• Fully articulated OLED screen
• Great low-light shooting
• Very well designed
• No HD video recording
• Slow file processing
The Samsung TL500 excels in certain areas, such as low-light shooting and excellent ergonomics, but its size and fairly outdated video recording means this camera won’t suit everyone out there.
The latest bridge camera from electronics giant Samsung, is the TL500, a 10 megapixel compact that offers excellent low-light shooting and reactivity. We take a look at the camera’s features and quality to see if it can match up to the other big names in its field.
Features & specifications
The TL500 possesses a nice range of features and technology, and one of the most striking aspects of these features is the superb ‘flip and twist’ three inch AMOLED screen. This is much sharper and brighter than an LCD screen, and displays 920k dot, with a contrast ratio of 10000:1 (the huge contrast ratio provides gorgeous deep blacks on the display). The screen is much easier to view in bright daylight conditions, and the ability to twist and swivel the screen so that you can take pictures from different angles means that it is very functional and provides excellent shooting options. You can also flip the screen around so that it is pointing inward for transport, so that the screen remains scratch-free.
Aside from the excellent screen, the TL500’s best selling-point is its low light shooting. The lens can open out to F/1.8, so it lets in a lot of light and is ideal for indoor/low-light shooting without the need for a flash, or at higher shutter speeds. So far this is the brightest lens we have reviewed for a bridge camera, with its closest rival sporting an aperture of F/2.7. The ultra-wide lens is 24mm, with 3x optical zoom, and is made by legendary German lens maker Schneider Kreuznach.
The TL500 also carries a 1/1.7" CCD sensor, (which is a big sensor and partly accounts for the TL500’s size), voice recording, standard video recording, in-camera RAW file editing and the ‘Smart Range’ feature that balances dark and bright spots on your images.
Design & build
Due in part to the twisting screen and large sensor, the Samsung TL500 is quite a bulky compact camera, and won’t always fit easily in your pocket. But what it lacks in this area, it certainly makes up for in the durability stake. The TL500 is a very solid camera, with a metal casing that makes it very well-protected, and doesn’t add considerably to the weight. Despite its large size, it is still smaller and lighter than the majority of DSLRs available. The TL500 is very well designed ergonomically, all the buttons and controls are placed well and clearly marked, and the menus and options are very easy to navigate. It is possible to manage mode selection, zoom, switch power on/off, change settings, capture images and navigate the menus with just the right hand.
There are two dials on the top of the Samsung TL500, one to switch the camera on/off and select the different shooting options (full manual, aperture/shutter priority and automatic), while the second dial is selects the advanced exposure modes. On the front of the camera there is a dial to change the shutter speed, which is ideally placed so that you can operate it with your forefinger in the Full Manual mode.
During all our tests, we found that the Samsung TL500 performed very well at low ISO levels. It handled noise really well, producing noise free images up until an ISO level of 800, and then becoming progressively worse up to its fastest ISO level of 3200. At low ISO levels images were very sharp and clear, but the camera struggled slightly at higher ISO. It is possible to reduce the noise present at high ISO levels if shooting in the RAW mode, as converting from this format gives far more control over noise reduction.
The TL500 handled chromatic aberrations very well, with only slight purple fringing around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations. Overall we found that the image quality was excellent, with crisp, clear images possible with the TL500 straight out of the box.
Video & sound
The Samsung TL500 shoots video at a resolution of 640 x 480 and at 30 frames per second. This really can’t compare to the majority of bridge cameras on the market that shoot in HD 720p, and so is a little disappointing. It also records sound in mono as a pose to stereo sound that we have seen on a lot of other similar cameras. Overall the quality of video recording is adequate but nothing more and not what we would expect on a camera of this ilk.
Samsung claim the TL500 has a 240 shot lifespan, and after using it for three days without having to recharge, this seems fairly accurate. The battery can be charged via the USB connector which is a nice touch if you are travelling light.
Overall the Samsung TL500 is an impressive camera. Its top selling-points must be the excellent AMOLED screen, superb ergonomics and great image quality. The lack of HD video and bulky build are the main negatives here, and mean that this camera won’t be for everyone, but if you can live with these small complaints you’ll be very satisfied with the results Samsung’s latest compact can produce.
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