The Samsung Digimax V50 is not short on features, but is it a good camera?
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|With a five megapixel sensor, full manual shutter and aperture setting capability and a generous two inch swing-out and tilt colour LCD screen, the Samsung Digimax V50 is a camera that provides higher than average creative control features. Samsung has also provided an upgrade path for accessory lenses, underlining the emphasis on enthusiast features. But it's also a camera small enough to slip into coat pocket or small bag and it can be easily used as a simple point and shoot camera.
Until recently the V50 was Samsung's flagship model, but that honour now belongs to the Digimax V70, which is largely identical to the V50 apart from its seven megapixels instead of the V50's five. But don't let a couple of megapixels put you off the V50 - five megapixels is more than adequate for most
Basic specifications include a 3x (38-113 equiv) zoom, five megapixel sensor, SD/MMC as well as compact Memory Stick Duo card compatibility and a large lithium ion rechargeable battery. On top of that there is that large and versatile LCD monitor screen, plus a plethora of automatic and manual controls. The 38mm wide angle end of the zoom is not as wide as we'd have liked, but using a SLA-3537 adapter and SCL-W3755 0.7x conversion lens, you can get as wide as 26.6mm lens and the SCL-T3755 boosts the 113mm telephoto limit of the zoom to 192mm.
Mid-range compact camera checklist:
Alternatives to the Samsung Digimax V50 (Price check in your region):
|Typical price || (UK/US/Europe) UK£279 US$399 EU€339
|Resolution || 5 megapixels
|Lens|| 3x Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan Zoom 7.7-23.1mm (38-113mm equiv) f/2.8-4.9
|Typical image size (high quality setting JPEG) ||2.4MB
|Memory card type || Memory Stick Duo and SD/MMC (not supplied)
|Internal memory || None
|Autofocus assist lamp || Yes
|Battery type || Proprietary lithium ion rechargeable (included), or 2xAA, or 1x CRV3 disposable lithium
|Movie mode || MPEG-4 format at a resolution of up to 640x480 at 30fps
|Notable features:|| 2.0 inch TFT LCD display wing-out and tilt, metal construction, full manual exposure controls, manual focus, voice recorder, USB 2.0 port
|Measured weight including battery, memory card and strap ||238g
|Dimensions || 106.5x57x38.5 mm
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If you want to shoot in manual mode, shutter priority or aperture priority, the V50 lets you. There is also a user-customisable program mode and a fully-automatic mode with minimal override options that is useful for grabbing a quick shot. You can also adjust colour balance via individual red, green or blue sliders as well as image sharpness. Manually sampled white balance is provided along with various presets, though you can't set white balance in degrees Kelvin. Control is also provided in the form of manual focus, though this could have benefited from a magnified view of the target focus area, a handy feature offered in several other cameras now.
Ease of use
The V50 is mainly easy to use thanks to understandable menu screens, with setup options accessible via the menu button and settings you might want to vary according to the prevailing conditions accessible from a secondary settings button. If you want to use the V50's extensive manual and semi-auto options, things do get a bit fiddly but you shouldn't have any difficulty mastering things with time. Buttons are small but reasonably well labelled and not too crowded. The four-way navigation pad is also illuminated for use in the dark.
One thing we learned quickly about the V50 is that if its exposure accuracy errs, it usually tends towards over exposure - especially with brightly lit scenes. It's safer for a camera to under-expose as you can recover an under-exposed shot more easily than an over-exposed one. If I was to own a V50, I might be tempted to use -0.5EV exposure bias frequently.
Optically, the Schneider Kreuznach-branded lens proved to very sharp and free from excessive distortions of any kind. This is complemented by good sensor resolution too. The test chart revealed some fine detail moiré issues, but overall the lens and sensor work well together. On the negative side, the default sharpening level is quite hard, but this can be manually adjusted.
Colour quality is not bad at all, being neutral and not over-saturated. Blue skies can sometimes appear a little yellow-biased, but skin tones are faithful, as are natural tones like greens and browns. We found that purple fringing to be well-suppressed and only visible in very extreme contrast situations. Some halos, probably due to over-enthusiastic default sharpening, can sometimes be seen, but as there is manual control over in-camera sharpening the problem can be avoided. Overall, as long as you keep an eye on the exposure brightness, the V50 is capable of producing very good prints.
Image noise is not a big issue until ISO 200. Luckily when the noise is present it's uniform and not overly distracting. Blue-channel noise is well controlled so blue skies remain relatively clean.
It takes about four seconds for the V50 to wake up. That's not quick, but it's not terribly slow either. Powering down takes under two seconds. The V50 is a reasonably swift camera to use but not the fastest. Saving to memory card after a shot takes several seconds but you regain control before the save is complete. Using best quality mode JPEG mode we only managed to find enough buffer space for three continuous shots, though at a rate of two shots per second. Shutter lag isn't big problem with the V50, though other cameras we have tested recently feel slightly more responsive.
In normal bright conditions the V50's autofocus system worked reliably, if not particularly swiftly. Darker situations do tax the AF system, unfortunately. We experienced great difficulty in getting the AF to lock onto people's faces in normally lit rooms, for example. Focus points featuring contrasty detail are vital to the AF's performance. When using the remote control or self-timer, the camera re-focuses just prior t releasing the shutter.
One of the better movie clip modes available for use in digital still cameras is MPEG4 and this is what the V50 offers. Maximum resolution is also VGA quality (640x480) and up to 30 frames per second too. Unfortunately, we found that movies in best quality mode tended to miss frames every few frames, which is disappointing as when the movie runs smoothly, it's very smooth indeed. Unsurprisingly, zooming is not possible while recording a movie.
This is a category in which the V50 scores highly. For a start, Samsung offers one of the most versatile set of power choices available in a camera of this size: rechargeable battery (supplied), 2x AAs, CRV3 lithium and DC external power. If that's impressive, the fact that you can access the battery and memory compartment without having to remove it from a tripod is another bonus. The V50 also has a bright and very adjustable LCD screen and an infra red remote control is also available. The icing on the cake is a rather attractive protective pouch supplied with the camera.
Value for money
At the time or writing, the Samsung Digimax V50 price compares well with other compact high-specification five megapixel choices and only a few can match the versatility of the V50.
Things we liked about the Samsung Digimax V50:
Large and bright 2 inch flip out and tilt LCD screen
Excellent lens performance - sharp, low distortion and aberrations
Full manual control options
Good range of image variables like adjustable sharpness and colour balance
Manual focus option
Provision for conversion lenses
Excellent battery flexibility - can be used with AAs, CRV3s or supplied rechargeable lithium ion.
Side-mounted door means easy access to batteries and memory card even when tripod mounted
Good battery charge stamina
Things we didn't like about the Samsung Digimax V50:
Tendency to slightly over-expose slightly
Image noise above ISO 100
Some sharpening artefacts
Low light autofocus often fails to lock
Manual exposure settings control fiddly to use
No grid display composition aid
Preview screen can't be cleared of all status display symbols
3x zoom lens range basic by today's standards
AV and USB cables use non-standard USB port connector
Only three frames buffered in continuous shooting mode (fine resolution)
No preview magnification aid for fanual focus mode
The bottom line:
As the V50's settings can be tightly controlled, if you are willing to make use of them, the camera will certainly reward its owner. Some of the default settings do mean the camera can end up slightly over-exposing and images can look over-sharpened. On the plus side, the V50 is well-designed and constructed and very competitively priced. We wouldn't recommend the V50 to someone who simply needs a point and shoot camera, but if you want a compact creative tool, we can think of a lot worse than the V50.
Our overall rating is:
Now you've read the review, why not check out our exploration of the V50 hardware, our sample images, menu screen gallery, DXO Analyzer test results and test chart analysis?
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