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Samsung ST 550
With the ever growing digital camera market, the competition between manufacturers has reached to a point where a 10.1 megapixel camera is available for less than Rs. 10,000. And now with 12.2 megapixel cameras hitting the consumer market, the race is just going to get stronger. But Samsung is a step ahead with their newest offering, the ST 550, the camera with the unique feature of a front LCD for Portrait shots. With this feature Samsung will claim to be at the top of the pile, but does the camera deliver on its own. Let’s find out -
With the dimensions of 99.8 (W)x 59.8 (H)x 18.6 (D)mm and weighing at 165.7g without the battery and memory card, the ST550 is a very compact camera overloaded with features. With a complete black body and a gold lining running between it, the camera is a sure treat for the eyes. With a solid metal body at the back to hold the LCD, the front panel has a clean piano finish.
On the front, the camera features a 1.5”, 61K LCD. A trend setter by all means, Samsung st 550 is the first camera to feature a front LCD screen for portrait shots. To activate, simply start the camera and tap on the front LCD. Somehow, the touch sensitivity on the front LCD is not that responsive, as you have to tap hard to activate it. A very innovative feature in itself, the front LCD is put to very good use which we will talk about in the feature section.
The camera runs on rechargeable SLB-07A battery, and the images and videos are saved on a micro SD. The topside of the camera feels a bit crowded. Along with the power and shutter button (which are well placed), the zoom lever tries to squeeze itself in there. While a few might find this very frustrating, we found it to be VERY WELL PLACED. The tiny zoom lever is perfect for use with just one hand and for zooming in and out while taking portrait shots. Just under the zoom lever is the playback button.
And on the back, the camera functions are accessed on a Full Touch 3.5” TFT LCD (800 x 480). The display is crisp with 1, 152K colors.
The ST550 uses the Schneider-KREUZNACH 4.9-22.5mm lens capable of taking shots up to 12.2 megapixels (CCD) with 4.6x optical zoom. It is packed with numerous features. Along with the front LCD, the feature set would definitely be its USP.
It might seem a bit confusing at the start but once you get the hang of it, you understand how well the features have been organized in the UI. At the top left corner of the screen, is the simple scene selection tab, which gives you the options for – Auto, Program, Smart, Movie, Dual Image Stabilization and Manual Scene selection. The Dual image stabilization is very much like the Auto mode in every way, except for two differences. In the Dual image stabilization mode, the camera activates digital and optical image stabilization but flash is disabled. In auto, just the optical image stabilization is active but the feature of flash is enabled. Since digital image stabilization does no wonders for avoiding blurry images due to shaky hands, this mode is pretty useless.
Under it are four options – Flash, Focus settings, Timer and Display set, which are subjective to change as per the mode (they may be deactivated for a few modes). Two more sub-menus lay hidden which can be simply accessed by clicking on the respective pointer buttons, one at the bottom of the screen and the other on the right.
Taking self portrait shots have always been tricky and users have never been able to get a proper self portrait shot in one go. One has to adjust the camera lens to a proper level by taking multiple shots to get the one proper shot. The LCD provided on the ST 550 will definittely make it easier for users to take self portraits or portrait shots with friends. It functions for all modes except for the movie mode.
With various face detection settings, taking portrait shots cannot get simpler - from normal face detection to a smile shutter where the camera clicks as soon as it detects a big smile on you or your friends faces. Moreover, the option for smart face recognition lets you store 20 faces,which the camera prioritizes while focusing and exposing. Another creative feature for the Front LCD is a mode to take photographs of children. The children mode plays a clown video on the Front LCD which might grab a child’s attention and or make him smile.
The accelerometer is integrated into three shortcuts. Pushing the right pointer opens up a sub-menu, giving two options. One is the basic menu, where the basic camera settings can be altered and the other is the accelerometer shortcut. Push and hold to get three options – Movie, Smart Auto and Program. Tilting the camera forward loads the movie mode, tilting the camera to the left gets you on the Smart Auto mode and tilting it towards yourself takes you to the program mode. The accelerometer is responsive on this screen. But while looking at the shots in the album, the user has an option to scroll through the images using the accelerometer (tilting left and right), but it isn’t responsive over here.
Coming down to performance (more features will be disclosed here), the camera performance isn’t exceptional, its just – good. With various scene selections in the aforementioned mode, users can adjust the camera to the location, light and event. The basic functionality of these presets is to adjust the camera shutter speed and aperture to capture the best images. Scene presets are - Beauty shot, Frame guide, Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close up / Macro, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Fireworks and Beach & Snow.
The ST 550’s ISO sensitivity starts from 80 and goes up to 3200. The performance of the ST 550 plumetted on ISO 400 itself. For a camera of this stature, this is very disappointing.
The focus options are excellent. With options of Centre Auto Focus, Multi Auto Focus, One Touch Shooting and Smart Touch Auto Focus, some creative shots can be taken.
Macro mode performs very well in well lit-areas and even under bad lighting. But what wasn’t good was that the macro mode made us aware of certain color saturation on all the images taken from the camera.
The ST 550 has no issues in capturing colors but it just blows out the colors to give it a brighter and more vibrant look, which is not good. Due to this, the images tend to get smudgy and lose clarity when taken up to its original resolution.
Something similar was the case in landscape modes. The images looked amazing on standard view (standard resolution), but when the image was blown up to its original resolution, the images lost their clarity.
This a 12.2 megapixel camera, loaded with features and a front LCD for self portrait shots. But by offering so many features and not delivering best where it's required to, the ST 550 loses most marks. But the front LCD is definitely its saving grace. All in all - the images produced by the camera are no doubt disappointing. At Rs. 24,990, this aspect cannot be overlooked. With the specifications of ST 550, it was expected that it would be a complete package. In the end, the camera will definitely appeal to the point and shoot crowd and the female audience.
• Weight: 165.7
• Main Display: 3.5” Full touch TFT LCD
• Front Display: 1.5" 185K TFT LCD
• Sensor: CCD
• Resolution: 12.2 megapixels
• Focal Length Schneider - KREUZNACH Lens f = 4.9 - 22.5mm
• Optical Zoom: 4.6x
• Compensation ±2EV (1/3EV steps)
• ISO sensitivity: 80 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200
• Flash: Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash off, Red eye fix
• Self Timer: Yes
• Movie recording: 720p
• Storage: Supports a micro SD.
• MRP: Rs 24,990