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Review of Samsung Z710 3.2 Mpix camera

Samsung has demonstrated various handsets, armed with high resolution cameras numerous times, though not a one out of them made it to the European market. And one of the first mass products in this very line-up is Samsung Z710, equipper with a 3.2 Mpix camera module, powered by CCD matrix. The majority of competitors apply CMOS solutions, as while the quality is nearly the same, energy consumption proves to be less. The history of GSM handsets mentions only a few models, featuring CCD module one of this is Sony Ericsson S700. In fact, the core principles of the models design are the same: the back part, holding a camera module, is alike a digital camera; there is a possibility for getting a grip on the phone with two hands; the objective glass is covered by a shutter, with a flash located nearby.

Model Samsung Z710 is a clamshell with rotary exterior part once youve opened the device and turned one of the halves, the handset obtains highest possible resemblance to a digital camera. Camera mode is switched on simultaneously with the abovementioned manipulations. In order to start shooting, you have to open the shutter, though its not an easy task since the latch is rather tight and small in size. If you get a closer look at it, youll discover that the shutter, covering the camera is not well-adjusted as a matter of fact, the root of the problem lies in handsets exploitation, since usually the shutter gets this outlook after a month or two. However it doesnt cause any inconveniences, in light of the fact the shutter preserves the objective glass from being touched rather than from dust, although its a part of its functionality as well.

The physical specifications of the object-glass are as follows: f=3.48 , 1:3.0, auto-focus.

When in the shooting mode, the upper part of the device hold three buttons: a double key, allowing user to zoom image, a red button for switching between various modes and finally the last one performs shooting. I shall note that one can readily take pictures even when the screen is just open (not rotated), and in closed condition. Though you will find it easy to set up the camera in open condition, as here you will only need to choose all the required settings from the menu or simply use the keypad. Besides, the handset provides shortcuts, assigned to numeric keys, which let you change picture size, shooting mode etc. in one touch.

Nevertheless, the developers also have made sure that you can operate the camera even when the device is closed on default the screen shows a status bar, featuring icons of all chosen modes, on the right you will find actions, bound up with the side keys. Having pressed the red button, you will call up the settings mode, horizontal displacement is performed by pressing the double key. In order to adjust the settings, first of all you need to press the red button one more time, then pick the required item, scroll the list with the help of double key and accept the choice by pushing the red key again, the next step is to return back to a higher menu level this is done via the shooting key. Even though this process appears to be very complicated at the fist glance, its easily gotten used to. To name the advantages, I shall say that the device saves the last changed parameter and when entering the menu repeatedly, you will see exactly this item. On the other hand I doubt many will use these advanced settings and will prefer using auto mode to this. The best way to adjust the camera is to do it in the standard open condition.

Lets peek in the list of main settings and find out how they affect the quality and other parameters.

Shot mode single shot, multi shot 6, 9, 12 and 15 images respectively, mosaic shot. The last mode allows choosing from the following types: 22, 33.

Size the top resolution, provided in the handset is 20481536 which is equal to 3.15 Mpix. There are also smaller sizes available, e.g 16001200, 1280960, 1024768, 800600, 640480, 320240, 240320 pixels. When using the best resolution, a single image can be from 0.7 to 1.1 Mb in size, depending on richness of a picture in details. The pictures, taken in lower resolutions, take up much less storage respectively.

Macro mode this mode can be e turned off or on. Effective distance while shooting in this mode is about 7-8 centimeters.

Macro mode

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Flash can be switched off, work either in auto-mode or be permanently on, or used in shooting only mode. The flash itself is rather poor and can make much difference only when shooting in really dark places, though not at night or absolute darkness. Thats why the flash is effective only at dusk, as its a common LED.

Timer using this function, one can take picture with the delay of 3, 5 and 10 seconds.

Effects the set of the special effects is rather common: Black&White, Negative, Sepia, Emboss, Sketch. Their quality doesnt leave any negative impressions as well.

Effects

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Frames various frames may be applied to pictures there are 50 of them, so even the most enthusiastic congratulators will be satisfied. While working with the frames, the resolution is set to 320x240 pixels automatically.

White balance Automatic (default), Horizon, Alight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade. When using the auto-mode, the device isnt always capable of measuring the illumination and setting appropriate parameters. Typical examples of this weakness are situations, when you are shooting objects on the floor in this very case, you better use manual mode.

White balance

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ISO. On default sensitivity is set to Auto, though youre at liberty to choose the value yourself 50, 100, 200, 400. But you should consider leaving Auto mode as it as, since youll see particles in any case.

ISO
50 100

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200 400

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Auto  
 

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Exposure value the exposure time may vary from -6 to +6 this is a tricky parameter, as big exposure values require cameras stability, what is nearly impossible, when holding the camera in hands. Shakings of the camera cause the majority of problems here, because the device doesnt always have time to take a sharp and clear picture. In order to obviate these difficulties, you will need to stand motionless for 1-2 seconds after triggering the shutter button.

ViewFinder the display can only offer you a Full Screen picture, Full Screen and Guide picture or Full Screen and Indicators picture.

Contrast Normal (default), low, high. These settings strongly affect the output quality of the pictures, as you can this on the following samples.

Saturation this parameter is similar Contrast in terms of adjustment.

Sharpness on default, youll have Normal Sharpness, though this function can be set to Hard, Soft values.

Sharpness
Hard Soft

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Normal  
 

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Zoom incorporated into the camera, is Digital 9, however one can argue about its functionality, since as you keep zooming in, the picture gets worse. The images, given as examples here are out of focus, in light of the fact the device cant appropriately process images with numerous details. Auto-focus should be turned off in these cases, though the developers havent provided this function.

Zoom

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While shooting, the display plays the part of a viewfinder; you can also hold the camera single handedly, as there are no difficulties with this. But in case you aim at avoiding unpleasant shakings of the device, you better get a grip on the handset using both hands. The time span, which separates triggering the shutter and saving the image, is about 1-2 seconds. The pictures quality, as you can see, is average, though the amount of setting is overwhelming and can satisfy even the most demanding consumer. For those, you are fond of playing around with settings, looking how the quality differs, depending on various sets of variables values; this is quite a good device.

But the majority of people, who are seeking for a qualitative camera, capable of outputting images, which can be viewed on PC without the strong desire of deleting it stirring up, will find this handset unacceptable, since good images quality is provided only in conditions of good illumination, even more, auto-focus may fail you a number of times. But owing to a great display, all images, even of poor quality, look pretty on the handset youll never guess that they are out of focus or lack sharpness.

 

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Frequently images quality is good, so you can view them on your PC and even feel pleasure in doing this. In indoor areas, despite CCD matrix, the camera produces noise and outputs illegible pictures.

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Video. The device is capable of shooting video clips in 3 different resolutions, these are 320240, 176144 and 12896 pixels. All additional settings copy the corresponding ones for camera mode you can adjust special effects, exposure time, white balance and viewfinders appearance. The developers havent capped duration of clips you can easily record video up to 1 hour in length. All movies are saved in mped4 format, at that you can check the option, related to sound recording. In course of shooting, you can interrupt the process, pause it start over again.

You can apply zoom (x6) only before shooting once youve started filming, youll be not at liberty to adjust this parameter; its seems strange and rather unhandy.

The video recording quality is above average all the clips look fine when watched on the handset and dont possess any obvious flaws in maximum resolution further more, the quality remains fair even on PC. I shall note that the clips, filmed with the help of this handset are better than the ones, recorded with many other devices, including Sony Ericsson K790/K800, which features a 3 Mpix camera as well.

Sample video 1 (4, 1.03 Mb)

Sample video 2 (4, 1.00 Mb)

Sample video 3 (4, 1.35 Mb)

Sample video 4 (4, 1.34 Mb)

Sample video 5 (4, 1.61 Mb)

While in camera mode, you can also choose several additional functions, which are accessed from Settings menu by pushing the accept key while highlighting this item, you will call up a navi-circle. In particular, there you can choose video recording mode and general settings for images.

The images quality can be set to one of the following: SuperFine, Fine, Normal, Economy.

  • Metering Multi, Center
  • Single Shot Automatic, Take and Save
  • Shutter sound On or Off
  • Zooming sound On or Off
  • Brightness changing sound - On or Off
  • Focusing sound - On or Off
  • Storage place for images memory card or internal memory

One of the most interesting features, incorporated into the handset is viewing mode, when you pick a certain folder with pictures or video clips and browse all the saved files, in slide-show or normal mode.

 

Everything we have left to do it to mention the last mode, going by the name of NameCard. While using this one, the camera automatically switches to Macro Mode and allows taking pictures of business cards its essential to keep the distance of 9-10 centimeters between the objective glass and the item itself, in order to have the business card in focus, youll require soft illumination; therefore try to step away from any table lamps. Having taken an image, youll have to wait 30-40 seconds while the device is processing all acquired data, after this the information is directed straightly to the corresponding fields in the phonebook, which can be edited or deleted later on. The recognition quality is very average, as many symbols are not processed correctly. Its important to understand, that a function of this kind is provided only in smart handsets, where the recognition function works very well, but of course CPU speeds are much greater there, so the developers are free to use more complicated algorithms of processing images. There is no way one could use this function of Z710 in practice, though this very step toward incorporating this option into standard phones makes all the difference.

Video clip, demonstrating this function>>>

Short sum-up

There are not so many handsets on the market, which could boast of a 3 Mpix camera, and against this background, Z710 appears to be fairly good solution. The images quality here, as well as overall capabilities, is higher than in products by Nokia, namely Nokia N80 (we are talking here about the latest firmware various, which will hit to shelves of retail stores). On the whole, the camera cant stand competition with Sony Ericsson K790/K800, as it outputs pictures of worse quality, though on the other hand its main advantage is video recording.

It appears, that we face the same situation, which is typical for the market of 2 Mpix cameras: solutions by Samsung are comparable with Nokias handsets in terms of cameras quality or even overcome them a bit, but lose to the camera module, featured in Sony Ericsson K750i.

The number of camera settings in Samsung Z710 is closing in to digital cameras in case the manufacturer takes a decision to increase the quality of the matrix, optical system and keep the functionality on the same level, it can result in several extremely attractive solutions and its not so long left until this moment, I assure you.

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published — 21 March 2006

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