Review: Falling in love with the Samsung TL350

I love cameras, often in spite of themselves. They're like cars or guitars; all different, some better than others, and if you know how to handle one you'll have a good time with any of them. I've become particularly interested in compact cameras, especially ones that give me what I need to squeeze out nice, printable images. Enter the Samsung TL350.

Front view, TL350.

Top view. The left gauge measures battery life, while the other one keeps track of available memory.

Rather than flesh this out with a thousand words, I'll go for brevity. Below are my list of pros and cons for this camera, followed by some pictures I've taken with it recently. One thing's for sure, it's gonna kill me to give it back. Get one today while you can!

Pros:

  • 24mm wide angle, plus a 5x optical zoom (to 120mm). The wide angle lens is SWEET.
  • shoots RAW if you want, for ultimate control in post-processing
  • f/2.4 at the wide end, lets in a decent amount of light for low-light shooting
  • only 10 megapixels — the less the better with compacts, because the sensors are so small
  • surprisingly good in low light — I've taken shots at ISO 800 and even 1600 that (with a little work) are usable
  • very nice OLED screen — almost too nice (see cons below)
  • small, pocketable, lens retracts into the camera when you turn it off
  • manual (PSAM) controls if you want to take more control of your shooting
  • 1080p movies (man is this great at 24mm!)
  • slow-motion movie modes (at reduced resolution; still a lot of fun)
  • time-lapse (Samsung calls it "interval") shooting where the camera takes a series of pictures at a given interval
  • panorama mode where you sweep the camera while holding down the shutter (see an example at the bottom of the post)
  • useful battery meter on the top
  • stereo sound on movies — most compact cameras give you mono sound for movies

Cons:

  • screen is not articulated, making it tougher to shoot at waist level (though this allows the camera to be small & pocketable)
  • no exposure lock button, nor can you program another button to do so
  • screen makes images look a little too good — your shots will look more punchy and contrasty on the screen than when you load them onto your computer. BUT — this is no big deal if you shoot RAW. If you shoot jpegs, you'll have to experiment with various in-camera settings to get those pictures looking the way you want them to. Not a big deal, really, but I didn't want you to be surprised.

Here are some sample pics (click to make 'em bigger):

If you're looking for a camera to go along as a backup to your DSLR, or even if you're not a serious shooter, the TL350 is worth a look. It may be the perfect travel camera - wide angle, great lens, high-def movies, small size. I thoroughly enjoyed testing it out.

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