When you think about camera lenses, "zoom" is probably the first word that comes to mind. Lots of camera manufacturers focus on giving their cameras the longest zoom lenses available, but while 5x, 10x, and 12x lenses are all handy for getting up close to far-away targets, they're not so good for wide shots. Typically, these high-zoom lenses have wide angles equivalent to 35 or 38 millimeters, which is relatively narrow for taking shots of groups, landscapes, or buildings. The 7-megapixel Samsung L74 Wide's lens is designed for framing the big picture.
As its name implies, the L74 Wide specializes in taking wide-angle shots. Its 3.6x zoom lens starts at a 28mm-equivalent angle of view, letting you fit more into your shot, which tends to be much more useful in everyday situations. For example, a 28mm-equivalent lens can get more people into a group photo, or frame a tall building without forcing you to step back as far as you would with a 35 or 38mm-equivalent lens. In an attempt to help keep your shots steady, the L74 Wide includes Samsung's Advanced Shake Reduction, an electronic image stabilization system that boosts ISO sensitivity and speeds up the shutter for high-speed and zoomed-in shots.
The solid-feeling L74 Wide is actually rather slim, measuring less than an inch thick. Its metal body is a nick magnet, though; the black surface seemed to pick up scratches at the slightest tap. The camera itself feels quite durable, but you won't keep it in pristine shape for long. A 3-inch touch screen LCD takes up the entirety of the camera's back. It serves as the camera's primary control interface, supplemented only by two buttons and the zoom rocker. Every setting, from flash to white balance, must be changed through the touch screen menus. As with most touch screen interfaces, navigating with the L74 Wide's screen feels awkward and unresponsive, and repeated taps are often necessary to access the right function.
For jet-setting photographers, the L74 Wide offers a unique feature, a useful little on-camera guidebook called the World Tour Guide. While it contains information for countries and cities all over the world, it's far from comprehensive; it mostly lists landmarks and places to visit, with a small snapshot and a short text blurb to go with each place. Unfortunately, the details are pretty sparse; descriptions of landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Bronx Zoo don't even list their addresses, never mind helpful details such as hours and events. You also have to navigate the guide entirely through the touch screen, a frustrating feat for full-fingered users. Worse yet, you have to download the various guidebooks from Samsung's World Tour Guide site and install them on the camera yourself. Only install the guides to the countries you plan to visit, though; the World Tour Guide can eat up a significant chunk of the L74 Wide's 450MB internal storage, and you can't install it on a memory card.
With a lagging shutter and long shot-to-shot time, the L74 Wide's performance seriously disappoints. The camera takes an arduous 4.4 seconds to start up and capture its first image, and can only fire off a single shot every 2.8 seconds after that. With the onboard flash enabled, that shot-to-shot wait balloons into 4.2 seconds. The shutter lagged a painful 0.9 second with our high-contrast subject and an otherwise respectable 1.1 seconds with our low-contrast target. Burst mode shot quickly enough, snapping nine photos in 6.4 seconds for a rate of 1.4 frames per second.