Samsung thinks we don't just want a camera but an MP3 player, movie player, world tour guide and storage device all rolled into one. The £190 i85 is the result: a stylish, metal-bodied, 8-megapixel compact with a 5x zoom and enough entertainment potential to keep you occupied on the plane and informed when you get there.
Don't be put off by that 8-megapixel sensor. Camera makers have gone megapixel mad of late and keep turning out bigger and bigger numbers and mushier and mushier images. The i85's shots look just fine, with more than enough detail for blow-ups.
The 5x zoom is handy, too, especially considering it stays neatly tucked away in that slimline body. The LCD is excellent, the zooming speed is fair and the autofocus is a bit quicker than average.
The i85 is practical too. You can charge it up from a powered USB socket on a computer or hook it up to the mains with the adaptor supplied. The box even contains a set of headphones that plug into a socket on the side of the body. The camera's got around 190MB of useable storage space internally, and, if that's not enough, you can just slot in an SD card to boost the capacity.
A year is a long time in the world of electronics, and that's how long the i85 has been out now. 190MB of storage is barely worth a nod when you can get a 1GB SD card for the price of a jumbo sausage and a bag of chips.
The i85's also been overtaken by the mobile-phone market, where practically every new phone comes with an MP3 player and a microSD slot. Who's going to want to drag around this brick of a thing just to listen to some music? As for the world tour guide -- just buy a book, for heaven's sake.
The i85 might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it offers an ill-judged combination of functions that's been superseded by smaller, more convenient media devices. The i85 has also been overtaken by a huge increase in storage capacities, combined with plummeting prices.
The pictures are at least as good as those from any other slimline compact, although it displays old-school noise which rapidly takes over at ISO 400 and above, submerging detail in a storm of random pixels. Whether that's any worse than today's hyper-aggressive noise-reduction systems is debatable.
The worst thing is the interface. You can forgive the crude and dated look of the icons and the feeble attempts at animation, but the menus respond with such sluggishness that you wonder how much field-testing this camera could actually have gone through.
Samsung has made some great cameras, but this isn't one of them. The pictures are fine, but the attempts at multimedia functionality have gone a bit wrong, and changes in the electronics and camera marketplace have left the i85 way behind. These functions, however, still add to the price, and this means the cost is too high for quite an ordinary camera.
Edited by Charles Kloet