The Samsung ST-550 was a revolutionary point and shoot with its dual-view LCDs, which made shooting self portraits really easy. Recently, Samsung launched two further models in the ST series, the ST600 and ST100. We get the ST600 on our test bench to find out whether it’s worth the upgrade.
Look and feel
For those of you familiar with the ST550, you’ll immediately notice the change in the size of the front LCD, which has been upgraded from 1.5-inches to a more convenient 1.8-inches. The front LCD can be activated either by pressing the dedicated button on top of the camera, or by tapping it when the camera is turned on. We had to tap the screen a few times to get it to turn on though.
The rear LCD is a large 3.5-inch display, and is touch enabled – which accounts for its size. There are no physical controls on the rear. The play button is located on the outer right hand corner, which is actually really convenient.
The lens is a 27mm wide angle Schneider Kreuznach, with a decent 5x optical zoom.
Storage is in the form of micro SD or micro SDHC cards – a little inconvenient if you’ve been using regular SD cards on other cameras. There’s also the provision for a mini HDMI port – since the camera supports 720p HD video recording.
One major drawback is the lack of a micro USB port – you have to connect up the camera through Samsung’s proprietary cable. The only advantage to this is that you can charge the camera directly through a wall socket – without having to bother about taking out the battery and putting it in a separate charging case.
All of the controls, except zoom, are touch-based. The rear LCD is pretty informative, and displays all your data as you’re shooting so you know exactly what settings you’ve enabled. At the top left corner there’s a button to activate the different modes. There is a dedicated Program Mode, but there’s not much that you can do with it. For example, you can adjust white balance, ISO and exposure, but not shutter speed and aperture. There’s also a Smart mode which recognises your scene automatically.
Apart from that there is the usual line-up of scene modes which you can choose from, including Portrait, Fireworks and Beach/Snow. Unfortunately, in Scene modes you can’t adjust any settings apart from Focus Area, so the camera decides all manual functions on its own.
All the controls are displayed as icons, so in order to know which icon represents what function, you have to slide your finger across them for the information to pop up. However, if you’re just browsing through functions and your finger stops at a particular icon, it gets activated automatically, so it’s a bit of a pain to go back and forth. We must say that the touch sensitivity was excellent though, and made navigating menus really smooth and intuitive.
Activating the front camera brings up a list of settings specific to it, so you don’t have much control over manual settings. There’s a Smile shot, where a Smile icon appears when you press the shutter down halfway, and is a good indicator of when you should display your pearly whites for the lens. There’s also a Jump shot, which is a pretty cool feature. When you press the shutter, the front camera displays a countdown, at the end of which there’s an indicator of when you should jump. The camera then snaps three consecutive images of you, so you usually end up with one shot mid-air. It’s a really fun and innovative feature, which should appeal to the younger crowd. There’s also a special kids mode, which displays cartoons to encourage the child to pay attention to the camera and even generate a few smiles. The Couples shot automatically snaps a photo when two heads are in the frame, and this worked really well.
I tested the Macro and Night modes, which I consider to be two very good indicators of a camera’s performance. The macro function let us get really close to the subject, but the results were slightly washed out and the colours tended to bleed into each other. We would have liked the option to adjust exposure in Macro mode, but the ST600 doesn’t offer this option.
The Night mode showed a lot of noise (grain) in the images, and didn’t pick up ambient light very well. Results were mostly blurry, and the photos tended to take on a reddish-orange hue, which is reminiscent of what we got with older digicams.
The camera does offer dual image stabilisation – Digital Image Stabilisation and Optical Image Stabilisation.
There are a number of image effects you can apply to the photos – we especially liked the Vignetting, Fish Eye and Negative effects – which are really fun ways to jazz up your photos.
The battery life of the camera was really poor though, and we could take just about 60 frames before it was completely drained out, so its not idea for a long trip.
The ST600 is definitely a unique camera, but for users who already have an ST550, there’s not much that the new one offers in terms of an upgrade. We’d recommend it mainly for the younger generation who want a fun camera, but it is not very suitable for someone looking to buy a ‘prosumer’, as it doesn’t really score with its image results.
Love: Jump shot feature, good touch response
Hate: Average results, high price tag