If you can put cameras and MP3 players in phones, why can't you put MP3 and video players in a camera? If this idea strikes you as just wrong, you probably won't be a fan of the Samsung i series. The i8 is the latest in this line of all-singing, all-dancing point-and-shoots.
The i8 is an 8.2-megapixel point-and-shoot that also functions as an MP3 player, portable multimedia player (PMP), world tour guide, text viewer, storage device and voice recorder. It's available now for £115, which is reasonable for the number of gadgets you get in one package. The question is, are those devices good enough to consider throwing out your iPod and Archos?
Aesthetically the i8 is far from the grey plastic twisty-turny i7. The glossy black plastic frame, rounded corners and silver bezel make it look more like a cuddlier iPhone. The LCD screen measures 69mm (2.7-inch), which is reasonable for a camera but feels rather cramped for multimedia viewing.
The body feels plasticky and the whole camera picks up fingerprints like a crime scene investigator. The sliding cover for the USB connection is a nice touch, however, and we are fans of the USB lead doubling as a charger cable, so there's less to carry and less to lose.
The chunky rounded buttons have a cartoony charm, but the horizontal zoom rocker is one of the slowest and least responsive we've used for a while. The mode button is straightforward, but we can't help feeling that the difference between Fn (shooting functions) and E (picture effects) isn't enough of a distinction to warrant two buttons.
One downside is the headphone jack. Instead of a 3.5mm jack, there's a proprietary connection with an adaptor to plug headphones into. This means the sound quality will be limited by the adaptor, no matter how good your headphones are. The supplied headphones are the usual cheap pair, with equally tinny results.
Even if it does have various functions, the i8's primary role is as a camera. The 38-114mm equivalent focal length is distinctly average, but the i8 is extensively adjustable: there are numerous colour and style settings, with handy sliders to tweak other settings. Red, green and blue levels, as well as sharpness and saturation, can be adjusted in this way.
The menus feature luminescent animated icons, which look slick but make the scrolling experience feel slow. In some of the functions, text occasionally wraps mid-word, which can be odd, but most of the time we barely noticed it.
As well as program and auto modes, there's a handy guide feature. It presents you with a list of five common photographic problems and gives you solutions to each one. Each suggestion features a practice function, showing which buttons to press. Even if it doesn't teach you anything new, it's a good way to learn the controls of the camera, and is accessible enough to teach novices plenty of photographic tips that could get them past the point-and-shoot stage.
Fun mode includes some frivolous frames, but also showcases a few souped-up options. One alternative is to place comic book bubbles and balloons around your subjects in the frame.