Is it all about the image created, or the unique features of a camera? That's often a question I ask myself when reviewing a new camera. The new Samsung DualView TL225 is by no means short on innovative features, including a dual LCD system that consists of a 3.5 inch touch screen on the back and a 1.5 inch LCD on the front for taking self-portraits, haptic feedback that causes the rear LCD to vibrate when you change settings, and 720p HD video capture.
The concern here is that some of these features are gimmicks instead of tools designed to help a consumer who wants to take great pictures. The Samsung TL225 takes away the mode dials and almost all physical controls except the shutter and power buttons, replacing them with said 3.5 inch touch screen. A full slate of neat features is only useful if they are implemented well.
The TL225 also comes packed with a 12.2 megapixel CCD image sensor, a Schneider-KREUZNACH 4.6x optical zoom lens, face detection, dual image stabilization via digital and optical means, and a Smart Auto shooting mode that analyzes your composition and automatically selects the optimal settings for you. Taking it all in at first glance, the TL225 comes across as a camera that is stylish, sleek, and obviously unique. Let's see if these new features are just a gimmick or if they add up to a unique shooting experience.
BUILD AND DESIGN
When I first took out the DualView TL225 I was instantly impressed by its attractive build and small form factor - then I turned it over to find the expansive touch screen. Though the prospect of shooting with almost no physical buttons seemed daunting, once I turned on the camera and used it for a while those feelings changed.
I'll admit that I was immediately drawn to the slick design and build quality of the camera. Its metal and hard plastic construction, tiny size (no bigger in height, weight and depth than a pack of playing cards), and purple trimming (also available in blue, red and orange) are by no means dull to the eye. It has a retractable lens, the aforementioned small 1.5 inch LCD on the front, which is nearly invisible if you don't activate it, and a small flash and assist lamp. The camera is built very well and feels sturdy in your hands, meriting a thumbs-up.
Ergonomics and Controls
The TL225 is a small camera, no question, measuring 3.93x2.35x0.73 inches and weighing only 5.8 ounces. The slim build makes two-handed shooting feel like a must to avoid accidental contact with the front and rear LCDs.
That's not the case though, shooting with one hand worked as well. I tested it with my big claws to see if placing my thumb on the back and three fingers on the front would disrupt shooting, and it didn't. It looks like Samsung hashed out that very problem before it went to market. But as with most any touch panel, the oil from your fingers leaves traces all over the camera's LCDs.
The buttons (a grand total of four) are all placed on top of the camera. The power button, sunken in slightly to avoid accidental activation, is a bit tricky to press on and off. You really have to push your fingernail down in to start the camera. The other buttons include playback to initiate image review, a small zoom lever, and a shutter button, which is the largest analog button on the TL225. Overall, buttons are placed where you'd expect them to be, though they could be a bit too small for some users. Sacrifices must be made for such a large LCD.
The retractable lens completely shrinks into the camera body. The flash is small and stays out of your fingers' way. There's not much room for your hands and fingers when all is said and done, relegating your hand to the outer rim of the camera since most of the real estate of the TL225 is dedicated to the DualView LCD system.
Menus and Modes
Samsung's TL225 touch screen menu system uses haptic response to confirm your selections. A press of the tab icon along the bottom of the screen pulls up settings for AF, image quality settings, white balance, EV scale, metering, and picture styles. Another mainframe button on the touch screen is the Menu button in the lower right portion of the LCD - by pressing it you can get into the real nuts and bolts of the TL225 - everything from haptic strength to changing the language.
You keep reading the term haptic about this touch screen system. Essentially, this feature gives you a tangible feeling when you select something on the touch screen by vibrating it to confirm your selection. This is similar to some other devices like a joystick controller on a video gaming system that shakes when you are in game play, or a cell phone, and is in the same vein here, except it gives you a tangible vibration to confirm your selection. This is nice, because it makes the touch screen feel more like a real button system. The menu system is intuitive and easy to understand, especially the GUI and menu system. It looks modern and refined, and at 1,152,000 dot resolution, it's the sharpest LCD we've seen on a compact camera to date.
There are five shooting modes for the TL225, including Smart Auto, Automatic, Program, Scene Modes (13 individual scenes) and Dual Image Stabilization that enacts both forms of IS.
Here's a rundown of the shooting and scene modes:
Depending on which display you're speaking of, the front or the back, they are both pretty cool. The DualView system that the TL225 utilizes is the most unique feature of the entire camera. Let's first talk a little bit about the front, or the self-portrait LCD. It has a resolution of 61,000 dots, and is enacted when you simply press it, giving you a view of exactly what your self-portrait looks like. Other functions of the LCD include a numeric countdown in self-timer mode, and when you are in baby mode, the front of the camera displays a clown animation that will help the infant or toddler to focus.
The rear LCD is big and bright, and takes up the entire back panel. Just like an iPhone, when in playback with the TL225 you can swipe back and forth to move images in succession, also by making an "X" with your finger you can delete an image you don't want. The haptic touch, the easy and intuitive menu system, and the sheer size of the LCD make it far superior to any touch screen device or camera I've used. Not to mention that the front LCD is a unique feature that will intrigue all the self-portrait artists out there.
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