Welcome to the eleventh in my series of quick compact 35mm camera reviews. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing a total of 12 of these articles as part of a 35mm compact camera mega test spanning cameras made from 1990 to 2003 – arguably the golden age of these pocketable beasts. You can find the full list of cameras being tested here.
I’ll be comparing image quality, durability, speed and overall performance for cameras ranging from the very high end of the 35mm compact camera world to the very low – or close to it. The final articles will cover my criteria and scoring in full. At over 12,000 words in total, it seems a sensible approach to break these mini-reviews out, rather than trying to cram everything onto a single page.
You can check out the reviews that have already been published over on this tag page.
An interesting aspect of the modern renaissance in film cameras is that everyone chases the same cameras. This causes the prices of well-known cameras to rise and rise, while equally good cameras languish as bargains. In this test, I wanted to include a cheap bargain you would probably not think of.
Everyone has heard of Samsung, right? But have you ever searched on eBay for a Samsung film camera? Of course not. Yet Samsung made quite a few models of film cameras. I found a guy selling NOS (new old stock) Samsung Vega 700 for the price of a cocktail in a fancy bar. This camera piqued my interest when I noticed it had a Schneider-Kreuznach lens.
The Vega 700 is a nicely compact camera that sports a 35-70 Schneider-Kreuznach zoom lens. The camera is reasonably well built. It is a 21st-century camera that has more modern features than some of the other cameras in this test. For example, it has a freaky Portrait Mode, where the camera will automatically zoom in on a person to fill the frame for a portrait. What the heck?! A robot camera!
In testing, I found the Vega 700 paused too long before taking the shot – just like other cheap zoom compacts. The delay varies, so you cannot even learn to account for it. It is worst at the long end of the zoom. If I zoom to 70mm to take a portrait, when I press the shutter button, nothing happens. My subject begins to feel self-conscious and looks away – and that is when the camera takes the shot.
Okay, this Samsung camera is never going to be nicknamed Speedy Gonzales, but if the Schneider-Kreuznach lens is sharp, this camera would be a good option for static subjects. Regrettably, I did not find the Schneider-Kreuznach lens to be any better than the Olympus Zoom lenses. I got a lot of photos that were in the right ballpark for sharpness but were certainly not hitting a home run. It is hard to say whether mediocre optical quality or low autofocus accuracy is the main culprit.
The Samsung Vega 700 is not bad, but not great. If you see one cheap, you could buy it for your kids to drop.
Share your knowledge, story or project
At the heart of EMULSIVE is the concept of helping promote the transfer of knowledge across the film photography community. You can support this goal by contributing your thoughts, work, experiences and ideas to inspire the hundreds of thousands of people who read these pages each month. Check out the submission guide here.
If you like what you're reading you can also help this personal passion project by heading on over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and giving as little as a dollar a month. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.