Review Price free/subscription
Samsung L310W - Samsung L310W
The L310W's overall performance is pretty good. It starts up in well under two seconds, which is nice and quick, and shuts down again just as quickly. In single-shot mode at full 13.6MP resolution it can shoot approximately one frame every three seconds consistently, which is really not bad considering it's outputting JPEG files averaging around six megabytes each. In continuous mode it can manage a shot every 1.5 seconds, but it suffers from the same annoying trait as the L210; while shooting the monitor is blank and there's no audio cue that it's taking pictures.
The autofocus system is exceptionally fast and accurate, and after the L210's poor performance in this area I was delighted to find that its low-light performance is especially good. With its very bright AF assist lamp it will focus quickly and reliably even in total darkness at a range of several metres, and if it fails to focus it lets you know right away rather than hunting around for a few seconds. The face detection system is also good, tracking even poorly lit faces quite reliably.
The optical image stabilisation system seems to be the same as the L210 and several NV models. It's good enough for hand-held shooting at 1/15th of a second at wide angle, but when zoomed in I found camera shake at 1/30th of a second, which I wouldn't expect to see from a good IS system.
The L310W uses a 1/1.72-inch sensor, slightly larger than the 1/2.33-inch size used in most compacts, but even so squeezing nearly 14 million photocells in thee gives it a very high pixel density. The main reason for increased sensor resolution is the supposed gain in image quality, however while the L310W's huge 4224 x 3168 pixel images are indeed very impressive at first glance, a closer examination reveals that in fact the level of recorded detail simply isn't as good as a decent 10-megapixel camera. This is a shame, because in other respects the L310W actually performs quite well. Exposure is generally accurate, colour rendition is good, and even dynamic range is better than expected, although it does have Auto Contrast Balance to help boost shadow detail. However this feature also tends to remove contrast from some shots, leaving them looking a bit flat and lifeless, so it's best not used all the time.
Noise control is actually slightly better than I'd expected, but there is image noise visible in my test shots even at 80 and 100 ISO. Noise reduction effects are visible at 200 ISO, and at 400 ISO fine detail is lost to a have of noise-reduction blur. At the highest full-res setting of 1600 ISO there is virtually no shadow detail, contrast or colour depth.
While the L310W does offer a lot of bragging power for £160, its 13.6-megapixel sensor offers no advantage over cheaper, lower resolution models. Although its build-quality, overall performance and especially its low-light focusing are impressive, and the optional manual exposure is a welcome bonus, it's hard to recommend the L310W as a useful camera based on its unimpressive image quality. There are better cameras with smaller numbers on them, including many from Samsung.