It's not easy to make a compact camera stand out from the crowd these days. There are over a dozen main manufacturers, dozens more minor ones, and nearly all of them have an extensive range of models, giving the poor bewildered consumer hundreds of different cameras to choose from, in many cases almost the only variation between them being the brand name on the front. Manufacturers are continually trying to come up with new features to give their cameras a unique selling point and an edge over the competition. Many now-common camera features such as HD video, image stabilisation and even LCD monitors were all once unique innovations, since copied by other manufacturers over and over until they have become the standard.
Samsung however has managed to come up with one unique feature which nobody else has copied, or at least not so far. The PL150 that I'm looking at today is the latest Samsung compact camera to feature a secondary LCD monitor on the front of the camera, to help with framing self portraits and self-timer group shots. It also has a couple of other fun uses, but we'll come back to that later. It's a feature that has appeared on a previous Samsung camera, the touch-screen ST500 launched about this time last year, as well as a few other current models from Samsung's very extensive range.
Apart from that unique feature the PL150 is a fairly ordinary budget compact, and in terms of overall specification it's good but fairly unremarkable. It features a 12.0 megapixel 7.79mm (1/2.33-inch) CCD sensor, a Samsung-branded 5x zoom f/3.5-5.9 lens (equivalent to 27-135mm), and the rear monitor is 7.6cm (3.0 in) with 230k resolution. It has optical image stabilisation and can shoot 720p HD video. The current price of £149 puts it towards the higher end of the range compared to similarly-specified rivals, such as the Olympus FE-5050 (£127), the Nikon S3000 (£90), the Pentax H90 (£80), or indeed Samsung's own excellent ST70 (£123). Is that front monitor enough to make up the difference?