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Fortunately things start to pick up a bit when we move on to the S85's performance. It starts up in a very creditable 1.8 seconds, and shuts down again in just over two. The autofocus system is very fast even in relatively low light, and in single-shot mode its shot-to-shot cycle time is an exceptionally quick 1.6 seconds. In continuous shooting mode it can manage approximately one frame per second, but although the initial shutter press makes the normal sound there is only a very quite ticking noise to indicate when subsequent shots are being taken. Low light performance is also very good, thanks to an AF assist lamp with a range of approximately two metres. Focusing in low light is either very fast, or if it can't focus it lets you know very quickly. Flash range is a little below average at three metres, but frame coverage is excellent and the flash recharge time of approximately five seconds is also fairly good. Battery performance will of course vary depending on the type and quality of the batteries used, but I took over a hundred shots with a pair of standard alkaline batteries and the battery level meter didn't budge from reading a full charge.
The good news continues when we look at image quality, which is outstanding for such a low cost camera. Exposure and colour rendition were virtually perfect, and even when shooting directly into bright sunlight the sensor managed to capture plenty of shadow detail. The lens may not have the Schneider-Kreuznach brand name, but it is very high quality nonetheless, producing excellent centre sharpness and very little barrel distortion at wide angle, with only a little softness and a small amount of chromatic aberration around the edges of the frame. Image noise was extremely well controlled at all ISO settings, with good picture quality at ISO 800 and a usable image even at ISO 1600, which is a very impressive performance by any standard. For a camera costing under £100 it is nothing short of remarkable.
The Samsung S85 may look a little dull, but it is a well-made camera with a useful range of features, very good performance and surprisingly excellent picture quality. It has a few odd quirks and is a bit fiddly to operate, but considering the sub-£100 price tag it represents astonishing value for money.
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