Price When Reviewed: 468
Pros: High-quality, high-ratio zoom lens with both wide-angle and super-telephoto capabilities in the same package.
Cons: Uses a small, noisy 2/3-inch sensor with a maximum 400 ISO, and there’s no image-stabilizer.
Samsung isn’t a name that immediately springs to mind when thinking of high-end digital cameras – most of their previous models have been point-&-shoots aimed at the budget-conscious. But that is about to change. Samsung’s eight-megapixel Pro815 is the first high-end compact model from the Korean consumer electronics group to challenge the dominance of the established camera makers.
Some might question the timing, as the major camera manufacturers have largely abandoned this class of camera in favour of developing budget digital SLRs instead. However, this move has created something of a vacuum, with the likes of Fuji, Kodak, Sony, and Panasonic simultaneously fielding new models with high-grade, high-zoom ratio lenses.
Samsung’s Pro815 is similarly endowed. With a 28-420mm zoom from optics specialist Schneider Kreuznach, the Pro815 currently boasts the world’s longest built-in zoom. The field of view isn’t quite as wide as that offered by Sony’s DSC-R1 or the Kodak P880, as both have 24mm wide-angle zooms. Nevertheless, anyone wanting to capture distant scenes will find the much longer reach of the Pro815 more suitable.
Macro settings at 50-100mm are highlighted in green on the lens barrel, and with a 3-70cm range, high-magnification close-ups are possible (see below). A manual focus ring uses the fly-by-wire method with the inevitable out of sync feeling, but it’s still a handy addition. In any case, the Pro815 has fast and effective auto-focus and uses a generous wide-area array with manual override. The camera is very responsive and many of the controls are intuitive but you’ll need to check the instruction book for some functions.