Here's the bottom line. Samsung TL 500 is the best pocket camera in the market at the moment. If you are thinking of getting the Canon S90, think again. It sucks donkey balls in comparison. Many people seem to be deciding between those two cameras. Samsung TL 500 feels like a really well made camera after using Canon S90 which feels like a cheap plastic toy. Buttons, finish, menu, usability and overall build quality is way better than Canon S90 or any point and shoot for that matter.
My previous digital pocket cam was a Canon S90. After it had been serviced two times for a shutter failure, I thought it was time to try another camera. I filed a complaint about it and got my money back which was enough to get the Samsung TL500. There weren't other interesting choices. Canon had very good image quality and exposures ware spot on every time (before the shutter failed). Build quality and feel however was a different matter.
I don't have experience on every camera on the market but I have had few to know what counts. Before the Canon S90 I had: Canon Digital Ixus V, Fujifilm F30, Ricoh GX100, Konica Minolta Dynax 5D, Konica Minolta Dimage Z3, Epson R-D1, Yashicamat 124G, Yashica Electro 35G, Voigtländer Bessa R, Voigtländer Bessa R3A, Leica M6 (twice), Leica CL, Kiev 60 (twice), Mamiya M645 1000S, Polaroid Land Camera, Polaroid 600 SE, Plaubel Makina 67, Minolta Dynax 9000, Lomo Fisheye, Canon EOS 5D (twice), Nikon D700, Leica M8. I mainly shoot with Leica M9 at the moment.
I want to get one 'issue' of my chest, the viewfinder. This camera doesn't have one and it shouldn't either. All of you guys wanting a good optical viewfinder in a compact pocket camera are just hell of a stupid. I had Canon Digital Ixus V back in the 2001. It had optical viewfinder and it sucked big time although it's still a relatively good camera. Viewfinders are just small pinholes on point and shoots. It's just physically impossible to have a big viewfinder in a small camera if you want it to fit in a pocket. If you want a good optical viewfinder in a camera get a DSLR or get over it.
The screen is simply excellent. I thought Canon S90 had a good screen but this is even better. I haven't found much use for the swiveling feature though. First I thought that will be a great feature but it's quite difficult to compose the shot if the screen is not level with the sensor. Maybe I should just use it more to get used to it.
Exposure compensation can be adjusted with right hand index finger with a roll control on the front of the camera. I like it a lot, it is intuitive and fast. Metering mode and other important controls are also easily accessible and I haven't had the need to read any instructions yet. Ricoh GX100 had good controls and usability but this is even better.
Samsung TL 500 has a nice feature in the Software that allows pictures to be edited in camera. All the smart filters and styles can be applied after the picture have been taken. Most post processing is best to be done on the computer but some basic stuff is nice to do in camera when relaxing on the sofa instead of sitting in front of the computer.
High ISO pictures are very nice up to ISO 800. ISO 1600 is usable and probably cleans up nicely with noise reduction in post processing. ISO 800 with that f/1.8 lens and image stabilization goes a long way though. Picture quality over all is very good in my opinion and I can imagine even making exhibition prints with this camera. ISO 1600 pictures converted to black and white show noise as fine grain which looks like a good black and white film.
Only thing I don't like with the Samsung is the separate lens cap. I think it should be integrated with the lens. Another thing I miss from some of my previous point and shoot cameras is the step zoom. It would be nice to be able to set focal length to classic values like 28mm, 35mm, 50mm etc. Ricoh GX100 and Canon S90 had that.
There's no 100% crops in this post but there are high ISO pictures and pictures with some of the smart filter modes like 'miniature' and 'vignetting', all taken in real world situations. I liked the vignetting mode so much that I shot most pictures with it. It reminds me of Lomo LC-A. All processing to the pictures below have been done by the camera. I only resized them to web. Feel free comment.
This picture has 'miniature' and 'vignetting' smart filters applied in camera.
Kitchen still life at ISO 800
More kitchen still life at ISO 800
I went to this parking garage just to shoot some high ISO as it was a bright day. This one was shot at ISO 800.