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Samsung Digimax L85

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Samsung Digimax L85 Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

    Offers 5X zoom and a sharp LCD. Controls are generous, but images shot in wide-screen mode look stretched on an HDTV.

Samsung Digimax L85
Photograph: Chris Manners

The black-and-silver case of the Samsung Digimax L85 ($338 as of 6/15/06) feels solid. The camera is easy to grip, partly because Samsung made it a little larger than an average point-and-shoot to accommodate a 5X zoom lens--still, there's no room for an optical viewfinder on this 8.1-megapixel model. At 230,000 pixels, the L85's 2.5-inch LCD has a higher resolution than the screens of many competing cameras; the display looked extra sharp and was especially easy to view in bright light.

Samsung is claiming a first in the L85's ability to display high-definition-quality images on an HDTV over a digital HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cable. In theory, this sounds like a great way to show off your vacation snaps to friends and family on your new big-screen HDTV. In our tests, however, we found that the feature isn't quite ready for prime time. Photos displayed on a plasma HDTV in the PC World Test Center were razor-sharp with splendid colors, but people looked too thin and regular shapes (like circles and squares) appeared distorted. The problem is that the camera's wide mode records images with an aspect ratio of 16:8, which the camera then stretches to the regular HDTV ratio of 16:9 for display. You'll need to spend an extra $70 for a docking cradle and HDMI cable to connect the camera to your HDTV. (The cradle also makes it easier to charge the battery and to hook the camera up to a PC or printer.)

You access the L85's wide mode via the mode dial atop the camera. This mode is equivalent to the camera's auto mode, except that the image resolution is set at a 16:8 ratio (with a maximum of 5 megapixels). Unfortunately, as a result you can't simultaneously use the manual settings or any of the 12 scene modes. Similarly, the camera shoots video at 640 by 480 pixels or 320 by 240 pixels; pictures from these modes display with even more distortion than images shot in the wide mode do.

When put through its paces in the PC World Test Center, the L85 produced particularly crisp photos, earning a high score for sharpness that was well above the average. The camera's scores for color fidelity and exposure accuracy were about average, while its score for distortion was below average. In less formal testing, we had difficulty getting sharp photos in low lighting conditions at the camera's maximum sensitivity setting of ISO 400.

Advanced photographers will find plenty of controls to tweak on the L85. In addition to using the aperture- and shutter-priority modes, you can change the aperture size and the shutter speed independently in the full manual mode. You can set exposure compensation in all three manual modes, and you can even use auto-exposure bracketing to take a sequence of three shots at different exposure levels.

The L85 can store just four of its highest-quality JPEG images in its 23MB internal memory, so buying a high-capacity SD Card is essential, especially considering that the camera can also record images as lossless TIFF files, which are many times larger than JPEGs. The lithium ion battery recharges from an adapter that plugs into the base of the camera. In our tests, we were able to take 390 shots on a single charge.

Paul Jasper

This story, "Samsung Digimax L85" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Offers 5X zoom and a sharp LCD. Controls are generous, but images shot in wide-screen mode look stretched on an HDTV.

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