Samsung’s DualView cameras remain the best choice for people who shoot a lot of self-portraits. Not necessarily because they take great photos, but because their secondary front LCD makes it very easy to see just what you’re shooting–stills or video–from in front of the camera. The TL205 is currently Samsung’s least expensive model with the feature, and it feels like corners were cut to get the price low. That doesn’t make it a bad camera, but it’s definitely one with limitations. It’s basically a step up from an average camera phone or smartphone, and the convenience of the front LCD makes the TL205 good for the money. If you’re having trouble seeing the value of that second screen, though, I suggest you skip it.
The DualView TL205 needs a fair amount of light to turn out decent photos. Indoors or in low light, photos are noisy with color problems and smeared details. They’re so smeared, in fact, that above ISO 400 images look like there was Vaseline on the lens. Combine the high-ISO issues with the camera’s generally slow shooting performance and you’ll have a tough time getting a blur-free photo without bright lighting. On the other hand, if you’re outdoors in the sun or have plenty of light indoors, it can capture nice portraits and landscapes for small prints, the occasional 8×10 photo, and Web use.
Samsung DualView TL205
The TL205′s 3x, f3-5.6, 35-105-millimeter lens (35mm equivalent) doesn’t allow a lot of shooting flexibility. It would’ve been nice to have a wider lens considering it’s geared for portraits, but you’ll have to pay more for that. The lens has some asymmetrical distortion on the left side at the wide end, and you can still see a bit of the distortion with the lens extended. Center sharpness is pretty good, and it only gets noticeably softer in the corners. The lower right was particularly soft and smeary on my review camera. Fringe in high-contrast areas of photos is only noticeable at small sizes in extreme cases. Generally, though, it’s only really visible when photos are viewed at full size.
Color performance isn’t accurate, but that’s typical for this class of camera. Still, colors weren’t entirely unpleasant, though faces always looked too red for my tastes. Also, the auto white balance was too warm indoors. If you’re shooting in auto and your photos look too warm, I recommend switching to Program and using a preset or taking a manual reading, which is as easy as pressing the shutter release.
Video quality is VGA-quality and good enough for Web use, but certainly not a reason to buy this model. The zoom lens does function while recording, but the mic shuts off so you won’t hear the lens movement, autofocus, or anything else that would otherwise be picked up by the mono mic.
Shooting performance is generally slow on sub-$150 cameras, and that’s the case here, making the TL205 average for its class. It goes from off to first shot in 2 seconds and is up and ready to go again in 1.9 seconds; using the flash basically doubles that wait time. Shutter lag–the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture–is 0.5 second in bright lighting and 0.6 second in dim (though it occasionally felt longer regardless of lighting). Basically, trying to capture the shot you want of kids and pets or anything moving is tricky with this camera.
The TL205 does have a continuous option that shoots at 0.6 frame per second for as long as you have your finger on the shutter release. It sets focus and exposure with the first shot so it’s better for slow or still subjects. Plus, the screen goes completely blank while you use it, giving you no idea what you’ve captured. There’s a Motion Capture option that shoots up to 30 photos at approximately 6fps, but at VGA resolution. Again, the screen blanks out while you’re using it and the results are not good, making them of limited use. What is nice is the inclusion of an auto exposure bracketing (AEB) setting that’ll take three shots with different exposures: normal, underexposed, and overexposed.
For the most part, the shooting options on the TL205 are for those who don’t typically leave auto. Its Smart Auto, for example, uses scene recognition to make the most appropriate setting choices for photos and videos. It picks from 16 different scene types, which is more granular than you typically get in a camera at its price. There is a regular Auto mode for general shooting with settings for focus areas and face, smile, and blink detection. A Program Auto gives you the most control over results, including selectable white balance and ISO, as well as a slider for adjusting contrast, sharpness, and saturation.
There’s no optical or mechanical image stabilization, so instead you get a digital image stabilization (DIS) mode that uses high ISO sensitivities and fast shutter speeds to help mitigate blur from hand shake and subject movement. It’s OK for use in bright lighting, but the results indoors or in low light are not good.
Also on the Mode dial is a Night mode that lets you set the shutter speed and aperture for long exposures using a tripod (up to 8 seconds); Scene mode with 10 types to choose from; movie capture for VGA-quality clips at 30fps; and a Beauty Shot mode that lets you adjust skin tone and improve facial blemishes. Be careful with Beauty Shot, though, as it will make subjects look soft and smeary, which is particularly visible when photos are viewed at larger sizes.
The camera’s design is both good and bad. You have the front LCD; an ergonomic slant to the shutter release for slightly more comfortable shooting; and an interesting 7-degree slant on the bottom, so that when the camera is placed on a flat surface the lens angles up for better self-portraits–all good things. It’s not ugly, either; it’s just a basic glossy black with silver trim. Pick it up, though, and that glossy black is quickly covered in fingerprints. It also feels pretty cheaply made, which isn’t helped by the low-quality LCD on back or the loud lens movement and autofocus system. Also, the buttons are black with black markings, making them impossible to see unless you’re in full light; Menu and Delete are the only ones labeled in white.
Aside from the difficult-to-read buttons, the camera is fairly simple to use, especially if you don’t do much menu hunting. Higher-end DualView cameras have touch screens on the front and back, but the TL205′s controls are all buttons. On top of the camera are power, shutter release, zoom control, and a button for turning on the front LCD. One press turns it on for self-portraits, a second sets it for a Couple Shot, and a third puts it in Children mode. Couple Shot detects two subjects leaning in toward each other and automatically shoots posing couples. Children mode plays an animation to try and get kids to look at the camera. (There’s only one animation loaded on the camera; the manual says others are available on Samsung’s Web site, but I couldn’t find them.) Couple Shot works well, but Children mode is less effective–the biggest problem being that if it does get their attention, they aren’t looking at the lens, but off to the side.
If it weren’t for the front LCD and low price, there would be few reasons to consider the Samsung DualView TL205. It’s an otherwise basic ultracompact with average photos and shooting performance for its class. As a step up from a camera phone or smartphone it’s good, especially if you don’t need it for low-light photos and if your shots go directly to the Web.
Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
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