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Without wishing to sound overly dramatic, choosing a budget camera is a risky business. With high-end cameras costing over £250 there are far fewer problems. Some are better than others, but there are few really bad ones. At the other end of the scale however, cameras costing around £100 or less are a very mixed bunch. There are some genuine bargains, but they are heavily outnumbered by very poor quality cameras, usually from no-name brands, and choosing between the two is something of a nightmare unless you really know what you’re looking at. Even when you do know it can be difficult to tell the difference.
When I opened the box of this Samsung S730, I was initially a bit disappointed. As I mentioned in my review of the Samsung L700
a couple of weeks ago, Samsung’s digital camera range consists of no less than 36 models spread over six different ranges. The S730 is the mid-range model of the 13 camera in the S-series, which rather confusingly includes several models whose designations begin with A or D. It is a low-cost 7.2-megapixel 3x zoom camera powered by two AA batteries, and currently available for around £110. This is a pretty crowded sector of the market, with all of the major manufacturers offering something comparable. In terms of price and specification, its closest matches from the other brands are the Canon PowerShot A550 (£140), Fuji FinePix A800 (£105), HP Photosmart M627 (£160), Kodak EasyShare C653 (£100), Nikon Coolpix L11 (£120), Olympus FE-210 (£95), Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS60 (£95) and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S650 (£100)
The design bears a slight family resemblance to Samsung’s excellent NV10, even more so for the black version, but while the NV10 has an all-metal body and cutting edge design, the S730 is all plastic and looks relatively unsophisticated. It’s not a small camera, measuring a chunky 99.8 x 62.8 x 25.7mm, and weighing around 185g with two AA alkaline batteries its no lightweight either, although using lithium batteries would reduce the weight by about 25g. The body design is attractive enough, and is nicely shaped to fit comfortably and securely in the hand, but even a gentle squeeze of the handgrip produces creaks and crackles, and the silver plastic finish marks easily. It may look quite pretty when it’s brand new, but it won’t stay that way for long. The fit of the various controls is quite loose and wobbly, and the card/battery hatch opens at the slightest provocation, allowing the batteries to fall out.
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