The PL70 is Samsung's top of the range point and shoot camera and sells for around £150. For that, you get a handy 28mm wide-angle 5x zoom, HD movies, a barrage of face-detection options and a rather neat design. But is it enough to make it a winner?
The PL70 certainly looks good, thanks to its brushed-metal finish, and it handles well too. It shares the same control layout as the cheaper PL60, with a firm and positive mode dial and an effective four-way controller. A function button takes care of standard adjustments such as EV compensation, white balance, ISO and metering patterns, while more basic setup options can be found in the main menu system. The LCD display is big at 76mm (3 inches) across, and it's bright and clear too. The autofocus is good, though the PL70 is rather slow at zooming in and out.
There are some interesting nuggets of tech in this camera, including a Smart Auto mode that does a pretty good job of figuring out what you're shooting and adjusting the settings automatically. Smart Albums can categorise your pics after you've taken them, and an Auto Contrast Balance option is useful for tricky lighting conditions. There's also the usual raft of face detection/smile detection/blink detection options. And still on the theme of portraits, there's a Beauty Shot mode that retouches your subject's skin to make it look smoother.
That's all fine in theory, of course, but what are the pictures like? Pretty good, actually. The Samsung's colours are excellent, as is the definition, though as usual with compact cameras the subtler detail does tend to get smoothed over and the zoom loses some definition at maximum range.
The PL70 has a couple of smart practical touches too. It can be charged from the mains via the supplied adaptor or via a powered USB cable, and the camera has a Recycle Bin, just like a PC, so if you change your mind about deleting a picture you've got a chance to get it back again.
Low light not a highlight
It's not all good, though. You might hope that the Dual IS mode would give you great shots in bad light, but a combination of high ISOs and a patchy stabilisation system mean you often end up with images which are borderline acceptable at best.
The instructions in the Photo Help mode are brief to the point of being useless and they only tell you what to do, not why, and while the HD movie mode is certainly a good selling point, the footage is jerky and heavily compressed, and falls some way short of the quality you can expect from 720p footage.
The continuous shooting and motion-capture modes are feeble too. The manual doesn't quote the continuous shooting speed at full resolution, though it seems to be about 1fps. But while the motion-capture mode shoots at 5fps, it drops the resolution to just 640x480 pixels. Why bother?
The PL70's a decent, mid-range compact. It's smartly designed, well-made and takes good pictures. Its 5x wideangle zoom and USB charging make it practical too. There are some weak areas, though, including its Dual IS and HD movie modes, so it's the sort of camera you might buy on price rather than merit.
Edited by Nick Hide