When you think of digital cameras,
the name "Samsung" probably isn't the first
(or tenth) name that pops into your head. But the Korean
electronics giant is making a big push into consumer
digital photography and the Digimax
V50 ($329) is one of their showpieces. The V50
offers a 5 Megapixel CCD, 2-inch rotating LCD display,
3X optical zoom lens, dual memory card slots, and full
There are a whole bunch of cameras
in that category (well, minus the rotating LCD) and
competition is fierce. How does the V50 hold up? Find
out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Digimax V50 has a very good bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 5.0 effective Megapixel Samsung
Digimax V50 camera
- 32MB Secure Digital card
- SLB-1037 rechargeable lithium-ion
- Battery charger
- Camera pouch
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Digimax Viewer,
PhotoImpression, and drivers
- 123 page camera manual (printed)
Samsung includes a 32MB Secure Digital
(SD) card with the V50. That won't hold too many 5
Megapixel photos, so consider a larger card a mandatory
purchase. The V50 is somewhat unique in that it has
two memory card slots: one for SD and the other for
Memory Stick Duo. That's right, not regular Memory
Sticks but the even more expensive Duo cards.Why they
did this, I don't know. Anyhow, I strongly recommend
using SD cards -- the fact that they're an industry
standard means that they cost a whole lot less than
MS Duo cards. I'd say that a 256MB card is a good size
to start with.
Samsung loves to tout the fact that
the V50 can take "nine different types" of
batteries. While I suppose that's true, the reality
is this: it can take a proprietary battery pack, two
AA, or one CR-V3. Samsung breaks them down even more
(e.g. NiMH, NiCD, Ni-Zn, lithium) to come up with the
number nine. You can use rechargeable and non-rechargeable
AAs and CR-V3s.
You'll find the 5.3Wh SLB-1437 rechargeable
li-ion battery in the box with the V50. Samsung says
it can take 440 photos per charge, though I don't think
that's using the new CIPA standard. No word on how
the other batteries fared.
I highly recommend using NiMH rechargeables
(2000 mAh or greater) instead of the SLB-1437 because
they're a whole lot cheaper. I can't even find the
li-ion battery for sale by itself -- only included
with the charger for $99, and you don't need two of
those. It's nice to have that choice on a camera!
When it's time to charge the SLB-1437,
just pop it into the included charger. It takes around
2.5 hours to fully charge the battery. This isn't one
of those "plug it right into the wall" chargers,
you must use a power cable.
An added bonus in the bundle department
is a soft case for the camera. Usually these are $20-30
The Digimax V50 has a built-in lens
cover so there's not need to worry about a lens cap.
There are a couple of accessories
for the V50 worth mentioning. First, you can add a
wide-angle or telephoto conversion lens to the camera.
The SCL-W3755 wide-angle lens reduces the wide end
of the lens by a factor of 0.7, which translates to
26.6 mm. If you want more telephoto power then you
want the SCL-T3755 1.7X teleconverter, which boosts
the top end of the lens to 193.8 mm. To use either
of these you must first purchase the SLA-3537 conversion
Other accessories for the V50 include
a wireless remote control ($15), AC adapter, and various
battery packs (either another SLB-1437 or the SBP-1303
I had a heck of time finding any of
these items for sale, so you've been warned.
Samsung includes software only for
Windows-based PCs with the camera -- Mac users will
have to come up with their own software (the camera
DOES connect to the Mac). The included software includes
Digimax Viewer 2.1, ArcSoft PhotoImpression 4.0 (an
outdated version), QuickTime, and USB drivers. Digimax
Viewer is a very basic product which can download images
from the camera and then view, rotate, or print them.
For more complex tasks you'll want to use the far superior
The manual included with the V50 is
about what you'd expect from a major electronics company:
poor. You'll find what you're looking for... if you're
lucky. It's cluttered and confusing, to say the least.
Look and Feel
The Digimax V50 is a midsized camera,
comparable in size to the Sony P-series cameras and
a touch smaller than the Canon S60. The V50 is surprisingly
well-built (compared to the V4 I tested a few years
back), made mostly of metal with some high grade plastic
thrown in for good measure. The camera is easy to hold
with one hand or two and the important controls are
easy to reach. I do, however, have a big issue with
one control in particular that I'll discuss a bit later.
But first, let's see how the V50 measures
up versus the competition:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon PowerShot A95
|| 4.0 x
2.5 x 1.4 in.
|Canon PowerShot S60
|| 4.5 x
2.2 x 1.5 in.
|Casio Exilim EX-P600
|| 3.8 x
2.7 x 1.8 in.
|Fuji FinePix E550
|| 4.1 x
2.5 x 1.4 in.
|Kodak EasyShare DX7630
|| 4.0 x
2.7 x 1.6 in.
|Nikon Coolpix 5400
|| 4.3 x
2.9 x 2.7 in.
|Samsung Digimax V50
x 2.2 x 1.5 in.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P100
|| 4.3 x
2.1 x 1.0 in.
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W1
|| 3.6 x
2.4 x 1.3 in.
As you can see, the Digimax is one
of the smallest cameras in the group. There are some
other "worthy" cameras worth considering
that are much larger and I'll mention those at the
end of the review.
With that out of the way, we can now
begin our tour of the V50!
The V50 has an F2.7-4.9, 3X optical
zoom lens with a Schneider-Kreuznach label. The focal
range of the lens is 7.7 - 23.1 mm, which is equivalent
to 38 - 114 mm. The camera supports conversion lenses,
as I mentioned before. To attach one, just remove the
metal ring from around the lens, screw in the conversion
lens adapter, and then attach the conversion lens of
The three circles above the lens are
the optical viewfinder, flash sensor, and AF-assist
lamp. The latter is used to help the camera focus in
low light conditions and it's great to see it on a
At the upper-left of the above photo
is the V50's built-in flash. The working range of the
flash is 0.3 - 3.0 m at wide-angle and 0.3 - 2.0 m
at telephoto, which is rather weak. Those numbers on
the Canon PowerShot A95 are 0.45 - 4.4 m and 0.45 -
2.5 m, respectively. Samsung lists the flash recharge
time as 6 seconds. You cannot attach an external flash
to the V50.
Below the "Samsung" logo
is the "function lamp". This blinks when
you turn on the camera (of course), after you take
picture, while taking video or audio, when the self-timer
is counting down, etc.
Probably the nicest feature on the
V50 is its 2-inch, rotating LCD display. With 117,600
pixels, the screen is sharp.
Once flipped into position, the screen
can rotate 270 degrees, from facing the ground all
the way around to facing the subject. You can close
the screen altogether and just use the optical viewfinder,
if you wish. In low light, the screen does not brighten
at all, making it difficult or even impossible to use.
Here's the back of the camera with
the LCD in a more traditional position.
Above the LCD is a rather small optical
viewfinder. There's not much to say about it other
than that it lacks a diopter correction knob.
To the left of the viewfinder are
two buttons. The one on the left is for AE lock in
record mode and for copying between memory cards in
playback mode. The button on the right is for choosing
a focus mode in record mode and deleting photos in
There are three focus options on the
V50. The first is your normal everyday "push the
shutter release halfway to lock focus" mode. Another
option is continuous AF, which is constantly focusing,
even if you're not pressing the shutter release. This
can help reduce the lag between the time you press
the shutter release and the time the photo is actually
taken. The third and final option is manual focus.
Here you'll use the jog dial on the top of the camera
to set the focus. A guide showing the current focus
distance is shown on the LCD. The V50 lacks any kind
of center-frame enlargement which other cameras offer
so you can ensure that your subject is in focus.
Moving now to the top-right of the
photo, we find the zoom controller. Hold it down and
you can fly through the whole zoom range in just over
one second. I counted 8 steps in the zoom range, so
you can't be terribly precise when it comes to zoom
Below that is the display button,
which toggles the LCD, as well as what's shown on it,
on and off.
The next button down is the S-button,
which opens up a menu full of shooting options. Some
of these are only shown in the manual shooting modes.
- Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to
+2EV in 0.5EV increments)
- White balance (Auto, daylight,
cloudy, daylight fluorescent, white fluorescent,
tungsten, custom) - the custom option lets you use
a white or gray card/paper to get perfect color under
- ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
- RGB (Red, green, blue) - adjust
each of these from -7 to +7 in 1-step increments
- A/S/M mode - choose the shooting
mode when the mode dial is set to A/S/M; more on
- Long time shutter - set the shutter
speed and aperture while in Night Scene mode; this
is in addition to the manual controls in other shooting
As you can see the V50 has some interesting
manual controls, and I'll tell you about even more
in a bit.
Below the S-button is the four-way
controller, which is used for menu navigation as well
- Up - Voice menu (add a 10 sec audio
clip to an image)
- Down - Macro mode (on/off)
- Left - Flash setting (Auto, auto
w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow synchro, flash
- Right - Self-timer/remote control
(you can set the timer for 2 or 10 seconds)
I should add that the four-way controller
has a backlight that turns on when you use it.
Below the four-way controller is the
button for entering playback mode. To the right of
that, under a plastic cover, are the two I/O ports
on the camera. They include A/V out + USB (one port
for both) and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The
V50 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard -- but
don't worry, it'll still work on your old PC too.
On the top of the V50 you'll find
the speaker, power button, mode dial, and the jog dial
with the shutter release in it.
I want to rant about the jog dial,
but first let's talk about what you'll find on the
||Point-and-shoot mode, many options are
||Still point-and-shoot but with full menu
That stands for aperture priority, shutter
priority, and full manual mode (I wish
they weren't crammed onto one spot on the
In aperture priority mode, you set the
aperture while the camera chooses the
shutter speed. Aperture range: F2.7 -
In shutter priority mode, you set the
shutter speed and the camera chooses
the aperture. Shutter speed range: 15
- 1/2000 sec
In full manual (M) mode, you choose
both the aperture and shutter speed.
Same ranges as above.
||Your favorite camera settings, easy to
|Voice recording mode
||Record up to one hour of audio
|Movie clip mode
||More on this later
|Night scene mode
||For night shots
||You pick the situation and the camera uses
the appropriate settings. Choose from portrait,
children, landscape, close-up, sunset, dawn,
backlight, fireworks, beach & snow
There are the rest of the manual controls
I was talking about! So far, so good!
Something about the V50 that really
bothered me is the jog dial. It looks like a zoom controller,
it feels like a zoom controller, and it's even in the
same place as many zoom controllers. My brain seems
to agree: many times I tried in vain to zoom the lens
with that controller. Why Samsung designed the jog
dial in this way is a mystery to me (and it's not even
Nothing to see on this side of the
On this side of the camera you'll
find the dual memory card slots as well as the battery
compartment, which are protected by a so-so plastic
door. As I mentioned at the start of the review, the
V50 uses both SD and Memory Stick Duo cards.
The included 32MB SD card and SLB-1437
battery are shown at right.
On the bottom of the camera you'll
find a metal tripod mount, which is located on the
far side of the camera body.
Using the Samsung Digimax
It takes about three seconds for the
Digimax to extend its lens and "warm up" before
you can start taking pictures.
I should mention some problems I had
with the V50. For a while it didn't want to turn on,
despite having fully charged NiMH batteries inserted.
It also locked up (read: crashed) while saving an image
to the included memory card, which ended up corrupting
all the images on the card.
to be found
Here's where the V50 starts to fall
behind the competition. The camera has a rather slow
AF system, taking nearly a second to lock focus at
wide-angle, and even longer at telephoto. If the camera
has to hunt, it can take 1.5 seconds for the camera
to lock focus. Even though it has an AF-assist lamp,
the V50 had difficulty focusing in dim light. In addition,
the LCD is too dark to be usable.
Things don't much better in the shutter
lag department. Even at fast shutter speeds like 1/180
sec, there's a noticeable delay (approx 0.2 sec) between
the time you fully press the shutter release and when
the photo is actually taken.
Shot-to-shot speed is below average,
with a 3 to 4 second wait before you can take another
photo. Images saved in TIFF format will lock up the
camera for about 24 seconds while they are written
to the memory card.
Now, here's a look at the image size
and quality choices available on the V50:
||# Images on 32MB card
As you can see, the V50 supports the
TIFF file format, which is uncompressed and as close
to perfect as you're going to get on this camera (there's
no RAW format here). Do note the lengthy shot-to-shot
time in TIFF mode that I mentioned earlier, though.
Images are named SA50####.JPG, where
# = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even
if you replace or erase the memory card.
Let's move onto the menus now!
The V50 has an attractive and slightly
unusual overlay-style record menu. Instead of one big
list, you move between the icons at the top of the
screen (see above) by pressing left or right with the
four-way controller. Here is what you'll find in the
record menu (keeping in mind that many of these options
are unavailable in the automatic modes):
- Image size (see chart)
- Frame rate (15, 30 fps) - movie
- Quality (see chart)
- Metering (Multi, spot)
- Effect (Normal, black & white,
- Sharpness (Soft, normal, vivid)
- how can sharpness be "vivid"?
- Shooting (Single, continuous, AE
bracketing) - see below
- Load (MySET 1, MySET 2, MySET3)
- load your favorite settings; only shown in MySET
- Save (MySET 1, MySET 2, MySET3)
- save your favorite settings for the MySET mode
- Scene (Portrait, landscape, sunset,
backlight, children, close-up, dawn, fireworks, beach & snow)
- only shown in scene mode
The only thing worth mentioning there
are the continuous shooting and AE bracketing modes.
In continuous mode, the camera takes three shots in
a row at 2 frames/second. AE bracketing also takes
three shots in a row, but this time each photo has
a different exposure value (-0.5EV, 0EV, +0.5EV [this
is not adjustable]).
Inside the record menu is the setup
submenu. The items here include:
- File numbering (Reset, series)
- Power save (Off, 1 - 10 min)
- Language (English, French, German,
Spanish, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese) - note
that this list may vary depending on where you buy
- Format (MS, SD/MMC)
- Date, time (Set, date format)
- Imprint (Off, date, date & time)
- print the date on your photos
- Lamp (on/off) - turn the blinky
light on the front of the camera off
- Sound (Off, low, medium, high)
- LCD (Dark, normal, bright)
- Video (NTSC, PAL)
- Quickview (Off, 1 - 5 secs) - post-shot
- USB (Computer, printer)
- Reset - back to defaults
- Card select (SD/MMC, MS)
Well enough about menus, let's do
photo tests now.
The macro test did not turn out so
hot. The photo on the left is what came out of the
camera. I shoot these test shots under 600W quartz
lamps, and they can sometimes throw off the various
white balance settings that a camera has. The V50 has
custom white balance, and I tried that, and got a nice
brownish-yellow cast in the photo. I then tried tungsten
white balance and decided I liked the blue case (shown
in the photo on the left) better. After running the
image through the "auto color" function in
Photoshop CS, I came up with the photo on the right
which is accurate. If you shoot under unusual lighting
the V50 probably isn't for you.
Color aside, the subject is quite
sharp -- almost too sharp. You can make out plenty
of detail, for sure.
The minimum distance to the subject
is 4 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto while
in macro mode.
As if to make up for that crummy macro
shot, the V50 delivered a beautiful night photo of
San Francisco (in the fog). The image is, again, quite
sharp, and a little grainy/noisy. I think the fog destroys
some of the detail at the top of the buildings, as
well. There is some purple fringing to see here, and
you can get rid of it by using a smaller aperture (higher
With full control over shutter speed,
taking shots like this is easy on the V50. Just don't
forget a tripod!
Using that same scene, let's see how
the camera performed at higher ISO sensitivities:
While it may look like the ISO 400
shots is actually less noisy than ISO 200, this is
not the case. The photo wasn't exposed for as long
(in my attempt not to overexpose it, I did just the
opposite) which reduced the brightness and thus the
visibility of the noise. But if you adjust the levels
in Photoshop you'll see that it is indeed noisier.
There's very little redeye to see
on the flash test shot, which both surprised and impressed
me. I did have to adjust the levels a bit on this shot,
as the V50's way underexposed the picture.
The distortion test shows moderate
barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens. I see
no evidence of vignetting (dark corners) or blurry
Photo quality on the Digimax V50 was
a mixed bag. Sometimes it was average, although with
above average noise and purple fringing. I think Samsung
really cranked up the in-camera sharpening (which is
adjustable, by the way) which makes things look grainy
(the sky being a prime example). Other times, the photos
were just outright wrong, like this one:
Ferrari by Samsung
Ferrari by Kodak
Anyone who knows their cars understands
that Ferrari Red is NOT orange. The Kodak isn't perfect
either, but it's a heck of a lot closer to reality
than the V50. I noticed this same discoloration in
at least two other photos (one, two).
The V50 didn't always do it, as you can see in the
Stanford photos, so I don't know what causes it.
Please don't take my word for all
this. Have a look at our gallery first,
and print the photos just like you would if they were
your own. Then decide if the Digimax V50 is right for
Another nice feature on the Digimax
V50 is its movie mode. It's one of the small group
of cameras that record in the MPEG4 format, which allows
for good quality videos that take up less space on
your memory card. The V50 can record at 640 x 480 or
320 x 240 at 15 or 30 frames/second, which is (just
about) as good as you'll get these days. The included
32MB SD card can hold just under two minutes of video
at the highest quality setting (640 x 480, 30 fps).
Buying a larger memory card will allow you to take
You cannot use the zoom lens during
Here's a sample movie for you, recorded
at the 640 x 480 (30 fps) resolution. As you can probably
tell from me frame grab below, Samsung really turned
up the MPEG4 compression on the V50.
to play movie (2.6MB, 640 x 480, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Digimax has a pretty standard
playback mode. Features such as slide shows, DPOF print
marking, image protection, voice captions, thumbnail
mode, and zoom and scroll are all here. The camera
is also PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a
compatible photo printer.
The "zoom and scroll" feature
(my term) lets you zoom into your photos by as much
as 9 times, which is helpful for determining whether
your image is in focus. Once zoomed in you can also
crop your image.
Other options include image rotating
and resizing, as well as the ability to copy photos
from one memory card to another (e.g. SD to MS Duo).
By default, the V50 shows you nothing
about your photos. Press the display button once and
you'll ge the screen on the right, which is very basic,
but better than nothing.
The V50 moves from photo to photo
at an average pace. A (very) low resolution placeholder
is shown instantly, with the high res version appearing
a second later.
How Does it Compare?
The Samsung Digimax V50 is a great
example of a camera that sounds great after reading
the spec sheet that turns out to be a disappointment
after start using it. With a 5 Megapixel CCD, large
rotating LCD, manual controls, VGA movie mode, and
dual memory card slots, it sounds like the camera to
beat in the lower-cost 5MP market. In reality, its
photo quality is hit-or-miss and performance is subpar.
Let me mention the nice things about
the V50 first. It has a nice, sharp 2-inch LCD display
that flips to the side and rotates. The camera supports
three types of memory cards: Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard
(MMC), and Memory Stick Duo. I'm not sure why Samsung
chose MS Duo, as the much more common Memory Stick
card would've easily fit. The camera also supports
many types of batteries, including a proprietary li-ion
battery (which comes with the camera), AA, and CR-V3.
The V50 has a full suite of manual controls, even white
balance and focus. It also has the ability to record
VGA (30 fps) movies until the memory card is full.
Now the bad news. Photo quality, as
I said, was not consistent. Sometimes it was pretty
good, aside from above average noise and purple fringing.
Other times it was just plain wrong (that's the best
word I can use to describe it), with noticeably inaccurate
color. The camera also lags in the performance department
(pun intended), with lengthy AF times and noticeable
shutter lag at all times. Despite having an AF-assist
lamp, the camera did not focus well in low light. To
make matters worse, the LCD becomes unusable in dim
lighting. Finally, I really didn't care for the "jog
dial" on the top of the camera, which not only
looks and feels like a zoom controller, but is located
in perfect place for one!
Bottom line: you can do better than
the Digimax V50. See below for some suggestions.
What I liked:
- Lots of features for a low price
- Flip-out, rotating 2-inch LCD display
- Plenty of manual controls
- AF-assist lamp (though it does
- Low redeye
- Supports conversion lenses
- Can save favorite settings to spot
on mode dial
- Dual memory card slots (but why
- VGA, 30 frames/sec movie mode
- USB 2.0 High Speed supported
What I didn't care for:
- Photos often had noticeably inaccurate
- Slow autofocus speeds, major shutter
- Poorly designed/placed jog dial
(in my opinion)
- LCD unusable in low light conditions
- Despite AF-assist lamp, poor low
- Weak flash
- No Mac software included
Other cameras in this class worth
looking at include the Canon PowerShot A95 and S60,
Fuji FinePix E510 and E550, HP
Photosmart R707, Kodak EasyShare DX7440 (4MP)
and DX7630 (6MP), Nikon
Coolpix 5200, Olympus
Optio 555, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F88 and DSC-W1.
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the Digimax V50 and
its competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality
turned out? Check out our photo
Want a second opinion?
Check out a review of the V50 over
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail
me asking for a personal recommendation.
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