Out of the Box
Despite its diminutive size, the Samsung i5 is one solid camera and feels great in the hand. The large 2.5″ LCD display is huge, especially when you consider that the entire camera is only 3.53″(w) x 2.35″(h). The camera comes packaged with a compact docking station that is designed to stay connected to your PC. When you place the Samsung i5 on its cradle it automatically allows you to transfer your photos and videos to your PC, while simultaneously charging the camera. The docking base also has a connector for TV hookup. Both cables that Samsung include with the Camera, the USB and the AV cable can be connected directly to the camera for those times when you don’t want to take the docking base with you.
50MB Internal Memory
Unlike most manufacturers that typically supply a paltry 16MB memory card, the Samsung i5 comes standard with 50MB of internal memory – enough to hold twenty 5.0-megapixel images (Super fine mode), 39 in Fine mode, 57 in normal mode, or up to 3 minutes, 38 seconds of full-frame 640×480 MPEG-4 video. The advantage of having some internal memory is that you’ll always have it with you – assuming you don’t leave the camera behind. The camera also features a standard SD memory expansion slot, which accepts larger memory card. SD Memory cards are available in sizes of 64MB, 128MB, 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, and even 2GB.
Layout and Design
The Samsung i5 has an overall height and width are not much larger than a business card, which makes toting the camera around a pleasure. A matter of fact, put the camera into the included pouch (which has an integrated belt loop) and you’ll truly forget that you’re armed and ready to go.
While the camera does feature plenty of scene modes, options, and overrides, Samsung simplified the design by limiting the amount of external controls. The i5 is housed in a stainless steel body and as previously mentioned is available in silver, black, and red. The front of the camera features just a sliding lens cover, which hides and protects the lens, flash, and AF assist light when the camera is turned off.
The Samsung i5 has a good selection of scene modes to satisfy most every shooting situation. The only mode that Samsung neglected, and one that I have never seen left out of a camera, is a “sport” mode. A sports mode would force the camera to use a higher shutter speed in order to help “freeze” faster action. Since the i5 lacks a sports mode or any way to manually increase the shutter speed, the i5 is probably not the camera to get if you take a lot of sports pictures.
The Samsung i5 offers an excellent macro mode, actually three macro modes. The Auto Macro Mode works automatically and allows the camera to focus as close as 2″ (5 cm) from the subject when the camera is at wide angle or as close as 20″ in the telephoto position. If you switch the camera to Super Macro Mode the camera can then focus on subjects as close as 0.39″ from the lens. Super Macro Mode is superb at capturing the finest details from subjects, even small ones such as coins, jewelry, stamps, etc,. The standard Macro Mode is similar to Auto Macro Mode in that the camera can focus as close as 2″ from the lens. Unlike the Auto Macro mode which automatically focuses from 2″ to infinity, the standard Macro Mode focuses from 2″ to 20″. While on the same subject, the Super Macro Mode is used within the .39″ to 2″ range.
There is a lot to like about the Samsung i5 and a few things not to like. The camera performed satisfactory under most lighting conditions, but performance was only average. Start-up time was fairly quick at 2 seconds, but shot-to-shot times were very slow. Even in continuous shooting mode the best I could achieve was 1.5 seconds between shots and in this mode the screen goes completely dark while the camera captures frame after frame. Since you can’t see exactly what the camera is capturing after you press the shutter release, the continuous shooting mode is more pot-luck than anything else. In single-shot mode, it took the camera about 2.5 seconds before it was ready to capture another image. Shutter lag was almost a full second, a pretty slow time when compared to other newer cameras in this class.
Now for the good news. The stainless steal body, sleek compact design, internal 3x optical zoom lens, layout and overall feel, docking station, rechargeable battery, 50MB of internal memory, integrated lens/flash cover, large 2.5″ TFT color LCD display, easy-to-navigate menu system, and 30 fps MPEG-4 video mode with audio and zoom are reasons to consider the Samsung i5. The camera also features a superb super macro mode which should be considered if you often take pictures of small objects (think ebay auctions). Long exposures (night mode) seem to be one of the high points of the Samsung i5. A 12-second exposure taken in a dimly lit room yielded bright, sharp, clean results. This was very unexpected especially considering the camera lacks a tripod mount – a necessity when shooting with long exposures. To get around the lack of a tripod mount, use a bean bag or table along with the self-timer to keep the camera steady when shooting.
The camera’s large 2.5″ TFT display was bright indoors and out, although the LCD was not as visible when trying to frame scenes at night. The camera slides into the docking base with the LCD facing the front, making it a convenient way to do an informal slide show or connect the docking station to a large screen TV for slideshows that have impact.
If you’re looking for a pocket-thin camera that balances features and image quality, has very good slow-shutter (night) performance, and is fun to use, then the Samsung i5 is a camera to consider.