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DCRP Review: Samsung L74 Wide  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 9, 2007
Last updated: April 30, 2012

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The Samsung L74 Wide ($300) is a rather unique digital camera. Not for its design, wide-angle lens, SVGA movie mode, or huge touchscreen LCD, though all of those make it appealing. What really separates the L74 from the rest of the crowd its its enormous amount of onboard memory (450MB to be exact) and a built-in world travel guide. That's right, the L74W can give you information (albeit very basic) about popular tourist destinations around the world. Can't say that this is a feature I've always wanted, but a little break from the ordinary is always welcome.

Other features on the L74W include a 7.2 Megapixel CCD, manual controls, face detection AF/AE, and in-camera redeye reduction.

Is the L74 Wide a capable digital camera with the added bonus of having a built-in world travel guide? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The L74 Wide has a very good bundle. Inside the box you'll find:

  • The 7.2 effective Megapixel Samsung L74 Wide digital camera
  • SLB-1137D lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Wrist strap
  • Touch pen (stylus)
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • USB-to-AC plug converter
  • CD-ROM featuring Digimax Master and drivers
  • 95 page camera manual (printed)

The L74 Wide doesn't just have built-in memory -- it has 450MB of built-in memory! Now, a lot of that (around 217MB) is taken up by the World Tour Guide, but if you don't want that feature, you are free to delete it. If you want to add more memory to the camera, you can do so via its SD/SDHC/MMC memory card slot. I would recommend picking up 1GB, high speed memory card for use with the L74.

The L74 uses the new SLB-1137D rechargeable lithium ion battery, which has 4.1 Wh of energy. While Samsung doesn't officially use the CIPA standard for their battery tests, their methodology is almost identical. Here's how the L74W compares to the competition in terms of battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS 270 shots
Fuji FinePix Z10fd 200 shots
GE E850 * 210 shots
HP Photosmart R847 210 shots
Nikon Coolpix S50 130 shots
Olympus FE-200 290 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55 * 280 shots
Pentax Optio T30 200 shots
Samsung L74 Wide */** 200 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 300 shots

* Has a wide-angle lens and a 3-inch LCD
** Number not obtained using the CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

There are only two other cameras in the table above that have both a wide-angle lens and a 3-inch LCD like the L74W. In terms of battery life, the L74 is about 15% below average. Thus, it's probably worth picking up a spare battery.

Speaking of batteries: all of the cameras on the list use proprietary lithium-ion batteries. These batteries tend to be expensive (and I can't even find the battery for sale anywhere -- only third-party versions), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when the rechargeable dies. That said, you'd be hard-pressed to find a compact camera that uses anything else.

Like several of Samsung's recent cameras, charging the L74 is a bit unusual, as you'll be using the USB cable. You can charge the camera simply by plugging it into your computer via the USB cable, or you can attach an AC adapter to one end of the cable and plug it right into the wall. Either way, it takes about 150 minutes to fully charge the SLB-1137D battery. There is currently no external battery charger available.

As is the case with most compact cameras, there's a lens cover built into the L74 Wide, so there's no clunky lens cap to worry about.

A stylus is also included, and you can use it (or your finger) to control the touchscreen user interface. The stylus attaches to the wrist strap, so it's not going anywhere.

There are only two accessories available for the L74 Wide. First, there's the SRC-A3 wireless remote control ($15), for a "no hands" approach to controlling the camera. The other accessory isn't quite as exciting -- it's just a soft camera case (also around $15).

Samsung includes their Digimax Master software with the L74 Wide. While not the most attractive or powerful software on the market, it gets the job done. Digimax Master is for Windows only -- there is no Mac software included with the camera (iPhoto will work fine, though).

The main screen of Digimax Master has the usual thumbnail view, and from this screen you can rotate, print, and e-mail photos. As you'd expect these days, the thumbnail size can be adjusted.

Double-clicking on an image opens the edit window. If you're editing a JPEG you'll find all kinds of tools on the left side of the screen, including an "auto enhance" option. There are also tools available for putting type (or drawings) on top of a photo.

The manual included with the L74 Wide is pretty lousy. It's poorly laid out, full of fine print, and generally not user-friendly. Samsung really needs to work on their documentation.

Look and Feel

Despite not being in Samsung's NV-series of cameras, the L74 Wide has much in common with them. It has a compact and very solid, all-metal body, plus an "NV lens" (whatever that is) with the trademark blue ring around it, and an unconventional user interface. In the hand, it feels like a much more expensive camera than it really is ($250 street price).

The L74 is easy to hold with one hand, with a grip that's just the right side. The are hardly any buttons on the camera, with the camera being almost entirely controlled via the touchscreen LCD display. Speaking of which, you might want to consider investing in a cleaning cloth for that LCD, as it will be absolutely covered in fingerprints in no time, unless you're using the stylus.

Now let's take a look at how the L74 Wide compares to other cameras in its class:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD800 IS 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.1 cu in. 150 g
Fujifilm FinePix Z10fd 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.7 in. 5.5 cu in. 120 g
GE E850 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 9.4 cu in. 155 g
HP Photosmart R847 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.1 in. 10.7 cu in. 204 g
Kodak EasyShare M883 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.3 cu in. 116 g
Nikon Coolpix S50 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 6.6 cu in. 125 g
Olympus FE-200 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 10.3 cu in. 155 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 143 g
Pentax Optio T30 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.8 in. 6.5 cu in. 119 g
Samsung L74 Wide 4.1 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.9 cu in. 174 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.2 cu in. 151 g

As you can see, the L74W is one of the larger and heavier cameras in the compact / 3-inch LCD crowd. It may not fit in your smallest pockets, but it's still a pretty compact camera.

It's tour time now -- let's start with the front of the L74W .

One of the nicest features on the L74 is its wide-angle lens. This F2.8-5.6, 3.6X optical zoom Samsung NV lens has a focal range of 4.7 - 17 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 101 mm. The lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses are not supported.

Just to the upper-right of the lens you'll find the AF-assist lamp (which is also the self-timer lamp) and the receiver for the optional remote control. The camera uses the AF-assist lamp as a focusing aid in low light situations.

Above those is the built-in flash. Despite its size, this is a pretty powerful flash, with a working range of 0.3 - 5.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.4 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). You cannot attach an external flash to the L74.

If you just happened upon the L74W without knowing anything about it, you'd be surprised by the lack of buttons on the camera. That's because basically all of the camera's functions are controlled via the 3" LCD that you can see above. The touchscreen interface is well-implemented, and easy to use (look for the demo later in the review). You can use your fingers or the included stylus, though the former will leave a whole lot of marks on the display.

The LCD isn't just large -- it's pretty sharp too, with 230,000 pixels. Visibility in bright sunlight was pretty lousy. I don't know if it's the touchscreen that does it, but everything was pretty hard to see. Low light visibility was fair -- I've seen better.

You don't need a Ph.D. to see that the L74 Wide lacks an optical viewfinder. In fact, there's no room for one. Whether this is a problem or not depends on your needs. Some people love optical viewfinders, while others never use them.

To the upper-right of the LCD is the camera's zoom controller. This moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.2 seconds. I counted ten steps in the 3.6X zoom range.

The last thing to see on the back of the L74W are the two buttons at the lower-right of the photo. These buttons are for togging what's shown on the LCD, and for entering playback mode (and DPOF print marking once there).

The first things to see on the top of the L74 Wide are the microphone and power button. Continuing to the right, we have the mode dial, with these options (going counterclockwise):

Option Function
Auto record mode Point-and-shoot, most menu options locked up
Program mode Still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
Advanced Shake Reduction (ASR) A digital anti-shake feature; see below for more
Night mode Two of the most commonly used scene modes
Portrait mode
Scene mode You pick the situation and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from children, landscape, close-up, sunset, text, dawn, backlight, firework, beach & snow, self shot, food, cafe
Movie mode More on this later
World Tour Guide See below

While the L74 Wide has a few, limited manual controls, it's mostly a point-and-shoot camera. There are plenty of scene modes available, including a night mode that lets you select a slow shutter speed -- but more on that later.

Advanced Shake Reduction (only available in that one shooting mode) is a digital image stabilization feature whose inner workings aren't clear. It appears that the camera actually takes two exposures and somehow combines them into one photo (thanks to DP Review for the tip on this). The ISO is boosted to 200 as well, which "noises" things up a bit as well. Though it doesn't work as well as a true optical image stabilizer, ASR does help, though it increases shot-to-shot delays. Here's an example:

ASR off

ASR on

Both photos were taken at ISO 200, with a 1/10 sec shutter speed. I know this isn't a very scientific test, but it does seem to indicate that the ASR feature works, at least to a certain degree.

Now I want to briefly talk about the L74's most unique feature: its World Tour Guide. The guide data is preloaded on the camera, and is produced by Korea Tourism Organization and Hanatour (a Korean tour operator). You can download new and updated content from the Samsung website, though do note that the data MUST be stored on the internal memory and not on a memory card! You navigate through the guide using the touchscreen LCD (obviously), and it's a little easier to use the stylus than your finger. Here's a little demo for you:

After fooling around with the Tour Guide for a bit, I'd suggest that you don't throw away your Fodor's book just yet. It's clearly translated from another language (I'd say Korean is a safe assumption), and some of their recommendations are a bit unusual. I found plenty of inaccuracies, ranging from spelling errors (Yosemite was not discovered by "John Moore" in 1868) to photos that are just plain wrong (a Las Vegas hotel is shown for part of San Francisco).

To the upper-right of the mode dial is the shutter release button. Next to that is the camera's speaker.

Nothing to see on this side of the camera.

The opposite side is just as barren. The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find the battery/memory card compartment, metal tripod mount (not seen here), and the connector for the USB/power/video cable. You will not be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod. The camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol, for fast data transfer to a Mac or PC.

The included SLB-1137D lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

Using the Samsung L74 Wide

Record Mode

It takes roughly 2.2 seconds for the L74W to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's average. On several occasions, pressing the power button did nothing -- I had to press it again.so

No histogram to be found

The L74W's focus speeds were about average. Typically you'll wait between 0.3 - 0.5 seconds at the wide-angle end of the lens, and closer to a second at the telephoto end. If the camera has trouble focusing, focus times can get closer to 2 seconds. Low light focusing wasn't terribly fast, but the camera locked focus on most occasions.

I did not find shutter speed to be a problem, even at the slow shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.

Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, with a delay of a little over a second between shots. If you use the flash and it needs to charge, this delay can exceed three seconds. If you're using the ASR feature, there can be a four second delay while the camera processes the double exposure.

There's no way to delete a photo while it's being saved to the memory card. You must enter playback mode and delete it from there.

There are a ton of image quality options available on the L74W. They include:

Resolution Quality # images on 450MB onboard memory * # images on 1GB card (optional)

3072 x 2304

Super fine 111 252
Fine 204 464
Normal 301 684
6M (3:2)
3072 x 2048
Super fine 130 296
Fine 241 548
Normal 338 768
5MW (16:9)
3072 x 1728
Super fine 156 356
Fine 292 664
Normal 403 916
2592 x 1944
Super fine 155 352
Fine 285 648
Normal 392 892
2048 x 1536
Super fine 230 524
Fine 415 944
Normal 559 1272
1024 x 768
Super fine 670 1524
Fine 914 2080
Normal 1055 2400
* Without World Travel Guide installed

It's so nice not to have to complain about a lack of memory for a change! Even if you keep the World Travel Guide in the internal memory, you still have plenty of room for photos.

The L74W does not support the RAW image format.

Images are named SL74####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now, onto the menus!

The overlay-style menu, with options on both sides. I can press the setting that I want to change, which leads (after an extra step) to the screen at right. I've got ISO selected here. I can change drive and metering by pressing on their "box". To access white balance or exposure compensation, I must push in the lower-right area of the screen.

The L74 Wide has two totally separate menu systems. One is an overlay-style menu that sits on the edges of the LCD screen, while the other is more traditional. The overlay-style menu is a little awkward to use, and changing basic settings (e.g. self-timer) requires a lot more work than if there was a dedicated button on the camera. You should really try this camera out before you buy it, if possible.

Here are the items that you'll find in the overlay menu (keep in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode):

  • Face recognition (on/off) - see below
  • Self-timer (Off, 2 sec, double, 10 sec, remote control)
  • Macro (Auto, auto macro, macro) - auto macro only available in some shooting modes
  • Flash (Off, auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, slow sync, redeye fix) - if the latter, camera will automatically run the software redeye removal tool
  • Image size (see chart above)
  • Quality (see chart above)
  • Metering (Multi, spot, center)
  • Drive mode (Single, continuous, motion capture, AE bracketing, wise shot) - see below
  • ISO (Auto, 800, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent H, florescent L, tungsten, custom) - the custom option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in mixed or unusual lighting conditions
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Long time exposure (Aperture, shutter speed) - only available in night scene mode; more below
  • Movie clip frame stabilizer (on/off) - helps smooth out movie recordings; cannot be used with the internal memory

Like so many cameras these days, the L74W features a face detection focus/exposure system. While I can't show you how it performed (since I cannot capture the screens on this camera), I can tell you that it worked fairly well. The camera was able to detect and lock focus on four of the six people in our test scene, which is pretty good. The camera can find up to nine faces in the frame.

Now I want to talk about some of those drive modes. In continuous mode, the camera keeps shooting until you run out of memory, though the frame rate drops from 1.6 to 0.8 frames/second after the first three shots. In addition, the LCD is blacked out the entire time, making this feature pretty much useless. In a way, the motion capture feature is more impressive. This mode shoots at 6.6 frames/second for up to 30 shots, though at a low 640 x 480 resolution. The LCD keeps up nicely here.

The AE bracketing drive mode takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value (-0.5EV, 0EV, +0.5EV). The Wise Shot option, only available in the ASR shooting mode, takes two shots -- one with ASR, the other with the flash -- and saves both.

The Long Time exposure feature, only available in Nightscene mode, lets you select both the aperture and shutter speed, though in a limited way. The shutter speed range is 1 - 16 seconds, while your aperture choices are F2.8/F5.6 at wide-angle and F5.8/F11.6 at telephoto.

Record menu Effect menu

Now I want to mention the items in the more traditionally styled menu system. It's divided into two "tabs", one with recording and setup-related items, and the other with special effects. Here's what you'll find in this menu:

  • Main menu
    • Recording
      • Autofocus (Multi, center) - the former is 5-point AF
      • Voice memo - add ten second voice captions to a photo
      • Voice recording - record audio until you run out of memory; you can pause your clip while it's recording, if you want
      • Sharpness (Soft+, soft, normal, vivid, vivid+)
      • Contrast (Low, normal, high)
    • Sound
      • Volume (Off, low, medium, high)
      • Start sound (Off, sound 1-3)
      • Shutter sound (Off, sound 1-3)
      • Beep sound (Off, sound 1-3)
      • AF sound (on/off)
    • Setup 1
      • Language
      • Date & Time
      • Imprint (Off, date, date & time)
      • LCD (Auto, dark, normal, bright)
      • AF lamp (on/off)
      • Start image (Off, logo, user image)
    • Setup 2
      • Quick View (Off, 0.5, 1, 3 secs) - post-shot review
      • Power off (1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
      • LCD save (on/off) - turns off the LCD after 30 seconds
      • Calibration - for the touchscreen
      • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
      • Format
      • Reset
  • Effect Menu
    • Color Effect - you can only have one of these going at any time
      • Color (Normal, black & white, sepia, red, green, blue, negative)
      • Custom color - adjust the red, green, and blue levels in a photo
      • Color mask - select a circular area of the frame to leave in color; everything else becomes B&W
    • Image adjust
      • Saturation (variable)
    • Fun - again, only one of these at a time
      • Cartoon - superimposes "thought bubbles" over the frame; image size set to 1MP
      • Photo frame - select from nine virtual photo frames
      • Highlight - select the area of the frame you want to be sharp; everything else will be blurred (uhh, okay...)
      • Composite - combine up to four separate photos into one

Hopefully I explained everything sufficiently. Those effects are fairly unique, and many of them are available in playback mode as well.

Alright, enough menus, let's talk about photo quality now!

The Samsung L74 Wide produced mix results with our macro test subject. The subject has a nice smooth look to it, with no noise to be found. On the other hand, colors are a bit off, with the red cloak looking pretty orange. I used custom white balance here, and as you can see, it didn't do a great job. In general, I found the camera's white balance system to be a bit wonky in mixed lighting (see below).

The minimum focus distance in macro mode (and auto macro mode as well) is 5 cm at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto, with is pretty standard for this class.

The results in the nightshot department are mixed as well, with the sky having an eerie green cast. It's possible that fooling around with white balance settings would've helped here, but standard operating procedure is to shoot with auto WB. The image is on the soft side, with some detail loss due to noise reduction. Purple fringing wasn't an issue.

In order to take long exposures like this you'll need to use the Nightscene mode. There you can select a shutter speed as long as 16 seconds, with your choice of two apertures as well.

Since you cannot control the ISO and shutter speed at the same time, I was unable to complete my low light ISO sensitivity test. Look for the test in our studio later i the review.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the L74W's 3.6X, 28 mm lens. The test chart shows some pretty strong vignetting, but I did not find this to be a problem in my real world shots. There was some corner blurriness, but it really wasn't that bad for a wide-angle lens.

The compact L74 Wide did indeed pick up some redeye in our flash test, but it really wasn't that bad. I decided to run the photo through the camera's built-in redeye reduction system (which can run automatically, by the way) and got this result:

As you can see, it removed a bit of the red from the left eye, though the right eye wasn't affected. If you do encounter redeye on the L74, it's nice to know that this feature is available.

Okay, it's time for our studio ISO test, which can be compared between cameras that I've reviewed. Here again we have a color cast from those studio lamps that the L74 doesn't care for. The crops below give you a brief idea as to the noise levels at each setting, but I recommend viewing the full size images to get the complete picture (no pun intended).

ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

Before I launch into the noise comparisons, I want to mention that parts of the low ISO images are really soft, probably due to too much noise reduction. If you want to see what I mean, load up the Canon PowerShot A570 IS review and compare.

With that out of the way, let's talk about how the noise levels look at the various ISO settings. There's no noise to speak of at ISO 80 or 100, though there's the softness that I just mentioned. At ISO 200 there's a tiny bit of noise, but not enough to keep you from making a fairly large print. Noise starts to rear its ugly head at ISO 400, so now images have both grain and softness. I'd save this one for small prints only. At ISO 800 the color saturation starts to drop, and noise levels really start to hurt. I would save this one for desperation only. ISO 1600 is not usable in my opinion.

Overall, the L74 Wide's image quality was just okay. Exposure was spotty: the camera tended to slightly overexpose my real world photos (but not by much), and it really blew out the highlights on at least two occasions. Colors were good as long as the lighting was "normal" -- as you saw above, mixed lighting tends to fool the camera's white balance system. Images are pretty soft and fuzzy, most likely due to the camera's overzealous noise reduction system. Purple fringing levels were fairly low.

The bottom line here is that the photo quality is good enough for small prints, but for anything larger, you might want to consider another camera.

Now, have a look at our photo gallery -- and maybe print a few photos if you can -- and decide if the L74W's photo quality meets your needs.

Movie Mode

The L74 Wide has a pretty nice movie mode. You can record video at 800 x 592 with sound until the memory card fills up, though the frame rate is a choppy 20 frames/second. If you want smoother video, you'll have to lower the resolution down to 640 x 480, which has a frame rate of 30 fps. Since the camera uses the highly efficient MPEG-4 codec, you can stuff a lot of video onto a relatively small memory card. A 1GB card holds roughly 45 minutes of SVGA video, and 52 minutes of VGA video.

For longer movies you can reduce the resolution even further (to 320 x 240), or cut the frame rate to 15 fps, which I would not recommend.

The L74 is one of a small group of cameras that lets you use the optical zoom while filming. The catch is that the microphone is turned off while the zoom is operating, which is a bit awkward in real world use.

The camera has a unique feature that lets you pause recording by touching an icon on the screen. When you resume, the recording picks up where it left off. There's also a digital image stabilization feature, though do note that it does not work when recording to the built-in memory.

I have two sample movies for you, taken at 800 x 592 and 640 x 480, respectively. They both stutter at the beginning, and the quality as a whole isn't that great, but here you go:

Click to play movie (4.6 MB, 800 x 592, 20 fps, MPEG-4 format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Click to play movie (2.3 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, MPEG-4 format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The L74 Wide has what I'd call a "complete" playback mode. The basic features are all here, like image protection, DPOF print marking, voice captions, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll (aka playback zoom). The slideshow feature is extra fancy, complete with transitions and background music.

The image adjust menu lets you... add noise to your image!? The pen tool lets you attempt to draw on your photo.

There are also quite a few image editing features available, some of which are carryovers from record mode. You can resize, rotate, and crop photos quickly using the touchscreen interface. The color effects I described earlier are exactly the same here. The image adjust menu has several options, including brightness/contrast/saturation adjustment, redeye fix, and a very bizarre "add noise" option (uhh, no thank you). The "fun" part of the effects menu has two new options. You can add "stickers" to an image, or you can draw on the screen, though the stylus isn't really a very good writing instrument.

As you'd expect on a camera with internal memory, there's a tool which copies photos to a memory card. Deleting a photo is a snap, taking just two "touches" on the LCD.

Above you can see all the information the L74 will tell you about your photos. Yeah, not much.

The camera moves through photos virtually instantly.

How Does it Compare?

The L74 Wide is another Samsung camera that's really innovative, but fails to deliver competitive image quality. If Samsung engineers spent a little less time with gimmicks and more time on image quality, then they'd really have something. The L74 Wide isn't a bad camera by any means, it's just not a great one. If you're sticking to small prints it's worth a look, but for larger prints or 100% onscreen viewing you may want to consider anything else.

The L74W is a camera that straddles the line between compact and midsize. It has a very sturdy metal body, similar to Samsung's higher-end NV-series cameras. There aren't many buttons on this camera, as virtually everything is controlled via the L74's 3-inch touchscreen display. The menu system is unusual and often frustrating, making me wish that the camera did have those extra buttons. The screen itself is nice and sharp, though it was hard to see outdoors, and it collects fingerprints (as you might imagine). There's no optical viewfinder on the camera. The L74 features a 3.6X optical zoom lens that starts at a wide 28mm, which comes in handy when shooting indoors. The camera has a whopping 450MB of onboard memory, though much of it is taken up by the World Tour Guide that I'll mention below.

There are all kinds of unique features on the L74 Wide, but I'll start with the basics first. The camera is primarily a point-and-shooter, with lots of scene modes to choose from. There are limited manual controls for shutter speed and aperture (nightscene mode only), plus custom white balance. While the camera lacks true optical image stabilization, the ASR (Advanced Shake Reduction) features works better than having nothing at all, though do note that it can lengthen shot-to-shot delays. Probably the most talked-about feature on the camera is its World Tour Guide. It's an interesting concept, though it takes up a heck of a lot space on your memory card, and it's pretty limited in what it tells you. It's more for fun, rather than actual trip planning, as I noticed quite a few inaccuracies for my home city. The L74's movie mode is pretty nice, offering SVGA recording (albeit at 20 fps), though the quality wasn't that great. In both record and playback mode are a number of "fun" photo effects, though some of them are of very limited use.

Camera performance was average in most respects. The L74W starts up in about 2.2 seconds (with the startup screen turned off), and focus times range from 0.3 - 1.0 seconds, depending on the focal length. Low light focusing was fairly good, thanks to the camera's AF-assist lamp .Shutter lag wasn't a problem, and shot-to-delay delays were minimal, except when ASR is activated. The L74's continuous shooting mode did not impress. It took three shots at 1.6 frames/second before dropping to 0.8 fps (until the memory card fills up), but since the LCD is blacked out the whole time, what's the point? The motion capture mode is better, but it only records at 640 x 480. The L74W's battery life was slightly below average.

Photo quality is the weak spot on the L74 Wide. The camera slightly overexposed most of my real world shots (easy to fix), and it really blew out the highlights a few times. Colors were generally good, except in mixed lighting, where the mediocre white balance left photos with a noticeable color cast. The biggest problem, though, is the soft and fuzzy appearance of the photos caused (most likely) by too much noise reduction. Not a big deal for small prints, but you'll almost certainly notice it at 8 x 10 and above. Redeye and purple fringing weren't significant problems, and if the former does occur, there's a tool to remove it built into the camera.

The Samsung L74 Wide is a camera that packs a lot of features into a stylish, well-built body. Unfortunately, its image quality is lacking, so I'd only recommend it if you're sticking to smaller prints. Let's hope that next time around Samsung sticks to the basics.

What I liked:

  • Stylish, very well built body
  • Wide-angle lens starts at 28mm
  • Huge, 3-inch touchscreen LCD display
  • Advanced Shake Reduction works fairly well, though slows down shot-to-shot speeds
  • AF-assist lamp; good low light focusing
  • Very little redeye; removal tool available if it does occur
  • High res movie mode with optical zoom and digital image stabilization; user can "pause" recording
  • "Interesting" World Tour Guide
  • Enormous amount of built-in memory
  • Optional remote control
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Images are soft and fuzzy; some overexposure and blown highlights
  • Poor white balance in mixed lighting
  • Touchscreen user interface can be slow and frustrating to use
  • LCD difficult to see outdoors
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Unimpressive continuous shooting mode
  • Video quality not the best; choppy frame rate at highest resolution
  • World Tour Guide not terribly useful, and sometimes inaccurate
  • No Mac software included

Some other cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD800 IS, Fuji FinePix Z10fd, GE E850, HP Photosmart R847, Kodak EasyShare M883, Nikon Coolpix S50, Olympus FE-200, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55, Pentax Optio T30, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the L74 Wide and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

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 or technical support.

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Want another opinion?

You'll find more reviews of the L74 Wide at CNET and Megapixel.net.