Samsung PL90 review: Samsung PL90

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The Good Flip-out USB connection arm offers plug-and-play versatility;. Build quality better than expected;. Point-and-shoot simplicity.

The Bad microSD card compatibility only;. Anti-shake mechanism could be improved;. Resolution drops to 3 megapixels at top ISO 3,200 setting;. Focus falls away at maximum wide angle.

The Bottom Line With a flip-out USB connection arm at its base, the Samsung PL90 has purloined a good idea from the pocket-camcorder market, and edges ahead of compact rivals around the £100 mark.

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7.5 Overall

Following the lead -- if you'll forgive the pun -- of the Flip Video, Samsung's SL90 features a flip-out USB connection arm, suggesting the integral plug-and-play feature is now crossing over from pocket camcorders to humble still cameras.

The PL90's spec is otherwise a fairly standard 12.2 effective megapixels allied to a 4x optical zoom, plus a 2.7-inch, 230k-dot LCD for composing and playing back pictures and video. There's no AMOLED screen, as seen on the recent ST5500, this time around. With pocket-friendly proportions of a slender 98 by 157 by 18mm making it just slightly longer than a credit card, expect to pay a street price of around £129 for the PL90.

PL See

Although the theory behind the USB connection arm is that it allows the camera to be hooked directly up to your computer for recharging and downloading snaps wirelessly, Samsung hasn't eliminated leads entirely. A short extension cable and USB-equipped mains plug is also provided for hooking it up to a regular power source -- and thankfully so, for those who'd rather not lug their laptop around on holiday.

Sturdy of construction when gripped in the palm, our first impressions of the PL90 are that it offers better-than-average value for money. It's far less plasticky than its direct competition in the Olympus FE series.

In fact, the build quality is up there with the slightly more expensive but otherwise similarly featured (minus the USB arm) Nikon S5100, one of the best compacts around the £150 mark. Like both its rivals, the PL90 lacks any handgrip, with potential camera shake guarded against via digital image stabilisation only. It's not great, and we still managed to get shaky shots even in broad daylight. The lens itself appears unimpressive -- it's short and stubby, with focus falling away towards the edges of the frame at maximum 28mm wide-angle setting.

Still buzzin'

In this high-definition age, we are also marginally disappointed to find the PL90's video capture remains at standard-definition 640x480 pixels, even though transitional rates of either 30 frames per second (fps) or 15fps are offered. Unsurprisingly, there's no HDMI output, just standard AV out looking rather lonely and isolated under a flap at the side. The full extent of the optical zoom can be used, even if there is a low operational buzz as it extends and retracts. It's stationed flush with the body when the camera is in its dormant state.

Although there is no camcorder-like red record button, Samsung has included the option to pause live video recording by pressing the 'OK' button on the back. Otherwise, starting and stopping recording is via the shutter-release button once video mode has been selected.

The shutter-release button is encircled by a lever for adjusting the zoom. This rests on a forward-facing lip, giving easy access to the zoom controls while your attention is focused on composing your shot. Navigating the control layout, which is pared down to the basics of a mode button and control pad at the back, is child's play. That said, we did find the zoom sluggish to get going on occasion, even if it did power through its range in a swift couple of seconds once activated.

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