The Bottom Line
With a 10X optical zoom lens, the Samsung PL210 is one of the more powerful ultra-thin cameras you'll find. Few thin cameras can match these telephoto capabilities.
I would like to see the PL210 have a slightly more consistent image quality, although the majority of its photos look great with sharp focus.
I found it difficult to post a final rating for the PL210, primarily because its price varies so much. My rating is based on the camera's MSRP of $199.99. However, if you shop around, you may find the PL210 for $150 or less ... and, at less than $150, I would give the PL210 a better star rating.
Outside of some slight exposure problems -- overexposing a few outdoor photos and underexposing a few indoor photos -- I thought the PL210 produced pretty good images in fully auto mode.
When shooting in good sunlight, the PL210's image quality is really good nearly all of the time. Indoor photos sometimes are a little dark in fully auto mode, and I found some outdoor photos had blown-out areas when an image had sunlight and shade in the same frame. However, you usually can fix these problems by working in manual mode.
The biggest image quality problem seems to be a slightly soft focus, primarily with indoor photos. You'll sometimes end up with sharp focus in the middle of the image, but the focus softens toward the edges. Again, this problem isn't constant, but it happens often enough to be noticeable.
With the PL210, you'll find the camera displaying a red bracket in the frame when the camera's autofocus isn't perfectly sharp. A green bracket means the focus is sharp. When shooting close-up photos, you'll have to move around a bit at times to make sure you have the sharpest focus. Don't bother trying to shoot a photo when you see the red bracket, as you'll encounter the soft focus problem.
You can choose from three aspect ratios, but only the 4:3 ratio has more than two shooting resolutions available. It would be nice if more resolution options were available at each aspect ratio.
I liked the quality of the flash photos shot with the PL210, which isn't always the case with the small built-in flash units on point and shoot cameras. However, you will notice some significant shot to shot delays when shooting with the flash, as the camera often requires a couple of seconds to recharge the flash.
The PL210's 3.0-inch LCD is a good quality screen, but Samsung included only three brightness settings with the LCD.
You won't find a mode dial with the PL210, but pressing the mode button will give you access to all of the camera's modes, including a "program" mode, which allows for setting some manual-control options.
The PL210 has some fun special effect options, including miniature, black and white, vintage style lens, half-tone dot, sketch, fisheye, and sepia. However, I felt like the image quality when using most of these effects was a little below average. In addition, the camera's shot to shot delays seemed really long when using the built-in special effects. The effects are fun to use, but if you want top-end performance, you'd be better served by adding these effects in an image-editing software package.
The movie mode with the PL210 is interesting. You can only shoot at a maximum 720p HD video, but you have quite a bit of manual control over the exposure, white balance, and frame rate of the movies. In addition, you can apply the PL210's special effect options to your movies, and you can use the camera's zoom while shooting a movie, although this will make the autofocus work a little slowly.
I thought the PL210 was a sharp-looking camera. It's extremely thin with silver trim, and it's available in navy blue or silver. The camera's button structure is easy to understand and use, and the four-way button is just the right size for easy use.
Samsung included plenty of help features with the PL210, and the camera displays descriptions of each feature as you select it.
The PL210 does have a couple of design features that I didn't like. First, you must charge the battery inside the camera. This isn't a big problem unless you want to charge one battery while you're using a second battery. Second, the PL210 only can use a microSD memory card, which you probably don't have laying around, meaning you'll have to purchase a new card.