Construction and Design
High quality construction
Although the Samsung U-CA 3 is a plastic-bodied camera, the mouldings are of a very high quality and appear to be more resistant to wear and tear than many other cameras in this class. Complementing its cool and trendy ambience, the body is finished in a sparkling metallic paint job. A really cool pouch case is supplied to protect your U-CA 3 anyway.
The top and bottom surfaces of the case are slightly curved, accentuating its already compact, if not really tiny, dimensions. Both the battery and memory card are loaded through a side door, so the plastic tripod socket on the base-plate won't force you to unscrew the camera from a tripod if a battery or card needs changing.
(Front of camera, above) A: Flash unit, B: Shutter release, C: Mode selector (stills, voice record, movie), D: Power on/off, E: eye-level viewfinder, F: Speaker, G: AF assist lamp, H: Microphone, I: Function lamp.
(Rear of camera above) A: 1.5 inch LCD monitor, B: Navigation pad, plus selector for voice record, flash, close focus and self timer modes, C: Menu and selection confirmation button, D: Zoom rocker, E: Exposure compensation, ISO select, AWB select and image delete button, F, Flap protecting power-in and combo AV-out and USB-out port, G: LCD Monitor mode switch, H: Image review on/off button.
The baseplate of the U-CA 3 has a centrally located tripod socket. There is a small, undocumented, covered port that suggests a docking station had been part of the picture at one stage.
A large spring-loaded door on the side of the u-CA 3 flips up to reveal the battery bay and Memory Stick Duo card slot.
A 32MB Memory Stick Duo and adapter for standard Memory Stick slots is supplied.
Duracell's new CP1 disposable lithium battery performs well but is far too expensive to rely on as a primary power source for the U-CA 3.
Once extended at power-on, there is very little extra extension of the lens barrel throughout the zoom range.
A plastic flap swivels to one side to reveal the external power port, USB 1.1 port and AV-out port.
In general, the colour coded menu system of the Samsung U-CA 3 is intuitive and easy to follow. However, with a limited set of external buttons, some features and settings are fairly hidden. To change white balance or ISO settings, you need to press the button marked +/-, for example. A 'Manual' mode menu setting doesn't provide manual control of aperture and shutter speed, but serves to store other settings you have chosen.
Very confusing indeed was the date setting option. Although you are given a choice of which date format (DD/MM/YY, etc.) you prefer, the actual date must always be entered in YY/MM/DD format.
While the date format indicated is DD/MM/YY, the actual date must be entered, regardless, in the format YY/MM/DD – very confusing!
First of all, if you choose to use the funky animated welcome screen, you add at least five seconds to the already leisurely five second power-up time. Ten seconds is a long time to wait for your camera to be ready to take a picture.
The 1.5 inch LCD monitor is adequately clear for framing scenes and checking on status settings and copes adequately in bright conditions.
The shutter release action is rather on the stiff side and once pressed there is a little more lag than we have come to expect from cameras in this class, but it's by no means bad.
We could coax no more than seven optical zoom steps out of the rather noisy zoom mechanism, while autofocus performance was not particularly snappy. The AF system failed to lock on targets that it should have rather too often for our liking, but when it did lock, accuracy was good.
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