Pros: image quality, speed, price.
Cons: build quality, certain design features, slow focus.
After about a year with my Fuji Z10, I really can't stand its poor pictures any more, so it is time to find a new camera. My new criteria - no internal zoom lenses, no bulky battery chargers, and no weird memory card formats.
The Samsung SL102 seemed promising on paper and the price - $100 was acceptable. I picked it up at walmart and was eager to see how it performs. It didn't take long for the disappointments to begin... The first minor annoyance was that the camera was pink, even though it was painted black on the box. The pink look fairly well in pictures (and on the front, metal looking parts of the camera), but the cheap plastic on the back looks really takcy in the pepto-bismol color. Nevertheless, I was willing to live with the color so I continued with my tests.
In all fairness there were good surprises right out of the box as well - the battery and the included charger were really small. The charger is actually a simple ac/USB adapter and the camera can be charged through any USB port. The downside is that the battery cannot be charged outside of the camera.
Getting the battery into its slot was another story. The plastic door that covers the compartment refused to move without some significant force. Once opened, it became extremely loose and did not inspire much confidence that it would stay closed for long.
The battery was almost completely discharged out of the box, although it did power on. I decided not to use the included power adapter and instead connected the USB cable to the USB port on my DVD recorder. There is a little red arrow on the USB cord, which when plugged in lights up to indicate charging. Unfortunately it never goes off when the charge is complete (it is possible that I did not wait long enough, but I did live it charging over night, and afterwards the on screen indicator showed that the battery was full.
Another minor problem is the little rubber piece that covers the proprietary USB plug on the camera itself - it is difficult to remove and obstructs the easy access to the jack. Again, the pink color on that rubber piece looks pretty tacky as well.
The memory card resides in the same compartment with the battery (the camera uses regular SD and SD-high capacity cards). The built in memory is only enough for 3 images at the highest resolution - the lowest number I've seen on any digital camera so far.
The initial set up did not take long and could be entirely skipped - it only included setting up the date and the time. Here I had another little annoyance - the time is in the 24 hour format and cannot be changed.
After finishing the set up I started shooting random shots with various settings. The camera has a decent amount of shooting scene modes, but few, actually make that none, manual controls. I took most of the shots indoors both with flash and without.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the results. The camera took extremely clean and noise free pictures in all lighting conditions. Even at extremely low light with no flash the images were usable and with little noise and graininess. Additionally, the start up time was less than 2 seconds, and the shot-to-shot time was just as fast even with the flash. Overall I was very happy with the performance of the camera and quality of the pictures.
There were, however, two very annoying problems. The one that bothered me the most was that the flash defaulted to "suppressed" after every powering off and had to be changed. The flash had a special "remove read eye" mode, which was more than the usual double flash - it uses a software processing after the pictures is taken. This added about 2 more seconds to the shot-to-shot time.
The seconds significant problem is that the camera focuses quite slowly, especially when the focus assist light is used. It stays on for a good 4-5 seconds before it can focus the shot.
Another thing I did not like was that all the various shooting modes, including the movie mode, were buried in the menus. This seems to be very common though, especially on cameras that try to look at least somewhat stylish.
After taking maybe about 50 pictures I got tired and decided to leave the camera and continue my experiments on the next day...
I wish I could share something more about it - I wanted to test the video mode, the burst mode, the battery life, the anti-shake (which is digital bases), and so on...
Regrettably, when I turned on the camera on the next day the display remained black. The lens came out and the camera appeared to be powered on, but the display never turned on again. I took a few more pictures and when I hooked up the camera to my computer I confirmed that they were on the card, so it was clearly a problem with the display.
It took exactly two days... I returned the camera immediately and went to Office Depot where I saw the Kodak M1033 advertised for the same price as the Samsung. When I got home I noticed that they stuck a big red sticker on the camera box, saying that they will only allow exchange if the box is open. So now I am not even going to open the Kodak. I don't think I'll be shopping at Office Depot again, but that's another story...