The Samsung ES15 is one of the cheapest digital cameras available with a REAL optical zoom lens, and currently undercuts most other manufacturers by roughly £20, priced at only £49-59. Occassionally it’s even been on special offer for only £39. This makes it amazing value for money, but price isn’t the only thing we need to look at, especially from our experience with with other budget cameras.
The Samsung ES15 is available in a number of colours (white, silver, pink, black), and is part of the budget ES range (which includes a number of similar models: ES17, ES55, ES63, ES65 etc). It’s one of the cheapest cameras available, but is it any good?
Samsung ES15 – Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 17/05/2010
Author: Joshua Waller
Here’s what Samsung have to say about the camera: “The ES15 is such a clever little camera, with all the features you’d expect like Digital Image Stabilisation for anti-blur and the must-have Face Detection. And it’s so easy to use thanks to its ‘Photo Help Guide’ – providing you with troubleshooting solutions if you encounter any problems.”
Specifications / Features:
10 megapixel sensor
3x optical zoom lens (38 – 114mm eq)
2.5″ LCD screen
Red-eye flash, reduction photo help guide
Auto contrast balance
Movie mode (VGA 30fps – MJPEG AVI) with sound
Face Detection of up to nine faces
Digital Image Stabilisation: reduce blur from handshake
Beauty Shot: retouch the facial skin to appear brighter and smoother
Photo Help Guide: troubleshooting instructions are provided for image correction
Function Description: quick, clear descriptions of each icon and function on the camera
ISO: Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
Shooting / Scene modes: Auto, Program, Manual, DIS, Portrait, Scenes: Night scene, Children, Landscape, Text, Close-up, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks, Beach & Snow
Image sizes available: 10M: 3648 x 2736 pixles, 7M: 3072 x 2304 pixels, 5M: 2592 x 1944 pixels, 3M: 2048 x 1536 pixels, 1M: 1024 x 768 pixels, Wide Shooting Mode: 7MW: 3648 x 2052 pixels, Print Shooting Mode: 9MP: 3648 x 2432 pixels. Options: Super Fine, Fine, Normal.
Exposure bracketing: Yes
Optical viewfinder: No
Manual WB: Yes
Memory Storage: SD/SDHC
Size / Weight: 94.1 x 62.7 x 25.2mm, 120g
Samsung ES15 Digital Camera
2 x AA batteries (Alkaline)
Box contents / Memory Cards: Average box contents, a case and a large SD / SDHC memory card is highly recommended.
Battery life: The camera uses AA batteries and using the provided AA alkaline (Duracell) batteries I was able to take around 205 shots – which is quite impressive for standard alkaline batteries. However I would recommend using high power rechargable Ni-Mh batteries – Duracell sell a charger with batteries from around £5. (see Amazon) So don’t let AA batteries put you off the camera – they are much easier to find than replacement Lithium-Ion batteries in the middle of nowhere.
Ease of use / Menu: Easy enough. The macro focusing options were a little annoying at times – the normal focus range is 80cm – infinity, so close up you will need to manually switch to macro mode which changes it to 10-80cm. But then if you try and focus on a distant subject it simply fails – and you need to switch back again. Often other cameras are a lot more forgiving about this – and an auto-macro mode would be helpful in all modes. (I expect this is only available in one of the Auto or scene modes).
Ergonomics and buttons: The buttons are quite clearly labelled, the zoom control is easy enough to use, however I would have prefered the zoom control to surround the shutter release button. There is a small lip at the front to grip however the back has nothing but a smooth area to grip. The shutter release button is quite large and works well. Build quality seems quite good.
Image Quality: Image quality was generally good, with good detail, and good colour. Some noise was visible in most shots, but wasn’t too concerning. There was some red-eye in flash photos. There was also some softness in the extreme corners when photos were viewed at 100%. Overall image quality, colour, and exposure where much better than I expected for such a budget camera. The flash is also capable of lighting people indoors in low light, although the flash recharge time was quite slow due to the use of AA batteries.
Video: Good – VGA (640×480) at 30fps with sound and allows the use of optical zoom while recording – although sound is muted. It also lets you pause recording.
Anything else interesting? It’s got image adjustment options in playback – this lets you fix red-eye, “face retouch”, and adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation. You can also choose the “Photo style selector” to switch to vivid, soft, forest, retro, cool, calm, classic (black and white), negative, and custom RGB.
Image Quality: Image quality is generally very good – with good colour, saturation, contrast, and auto white balance produced good results. Noise can be seen at times, even in bright sunny shots, but wasn’t too concerning, and was really only an issue when viewing images at 100%. I didn’t notice any vignetting (corner darkness), but did notice some blurred detail at the very extreme corners. To enhance colour and saturation I used the exposure compensation feature at -0.3 or -0.7 and occasionally put the camera on Vivid mode to make photos even more colourful. (7.5/10)
Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera doesn’t really offer many features by todays standards, there’s no wide angle lens, no HD video, a smaller screen than most, and “only” a 3x optical zoom lens. However, considering the low price, the features it does have seem quite reasonable. It features VGA video at 30fps with sound, and built in speaker. Manual white balance, colour options, and many other options such as auto exposure bracketing that are unexpected on such a budget camera (usually you expect limited features and options on such a budget orientated camera). The menus and options are very similar to the Samsung ST550, and almost identical to the Samsung ST50, and they both cost much more. The 2.5″ screen is quite good and is viewable in sunlight (but not great). (8/10)
Value for Money: Priced at £59 currently – (the camera is occassionally available for £49) – at these prices it offers excellent value for money, without compromising on performance (image quality) or features. Have a look at some other budget cameras. 9.5/10 Excellent.
Conclusion: If you have a mobile camera phone and are often unimpressed with the photos, and just want something that takes better photos without spending much money, then you can’t go wrong with the Samsung ES15. It’s price makes it very affordable, and the images are much better than anything I’ve seen from a mobile phone, and better than a lot of other budget cameras as well. You also benefit from the 3x optical zoom lens and a good 2.5″ screen.
Samsung ES15 Rating: Recommended (8.3/10)
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What I Like:
– Excellent price
– Good image quality
– Optical zoom available on videos (sound muted)
– Full menu items / options (not limited due to price)
– Good battery life
– Good 2.5″ screen
– Easy to use
What I Don’t Like:
– No focus assist lamp
– 10cm macro mode