Cameras don't get much more middle-of-the-road than Samsung's 12.2-megapixel PL80. It falls roughly in the centre of the company's point-and-shoot range, which is one step up from its 'fun and easy' range. But the PL80 offers ever so slightly more than the average snapper, thanks to its handy 5x wide-angle zoom. That's not bad for around £110, surely?
Keepin' it simple
The PL80 certainly looks pretty good. The metal finish comes in a choice of colours, and it feels like a decent-quality camera. The controls are simple and kids or the grandparents should have no trouble working them out.
A 'smart' button on the top launches the 'smart auto' mode, which picks the right scene mode to match the conditions, and there's a 'frame guide' mode too. This lets you shoot the scene as you want it, and then the camera will display an image overlay on the left-hand side of the screen, so that, when you hand the PL80 over to someone else, it shows them how you want the picture framed.
Around the back are a decent-enough LCD display and some pretty straightforward controls. There's a slightly confusing visual shift in the menus when you move past the top level, but, much of the time, you don't need to use them, because options like white balance, drive mode, EV compensation and so on are accessed by a 'Fn' button that displays them as an overlay at the side of the screen.
The 'dual IS' mode does a good job of cutting camera shake in low light, although it does take several seconds to process each image. The 'double self-timer' is also a neat idea, taking a second shot two seconds after the first -- just to be on the safe side.
Samsung's USB charging system keeps things simple, too. The battery stays in the camera, and you simply plug in the supplied lead to charge it up via a computer with a powered USB port. You can also charge the battery at the mains, using the supplied plug.
The big disappointment is the PL80's image quality. At shorter zoom settings and low ISOs, it's alright, although details do start to turn rather mushy towards the edge of the picture. The more you zoom in, though, the softer the picture gets, and, by the time you're at the 5x maximum, the definition's lousy. Also, while pictures generally look alright, there's not a huge amount of contrast or saturation, and the PL80 sometimes overexposes its shots too.
The camera has some other irritating foibles, too. The dual IS mode takes several seconds to process each image, and the playback mode makes images look mushier than they actually are when you zoom right in. And why are the auto scene modes not the same as the manually selected ones? Also, why call the black-and-white and sepia photo styles 'classic' and 'retro'? Those terms don't really mean anything.
For the money, the Samsung PL80 offers more than you'd expect in terms of specs, features and finish, but rather less than you might hope for in terms of picture quality. It might be alright for undemanding users, but the fact is you can get the same or better picture quality from much cheaper cameras.
Edited by Charles Kloet