Like the Canon PowerShot G12, the Samsung TL500 comes equipped with a flip-and-rotate screen to help with odd-angle shots. Like the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX5, it offers an ultra-wide-angle 24mm lens (and a separate lens cap). And like the Nikon Coolpix P7000 and PowerShot G12, it has a slightly bulky body and a raised handgrip, both of which feel good in the hand. It also packs a hot shoe that you can use with Samsung’s external flashes, and it has a 3x optical zoom (24mm to 72mm).
The 10Mp Samsung TL500 also has a few features few other cameras in this category can match, such as a very wide F1.8 maximum aperture and an adjustable 3in OLED display. You can record fast-action still images at a clip of 1.5 shots per second in the camera’s burst mode. Your images and the navigation menus look reasonably sharp on the OLED screen, and it’s bright enough for satisfactory viewing under most lighting conditions.
The Samsung TL500 takes great-looking photos when it’s on a tripod or otherwise held very steadily, but handheld shots look best when the camera is in Dual Stabilization mode. In other mode settings, the camera’s optical image stabilisation is less effective than that on other cameras in this category and, as a result, shots can look a bit blurry.
Macro mode is decent, but we couldn’t get in as tight with the Samsung TL500 as with competing cameras. The Samsung camera takes crisp, detailed shots when a subject is about 1.5 inches away from the lens, but anything closer than that begins to blur. Manually focusing a shot with the TL500’s cumbersome controls left me longing for the Lumix LX5’s quick-access switch or the Canon PowerShot S95’s lens-ring control.
Some great extras lurk in the mix here, including a Miniature mode, a fish-eye lens simulator, a pinhole camera simulator, and a face recognition setting that lets you register and tag faces in your photos. However, some options are available only in a limited number of the Samsung TL500’s modes; others are hard to find in the menus; and still more are unduly complex.
In-camera menu diving can frustrate users, but the Samsung TL500 camera’s physical controls are well done and uncluttered. The front-mounted scrollwheel lets you easily adjust shutter speed with your index finger. A thumb-operated auto-exposure lock button and a dedicated video record button occupy the back. Two dials handle shooting modes and techniques (bracketing, burst mode, single shot, or self-timer settings).
The Samsung TL500 earned very high scores in our subjective testing for sharpness and lack of distortion. But it was the lowest-rated camera for video quality – not a big surprise since it isn’t capable of shooting high-definition video (instead, it shoots 640x480 standard-definition video at 30fps).
Battery life is a bit weak despite the camera’s OLED screen. The Samsung TL500 camera is rated for approximately 240 shots per battery charge. Another quirk is that you must charge the battery (via a proprietary cable) while it’s inside the body.
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