A high percentage of all digital photos are self-portraits taken at an arm's length, as somebody must have realized during a focus group. This results in a similarly high number of pictures featuring only disembodied arms, foreheads, and half-faces.
In the hopes of ending this unfortunate phenomenon, Samsung has introduced the TL220 and TL225 DualView models, the first cameras with LCD displays on both sides of the camera so that the narcissi...uh, self-portraitists among us can capture every pouty-face pose we've ever struck. The concept seems so obvious now that somebody has done it, and in retrospect, it's surprising that no manufacturers attempted anything like this before.
For a first try, Samsung executed the dual-LCD concept well. Teenage girls everywhere can sleep easy knowing that they can totally take flawless photos for their Facebook profiles with every click. That said, I'm lukewarm on the DualView as a whole. Several aspects are underwhelming or downright frustrating, which is a shame considering the price tag. Read on for more:
Note: I tested the TL225. This review can also apply to the TL220, which has a smaller rear LCD screen. Other than that, they're very similar.
Mirror, Mirror, On The Camera
Samsung markets the front LCD as a slick, multi-functional feature, but it's really just a mirror—an electronic mirror that takes all the guesswork and geometry out of self-portraiture, but still a fancy mirror. That said, it's a great idea and it works well. Just tap the front screen, make sure you and your friends' faces are in the frame, and click. It's that simple. Every now and then, I ran into problems activating the front screen by touch so I had to flip it around and turn it on with a menu command on the rear screen, but this was uncommon. For the most part, this feature was a charm to use and my mug was squarely in the center of every arms-length shot I took.
As for the other front-screen features, I could take them or leave them. Well, I'd probably leave them. Children's Mode displays a little cartoon on the front LCD, presumably so that shy little kids giggle for the camera. I don't spend much time around kids, so I can't say if this works, but I don't think I'd be impressed if I was still in diapers.
Designers also included a numbered countdown that appears during Timer Mode. That's a good use of the screen, but like any other camera with a timer, the TL225 also has an LED that flickers for a few seconds before the camera snaps a picture—the same few seconds that the countdown flashes. It's just redundant.
Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh, because for the most part, the front screen is a nice touch and a charm to use. I can imagine a bright future for this feature, especially if they find some other useful functions for it.
Cold To The Touch
To complement the flashy, forward-thinking, front LCD, the TL225 features a flashy, forward-thinking, 3.5-inch rear touchscreen LCD. All the menu and manual adjustments are controlled through the screen and the body has just four physical buttons for the shutter, playback mode, zoom, and power. It even has a haptic (shake) response to any input.
It's a sexy design for sure, but some downsides become apparent after the "wow" factor wears off. Too often when I tried to take a self-portrait, my fingers inadvertently brushed against the rear screen and activated some feature or menu command while I was posing. It took a conscious effort to keep my chubby digits clear of the display, and it must have looked I was hand model holding it up for a press photo. Annoying, to say the least.
When I actually meant to use the touchscreen, it mostly worked fine, though I still managed to trigger the wrong menu more often than I would have liked. I ran into a similar problem with a touchscreen camcorder I reviewed recently, so I'm not sold on the concept just yet. Touchscreens are the wave of the future for most personal gadgets, I suppose, but for now, I still feel more comfortable with actual physical buttons on cameras.
Flashy Exterior, Average Interior
Images are pretty good as long as you remember that the $350 price tag is an early adopter fee for the design rather than the lens. That said, the photos came out fairly well for a point-and-shoot. There are enough manual controls to find at least a decent setting in tough conditions, while the preset scene modes are effective as well.
A few other neat options are built in as well, including a mode that snaps three consecutive pictures with slightly different exposure and aperture settings. This came in handy in some odd lighting conditions where I wasn't sure what setting to choose—I could just pick the best-looking photo of the three.
Video mode is par for the compact-cam course; nothing much to celebrate here, though it does shoot in 720p HD and supports the front LCD.
In general, Samsung make great products, but they're still new to the digital camera marketplace. With the DualView cameras, they're doing what a nascent brand should do: make something that stands out from the pack. It's a novel and mostly well-executed concept. But it needs some polishing before I can recommend that you drop this much money on a camera with such average image quality.