I’ve been watching the development of Samsung’s Digimax digital camera series with some interest. Just two years ago I would have considered them to be the lame ducks of the industry, but since then they have come on in leaps and bounds to the point where Samsung’s cameras are at least as good as anything else on the market, and at a price that few others can beat. It got the tricky combination of price and specification right with the impressive Digimaz V700, which was reviewed here back in April 2004, and the company is now exploring niche areas of the market with three new models, the high-end Pro 815, the sleek and stylish i5, and this, the unique L55W widescreen camera.
There have been a few implementations of the widescreen format in previous digital cameras, most notably the FinePix F810 Zoom from Fujifilm, but the Samsung L55W adds a few extra features to really get the most out of the format. For one thing it is the only widescreen camera with a truly wide lens, a good quality 4.8x optical zoom unit with a short end equivalent to 28mm. Where the Fuji camera only crops down a 32.5mm lens to get the widescreen effect, the Samsung delivers genuine wide-angle performance. This offers the potential for full-length portraits and panoramic landscapes which no other digital camera on the market can match. Add to this 5.0 megapixel performance, a start-up time of under two seconds and a strong all-metal body, and the L55W is clearly a camera to be reckoned with, especially considering that it has a list price of just £249.99, and can be found for as little as £199.99 from some online retailers.
In overall design, the L55W shows how far the Digimax range has come since the awkward and ugly V50 launched early in 2004. The L55W has a solid, attractive and understated brushed-steel-effect aluminium case. It is a very blocky shape, with flat parallel surfaces and defined corners. The case is a little thicker at the right-hand edge, providing a comfortable shape to hold. The front panel has a raised finger grip, while on the back the textured strap lug doubles as a thumb rest.