The L74's wide-angle lens, 3-inch touchscreen interface, and unique Tour
Guide feature set it apart from competitors, but photographers who demand
first-rate image quality will likely be disappointed.
The gunmetal grey Samsung L74 Wide (street, $240) is a slim 7.2-megapixel digital camera with a true wide angle 28-101mm f/2.8-5.6 (35 mm equivalent) lens, cool styling, and an easy-to-operate touchscreen interface. Throw in some fun extras and an entertaining (if not always 100% accurate) built-in Tour Guide and you've got the ultimate class-trip camera.
Aimed at the youth market, the L74 Wide's build is solid and stylish. But with a look that's both modern and retro, the camera should appeal to both old school film shooters and the Web-savvy youths. Throw in a true 28mm equivalent wide angle lens and you've got the potential for a serious pocket-sized vacation camera.
About that wide angle lens: it folds back, if not flush, into the body, and it's a Samsung NV optic, not Schneider-Kreuznach optics like some of its siblings. The circular lens bump is a nice design element that extends from the body about as much as the finger grip's vertical rubber strip.
RETRO DESIGN, BUT THOROUGHLY MODERN FEATURES
This is definitely a camera for the gadget-obsessed generation of photographers who have grown up with instant and always available Internet access. The L74 Wide connects to a computer from the same dock interface that can be hooked to a power outlet, allowing you to charge from an outlet or via the USB 2.0 connection (a convention shared by most MP3 players). And like an MP3 player, the Samsung L74 Wide is one of the few digicams we've seen that include a truly usable amount of internal memory -- close to half a gigabyte!
So what does that half a gig get you? For starters, more than nine minutes of VGA-quality video (640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second). On many other digital point-and-shoots, even those costing hundreds of dollars more, the internal memory is only big enough to store about half a minute of video. In other words, if you fill your card and want to keep shooting, you've got room to save a couple hundred photos, not just 10 or 20 like most other competitive cameras out there. This extra internal memory means you don't have to delete in the field. Just remove your card and keep shooting. In our opinion this feature adds a lot to the value of the L74 Wide.
But there is one drawback to this: it's easy to lose track of what you've shot on the internal memory. When you do get around to popping in a CF card, all the internally saved data goes walkabout. It's still in there, but you can't call it up, and it can cause panic.
We found this out after messing around with the camera's internal Tour Guide feature, which describes points of interest in tourist spots all over the world. A problem we encountered was that the feature would always launch but wouldn't consistently dive down to specific locations(e.g.Europe>France>Paris). This little quirk was driving us nuts until we realized that the data must be saved to the hidden-away internal memory. Then it all made sense.
The Tour Guide addition is an interesting development in the point-and-shoot class, but hopefully it's a bit more accurate in Korean than it is in English. That's not to say it isn't useful, but take the info with a grain of salt. For instance, Radio City Music Hall isn't an outdoor amphitheatre, and Saratoga Springs is not a major attraction in New York City but it is a major tourist spot in upstate New York (that'd be one heck of a subway ride!).
The L74 Wide has 12 scene modes, but not nearly as deep a stock of pre-sets as we've seen on many other compacts. This seems a bit of an oversight on a camera that's touted as a vacation camera! There are also "Fun effects" such as cartoon bubbles for making silly snaps wherever on earth you are -- but these work only in Program mode. On the playback side, the camera offers fun little "stickers" and frames that can be put atop images as well as hand-scrawled doodles.