fringing around main subjects, but not throughout a scene. For example, down the side of the black building in the background is some purple fringing. But around the statue, where I'd most expect it, it appears to have been cleaned up. This may or may not be a problem depending on the photo and how much cropping or enlarging you do.

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Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Color is very good: bright, pleasing, and fairly accurate. Smart Auto seems to have punchier color than in Program mode, but that could have more to do with Samsung's settings for individual scene types. White balance is good, but its presets were better than the auto white balance, and taking a quick manual reading is preferred over both. Exposure is generally correct, though I did occasionally get shots that were overexposed.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
If you feel like experimenting, the PL200 has selectable photo styles that can be applied before or after you shoot. Going left to right from top to bottom: Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, and Custom RGB.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
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