CompactFlash Card Type I • CompactFlash Card Type II
Fine • SuperFine • Normal • Uncompressed
JPEG • TIFF • Raw Image • EXIF 2.2 • DPOF 1.1
File Size (High Res.)
4.27 MB (30 images on 128MB card)
File Size (Low Res.)
0.12 MB (about 1,067 images on 128MB card)
Auto • 50 • 100 • 200 • 400 • 800
Flash Off • Auto Flash • Fill-in Flash • Red-eye Reduction Flash • Slow Sync
With LCD Panel
LCD Panel Size
LCD Screen Resolution
LCD Protected Position
Without LCD Protected Position
2 Sec. • 10 Sec.
With Built-in Microphone
With Built-in Speaker
With Tripod Mount
Apple Mac OS X • Microsoft Windows 2000 • Microsoft Windows 98 • Microsoft Windows 98SE • Microsoft Windows ME • Microsoft Windows XP
The Pro 815 enables you to handle any shooting condition and situation. It has the world's best 15x optical zoom, the world's largest 3.5 inch LCD, the world's first top LCD, and a Li-Ion battery with the world's largest capacity.
The full-sized Samsung 815 Pro is an 8-megapixel Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) digital camera with a 15x Schneider 28-420 mm (35mm equivalent) optical zoom lens and large 3.5-inch LCD rear-panel display. The camera is heavy and solidly constructed. It has a highly sophisticated, multi-faceted control system, which takes time to learn. The camera offers real-time visual feedback modes for exposure, focus, and white balance bracketing.
Introduction The Pro 815 is the first Samsung digital camera I've had the chance to use, and I'm frankly amazed at what this baby can do. I carried it around in my briefcase and tried it in distinctly different settings. I took it to restaurants, medical conventions, and even to some Porsche Club of America motoring events. The big rear LCD and super-zoom lens was a blast to use, but I had to study the manual carefully and use it for over two months before I could really take full advantage of the features. Overall, I like this camera very much, even though its weaknesses required me to develop a few workarounds.
Samsung Pro815 Features
The Pro815 stands alone as the only compact digital camera with a fast (f/2.2-f/4.6), ultra-zoom Schneider-Kreuznach Varioplan Zoom 7.2-108 mm (28-420mm 35 mm equivalent) zoom lens. The 15x optical zoom lens employs four low-dispersion lenses plus two aspherical lenses to control chromatic, spherical, and lateral shift aberrations. The lack of image stabilization means that for the sharpest pictures, a tripod helps, as it would with most 400mm telephoto lenses.
Most apparent when you first use the Pro815 is the huge 3.5-inch LCD rear panel monitor, with its rich array of visual control readouts. There are many viewing modes, including the plain screen, plain screen with grid lines, and an information screen that compares a small thumbnail of the previous shot with a real-time thumbnail. Wait, there's more -- hidden deep under the drive menu are auto bracketing functions for white balance, focus, and exposure that superimpose two small picture-inside-the-picture (PIP) frames over the main image on the rear screen. These illustrate the alternative settings for focus, white balance, and exposure in real time. No other camera I've used has this unique display. The menus are large and easily read. Even though the LCD doesn't swivel or tilt, it's possible to switch on a tiny 1.25-inch viewing screen on top of the camera if you have to use the camera at an odd angle.
Although auto focus does deliver sharp images, manual focus requires patience because Samsung's Transmissive Micro Reflective LCD screen technology does not produce a needle sharp image. The main LCD screen also displays digital noise, even when the images are free of it. I preferred to use the camera's electronic viewfinder (EVF) with its diopter adjustments. Being farsighted, I find it hard to focus on LCD screens without my glasses, even at arm's length. Although the EVF has good resolution at 230,000 pixels and redraws quickly, the display can be just as blurry and noisy as the main LCD under some shooting conditions.
The Pro815 FX9 offers just about every feature I've found on other digital cameras, so discussing them all would take up most of this article. The main exposure modes are AUTO (completely automatic), Program (automatic except for size, quality, ISO and many others), aperture priority, shutter priority, movie clip, scene, which gives access to the camera's 12 scene modes. I mostly used the Program and manual mode. I frequently adjusted the exposure compensation to fine-tune my photos.
Samsung Pro815 Design
The first thing you notice about the Samsung Pro815 is the large, imposing, black anodized body. One of the main reasons for the large body is "the world's largest rear panel LCD screen." The Pro815's large size gave it a solid feeling that most EVF cameras don't have. The Pro815 weighs more and is larger than my Canon EOS 5D digital SLR with a standard lens mounted. And it can be just as tiring to lug around during outdoor events as a fult-tilt pro DSLR. However, having the fast f/2.2 lens for low light pictures, and a 420mm equivalent telephoto makes the weight worthwhile.
The Pro815 has a staggering range of control functions that provide great creative control over all elements of picture taking. It clearly rivals my best pro DSLR, the Canon EOS 1D Mark II, in the complexity of menus and training needed to get the best out of the camera. The Pro815's auto-bracketing real-time PIP (picture-inside-the-picture) functions for color balance and exposure are very cool design elements. However, having to press two buttons simultaneously makes this feature fussy and hard to access. Even with the full technological wizardry this camera possesses, I miss image stabilization, clearly marked control labeling, a histogram in picture review mode, and a sharp viewfinder / LCD. Perhaps Samsung will offer these missing features on future models of the Pro815.
Samsung Pro815 detailed display during capture, with histogram on
Samsung Pro815 detailed playback mode display
Samsung Pro815 Main mode menu, with Quality mode selected
Samsung Pro815 Playback menu, with Slide Show mode selected
Camera Experience I got a kick out of using the Samsung Pro-815 digital camera. Once I read the manual and learned the multi-step control sequences I could take advantage of the PIP modes, unique to this camera. It's built like a Sherman tank so I didn't worry about throwing it over my shoulder using the neck strap. The Pro815 traveled with me more than pro cameras of the same size and weight, and that meant I took more pictures. The camera's fast lens and huge zoom range meant I could quickly take wide angle, medium telephotos, and long shots without having to switch lenses. I found it best to use a tripod for extremes - close macro or distant telephoto - in order to avoid blurry pictures.
The big rear panel display worked in lighting situations where other digital camera LCDs would have been impossible to see. The LCD display options include a grid, full display of technical settings, or even the previous picture and real-time image side by side. The Pro 815's big LCD and many display options make it a real pleasure to use when composing photos.
The Samsung Pro815 proved to be a very good camera for sports action work, but I had to learn a bunch of tricks to get sharply focused shots. The camera's default single shot mode has a capture rate of one frame-per-second. When the lens is zoomed to its full 420mm (35mm equivalent), the aperture decreases to a relatively slow f/4.6, and the auto focus takes longer to lock onto the target. It took up to 6 seconds for the shutter to release when tracking a racecar at full speed. Turning off the "quick view" ("quick view" displays the image taken immediately after every shot) and using the "high processing speed" mode helped only slightly. Switching the camera to "Continuous" drive or "Ultraspeed" continuous drive didn't help either, because the camera's viewfinder functions would go black while the camera was shooting. This generated lots of pictures of the grassy areas near the track instead of the cars on the racetrack! Because of these quirks, I panned in single shot mode with the shutter button fully depressed, to capture the racecars whizzing by.
While it has a great many features, the Pro815's physical controls are faintly labeled so I had trouble reading them except in bright sunlight. Additionally, the manual is poorly organized and has no index, so I had to read it from cover to cover to find detailed descriptions and instructions for some of its more complex features. A number of functions -- exposure compensation and auto-bracketing -- would only work if two different control buttons were pressed exactly at the same time. Because these two button functions are not labeled, they are easily forgotten. For example, exposure compensation requires that one press the rear panel AE lock button while simultaneously rotating the unlabeled lens ring closest to the user. Unlike many compact digital cameras there is no single button that brings up all the main control settings - ISO, WB, and exposure compensation -- on one menu screen. These had to be set using the Pro815's top Mode Dial or by pressing buttons on the top panel LCD. These factors - faintly labeled controls, two-step function buttons, many features, and non-intuitive menu structure - made for a long learning curve.
Photos I took with the Pro815 at low ISO settings of 50 and 100 were contrasty and super sharp. Even at a noisy 400 ISO I could read all the lettering on the side of McNish's Audi R8 prototype race car (see racetrack image, below) and even make out the Michelin name on the rapidly rotating tires! Under most conditions, Pro815 images exhibit great sharpness and good color saturation (see picture of stands at Watkins Glen below). Usually, I am more concerned with image composition, color, and focus than noise. But noise is obvious at ISO settings higher than 200.
ISO 50 (left) vs. ISO 400 (right) noise comparison: click to compare.
The Samsung Pro815's image quality depends, to some extent, on the photographer's ability to make the most of its strengths. Bright, colorful, stationary subjects in the sun, like Chevrolet truck in the flowers at Lime Rock Park, will get you keepers almost every time (see picture of LeMans Chevrolet below). But photos that are made in low light, with high ISO settings, and the "High Processing" shutter mode will be definitely be noisy. (see Porsche GT-3 tech inspection photo, below).
The Pro815 offers direct control of image sharpness, saturation, and contrast, as well as the 12 scene modes. I left sharpness, saturation, and contrast at the camera's default settings. I shot most photos as JPEGs but also tested the RAW mode, which produces DNG RAW files, a RAW format developed by Adobe. Photos taken in the RAW mode are especially sharp and contrasty, and can be read by Photoshop CS2 as well as Samsung's excellent Digimax software, which comes packaged with the Pro815.
Click on thumbnails to see photos.
Click on thumbnails to see photos.
Conclusion Once I mastered it, I was able to give the Samsung Pro815 a hearty thumbs-up. I love the big, sharp, telephoto zoom lens and the huge rear-panel LCD. The Pro815 provides many of the tools I require in an all-in-one, super-zoom digital camera: easy exposure compensation access, a live histogram, quick playback access, and reasonably quick start-up response. The things it's missing - optical image stabilization, noise-free performance, histogram for picture review, quick auto focus response, and minimal shutter lag - bother me, but aren't necessarily deal-killers for a sub-$1000 digital camera. Once I developed workarounds for the Pro815's missing features and quirks, I was able to use the big telephoto to for action shots, candid portraits (See picture of Noah and daughter above) and macro photos (See Campagnolo bicycle gears image, above).
Who Should Buy The Samsung Pro815 The Samsung Pro815 digital camera is for the amateur or advanced amateur photographer who enjoys using electronic viewfinder focusing for action shots, macro shots, portraits, and landscapes who want a all-in-one multifunction camera under $1,000.
Strengths: Very natural photos
Fantastic big lens rivalling the best lens in my memory (e.g. Nikon micro's)
Weaknesses: No IS (as everyone has noticed), so long shots require a stable foundation
Slow focus at long end; generally slow focus anyway compared to something like the Fuji S9500--now if Fuji could just build a lens like this one)
I agree with the review posted here (rather less with the one on DPreveiw). I simply wish to point out something that no one has said:
the Pro815 has a WIRELESS remote (infra-red, so need to operate in line of sight in front of the camera)
who else has a wireless remote? Olympus for some models
the just announced Pentax K100 has a short wired remote, better than nothing, but pretty stupid in the wireless age
why is it important? I had an advertising shoot in an office involving photographing both facilities and personnel; the wireless remote made it easy to distract people and obtain candid shots
I completely agree that you MUST use custom white balance indoors (but it is easy to use simply a piece of clean white paper).
I agree that often you will want to use ISO50, meaning a tripod unless it's bright sun.