DigitalCameraReview.com
Samsung L77 Review
by Ben Stafford -  6/30/2007

The 7.1 megapixel Samsung L77 is a sharp-looking, slim digital camera with a 7x optical zoom.  The black with blue accents camera is definitely eye-catching.  The 7x optical zoom definitely makes it stand out from the pack, but is that enough to compete?

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NUTS & BOLTS  

Viewfinder/LCD

The only means of previewing your images is the 2.5 inch LCD on the back of the camera.  There is no optical viewfinder.  The LCD does have nice resolution, with 230K pixels.  The viewing angle is quite good and the screen refreshes quickly enough to provide a smooth viewing experience.  The screen gains up and down, depending on light conditions, so you can still get a decent view, whether you’re inside or outside.  Even in the sunlight, the LCD is still viewable.

samsung l77
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Lens/Zoom

The internal zoom lens provides a 7x optical zoom, which is nice to have in such a tiny camera.  It has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 38-266mm with a max aperture of f3.5 at wide angle and f5.4 at telephoto.

samsung l77 sample image
Wide angle (view large image)
samsung l77 sample image
Full telephoto (view large image)

The lens is protected by a built-in lens cover.  While the camera looks like the lens will extend when it turns on, it doesn’t.  The zoom mechanism is completely internal.

In normal focus mode, at wide angle, you can focus on objects as close as 80cm.  At telephoto, this range moves out to 150cm.  In macro mode, wide angle, the focus range is 10-80cm and telephoto has a range of 100-150cm.  Finally, there is an Auto Macro mode that is available while shooting in Auto mode that has a wide angle range of 10cm to infinity and a telephoto focus range of 100cm to infinity.

Flash

There are several flash modes that you can use with the L77’s built-in flash.  There is auto, auto with red-eye reduction, fill flash (always on), slow sync, and flash off.  At wide angle, the flash range is 1.3 - 11.5 feet with Auto ISO.  At telephoto, the flash range is 3.3 - 9.8 feet.  One thing that you’ll notice is that the camera pre-flashes in every flash mode.  It does the pre-flash to determine the correct exposure for the main flash discharge.  It’s noticeable with this camera since the interval between pre-flash and primary flash is not terribly close together.

The 11.5 foot range is pretty realistic (as long as you keep ISO set on Auto). However, the increased sensitivity that the camera uses to get a good exposure may introduce more graininess than you really want.

Memory Media

The L77 has approximately 20MB of internal memory and can accept SD, MMC, and SDHC memory.  SD and MMC cards will work up to 2GB and SDHC cards will work up to 4GB.

Image/Movie File Format(s)

Images are stored as JPEGS and movies are stored as Quicktime (MPEG-4) files.  If you record audio, it's in WAV format.

At maximum resolution (7 megapixels) and Super Fine quality, you can fit approximately 71 images on a 256MB memory card.

Connectivity

A multi-connector allows a USB 2.0 connection and AV out.

Power

The camera is powered by a rechargeable, 660mAh lithium-ion battery pack.  If you want to provide external power, there is a 5 volt DC connector on the side of the camera.  According to the spec sheet, the L77 can get approximately 150 shots per charge under lab conditions.

EXPOSURE 

The L77 has a full auto mode, program auto, EPS (electronic picture stabilization) mode, and several scene modes.  There are no manual exposure modes.  In auto mode, the only settings that you can change are the timer mode (10 second, 2 second, double shot timer), flash mode (one of two choices), resolution and quality.  If you switch to program auto mode, you get a bit more control.  In addition to the previous settings, you can change the metering mode, drive mode (single, continuous, exposure bracketing, interval), ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation.

Movie Mode

In the L77's movie mode, you can capture movies at 640x480 or 320x240 at 30 fps or 15fps.  The optical zoom is available during movie capture.

Metering

The default metering is a multi-pattern metering, but if you're in program auto or movie mode, you can also select spot metering or center-weighted metering.

White Balance

The L77 has an auto white balance setting and several presets.  You can choose daylight, cloudy, fluorescent H, fluorescent L, or tungsten.  If none of those settings works, you can set a custom white balance by pressing the shutter while pointing at a neutral target or white balance card.

Sensitivity

If you stick with full automatic mode, the sensitivity (ISO) setting of the camera stays on auto as well.  If you want to adjust the ISO yourself, just switch to program auto mode and you can select ISO 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, or 1600.

In-Camera Image Adjustment 

Besides changing the basic shooting settings during image capture, there are a few more settings that can be changed to give you a particular effect that you're looking for.  You can change the sharpness to be soft, normal, or vivid.  You can apply an effect, which can be a color (normal, B&W, sepia, negative, red, green, blue, custom color), something fun (preset focus frame, composite, photo frame), or you can do an "image adjust", which just lets you change the saturation levels of four different colors.

After you capture the image, you can resize the image; rotate it; apply a color filter; change the brightness, contrast, saturation, or add noise; or you can do one of the "fun" things I mentioned earlier, like making a composite shot.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

If there is one thing that the Samsung L77 has in its favor, that one thing would be its design.  It's a slim camera (0.8 inches thick) that has a nice black finish with trendy blue accents.  Even though it's slim there is a raised grip on the front of the camera to give it a little more stability in your hand.

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Samsung L77, L74W, S850, from left to right (view large image)

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The controls are placed well and the zoom rocker on the back is easy to operate, unlike many compact digital cameras which have a control that is too small.  The shutter button is easy to find and you won't get it confused with the power button, which is something that my mom does all the time on other cameras.

The front of the camera has a self-timer lamp (kind of built-in to the grip), built-in flash, microphone and lens.

The top of the camera stays pretty simple with just a shutter release button and power button.

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The back of the camera houses the 2.5" LCD, zoom rocker switch, menu button (M), effect button (E), 5-way control pad for setting flash, timer settings, a button to access playback mode, and a Fn button, which allows easy access to shooting settings.

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The right side of the camera has a lanyard attachment point, a door that covers the USB/AV multiconnector, and a door that covers the DC in jack.

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On the bottom, you'll find the tripod mount and two separate doors - one for the memory card and one for the battery.

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Included

Included in the box with the camera is a strap, USB cable, AV cable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, battery charger, software CD, and user manual.

PERFORMANCE

Usage

The L77 was pretty easy to use.  Some areas of the menu system are a little different than you would find in other digital cameras so it took a little adjusting to.  For example, when you press the M button to change the shooting mode, the four modes (auto, program auto, EPS, movie) are available by keying left or right.  They also "wrap around", so if you keep going right, you eventually get back to where you started.  So instead of not being able to go any further, the menu just keeps going around and around.  From this same menu, to get to a scene mode, you press the down direction to access the preset scene modes.

Battery life was pretty average.  I got around 130 shots on a single charge.

Having the 7x optical zoom in such a small camera is pretty nice.  It's pretty fun to have a pocketable camera that can zoom in on something across a sports field.  However, having such a compact zoom is not always a good thing for optics.

Image Quality

Image quality, overall, was average.  My biggest complaint was that the colors in the shots were just a little bit "off" and way too saturated.  Skin tones came out looking reddish and the auto white balance doesn't do a great job indoors. (Luckily, you can easily set a custom white balance).  The other big issue affecting image quality was the high amounts of noise.  Even at ISO 200, the noise was really affecting the details of the shots. 


ISO 50

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was pretty noticeable in high contrast boundary area.  Also, barrel distortion (straight lines bow away from center) at wide angle was pretty significant.  Pincushion distortion (lines bend toward the center) was not as bad but was still present.


Barrel distortion (view large image)

Pincushion distortion (view large image)

Timing/Shutter Lag

The speed of the camera was pretty good.  Start up time was between 2 and 3 seconds.  If you get a pre-focus first (with a partial press of the shutter), shutter lag is right around (or less than) 0.1 seconds.  If you have to do a full press, you'll have to wait for the camera to acquire focus and then capture the image.  Under good focus conditions, this was anywhere from 0.3-0.4 seconds.  In tougher focusing conditions (low light or low contrast), I experienced focus times up to 2 seconds.  The cycle time (time between shots) was about 2 seconds and the flash recharge time was about 4 seconds.

Sample Images

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Macro (view medium image) (view large image)
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Flash shot at around 10 feet
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A Few Concerns

My biggest concerns are the almost garish colors and the high levels of noise at ISO 200 and up.

Who is this Camera best suited for?

This camera is best suited for someone whose buying criteria heavily include the looks of the camera.  At a price close to $300, there are plenty of other cameras out there that take better pictures.
 
Conclusion

While having a 7x optical zoom in such a slim and compact camera is definitely an awesome feature to have, the L77's image capturing capabilities are not good enough for me to recommend.  Now, that's not to say that there isn't a buyer for this camera out there.  The camera does have decent performance (it operates quickly) and it looks really nice.  The 7x optical zoom does work well, and it does work during movie capture, which is a nice to have.  The bottom line, however, is that image quality is not that great.  I do strongly recommend that you take a look at the sample images and decide for yourself.  The most direct competitor to the Samsung L77 is the Casio Exilim EX-V7.  A slightly larger, but still in the compact category, camera is the 10x optical zoom Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3.

Pros

Cons