DigitalCameraReview.com
Samsung L74W Review
by Ben Stafford -  7/6/2007

If you've never used a touch-screen digital camera before, it's definitely a different sort of experience than your typical digital camera.  The 7.2 megapixel Samsung L74W offers a 3 inch touch sensitive panel with which to change the shooting settings.  The only "real" buttons used during image capture are the shutter release and zoom control (for the 3.6x optical zoom).


(view large image)

 

The L74W also features sensitivity settings up to ISO 1600, facial detection auto focus (AF) and auto exposure (AE), and a World Tour Guide.  The Tour Guide provides information and images on some notable destinations in 30 countries around the world.   The camera has 450MB of internal memory can be used to store the tour guide information, which can be downloaded from www.samsungcamera.com.

NUTS & BOLTS  

Viewfinder/LCD

The only means of previewing your images is the 3 inch touch-sensitive 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.

Lens/Zoom

The L74W's lens provides a 3.6x optical zoom.  It has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 28-101mm with a max aperture of f2.8 at wide angle and f5.6 at telephoto.  The lens is protected by a built-in lens cover.

In normal focus mode, at wide angle and telephoto, you can focus on objects as close as 80cm.  In macro mode and wide angle, the focus range is 5-80cm and telephoto has a range of 30-80cm.  Finally, there is an Auto Macro mode that is available while shooting in Auto mode that has a wide angle range of 5cm to infinity and a telephoto focus range of 30cm to infinity.  To aid focusing in low light, there is a focus assist lamp.

Flash

There are several flash modes that you can use with the L74W’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 - 16.4 feet with Auto ISO.  At telephoto, the flash range is 1.6 - 7.9 feet. 

Memory Media

The L74W has approximately 450MB 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 AVI (MPEG-4) files.  If you record audio, those files are in WAV format.

At maximum resolution (7 megapixels) and Super Fine quality, you can fit approximately 63 images on a 256MB memory card.

Connectivity

A multi-connector allows a USB 2.0 connection and AV out.  The USB cable also doubles as the charging cable.  You connect the standard USB connector (the part that usually plugs into your computer) into the AC adapter to charge the camera.

Power

The camera is powered by a rechargeable, 1100mAh lithium-ion battery pack. According to the spec sheet, the L74W can get approximately 200 shots per charge under lab conditions.  Charging time is approximately 150 minutes.

EXPOSURE 

The L74W has a full auto mode, program auto, ASR (advanced shake reduction) mode, and several scene modes.  There are no manual exposure modes.  In auto mode, the only settings that you can change are the facial detection system, timer mode (10 second, 2 second, double shot timer, remote control), 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, high speed - 6fps, exposure bracketing), ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation. 


1/10 second shutter speed (view large image)

With ASR mode (1/10s shutter) (view large image)

Two of the most commonly used scene modes are on the shooting mode dial on the top of the camera - portrait and night shot.  The dial also includes slots to activate the World Tour Guide and movie mode.  For other scene modes, you can choose from Children, Landscape, Close-up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, Beach & Snow, Self, CafĂ©, and Food.

Movie Mode

With the L74W, you can capture movies at 800x592 at 20fps, 640x480 at 30 fps or 15 fps, and 320x240 at 30 fps or 15fps.  You can record movies as long as you have storage space (up to 2 hours).  There is also a "successive recording" option that lets you pause the movie capture momentarily, so you can record several clips and they're not all separate files.  The optical zoom is available during movie capture, however, the audio of the movie is muted while the zoom motor is running (so you don't hear the motor during playback).

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.  Since the L74W is also capable of facial detection, metering can be tied to the faces that are detected in the frame.

White Balance

The L74W has an auto white balance setting, several presets and a way to set a custom white balance.  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 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, or 1600.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 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+, soft, normal, vivid, 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, cartoon), or you can do an "image adjust", which just lets you change the saturation of the some primary colors.

After you capture the image, you can resize the image; rotate it; trim 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

As with many of the other cameras in Samsung's L and NV lines, the L74W has a nice stylish black finish.  The metal body is very sturdy and the camera is just a bit on the heavy side.  There is a "bump out" hand grip with a rubber strip on the front of the camera to give your fingertips something to wrap around.

samsung l74w
Samsung L77, L74W, S850, from left to right (view large image)

samsung l74w
(view large image)

Since the camera is mostly controlled via the touch screen, there aren't a lot of buttons.  The shutter release and zoom control are well-placed and easy to operate, as is the shooting mode dial on top of the camera.

The front of the camera has a focus assist/self-timer lamp, a remote control sensor, built-in flash, and lens.


(view large image)

The top of the camera has the shutter release button, power button, mode dial, microphone, and speaker.


(view large image)

The back of the camera houses the 3" touch screen LCD, zoom rocker switch, a button to modify the amount of information on the display, and a button to toggle between playback and capture modes.

samsung l74w
(view large image)

The right side of the camera has a lanyard attachment point.

On the bottom, you'll find the tripod mount, battery/memory card compartment, and multiconnector.


(view large image)

Included

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

PERFORMANCE

Usage

The biggest player in the usage of this camera is, by far, the touch screen display.  It is the primary means to interact with the camera.  The touch screen, as touch screens go, was good.  You can either use a finger or the included touch pen and both have their plusses and minuses.  With a finger tip, you don't have to get the stylus in hand.  Then if you use the stylus, you don't get fingerprints on the screen.  The menu system is made well for touch screen usage, with large, readable "buttons" (note the images below).  It also reacts a little slower than your typical menu system, which, in my opinion, is a necessary thing so that you can see your input touches.  Since the touch screen plays such a large part, my guess is that if you can't get along with the touch screen, you're not going to like this camera.

samsung l74w
(view large image)
samsung l74w
(view large image)

The World Tour Guide feature is pretty gimmicky.  It's kind of fun to pull up popular tourist attractions in popular cities to read about them, but you'll probably miss out on the experience if you're busy digging around in the in-camera tour guide.  The other downside is that if you use it a lot, you run the risk of running out of battery juice.  Definitely a bad thing if you planned to take your own pictures of the tourist hotspot.

Speaking of battery life, it was pretty mediocre.  Samsung claims 200 shots on a single charge.  When I review cameras, I tend to use battery power at higher than average levels as I mess around with menus and settings and with the L74W, I only got about 120 shots before the battery was exhausted.  I would expect that your typical photographer would make it to 150 shots.

Image Quality

Image quality is not bad, if you stick with smaller prints and you don't view images at 100%.  Otherwise, you start to notice the fact the details are pretty blurry.  Besides the blurriness, I liked the color reproduction better on the L74W than I did on the Samsung L77 that I just finished reviewing.  Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was pretty noticeable in high contrast boundary areas, even when viewing the images at 100%.  Barrel distortion (straight lines bow away from center) at wide angle was pretty significant, but pincushion distortion (lines bend toward the center) at telephoto was not bad.  Another area that could use some improvement is the dynamic range of the shots.

Timing/Shutter Lag

The speed of the camera was average to good.  Start up time was right around 3 seconds.  If you get a pre-focus first (with a partial press of the shutter), shutter lag is right at 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 0.6-0.7 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 2-3 seconds and the flash recharge time was about 5-6 seconds.

As far as noise performance, noise becomes noticeable at ISO 200 and just increases from there.  For best results, stick to ISO 80 and 100.  But, if you need to get the shot, then don't let noise stop you!

Sample Images

samsung l74w sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
samsung l74w sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
samsung l74w sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
samsung l74w sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
samsung l74w sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
samsung l74w sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

Conclusion

If you really want a touch screen camera, this is one of three models that I can think of (the other two being the Pentax Optio T30 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2).  If you're concerned about image quality (instead of having a touch screen), then there are plenty of other cameras out there that would do a better job.  My biggest complaint with the images is that they lack crisp details and look over-processed.  The Samsung L74W is built-well, operates as expected, and is easy enough to use, once you get used to a touch-screen.  Battery life was not amazing and the camera speed (shutter lag, shot to shot times) was nothing to write home about.  Bottom line, if you want a touch screen camera, consider the Samsung L74W.  If not, then look elsewhere.

Pros

Cons