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Samsung TL320 review: Samsung TL320

Samsung TL320

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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6 min read

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There are very few ultracompact cameras that offer the amount of control over your photos as the Samsung TL320. Whether you want to play with shutter speeds and apertures, adjust white balance, color, and exposure beyond presets, or tweak sharpness, contrast, and saturation--all of those things and more are available. The combination of features makes it a fine pocket camera for digital SLR users accustomed to having such things at their fingertips as well as those simply looking for a broad-featured point-and-shoot. However, don't expect the photo quality and performance to measure up to dSLR levels.

7.8

Samsung TL320

The Good

Extremely large feature set; solid, high-end design.

The Bad

Photo quality dips above ISO 200.

The Bottom Line

The Samsung TL320's myriad shooting options make it a very good dSLR companion, but the photo quality and performance are definitely those of a point-and-shoot camera.

The TL320 has an upscale design suited to its price tag. The all-metal chassis has a pleasing heft to it and a textured grip on the right both looks and feels good. Adding to its beauty is a gorgeous 3-inch active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display (AMOLED), which is very bright and presumably better on battery life than an LCD. On top are two analog gauges: one for remaining battery life, one for available space on your SD/SDHC card. Also on top is a small power button ringed in blue light, a shutter release, and a sunken shooting mode dial. The dial is exposed at the back for easy changes with your thumb. Below it on back is a lever for the 5x zoom of the 24mm-equivalent wide-angle lens. Moving down the back is a Menu button, navigation dial/directional pad, and Playback and Fn (function) buttons.

The Fn button brings up a context-sensitive shooting menu, and pressing the Menu button pulls up an attractive interface for access to all shooting functions, sound, display, and settings. The whole system can be navigated quickly using the dial or more controlled with the directional pad beneath the dial.

Really, the only weak part of the design is the proprietary jack in the bottom for data, power, and AV output. A USB cable is included for charging from a wall outlet or computer as well as an analog cable for connecting to a TV. But, you'll have to shell out for a cradle (SCC-HD2) if you want to connect by HDMI. This isn't unusual, but it does take away from the package on the whole.

The TL320 is overflowing with shooting options with all degrees of adjustability. The Smart Auto mode automatically chooses the appropriate camera settings based on 11 scene types. Want to pick your scene type? There are 13 to choose from including a Frame Guide option that lets you compose a shot, capture part of the precomposed scene onscreen, and then hand the camera off to someone else to take the picture while you get in the shot. Those who don't want to touch any settings can put it in Auto, which locks most options from being changed. Then you get the other end of the shooting spectrum with manual and semimanual controls for aperture (with 12 stops to choose from) and shutter speeds from 16 seconds to 1/2,000 of a second. There's also a User selection on the Mode dial for assigning a collection of settings that you frequently use.

There is a bunch of little extras hiding in the camera, too, like the capability to fine-tune white balance and color temperature, self-portrait face detection that emits a beep from the camera so you know when you're in focus, effective backlight compensation, exposure bracketing, and a motion-sensitive shutter-release timer. That last one is particularly interesting, letting you set the timer and then trigger it to start counting down by waving or making a motion in front of the camera. About the only glaring omission is an auto-orientation sensor for righting photos taken vertically.

Performance is fairly average--neither bad nor exceptional--but lags behind the competition slightly. The camera starts up reasonably fast at 1.9 seconds, but then requires an average wait of 2.4 seconds between subsequent shots. Turning on the flash slows that time to 3.6 seconds. It takes a reasonable 0.5 second to focus and shoot in good light and only goes up to 0.8 second in dim conditions. The TL320's burst mode lowers the photo resolution to 640x480 pixels. Nevertheless, it does have a continuous drive option capable of 0.8 frame per second.

Like most point-and-shoot cameras, the TL320 hits a wall at ISO 200. Photos are less than sharp from the get-go--especially out in the corners--and there is some graininess when viewed at 100 percent, particularly at ISO 200 and above. Generally, though, the results are very good. At ISO 400, the noise reduction makes things hazy and soft, but a good amount of detail remains. This, of course, increases at ISO 800 and 1,600. While photos taken at ISO 800 are still usable for the Web and small prints, those at ISO 1,600 have noticeable color issues. Overall color, white balance, and exposure are very good, though some colors come across a little richer than others. More importantly, if you don't like the colors produced by the TL320, there are several ways to tweak things before and after you shoot. Barrel distortion is kept under control, which is nice for such a wide-angle lens. At the long end of the lens there is some very minor pincushioning, however. The TL320 also exhibits a below-average amount of blue/purple fringing in high-contrast areas. It's visible on occasion, but likely won't destroy your photos.

Video quality is very good, and you do get use of the optical image stabilization and zoom while recording. The camera does kill the audio, though, while the lens is in motion so you don't hear it zooming--or anything else for that matter. One pleasant surprise is the ability to apply one of Samsung's Photo Styles to your video, including the Custom RGB option.

It might seem given that the photo quality and performance of an ultracompact camera would not be as good as that of a large digital SLR. But looking at the Samsung TL320's feature set and over-$300 price, it's more reasonable to expect a level of pictures and speed above that of a typical point-and-shoot camera. It's not that the photos from the TL320 are poor or that it performs unusually slowly, because both are fairly good; they are just not as extraordinary as the rest of the package.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot SD970 IS
1.6 
3.5 
2.1 
0.6 
0.4 
Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR
2.7 
2.5 
1.4 
0.6 
0.5 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290
1.3 
2.7 
2.3 
0.7 
0.4 
Samsung TL320
1.9 
3.6 
2.4 
0.8 
0.5 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
2.5 
2.6 
2.2 
1 
0.8 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

7.8

Samsung TL320

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 7Image quality 7