The Samsung U-CA 3 is a lifestyle accessory for young people first and a camera second.
To be honest, we didn't expect the Samsung U-CA 3 to be a top-end image quality contender – Samsung's R&D dollars for this particular camera have been spent elsewhere. Picture quality isn't terrible in any department, but it’s mostly pretty average. These days, that means you should be able to live with it. What the U-CA 3 aims to be is a cool and trendy digicam for youngsters to carry around as an accessory that happens to have a serious use. In this sense, it does well enough. Its fun features may not be to everyone's tastes, but you can't deny they are novel.
Good quality construction and materials impressed us. The U-CA 3 should prove to be a product that resists the rough and tumble of its existence well.
One area that made us raise an eyebrow was the stated availability of the camera without a rechargeable battery as standard. While most online outlets we checked were advertising the camera with a rechargeable battery, our version was supplied without.
Duracell's CP1 disposable lithium battery packs an impressive performance for a thing so small, but at $10-14 each, the attractions of the rechargeable alternative soon add up. Incidentally, we tried a rechargeable battery from another camera that is Duracell CP1 compatible, the HP Photosmart R707 and it worked fine in the U-CA 3.
If you are looking for a fun camera for a young person and all you need is enough quality for decent 6x4", 5x7" or even acceptable A4 prints, the U-CA 3 could well make you a popular person. But for optimum photo quality and control over creative options you can do better elsewhere.
Based on what we have learned about the camera so far, we have decided to rate the Samsung U-CA 3 Above Average:
Based on image quality and general features alone, the camera would only have earned an Average rating
, but the avatar feature was a hit with our kids and the overall design and build quality of the camera, plus keen pricing, is just enough to push the rating up a notch.
Things we liked about the Samsung U-CA 3:
* Competitive price
* Image sharpness
* Good close focus range
* Good auto white balance performance under artificial light
* MPEG4 video clips
* Cool matching pouch case included
* 3D animated avatars a hit with the kids
Things we didn't like:
* Noisy lens zoom motor
* Inconsistent exposure
* Autofocus lock could be better
* Cool colours
* No continuous shooting mode
* Review package forces use of expensive CP1 disposable batteries
* Very slow power-up delay, even with avatar switched off
* Illogical date configuration procedure
Full review to follow
This is a preliminary first-looks review based on our experience of using the camera under everyday conditions plus limited benchmark testing. A full review with additional benchmarking will follow.
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