Go Go Budget Digitals No 6 -Samsung S860

Samsung launched this P&S in 2007 alongside it’s near identical but lower MP brother the S760. At the time Samsung was the world’s 4th largest camera maker behind just behind Kodak and ahead of Sony. The Samsung S860 was one of their more budget options but worthy of a sniff today.

House of Frasers
B&W setting. Samsung S860 6.3mm f/2.8 1/90 100ISO. Carlisle 2023

Samsung no longer make cameras except for those in their phones and a few smart home monitor cams. It is now the world’s largest smartphone maker but for many years until 2017 it had been a serious player in standalone digitals. Likely the company saw the rise in it’s phone and fall in camera sales and pulled the plug

In those years it produced some legends like the NX series CSC cameras. But whilst this is not one of those legends it is a fairly competent cheap P&S from the late-mid Noughties.

This decidedly budget number costa suggested retail price of US$179 back at launch but mines came for a quid just as the Gen Z digicam boom started. The now sell for between £10-50

Design and Build

Samsung S860 with lens extended
Samsung S860 with lens extended

It looks like most cameras of it’s era. Nice enough styled in silver plastic with chrome and brushed metal effect highlights. You could eaily swap the name badge for Canon or Nikon and be none the wiser.

It’s about the same dimensions as pack of playing cards, just a bit deeper. that likely is due to the fact it uses 2xAA batteries which is handy as no expensive and hard to find rechargeable Li-ion number. It is quite happy with Ni-Cads

It has atypical layout spartan top plate with a mode dial, On/Off and shutter button

Samsung S860 top plate
Samsung S860 top plate

On the Rear you have the usual joypad cluster of controls and zoom toggle. There is notably a dedicated face detect system button (one of the camera’s 2 USP) and a E button which generally accesses a filter mode (B&W, sepia etc)

Samsung S860 rear controls
Samsung S860 rear controls (LCD hard to see in bright light). Most controls are the usual but note the Face detect and E button described above.

Under the hood of the Samsung S860

Again we have a run of the mill set up for 2007

Sensor & AF

A small but typical 1/2.5″ CCD sensor with a maximal MP count of 8.3MP. This has a actual maximal output of 3264×2448 pixels. this is just under 8MP but Samsung claim 8.1MP (this is not uncommon for this era)

The camera offers wide area centre or 9 point AF. Both TTL. Face detection is optional optional on some modes. You get a basic mode and a guide mode. The latter is handy for selfies. when activated when it detects your face it makes a noise. Both modes work okay

The camera also has a dedicated digital image stabilisation mode(DIS). This is used to in lower light (below fluorescent lighting levels) and uses image processing to compensate (i.e. more noise). Images are captured as .jpeg only. The manual suggest up to 58 images at max resolution + ultra fine setting on a 256MB card so file size between 4-5MB.


Given spec is 6.3-18.9mm 1:2.8-5.2 (equivalent to 38-114mm). It is multicoated but no details of construction given. Focus range is usually 80cm to infinity but can go down to 10cm in macro mode at wide (50cm tele)

This gives you an idea of the optical zoom range. Image on the left 6.3mm and on right 18.9mm

The zoom end is not bad for a compact at short and median distances as this pixel crop shows

Close crop of the 18.9mm image above


There is options for both multi (evaluative/matrix) point and spot met metering. In addition the face detect mode has its own metering. This ties win with a program AE system which auto adjusts the shutter, aperture and ISO in most modes.

Shutter speeds go from 1-1/1000 secs in most modes (down to 8sec in night-time mode). No details re aperture are given but I’ve seen the wide end shoot either at f/2.3 or f/8.4 suggesting there is a single Waterhouse stop that slides in. ISO goes from 80-1000 ISO in steps from 100 up. Usually in Auto mode things limit between 80-200 ISO

Screen, Power, Storage & Flash

Rear LCD of Samsung S860
Rear LCD of Samsung S860. Taken indoors. The display is set to most details. From 1 o’clock we have images remaining, battery, resolution (8M), image quality (superfine) metering (multi) time, flash (off) and the fact we’re in image stabilisation mode (OIS)

There is a 2.4″ LCD display (230K pixels) screen on rear. |It can be hard to see in bright light but you can just make out targets. It has the typical display so the example above on right it shows images left, battery, MP count, image fineness (ultra), metering mode (multi). The example has single large AF point. The camera in some mode has a helpful on screen description.

Power is by 2xAA as mentioned. The camera uses SDHC & SD cards. On the side, by the strap loop point, there is a covered ports – one proprietary one is for USB/AV and the other for DC power supply)

Flash range is suggested for Wide : 0.3m ~ 4.0m & Tele : 0.5m ~ 2.1m. Recharging Time in the manual is Approx. 5.5 sec. You have the usual choices (mode dependant) of auto, auto red eye, fill-in/force on, off and slow sync.

There is a standard tripod point and it has an electronic timer

Sus 3
Samsung S860 6.3mm f/8.4 1/250 ISO 80 . Dumfries 2022. Click on image for original


Pretty average for the class VGA capture (640×480) but at a reasonable 30fps. The record time is limited by your media, I left mines recording for over 30 minutes. Files are save as .AVI

Zoom, exposure and camera adjusting focus all seem to work although bar zoom all you can do is start, pause and stop recording. While you zoom, the camera mutes the mic for some reason.

St Cuthbert's Lane III
B&W mode shot on Samsung S860. Taken Carlisle 2023. Click on image for full size


The Mode dial gives you access to

  • Auto – default mode
  • Program – more user control options than auto
  • Manual – allows you to set aperture and shutter (see below)
  • DIS – image stabilisation mode
  • Help mode – on screen FAQs
  • Portrait Mode
  • Scenic mode (see below)

In addition you can swap into macro mode in several modes using the joypad.

Samsung S860. 6.3mm f/2.8 1/350 80 ISO. Oct 2022. Click on image for full size

Manual mode is a nice finding but it is fiddly. You hit the Fn (function button) to select between the 2 apertures and adjust shutter speed via joypad. It doesn’t show you any metering info until you half depress the shutter when the EV comp bar appears showing you how far out you are. You then need to hit Fn again to adjust and then repeat.

Scenic mode has the other usual suspects – Nightscene (non flash), beach/snow, backlight, close up (weird as you can access from joypad), fireworks and landscape. There are dedicated modes for both sunset and dawn and there is a children modfe which is really a sports mode (for catching fast moving subjects).


Rear of Samsung S860 with Fn button in use
Display shown Fn button options in program mode. Here I’m altering the sharpness

Hitting the Fn key in most modes allows you to adjust resolution, compression/fineness and metering (in some modes). In modes like program you can set also sharpness, White balance, ISO and EV compensation. White balance allows for a user setting as well as AWB and several presets.

There are the other menu options you’d expect such as set date and time, format etc. In playback you have crop and adjust options. there is an option to switch between Alkaline and Ni-MH which I only spotted late on (not critical). Be also aware the menu toggles on/off date stamping

The Lanes I
You can go all whacky with colour choices but you’ll end up using the B&W or sepia the most. The Lanes, Carlisle, 2023. 6.3mm f/2.8 1/60 100 ISO

The E button as stated earlier acts like a colour filter. You get logical choices like B&W, Sepia and negative as well as a user defined choice. But you also get a set of primary colour casts


Broadly as you’d expect. In program mode with flash off you can go to shoot within 2-3 seconds for start up. Lag whilst present is minimal. If you have the flash set to auto or auto red eye it will lock you taking the shot until it’s charged.

It works broadly ergonomically. I’d prefer a collar toggle for the zoom but this is fine. You will need to use the menu or Fn button to change any setting other than flash, timer, macro and display mode. Having the E button at least let you switch to monochrome easily.

The camera has some form of internal power allowing you swap batteries without loosing settings

Results with the Samsung S860

Exposure & ISO

The camera does okay in most circumstances. It has the usual foibles of a compact of it’s era but broadly works okay

Digger Redux. Samsung S860. 2022
Samsung S860, ( 6.3mm f/8.4 1/125 ISO80) September 2022. Click on image for original on Flickr

In terms of ISO the 1000 ISO top speed is a double edged sword. Yes you get more low light capability but at a price of image quality. I shot series of the same image shown below (the example is the 80ISO)

ISO 80 test image
80 ISO test image (6.3mm f/2.8 1/60). Click on image for full size.

If you take the central area and shoot across the speeds you see fall off noticeable from 400 ISO up. 100 isn’t bad but a lot of noise at 800 ISO and the extra half stop is not worth it to 1000ISO.

ISO comparison images taken on Samsung S860
Best Seen on Flickr as full sized image noise increases from L to R from 80, 200, 400, 800 & 1000 ISO. Minimal difference between 80 & 100 (not pictured) and 200 ISO. Obvious at 400 ISO but tolerable but downhill after that. See below or click on image for full size.
ISO 200 v 1000 comparison images taken on Samsung S860
200 ISO (l) v 1000 ISO (r). 200 ISO is pretty reasonable and the fastest speed before changes become noticeable. 1000 shows much more noise but for web use is tolerable. Colour definition much worse. Click on image for bigger version

Of Course this is an issue for what you use the images for. The above close crop @1000 ISO is still useable for non large web images.

Dynamic range is okay for a camera of this era (aka not brilliant but not totally awful). For example there is some detail in the shadows in the image below but the buildings are a little washed out in distance. It’s better than quite a few I’ve seen from this era

Dynamic range test shot
Samsung S860 6.3mm f/2.8 1/500 ISO 80 , 2024. Click on image for original on Flickr

Low Light & Flash

Now the image stabilisation only works below a certain light level. It helps with dusk shots

Low Light test
9.9mm f/3.4 1/60 100ISO

But it really can’t hold for very lo-light work. I tried capturing handheld a Fair over the river. My shake is reduced but the camera is upping the ISO here as well hence the the red lifebuoy box is soft by vaguely okay, but the lights of the fair just go to mush

Compared to a modern midrange phone, it’s frankly pitiful. Bellow is a shot taken on a 2018 released Pixel 6. Granted it’s kicking in with HDR and the like but,…

This Google Pixel 6 shot is 768 ISO with a wide f/1.85 aperture which allows it to snap at1/33 here. HDR and image stabilisation help of course

Flash images are fine. there is some exposure control here. The range is your limitation

Flash sample shot taken on Samsung S860
Example flash shot taken on the S860. Click on image for full size

Colour Balance & Range

Broadly this did okay under most light sources There was slight cool bias on this test chart shot taken in subdued natural light compared to my phone

Image on left S860 on right Pixel 8


Broadly the day time images are quite good. There is little fall off on long shots on both wide and tele although perhaps far tele shots suffer more

Glasgow Style
S860 6.3mm f/8.4 1/250 ISO 80. Dumfries 2022

Take the above image of Burn’s Statue looks okay at full page and print size

But zoom in and you see artefacts

Zoom shots are okay but detial is more noticablely lost.

Close up shot at full zoom looks okay close (18.9mm f/5.2 1/60 ISO 200). 2022
crop in and things are worse than wide. It’s not just on this shot with less than optimal conditions

Macro shots were generally okay

Macro test Shot II
A not untypical Macro mode image. Good detail
6.3mm f/8.4 1/250 ISO 80. 2024

Distortion & Aberrations

I was rapidly obvious there was some radial distortion going on on wide shots. It looks like barrel but there are hints of very subtle moustache distortion

wide is much less effected with a tiny mount of pincushion

And compared to…

Our last Go Go Budget digital was the 6MP Casio QV-R61 from 2004. And bar flaky battery support it’s overall are more enjoyable camera with that bit sharper images. It has a similar X3 zoom but importantly a larger 1/1.8″ sensor. It too uses AA batteries although is somewhat temperamental over what it will work with and you get a optical finder to boot.

Casio QV-R61
Casio QV-R61

However Video is very basic (320×240) and it lacks a command mode. Although you have 23 best shot modes alongside the default auto with some quirk settings.

It was trumped by the 2005 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2 in useability with a more friendly modes, bigger zoom and optical stabilisation. That in turn suffered with a weak tele end and smaller sensor

Final Thoughts on the Samsung S860

In brief

What’s good with the Samsung S860

  • SDHC support
  • Competent at both ends
  • Video mode actual okay for era
  • Some manual control
  • AA batteries

What’s not so good

  • Image quality okay but not great
  • Marked barrel distortion at wide end
  • 1000 ISO feature not great
  • small sensor

This is an alright camera for it’s time and class. It wont win awards and wont please an enthusiast. But for a cheap daytime snapper you could do worse. It has optical IS (admittedly limited) and some other quirky features. It produces okay to good images

Just forget if the lights go down. And that 1000ISO headline is not worth the fuss. It’s also outclassed by older cameras with bigger sensors

So Alright for what it is is the TL:dr

Other Info on the Samsung S860

There are no other reviews of this camera I could find, outside some rubbish video efforts. Samsung still maintain the manual and other documentation online

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