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So much potential, So disappointing...
on April 30, 2010
With roughly 3.8 gazillion arm's length self portraits posted on Facebook, it's amazing that Samsung is the only manufacturer to put a screen on the FRONT of the camera. Pure genius. They must have a rock-solid patent claim. If you want to eliminate the aiming guesswork and see yourself while taking an "armie" (as my GF so eloquently calls it), then the Samsung TL 220 & 225 are presently the only game in town.
Samsung takes it a step further by pre-programming cute little animations that you can play on the front screen to grab the attention of children, young and old. This works out quite nicely when trying to get a young child to actually look at the camera. Another stroke of genius.
In addition to its unique front screen, Samsung adds the best touch screen this side of an iPhone. The TL 225 steps up with a gorgeously high resolution 3.5" LCD that dominates the back of the camera. In fact it replaces nearly every button and control you expect to find on a digital camera. The only buttons are (of course) power, shutter, & zoom, plus a button to quickly toggle between shooting & playback--which is a joy with its 1.1 million pixel resolution.
Samsung takes a cue from Apple, adding gestures to the touch screen control. For example, to delete a picture you can swipe an "X" on the screen (don't worry, it asks you if you are sure before the picture erased.) They even do the iPhone interface one better with haptic feedback, i.e. you feel the virtual "buttons," thanks to a vibration as your finger touches each command. This also works nicely.
Thanks to the front screen and awesome touch screen, the camera is sure to become the talk of every party you bring it to. So where does this camera go wrong? Well for one, picture quality leaves a bit to be desired. In spite of 12.2 MP plus optical AND digital image stabilization, WAY WAY too many of the shots come out blurry. It may not be the camera's optics or electronics as much as the ridiculous length of time many photos require to snap. I don't know if its the "blink detection", "smile shot", or "face recognition" but many, if not most, photos seem to take forever to snap. It's so frustrating to tell an increasingly annoyed bunch of people, "ok, keep smiling, it will just be any second now...any second now...keep smiling...oh for the love of Pete...WTF...SNAP!...ugh..."
But that's not the main reason I was let down by this camera that just seemed absolutely perfect for my favorite shutterbug; its potentially greatest asset can quickly become its Achilles heel. After just 6 months of ownership, I pulled the camera out of my pocket to snap a picture...and was met with a dark screen and a nasty spider crack in the LCD. There was no warning, no incident, no drop, no fall. One minute the camera was taking photos fine, the next minute it was a $300 paper weight.
Since the touch screen performs nearly ever function, there's no way to effectively use the camera. There's not even a viewfinder to manually aim the camera. The camera still takes pictures. The touch screen still functions as the haptic feedback still registers. There's not even a perceptible flaw in the exterior glass. The crack appears to be only inside the camera.
As I said there was no accident to speak of. The crack occurred while inside my pocket, which has served without fail as the home of iPhones 2G, 3G, 3GS, as well as numerous digicams, calculators, etc. I can only assume the design of the TL225's body is insufficient to safely support its large LCD. Clearly its body too easily flexes beyond the LCD's structural limits.
And now I'm saddled with a $300 paperweight until I hear back from Samsung service. They say the repair will be $91 if they determine that abuse negates the warranty. I'm guessing they will pass the buck faster than Toyota. My concern is that I'll still have a poorly designed camera that must always be handled with kid gloves, not to mention the nearly $400 invested for a compact digicam that actually doesn't take pictures any better than a basic $150-200 model.
My recommendation is to stick with the companies whose reputation lives and dies with cameras, such as Canon, Olympus, Nikon. Come to think of it maybe they knew better than squeeze two screens, one almost as big as the camera itself, into a compact plastic digicam. The front screen is cool, but not worth the headache of a weak design--or the $100 premium--over a comparable camera.