My previous favourite compact travel camera was the Panasonic Lumix LX3/LX5. It has a fast (F2.0) and wide (24mm) lens, shoots HD video, is a joy to handle, all with very good image quality.
It’s still a cult classic after more than 2 years, but I have one major gripe with it: it’s simply not pocketable. Some people claim the LX5 is pocketable, but that’s just nuts. And nuts are what the LX5 looks like when it’s in your pocket. Don’t be offended when friends ask if you’re just happy to see them. But I’ve found a near-perfect compromise…
Camera Size vs Quality
First, let me backtrack a little. I previously wrote a piece giving three important tips on finding the right travel camera. I also spoke religiously about the travel experience and how there’s no point burdening your travels for the sake of a photo. In other words, I suggested sticking with compact cameras that are unobtrusive and quick to use.
I still standby that, but I also must admit I have a new-found appreciation for great travel photography, which typically requires the power of a much bigger DSLR. Some of these photos truly transcend the concept of ‘travel photography’ to be genuine art. Not the type of contemporary abstract art that makes your brain hurt, but the type you can appreciate for its form over its subject.
However, despite my new appreciation, I’m leaving the haute travel photography to the pros for now. I just wanted to mention that and give Dave some credit for showing me the light (albeit arranged in a particular way).
The Samsung TL350 – Intro
Samsung just released the TL350 (aka WB2000) camera with loads of fanfare. But the fanfare was for its bigger brother, the TL500. The TL500 is a direct competitor to Panasonic’s legendary LX3/LX5.
The problem with both of these cameras (the TL500 and LX5) is that they’re not pocketable. Although Panasonic claims the LX3 is 27mm thick, it’s actually 50mm due to the articulated lens and lens cap.
The Samsung TL350 – Pros
So this is where the Samsung TL350 comes in. It’s only 22mm thick, but it also has a fast (F2.4) and wide (24mm) lens, longer zoom than the LX3 (5x optical), full HD video (1080p @ 30fps), a super-doooper AMOLED LCD screen, slow-motion (up to 1000fps), optical and digital image stabilization, full manual control, it can shoot images while taking video (okay, a novelty), and even save photos in RAW format.
The Samsung TL350 – Cons
In terms of image quality, I expect the LX5 and TL500 (with their faster lenses and larger sensors) to trump the TL350. But it’s a compromise we have to make when literally downsizing.
I would also have liked a GPS receiver and fold-away USB connector, but now we’re really talking novelties. This list would be much longer if we were talking about its big brother, the TL500, which doesn’t even shoot HD video (???).
The Samsung TL350 – Competition
The only other rival out there is a Panasonic camera that hasn’t been released yet: the FX700. It has a slightly faster lens (F2.2) and is mostly operated via a touchscreen (both a positive and negative). So why didn’t I wait? Well, it’s a few mm thicker, more expensive, and misses out on some interesting features (the high-res LCD, dual capture and slow-mo).
The Samsung TL350 – Price & Conclusion
What about price? The Samsung TL350 is only $299 on Amazon. The problem I had with buying this camera was convincing myself it could be the best compact travel camera for half the price of its competitors. Nonetheless, it’s now on its way and I’m really looking forward to capturing more great moments due to its pocketable size.
I’ll come back for a hands-on review and give you accurate measurements. Fingers-crossed it’s really only 22mm thick.