Samsung Digimax i5
At a Glance
Samsung Digimax i5 Compact Camera
Small, portable Digimax i5 suffers from short battery life and low photo quality compared with other cameras' photos.
The Digimax i5 is one of the smallest digital cameras we've seen; it's no bigger than pack of cards and would easily fit into a shirt or trouser pocket. But its images lack sharpness, and it omits features that all but the newest of photographers will need.
What the $350 Digimax i5 does have is a 3X optical zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD screen that is easily viewable in daylight, and a sliding cover that protects the small lens. There's also a dock that holds the camera while it is connected to the PC: That's a much more elegant solution than having cables running everywhere. The camera is also available in four case colors--silver, gray, black, and red.
The thin profile of the Digimax i5 makes it somewhat awkward to hold in one hand--there's little for the fingers to grip. But it is usable; the index finger falls naturally onto the shutter button and the thumb onto the zoom control. For anything else, though, you'll probably need to use two hands, and this includes changing modes. Although you can access the on-screen menu with a mode button just below the zoom control, you then have to use the directional pad to move through the options. Those with small hands might be able to reach the pad with the thumb of the hand that's holding the camera, but it's far more comfortable to use both hands.
Another drawback is that shutter lag was somewhat longer than in most recent point-and-shoot cameras we've tested. At between a half-second and a second, it's long enough that you could miss shots.
The i5 has 11 scene modes and a confusingly named manual mode. I say confusingly because it's too limited to be a true manual mode (you can't control the aperture or shutter speed). The camera also has no aperture- or shutter-priority mode and no white-balance settings; you have to rely on the automatic settings.
The Digimax i5 stores photos on an SD Card or in the internal memory of the camera. Although the camera doesn't include an SD Card, it does come with 50MB of internal memory--much more than we usually see, and enough to hold 20 images at the highest resolution. That's reassuring if you fill up your card on a trip and don't have a spare.
While we were impressed with both the colors and the accurate exposure of the photos that the Digimax i5 took, we were much less impressed with their sharpness. The images had a fuzziness and a lack of detail that became very evident when we enlarged them. They look acceptable in prints of 4 by 6 inches and smaller, but any larger than that and you can see how fine details are indistinct and blurry. The small flash simply isn't up to the job; it failed to illuminate anything more than a few feet away; and since the flash is right next to the lens, the images were very prone to red-eye. This can, of course, be fairly easily fixed in most image editing programs, but it is best not to have the problem in the first place. There is a red-eye reduction mode.
The battery life was also below par. The small 760-mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasted a disappointing 160 shots snapped over 87 minutes; that's the lowest number of any point-and-shoot camera we've tested recently. Cameras like the Canon Exilim EX-Z750 (which is not much bigger, but lasted for 446 shots) have shown that small cameras needn't have short battery lives.
The software bundle is somewhat lackluster: You get Samsung's Digimax viewer (which allows basic editing), ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 4 (a no-frills image editing program), and Digimax Reader (an optical character recognition package that can convert images of characters into text).
Although the Digimax i5 is very small and portable, its image sharpness problems and short battery life will discourage all but the most ardent fans of tiny cameras.