The L210’s optical image stabilisation system is presumably the same one as used in the higher end models of the NV range. It doesn’t seem to be quite as good as the similar systems used by Canon or Panasonic, but it does allow low-speed hand-held shooting down to around 1/15th of a second, potentially useful in low light situations.
Unfortunately that’s the only thing that will be any use in low light, because the autofocus system fails utterly as soon as light levels drop to approximately night club levels, despite the presence of what seems to be a reasonably bright AF assist lamp. I tried it on a number of high-contrast targets but it resolutely refused to focus even in light in which it was possible to read a restaurant menu.
Sadly the rest of the L210’s performance is equally lacklustre. It starts up in a little over two seconds and shuts down again in about the same, which is quick enough, but in single-shot mode at maximum image quality its shot-to-shot time is approximately 2.6 seconds, which is very slow. In continuous shooting mode it can manage a shot approximately once every 1.2 seconds, but while shooting the monitor screen goes blank and there are no audio cues apart from a nearly inaudible click to tell you that it is still taking photos, which makes aiming rather hit or miss.
The L210 does redeem itself somewhat when it comes to picture quality. The lens is especially good, producing very little distortion at any focal length, with very good sharpness across most of the frame. There is a little blurring and slight chromatic aberration in the extreme corners, but not enough to cause concern. Dynamic range and colour rendition could be slightly better, with some badly burned out highlights despite the Auto Contrast Balance function, while very bright reds and yellows also lack detail. Despite these limitations the L210 produces good results under average conditions, and the very low compression at the highest quality setting produces almost no JPEG artefacts.
Noise control is also better than average, at least up to 200 ISO. Beyond that the noise reduction system gets a bit over-enthusiastic and starts smearing colours into each other, although there is still a fair amount of detail at 400 ISO.
The Samsung L210 is an ambitious camera, a budget ultra-compact with optical image stabilisation, a technology usually only found in more expensive cameras. While it does make an attractive package for the price the rest of the camera is still very much budget-level, and it doesn’t really compete with more expensive IS compact models from other manufacturers. Low light focusing and overall shooting performance are especially poor.
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