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Review: Samsung Fascinate

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I always prefer having a dedicated hardware camera button so I can jump quickly into shooting mode, but even without this shortcut the Fascinate's camera operated quickly. It took about 2 seconds to launch the camera, and another 2 seconds in between shots. That's not bad for an Android phone. The camera has a ton of controls divided between a few different menus. By default, you can tap the screen to focus, then tap the onscreen camera button to take your picture.

The Fascinate has a shooting mode menu with a wide selection of modes. You get single shot and a panorama stitch assist mode. Panorama shots looked great until you zoom in close, where most of the stitched edges are still blurry and visibly broken. There's also a smile shot (which did not work on my smile), a vintage Lomo-esque mode, and a cartoon filter mode. A separate camera menu lets you choose macro focus mode, and I wish this were easier to switch. You can also adjust resolution, white balance and ISO, and some other color and exposure settings.

The Fascinate was difficult to use for self portraits. It could not find my face with face detection, it would not shoot automatically in smile mode, and my finger often missed its target with the touchscreen camera button when I couldn't see it.

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The gallery app on the Samsung Fascinate is similar to other recent Android phones, and it looks great. Photos first appear in small piles grouped by date or folder. Tap a pile to see a grid view. Tap again to see individual photos in a view you can pinch and zoom. There aren't many editing options. You can crop or rotate photos, but that's all. You can also share photos from the gallery easily. You can send pics via MMS message or email, transfer files using Bluetooth or upload images to Picasa. There aren't too many sharing options, but as you add apps and widgets to the phone, more should appear in this list.

Photos are one way this phone sells itself. Photos from the built-in camera look great on this screen, but if you like showing off photos from your computer or favorite online service, the Fascinate, with its huge Super AMOLED display, makes for a great digital photo wallet.


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