Cameras

Samsung TL225 Digital Camera Review

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Introduction

The Samsung TL225 is a compact point & shoot camera with a trick up its sleeve: a 1.5-inch LCD screen on the front for taking self portraits.

Front

Front Tour Image

Back

Back Tour Image

Sides

Sides Tour Image

Top

Top Tour Image

Bottom

Bottom Tour Image

In the Box

Box Photo

The contents of the box of the TL225

• The TL225 camera

• Charger (connects to the camera over the USB cable)

• SLB-07A 720mAh battery

• USB cable

• Analog video out cable (not included in the standard package)

• Wrist strap

• Software CD

• Quick start manual

• Warranty card

Our review model came with an analog video out cable, but this is not included in the retail model. Also absent is an HDMI cable or adapter. If you want to connect the TL225 to a HDTV, you'll need to buy an optional $40 cable.

Color

In this test, we look at how accurately a camera captures color, and we found that the TL225 did a very decent job. Most of the colors on the test chart that we use were accurately captured, although we did find some minor issues with reds and yellows, both of which were a little too vivid. More on how we test color.

The TL 225 offers a lot of color modes, but we found the best results by sticking with the Normal mode, which produced the most accurate color with the least oversaturation. Examples of the other color modes can be found in the controls section of this review.

As you can see from the chart below, the TL225 had similar performance to most of our comparison cameras; only the Sony T900 scored significantly higher.

Color Modes

The TN225 offers 10 color modes: Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, and RGB, a custom mode where you can set the individual color channel settings.You can see examples of these color modes in action in the controls section of this review.

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Noise

The TL225 had very few issues with noise in images; we found that our test images had very little noise in them. The noise level did increase at the higher ISO settings, but it was still lower than most other cameras. More on how we test noise.

In our first noise test, we photograph a test chart at all of the ISO levels that a camera supports at two different light levels: 3000 lux (about the level of a bright sunny day) and 60 lux (equivalent to dim indoor lighting. The noise at the 60 lux level was extremely consistent; the camera is obviously doing some noise reduction processing to remove the noise. In the 3000 lux test, the noise level climbs as the ISO increases, but it still remains pretty low.

ISO

The TL225 has an ISO range of 80 up to 3200, with stops at 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600. That's a very decent range for a point & shoot camera, and it is good to see that the 3200 ISO is still at the full camera resolution. Some cameras offer only a lower resolution at this level.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Resolution

Our resolution tests focus on three areas of performance: distortion, sharpness and chromatic aberration. Distortion is where straight lines in images become curved because of the poor optics of a lens, while sharpness is the ability of the camera to capture fine details. Chromatic aberration is a problem also caused by poor lens optics: the lens refracts colors of light in different amounts, causing a slight color fringe on images. More on how we test resolution.

Distortion ()

We found that the zoom lens of the TL225 introduced only a very small amount of distortion into the images the camera captured: less than 0.7 percent at the wide end and less than 0.5 per cent at the telephoto end of the zoom range. As the examples below show, that's barely noticeable, and is significantly less than other cameras.

Overall, the TL225 has only middling performance here. Although there was very little distortion, the images were rather soft at the edges and had some issues with aberration.

Sharpness ()

We were less impressed with the sharpness of the images that the TL225 captured: we found that although the images were acceptably sharp in the center of the frame, they were rather soft at the edge, at both the wide and telephoto end of the zoom range. At both ends of the zoom range, we found that details at the edge of the frame became extremely soft. This also happened in the middle of the zoom range, but to a lesser degree.

Chromatic Aberration ()

We also found a lot of chromatic aberration in the images at the wide and telephoto ends of the zoom range, although this was more pronounced at the wide end of the zoom range.

Quality & Size Options

The TL225 has a wide range of image quality and size options. There are three different levels of image quality (Super Fine, Fine and Normal) and 8 options for image size. Missing, though, is any way to capture RAW images, which contain the raw data captured by the image sensor.

Image Stabilization

Two image stabilization modes are included on the TL225: an optical one (which moves an element of the lens) and an electronic one, which increases the shutter speed to try and remove shake. We found that the optical system did a reasonable job of minimizing shake, with our test images shot at 1/30 of a second coming out slightly sharper with it enabled. It didn't do miracles, though; many of the images were still somewhat blurry. More on how we test image stabilization.

Video Mode

the TL225 captures video at a maximum of 720 resolution (1280 by 720 pixel resolution), with four different settings for size and quality. As well as the maximum size and quality one (called 1280HQ), there is a 1280 mode, a 640 by 480 mode and a 320 by 240 pixel mode. You can also use the optical zoom while recording, although you do get a slight buzzing noise when it is moving. You cannot, however, use the front LCD screen while recording video; only the back screen can be used.

Video Color

We were not very impressed with the colors of the videos that the TL225 captured; we found that the colors were rather inaccurate, with some grey having a bluish cast and some other colors being overly saturated. Bright reds and yellows, for instance, looked almost fluorescent. More on how we test video color.

Video Sharpness

The 720p video that the TL225 captures had decent, but unspectacular sharpness. Even recording in the highest quality mode, we found that the fine details of objects quickly feel apart when the camera moved; in a slow pan, a complex grid pattern on our test charts became a blurry mess. However, the video was slightly better than that captured by some point & shoot cameras; it is just nowhere near as good as most dedicated cameras or video SLRs. More on how we test video sharpness.

Playback Mode

A lot of features for playing back photos and videos are included with this camera. There are three viewing modes on offer (shown below), plus an extensive number of slideshow features with built-in music and transitions. The music and transitions are a little cliched (with the music sounding like the stuff you get on 3am infomercials), but it certainly helps to pep up a slideshow.

In-Camera Editing

A surprisingly good set of image editing features are also present in this camera. You can rotate, crop and resize photos, and also tweak brightness, contrast and color. Any of the photo styles can also be applied, and several special effects are also offered: you can add snow to a photo, add noise or highlight a face (which blurs everything but the face itself). And if you accidentally take a photo of an ex boy or girlfriend, there's a mosaic feature that reduces a face to a pixelated blur. Most of these effects aren't that useful (although there's a certain thrill to blurring out faces in a crowd), but it is good to have a number of controls for tweaking color and brightness.

Direct Print Options

The TL225 supports the usual DPOF and PictBridge standards, so you can flag photos on the memory card for printing or connect the camera directly to a PictBridge printer.

Viewfinder

There is no viewfinder on the TL225: everything is done through the LCD screen on the back of the camera.

Display

There are two LCD screens on the TL225: a 3.5-inch one on the back and a 1.5-inch one on the front. Let's look at each in turn.

The back LCD screen is 3.5 inches diagonally, and takes up most of the back of the camera. It has an impressive 1,152k pixels, which means that images are extremely sharp. It is also very bright, which is good as the touch screen is the main interface to control the features of the camera. The resistive touch screen is adequate, but it is not particularly precise; we often found ourselves missing buttons like the one at the bottom of the screen to access the additional features.

The second screen is a 1.5-inch LCD screen embedded in the front of the camera body. This is mainly designed for self portraits; you can turn this screen on from the menu on the back screen and see a preview of what will be captured. This works well; the screen is small and a little dim, but it is good enough to make sure that the subject is in the frame while shooting. It can also be set to show shooting information or to show a smiley face when you half-press the shutter to remind the subjects to smile. The front screen does not work when shooting video, though: in the video mode the front screen is disabled.

LCD Photo

The back LCD screen of the TL225

LCD Photo 2

The front LCD screen in action

Flash

The small flash is built into the body of the camera, just to the left of the lens and above the secondary screen. Samsung provides no figures for the range of this flash, but we found it worked only to about 8-9 feet out; anything further out than that was lost in the darkness.

Several flash modes are available: you can set the flash to off, auto, red eye reduction (which uses a number of pre-flashes), always on, slow sync (which combines the flash with a slow shutter speed) and red-eye fix. The latter uses both a pre-flash and software processing to remove red eye.

Flash Photo

The flash of the TL225

Lens

The TL225 is not an ultrazoom camera: the built-in Schneider-Kreuznach lens has a focal length of 4.9 to 22.5mm (equivalent to 27 - 124.2 mm on a 35mm film camera) for a zoom range of 4.6x. That's not a particularly long zoom range, but it is a decently wide zoom, which is good for group shots or landscapes.

Lens Photo

The zoom of the TL225 is a 4.6x

When not in use, the lens of the TL225 fits into the camera body, with three telescoping sections, and a cover fits over the front element of the lens. This feels a little flimsy, but it should serve to protect the camera from dust and fingerprints.

Battery

The TL225 is powered by a small 720mAh Li-ion battery (the model number is SLB-07A). This is rather a small battery, especially for a camera with a big touch screen that is the only way to control it. Samsung makes no claims for battery life, but we found that it did last a couple of days of casual shooting, so it should be big enough for a weekend trip. The battery is charged in the camera through the USB cable, so it can be charged either from a computer or with the included power supply.

Battery Photo

The battery and memory card compartment of the TL225

Memory

The TL225 stores photos on a microSD/SDHC memory card that fits in just below the battery. MicroSD cards are not as widely available as their larger SD/SDHC cousins, but they do come in similar capacities: a 4GB microSDHC card will cost you about $13, and will hold about 650 images at the highest size and quality. If you want to go all out, a 16GB microSDHC card will cost you about $45, but Samsung only guarantees that microSD cards up to 4GB and the newer microSDHC versions up to 8GB will work.

Jacks, Ports & Plugs

The TL225 has only one connection to the outside world: a single connector on the bottom of the camera body. This fulfills a number of functions: it connects to a computer or printer with the included USB cable, charges the camera with the same USB cable and connects the camera to a TV with the optional analog video/audio output cable or HDMI cable. The analog cable will cost you $30, while the HDMI one is $40.

Shooting Modes

The TL225 has a wide selection of shooting modes on offer: there are 13 scene modes and 3 automatic modes of varying sophistication. For those who want the camera to pick and choose everything, the Smart Auto mode puts every control to automatic, except the size of the photo. Everything else is handled by the camera. The Auto mode gives the user slightly more control, allowing them to set options such as the picture size, flash mode, photo style and image stabilization mode. The Dual IS mode is broadly similar to the Auto mode, except that the camera controls the image stabilization and sets the shutter speed as fast as possible. The Program mode is a standard mode, where the camera sets the aperture and shutter speed, but the user can control everything else. One set of modes that are missing are the manual ones; there is no way to manually set aperture, shutter speed in either a priority or full manual mode.

Auto Mode Features

Focus - We found the auto focus system of the TL225 to be generally good, although it is a little noisy: as it focuses, the lens makes and odd grinding sound. But it usually snapped into focus in less than half a second, and had no problem focusing in low light with the built-in assist light. If this is disabled (say, because you are shooting at night and don't want the distraction), the focusing was less accurate, as the focusing system relies on being able to detect contrast in the images.

There are four focus modes available: center, multi-point, one touch and smart touch. In the first mode, the camera focuses on a rectangle in the center of the frame. The second uses 9 areas around the center of the image and tries to get as many as possible into focus. In the one touch mode, the user touches the screen and the camera tries to focus on that. The Smart Focus is similar, except that the camera tries to track the object as it moves around the frame.

No manual focus is available, but you do get two macro modes: a standard one that focuses down to 5cm from the lens front, and a super macro mode that goes down to 3cm.

Exposure - Exposure compensation of plus or minus two stops is available from the on-screen menu, and the camera can also take three shots with a single press of the shutter at 2 stops below, on the exposure level and 2 stops above.

Metering - Options are available for evaluative, center weighted and spot metering. In addition, the TL225 can detect faces and meter for those anywhere in the frame.

Aperture - The lens of the TL225 has a fixed aperture range of f/3.5 to f/5.9. That's a rather small range, but it is not that unusual to have a small range with point & shoot cameras.

Shutter Speed - In most modes, the TL225 has a shutter speed range of 1 second down to 1/2000 of a second. That can be extended slightly in the Night scene mode (to 8 seconds) and the fireworks mode (to 2 seconds). Again, that's a small range, but not too out of the ordinary for a point & shoot.

Self-Timer - Several self-timer modes are included with the TL225; there is the conventional 2 and 10 second delays, plus several other modes. One has a 10-second delay, then takes another photo 2 seconds later. The Motion Timer mode is unusual; it detects motion, then takes a photo when that stops. The idea is that you can press the shutter, runs in front of the camera to join a family group, and the camera takes the photo when everyone is standing still.

Modes Photo

The Scene Mode options of the TL225

Scene Modes

The Scene mode offers 13 variants, including options such as Night, Portrait, Landscape, etc. A couple of the modes are slightly unusual: Beauty Shot mode removes skin blemishes, and in the Frame Guide mode you frame your shot, take a photo, then give the camera to someone and it shows them the edges of the frame you took so they can frame the same shot. The idea is that you can give your camera to a stranger, but still get the photo you want. The Children mode also uses the front screen, playing a short animation of a dancing clown to attract the child's attention.

Picture Effects

There are also plenty of wacky picture effects, with some available as picture modes, and some as effects in the editing menu. Examples of all are below.

Manual Controls

As well as the full auto white balance mode, there are 5 preset options, plus a custom mode where you take a photo of a white object, and the camera judges the white balance.

Drive/Burst Mode

The TL225 has three drive modes: a standard mode (which we tested below) and a 6fps low resolution mode. The latter is rather confusingly called Motion Capture, but it can't be triggered by motion detection; it just takes photos at a speed of 6 frames a second for a maximum of 30 frames. In this mode, the resolution is restricted to 640 by 480 pixels.

Shot to Shot ()

Shooting in the full resolution continuous mode, we measured the speed of the camera at 0.92 frames a second. That's definitely slower than we like, and it is a pity that there is not middle ground between the speedy (but low resolution) Motion Capture mode and the standard one.

Handling

The TL225 is a small, compact camera, but it fits well into the hand. Despite the lack of a front ridge for the fingertips, it is possible to use the camera in one hand, although the thumb tends to obscure part of the screen.

Handling Photo 1

The TL225 in the hand from the front...

Handling Photo 2

...and back.

Buttons & Dials

The TL225 only has a few buttons and dials: a power button, shutter button, zoom toggle and a play button. These are generally well placed, but the zoom and shutter are a little close together: it is too easy to accidentally hit the zoom toggle when reaching for the shutter.

Buttons Photo 1

The controls on the top of the TL225

Everything else is controlled through the touch screen. This works pretty well, but it does miss some touches and gets confused if you are touching it in more than one place. So, if you are holding it in on hand and your thumb is touching the top right corner, it doesn't register any other touches. The touch sensor is also rather low resolution, so it is a little too easy to hit the wrong button on screen if you're not being careful. Although the touch screen does not detect multiple touches, you can use some gestures to control the camera in playback mode: if you touch the screen and draw a circle, it will rotate the photo. A left to right (or vice versa) touch scrolls to the next (or previous) photo, and an X on the screen deletes a photo. The touch screen generally works well and is easy to use.

It's also a haptic device, which means it responds with a slight vibration when you touch a button on the screen. This helps it to give more of a positive feel; you can tell that you've pressed a button. The amount of this vibration is configurable, and stealthy shooters might want to turn it off, as it makes a slight buzzing noise that house cats and other wild life can hear and get spooked by.

One other interesting feature is motion recognition: if you touch the motion recognition button on the screen and rotate the camera, you can change modes with a forward tilt switching to movie mode, and down switching to program mode. Tilting it to the left puts the camera in smart auto mode. Unfortunately, this approach cannot be used to change the scene mode: to switch between scene modes, you have to go through the on-screen menu, which takes several touches.

The TL225 has two menus; the on-screen buttons that control things such as the flash mode, focus, etc and the main menu that contains all these and less commonly used options, such as the AF illuminator. The on-screen buttons are for the mode, flash, focus, delay and display control, with some more in a pop-up menu that appears when you touch the bottom of the screen.

We found a couple of issues with this structure. One is that it is very awkward to change scene modes: to do so, you have to press the mode button, select scene mode and then select the mode you want. There is no quicker way to change between modes, which is annoying. We wish that Samsung had found a way to use the motion recognition too quickly shift between scene modes, but they didn't. We also found that we hit the wrong button on the touch screen more often than we liked because of the relatively low resolution of the screen.

The main menu of the TL225 is more conventionally designed. It's divided into four sections: functions, sound, screen and setup. Functions is for options like exposure compensation, white balance, etc. Sound is where you control the volume and the haptic features, setting the type of sounds and how the camera vibrates when you touch the screen. The screen section contains options for setting the language and screen brightness, while the setup section contains pretty much everything else.

Manual & Learning

The TL225 comes with a 106 page manual that covers the myriad functions of the camera well. It is well written and illustrated, and has a good basic functions guide at the start of the manual for new users.

Canon PowerShot SD780 IS Comparison

These two cameras are both small and sleek, with both being less than 0.8 inches thick (0.66 for the T900 and 0.76 for the TL225). The Sony is the smaller while shooting, though; the lens of the Samsung telescopes out in use, while the Sony's 4x zoom lens is embedded within the camera body. The Sony also feels like the more robust camera, with a sliding panel that covers the lens completely. The Samsung feels fragile by comparison, with just a thin cover over the front lens element.

The Samsung was the better performer in many of our still imaging tests, with much lower noise in images, especially in low light. The Sony had some better scores in others, though; it had better color and more effective image stabilization. But neither camera was free of problems; both took slightly soft images at both ends of the zoom range.

For video, the Sony was the better performer, shooting video with better color and much more detail. That's not to say that either was all that great, though; both shot video that looked dull and grainy compared to a dedicated camcorder.

In the final analysis, the right pick depends on the features you need. The second screen of the Samsung is very useful if you like to take self-portraits or shots of the kids (with the screen to attract their attention while you shoot), while the Sony is the smaller, sexier camera.


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Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR Comparison

Samsung goes for a thin, black aesthetic with the TL225, while Canon goes with a more curvy, blocky look. Both cameras are about the same thickness when turned off (about 0.7 inches thick), though the Samsung is a little larger otherwise. Both cameras also use telescoping lenses that zip out of the camera body when in use.

Both cameras were mostly evenly matched in our tests, with similar performance for color and image stabilization. We did find that the images that the Samsung took had lower noise, but the Canon had better performance in our resolution tests, capturing sharper images. The Canon is also slightly cheaper, so that might be a deciding factor in this economy. But the Samsung does give you a much bigger screen and has the advantage of the second screen, which is useful for distracting small children and animals while you photograph them.


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COMP 3

Both the Samsung TL225 and the Fujifilm F200EXR cost about the same: around $300. They are quite different cameras in other ways, though, with the Samsung being significantly thinner, while still having a much larger screen. The Fuji does have some advantages, though; we found that it captured sharper images with better color, and also shot slightly better video. The Samsung had lower noise in still images, though, and has the advantage of the bigger back screen and front-facing screen.


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Conclusion

The Samsung TL225 is an attractive camera for the $330 price. It shoots good pictures, has a decent zoom lens and is easy to control and use. The large screen on the back of the camera is excellent: clear, bright and with enough resolution to show fine details. We also found that the touch-screen interface was also pretty good: we had no major problems controlling the camera and navigating beyond a few missed buttons.

The front LCD is a useful feature to have if you are in the habit of taking photos of yourself a lot, or if you have small children that might be entranced by the dancing clown illustration it can display. But it's a small screen that is rather dim,

There are a few things missing, though. Serious shooters will bemoan the lack of any manual control over aperture and shutter speed, and those who don't like touch screen controls will feel lost here. And the performance has a few issues at either end of the zoom range. But for casual photographers looking for a simple to use, straightforward camera with good performance, it's a good pick, with the front screen providing a neat way to take photos from a different angle.

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