Thanks to the presence of the very large high resolution 2.8in 16:9 format LCD monitor, space on the back of the camera is limited, and as a result the control ergonomics could be a little better. The D-pad is positioned in such a way that I found myself pressing the bottom of it accidentally while holding the camera, switching the camera into macro mode. I also found that the mode button that switches between single shot and movies was too close to the zoom control, and was similarly prone to accidental activation. However I do have very large hands, so this may not be a problem for most other people.
Other than those quibbles, the external controls offer plenty of options. The most interesting is the ‘E’ button, which provides quick access to colour filters including an unusual negative mode, a selection of special area focus modes for portraits and group shots, some split-image options for composite shots, and some marvelously tacky frames that can be superimposed on your shots. Dame Edna glasses? Yuck!
A further button allows manual adjustment of ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation. Switching between widescreen and 4:3 mode has its own button, and flash modes, macro mode, self timer and voice recording are secondary functions of the D-pad. Special scene modes including portrait, landscape, children, text, dawn, sunset, backlight, fireworks and beach/snow scenes are accessed by the mode button. For everything else it’s a trip into the menu system. Fortunately the menu is clear and concise, so this is no great hardship.
As I mentioned earlier, the L55W has a good fast start-up time, and overall its performance is excellent. Autofocus speed isn’t going to break any records, but it’s quick enough and copes reasonably well in low light thanks to a built-in AF illuminator. In single-shot mode at full resolution it can manage five shots in seven seconds, and can keep up this rate for 18 shots before it has to pause for a few seconds to empty the buffer, which is fairly impressive. In continuous mode, pressing and holding the shutter fires off four shots in about a second, but since only the first shot makes a shutter sound it is hard to tell when it’s working properly. An audible click-click-click-click would have been better.