Undoubtedly the highlight of the Samsung W880 AMOLED 12, is its 12 MP cameara with a maximum image resolution of 4000 x 3000 pixels. Just like on the Pixon12, there is both a xenon and a LED flash on board. That way you can rely on both the extra light burst in the dark and the video light functionality that's only possible with a LED unit.
The thing that gives the Samsung W880 a definite edge over the Pixon12 however is the 3x optical zoom lens. The zoom capabilities and the versatility that they provide have been one of the mainstay of the dedicated digicams against cameraphones. The other has of course been the image quality and video recording but with recent 12 megapixel cameraphones, and HD video capable Samsung W880 AMOLED 12M in particular, we can see the gap closing really, really fast.
The other hip hardware feature that takes the Samsung AMOLED 12M one step closer to point-and-shoot cameras is the variable aperture functionality. It's only the third handset that we see with that feature and unlike the other two - the Nokia N86 8MP and the Pixon12 it also offers manual control over it.
For those of you unfamiliar with photography, the variable aperture allows the camera to choose between increased light throughput and better sharpness throughout the photo. Photos at smaller apertures (indicated by a larger F-stop value) should generally be sharper. Going for larger apertures allows more light to get in and thus faster shutter speeds and lower ISO settings, reducing camera-shake-induced blur and excessive noise.
We are also pretty certain that the Samsung W880 has some kind of hardware image stabilization, despite that the company didn't say a word about it in the press release. The videos captured with the handset are way more stable than usual with the frame to frame jitter almost completely eliminated.
But certainly one of the best parts about the Samsung W880 hardware is the motion dial mounted at its top right corner (when held horizontally). This type of control has been around for ages but is only now making its cameraphone debut. And we are certainly really glad to see it as it's the easiest way and most natural way of toggling between the available camera modes.
User interface and features
If you thought that it all ends with the great hardware you are most certainly wrong. The Samsung W880 is pretty well geared when it comes to software too.
The camera user interface layout is about the same as on the original Samsung Pixon12. Nicely touch optimized as it was, the menus are now even more convenient, thanks to the different modes of the camera available on the Samsung AMOLED 12M. You now have the most relevant options for each mode only a click away on the two bars at the sides of the phone. And the interface was doing pretty well in terms of speed even on our pre-release unit.
Another first for the Samsung W880 is the full manual mode, which gives you control over the shutter speed and the aperture priority at the same time. Considering however that there aren't too many photography enthusiasts who use cameraphones we doubt it will be used too often.
The Smart Auto mode on the other hand seems like the mode that's going to be used the most. When it is turned on the handset picks the best scene preset according to the shooting conditions. Compared to the regular Auto mode the Smart Auto gives the phone control over many more of the phone settings such as contrast, color balance, saturation, etc. thus tweaking the output (hopefully in the right direction) to a far greater extent.
Finally, the Samsung W880 AMOLED 12 is sporting tracking touch focus, just like the Pixon12. All you need to do is hold your finger over the subject you want to focus on and watch as the crosshairs follows it on the viewfinder. Once you press the shutter key, it will focus on it and proceed to capture the actual shot.
Here is a short video we took, demonstrating the camera user interface of the Samsung W880 AMOLED 12M.
The image quality is of course the most crucial part about the 3x optical zoom equipped Samsung W880. The problem is that all zoom-equipped handsets so far have been more or less a failure in the sense that image quality degrades noticeably at the furthest (tele) end of the zoom range.
The Nokia N93 was so bad that it was almost pointless and while Samsung G800 and G810 were a nice step in the right direction they were still not quite there yet. That's why we were extremely happy to see that the Samsung W880 AMOLED 12M has perfect optics with the image quality remaining the same throughout the zoom range.
As you will see from the photos posted below, with the Samsung W880 there isn't almost any difference in captured resolution between the two ends of the zoom range.
The general image quality is also excellent, although we have to admit that the amount of fine detail captured was slightly lower than that of the Pixon12, or at least in our pre-release unit. All the other components were already nicely tuned with the photos having low noise levels, good contrast and pleasant colors. There are no visible image defects like over-sharpening or compression artifacts either.
But let's cut to the chase and give you some photos taken with the Samsung W880 12MP camera so you can see for yourselves how good it actually is.