Samsung TL500/EX1 Review
This isn't Samsung's first attempt to crack the enthusiast compact market - it has a long history of offering cameras with slightly higher specs than their peers, topped of with just a dash of quirk (From the Pro815 to cameras such as the NV24HD - one of the first to offer HD movie recording). The company still seems a bit keen on playing specification Top Trumps (the lens is very similar to the LX3's only a touch faster and a fraction longer) but overall the TL500 is a much more conventional affair. The TL500/EX1 is all low-key style, rather than flourishes or gimmicks - it's a good-looking camera and one that won't draw too much attention to itself.
The stand-out feature is that lens. It offers a range equivalent to a 24-72mm lens on a film camera: a very popular, flexible all-round lens. It may sound a little bit unimpressive when compared to the 28-300mm equivalent lenses offered by travel zoom cameras, however the EX1 offers two significant advantages.
Firstly, it has a sensor that's around 50% larger than the ones featured in such cameras, meaning more light is captured during an comparable exposure. More importantly it has a wider maximum aperture than is normal for a compact. For instance, the Panasonic TZ10 offers an aperture range of F3.3-4.1 over the 25-73mm equivalent stretch of its zoom range that's shared with the EX1. The Samsung, meanwhile, offers F1.8-2.4 across that same range, meaning it's 1.7EV brighter at the wide-angle end and 1.5EV brighter at the long end. In other words, it's able to let in three times as much light as the Panasonic's lens, all across its range.
In your hand
There's a notch running down the inside edge of the rubber grip on the TL500's right-hand corner, into which a middle finger readily fits. This gives a nice secure grip, with the thumb pressing into the button-free patch to the top right of the screen. It's certainly a very well built camera, giving a great feeling of quality. It fits well in the hand and gives a secure shooting position, even one-handed.
The downside to this grip is that the hand position doesn't then leave a finger free to operate the click dial on the front of the camera (are you supposed to move your index finger off the shutter or re-arrange your middle finger each time you want to move it?). Also, the Fn button - one of the buttons you're more likely to want to press - is at the bottom right of the camera and can't be accessed without taking your hand out of the shooting position.
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