Rightly or wrongly, Samsung is one of the few camera manufacturers to show a commitment to the idea of convergence. The i series have all been portable media players as well as shooting still images and video. The latest entry to the series is the Samsung i70, a camera that also includes an MP3 player, MPEG-4 video recorder, multimedia player, text viewer and voice recorder. It's available now for around £130.
The i series has often boasted unusual designs. Although Samsung has backed away from the wacky spinning screen on the i7, the i70 has an idiosyncratic sliding design. The body of the camera slides horizontally like a slider mobile phone, revealing the lens at the front and the buttons at the back. The sliding design means that the back of the i70 is all 76mm (3-inch) LCD screen, which we love.
It's something of a chunky beast, with the stainless steel body adding heft. The hidden lens and buttons give the camera a beautifully minimalist appearance. We tested a matte silver model that looks gorgeous, although we also had a patterned pink version that recalls saloon bar wallpaper. Other colurs include a two-tone black and white, or a patterned gold.
The mobile phone comparisons continue with the nine-button keypad, which can be used to enter text.
Although the recessed keyboard is easy to use, the sunken zoom pad is difficult to use, as it is set too low for large thumbs to make use of the impressive degree of responsiveness.
The i70's non-protruding 3x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm film camera. That isn't particularly wide -- we would prefer 28mm or at least 35mm.
The various multimedia functions are the i70's big draw. Video, text and MP3s can be watched or listened to with the body closed. Menus include a flash animation-based graphical user interface, which boasts bouncing icons.
Camera features include wise-shot mode, which takes two pictures consecutively, one with the flash enabled and one with the advanced shake-reduction function and no flash. You then choose which image you prefer.
The i70 copes well with portraits, giving warm skin tones in decent light. The sliding design means the flash is well away from the lens, so red eye was rarely a problem. The position of the lens at the corner of the camera, however, means fingers occasionally stray into shot.
Colours are well-reproduced. In low light the i70 does less well. The autofocus is quick to capture, but images can be slightly muddy when the flash is disabled. Noise is a problem even from ISO 400, but at least Samsung has limited the maximum ISO to 1,000, so there isn't too much scope for noise to ruin low-light images.
Exposure was also generally well-handled, with a slight tendency to underexpose in automatic mode. Extreme contrast in images, such as a dark building and light sky, tended to lose detail. There's very little purple fringing in such images, however.
The sliding design means the flash is well away from the lens, so red eye was rarely a problem. The position of the lens at the corner of the camera, however, means fingers occasionally stray into shot.
Battery life was good in camera mode, with a single charge surviving our hundreds of test shots. The extra functions of the i70 aren't good for battery life if you actually use the MP3 player, but it still managed a day of mixed MP3 and camera use. Only heavy use of video on the giant screen wipes out the battery in less than a day. Cleverly, Samsung addresses the battery life issue with a charging cable that connects to the plug via USB, so the plug can be removed and the cable carried around for charging from a computer.
The multi-purpose, multimedia Samsung i70 is a stylish and capable point-and-shoot. How you feel about convergence will dictate whether you think the i70 is worth owning or a pointless exercise, but at least it is less gimmicky -- and a better camera -- than its predecessor the i7. The MP3 player will never replace your iPod, but the PMP function is a relatively inexpensive video option.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide