Expert Recommendation

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Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $400
By Fotoguy
Expert (27 Recommendations and 7 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
April 12, 2009 Updated: April 14, 2009
Overview

The Samsung TL320 (AKA outside the U.S. as the WB100) with a 24-120mm (35 equivalent) 5X zoom lens, 12.2 megapixel image sensor, dual image stabilization (optical and digital), 720p HD video, 3 inch, High Definition, Organic LED screen; excellent build quality and small size make this camera my Best-in-Class pick.

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My Best In Class Pick
Samsung TL320

With the introduction on the TL320 of the power efficient, Active Matrix Organic LED (AMOLED) technology, Samsung says the poor battery life that has always plagued all ultra-compacts will be a thing of the past. (We’ll see.) The one thing that is known about OLED screens versus LCDs are that they are brighter with more vibrant color, and images stay clearly visible even when viewed at extreme angles. Add to that 460,000 pixel high resolution and you have a fantastic image display that can be seen even in the brightest sunlight.

But that new screen is only as good as the camera it’s attached to. And Samsung hasn’t failed there either incorporating an effective 12.2 megapixel image sensor and an excellent Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan 4.3-21.5mm f/2.8-7.3 5X zoom lens. Couple that with Samsung’s own optical and digital Dual Image Stabilization, Face Detection AF, a host of modes and presets including full manual–there’s even a custom-setable User mode, and you’ll get impressive, sharp, blur-free images even in the most difficult shooting situations.

Even though quite small, the TL320 is easy to operate and has an uncluttered control layout that is intuitive. The addition of a rubberized grip for the right hand makes it easy to hold and helps prevent errant fingers from covering the lens or flash.

All told, the Samsung TL320 will be a useful and worthwhile addition to anyone’s pocket or purse.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

If Samsung’s new technology OLED screen doesn’t impress you, and a conventional 3 inch LCD is just fine, then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 with similar specs and features as the TL320, and at about a third less the price, would make an excellent alternative.

Pros
  • +
    Lens
  • +
    Dual Image Stabilization
  • +
    Manual Control Options
  • +
    720p HD video
  • +
    Hi-res 460,000 pixel OLED
  • +
    Size
Cons
  • -
    Image noise
Samsung TL320 is the Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera Overall Under $400
Where to buy
Samsung TL320
  • Best Price: $141
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 24mm (46% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.2MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Samsung TL320
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
Customer Rating
Price $141.53 $279.00
Weight (with batteries) not available 6.2 oz
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Effective Sensor Resolution
12.2 megapixels 10.1 megapixels
Video Available Yes Yes
HD Video Available Yes Yes
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Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
24 mm 25 mm
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Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
120 mm 125 mm
Image Stabilization Type Dual Optical (lens shift)
Min ISO Setting 80 100
Max ISO Setting 3200 6400
Aperture Priority Mode Available Yes Yes
Shutter Priority Mode Available Yes Yes
Full Manual Exposure Mode Available Yes Yes
Manual Focus Available Yes No
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 3.0 in.
LCD Screen Resolution 460,000 pixels 230,000 pixels
Size (W x H x D) 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
Battery Life Not Available 280 shots
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is a slim, lightweight ultra-compact that will easily fit into a pocket or purse, and is very suitable for those who want to keep a camera handy at all times. With an effective 10.1 megapixel sensor, in-the-lens optical image stabilization, ISOs from 100 to 6400, plus, a plethora of modes and settings, including manual overrides, the camera produces sharp, detailed, blur-free images. And with its top quality Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4.4-22mm f/2.8-5.9 5X (25-125mm equivalent) zoom, you be able to see more in your pictures than what a typical ultra-compact usually delivers.

All in all, an excellent point-n-shoot.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500 is one of the Best Ultra Compact Digital Cameras Overall Under $400
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500
  • Best Price: $279
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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