Samsung Maxima Elite 170QD
A 38 to 170mm Point And Shoot Zoom In A Coat Pocket Camera

Getting up close and personal with kids is a snap with the Samsung 170mm zoom. Here I didn't have to move an inch to get this close-up of Brynn. Both images were made using the fill flash to help get color and light onto this shady spot.
Photos © 2001, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

Point-and-shoot zoom ranges keep getting more impressive. Not long ago the 35-105mm was the king; now, with Samsung's Maxima Elite 170QD we have a 4.4x zoom that stretches out to a rather incredible 170mm. Of course, point-and-shoot cameras are not what you'd take with you when doing travel or stock assignments. But when casual shooting is the order of the day this camera does the job rather well. I found it especially useful for making candid portraits of young children. I had dabbled with digital point-and-shoots for such images but found that the time lag--the time between when I pressed the shutter and when the image was actually made--to be a recipe for missed shots. The young ones move so quickly that any lag means getting an image of a turned head rather than that cute but fleeting expression. The Samsung 170 also comes to the rescue with the zoom extended out full tilt. That way you can get the images you want to hold in memory without intruding on anyone's space. It's a natural candid camera.

Using Agfa's new Vista 800 color print film, I worked at a moderate wide setting for this group shot.

Specs Tell The Tale
That said, there's more to explore about the camera and the specs give you a good hint on how to get the most from it. The first is the aperture at different focal length settings. At 38mm it's f/4.7, a most respectable aperture. But at 170mm it closes down to a narrow f/13.5. Luckily for Samsung, and for us, there's a host of fine ISO 800 films now available that make the f/13.5 a bit easier to handle. The top shutter speed is 1/400 sec. So if you plan to use the full tilt zoom (and why get the camera unless you use the big range) stick to higher speed films. Although it automatically reads the DX of films in the ISO 50 to 3200 speed range, using an ISO 100 film in anything but bright light might make for some shaky images at the 170mm setting.

Of course there's a built-in flash, but again at the 170mm setting the range is about 7 ft; at the widest setting it's said to be 14 ft. This is extended with the higher speed films, so once again stick with them for indoor flash shots as well. There are numerous flash modes plus Bulb, which requires a tripod or other steadying device. You can Bulb as long as 60 sec, which should cover just about every contingency except astrophotography.

Big Zoom: The 38-170mm range is rather amazing for a lens/shutter camera. This performer was photographed from back in the crowd at 38mm and up close with the 170mm setting. The photographer stood in one spot.

Sharp Lens
The lens itself is a Samsung SHD with two aspherical elements. This, plus the passive AF system, makes for very sharp images. The camera also sports a panoramic option, which crops the 35mm frame into a long, narrow aspect ratio. Unlike Advanced Photo System cameras you can't change your mind after you set panoramic to get a full-framed image, as blinders do the cropping in-camera. One cool feature is that if the camera detects the subject to be between about 2 and 4 ft away it automatically sets the macro mode for you. If you're too close a fast blinking lights warns you that your image will be unsharp. If you decide to make the picture anyway you can't, as the shutter release locks until you back off.

Another helpful feature for picture quality is what Samsung dubs "Auto Flash Zoom Compensation." With AFZC the zoom will pull back automatically if it detects that the set focal length will yield an underexposed flash picture.

There are some other interesting quality modes. In the Snap mode the camera defaults to the 38mm focal length setting and will handle subjects in the approximately 5 to 20 ft range. You can shoot continuously by keeping pressure on the release button. In the Portrait/Zoom mode the camera will automatically zoom to the correct focal length to get what the makers consider the best positioning of the subject within the frame. In the Spot Shooting mode you are ensured that the subject within the spot shooting focus frame will be sharp. And when setting the Landscape mode the camera defaults to infinity focusing, thus allowing you to shoot through the car and bus window. (You might also consider pulling over and shooting normally by getting out of the car.) There's also Focus Lock for ensuring that once you set focus and keep the shutter button lightly depressed you can change framing.

There are two self-timer modes; one for the usual "get yourself in the picture" delay and a shorter, 2 sec delay. The short self-timer is a great feature for getting steadier shots. Even if you're using a tripod or have placed the camera on a steady surface when working with longer exposure times there's some chance of camera shake due to finger pressure on the release. The short delay removes any untoward influence of that pressure.

In short, Samsung has made the Maxima Elite 170QD as foolproof as possible for the casual snapshot shooter. Some of these features directly address the shortcomings inherent to all point-and-shoot cameras; others add some neat tricks to those willing to read the instruction book. But most of all, once you've gotten into having a jacket-pocketable camera with a 170mm zoom it's hard to go back to anything with less focal length coverage.

For more information, contact Samsung Camera at:

Technical Specifications
Camera Type: 35mm lens/shutter
DX Coding: ISO 50-3200
Handling: Fully automatic, loading, winding, rewind; mid roll rewind possible
Lens: Samsung SHD f/4.7-13.5, 38-170mm zoom
Shutter: Programmed, speeds 1/3-1/400 sec, with Bulb, 0.5-60 sec
Exposure: Program
Flash: Built-in
Range: Wide, 1.97-14.14 ft, tele, 2.95-6.89 ft
Shooting Modes: Portrait, Continuous, Landscape, Spot, Snap
Flash Modes: Fill in with redeye reduction, fill in, redeye, flash and bulb, flash off
Date And Caption: Five different formats; seven different captions
Panoramic Mode: Switchable
Size: 4.56x2.6x2"
Weight: 8.8 oz without battery
Price: Suggested retail, $469.99