With cameras, you usually get what you pay for. If you're willing to drop more cash, you'll generally get more features, faster shooting, and better pictures. So naturally, when we saw the Samsung S1050--the beefed-up, higher-resolution version of the S850--we thought it would prove to be a superior camera. We were wrong.
The S1050 shares almost the same design as its little brother. Its lens juts significantly out from its solid, chunky body, though not nearly as much as the absurdly endowed Samsung NV5 or NV7 OPS. Its small buttons sit nearly flush against its back, but the buttons aren't spaced apart enough to be easily manipulated by large fingers. A dial on top of the camera offers access to all of its various shooting modes. The dial feels a bit loose, though, and I often accidentally bumped the camera out of the mode I was using while framing vertical shots.
Just like the S850, the S1050 offers several features for more experienced photographers, with Program/Aperture/Shutter/Manual exposure controls that grant a great deal of flexibility. The S1050 offers the same 38mm-to-190mm equivalent, 5x zoom range, offering a slightly boosted telephoto reach at the cost of its wide-angle abilities. Samsung's Advanced Shake Reduction electronic image stabilization system can boost the ISO sensitivity and quicken shutter speed for zoomed-in and high-speed shots. While helpful in some cases, electronic image stabilization can only go so far, and simply can't replace a flash or tripod or match the efficacy of optical or mechanical stabilization.
Besides the obvious increase in resolution from eight to 10 megapixels, the S1050 features several improvements over the S850. Its 3-inch LCD eclipses the S850's 2.5-inch LCD and proves invaluable, considering the camera lacks a viewfinder. It also includes face-tracking autofocus and auto-exposure, which senses when faces are in-frame automatically and adjusts settings accordingly. Face-tracking AF/AE systems can help a great deal in family photos, for example, where odd angles and positions can leave faces unrecognized by both autofocus and metering systems, which tend to focus near the center of the frame, locking on to the nearest subject they detect. The S1050's face detection works well enough in most cases, but low light can confound the system, causing it to slow down or sometimes not even detect a face at all.
Slow shot-to-shot times and a shutter that lags really hold the S1050 back. After a 2.4-second wait from power-on to first photo, we could fire off a new shot just once every 3.1 seconds. With the onboard flash enabled, that wait ballooned to 4.6 seconds. The shutter fared little better, pausing 0.9 second between pressing the shutter release and actually taking a picture of our high-contrast target. With our low-contrast target, that time increased scantly to 1 second, a laudable wait were it not for the camera's other slow tendencies. In burst mode, we took nine 10-megapixel photos in 10.9 seconds for an unimpressive rate of 0.83fps. The slightly lower resolution S850 outshone its bigger brother in almost every category of our tests, with a scant half-second shutter lag and a 2.1-second shot-to-shot time. The S1050's higher resolution probably contributes at least partly to that slower speed, but even a 10-megapixel camera shouldn't be this slow. Both the 10-megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z1050 and Kodak EasyShare V1003 shot faster than the S1050 in most situations.
Noise plagues the S1050's photos, and grain shows up in shots taken at settings as low as ISO 80. Almost any noise at that level could be considered unacceptable, but in fairness the noise only becomes apparent on computer monitors; any noise found in prints will remain unnoticed to most eyes. Unfortunately, even prints start to look noisy around ISO 400, and photos shot at ISO 800 and ISO 1600 look like televisions with poor reception--regardless of the format on which they're displayed. Worse still, this noise takes the camera's otherwise good color reproduction and horribly mutes the blues and reds. One of the biggest benefits to any 10-megapixel camera is the ability to produce large prints, yet the S1050's noise renders that nearly impossible. Though the S850 sports a lower, 8-megapixel resolution, its much lower noise means its prints still look good at the sizes where the S1050's prints start to show grain.
On top of its terrible noise, the S1050 also produced a heavy amount of fringing in our photos. High-contrast edges, like a building against a bright sky or a piece of paper against a dark desk, looked pink and fuzzy. These fringes might seem irritating, but compared to the camera's excessive noise, they present only a minor nuisance.
The Samsung S1050 proves to be its little brother's inferior in almost every way. While it offers greater resolution, a large screen, and face-detection features, its downsides are simply far too great compared to the S850. Its photos are noisier, it shoots much slower, and it's almost $70 more than the S850. If you want an inexpensive camera with manual exposure controls, the choice is obvious. Go with the Samsung S850, and leave this one alone.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)