Samsung ST50 12.2MP Ultra Slim Digital Camera Review
ModSynergy has recently taken a look at numerous DSLR’s from different manufacturers and from all different price points but today I will be reviewing the good old digital camera. We all know that DSLR popularity has risen and that its better overall but today’s review will look to see if digital cameras are still sufficient for the average user.
Samsung whom is one of the world’s largest electronics companies (last time I checked they were indeed number one) has recently introduced plenty new digital camera offerings for 2009 and one of the digital cameras that hope to perform well is ST50. The Samsung ST50, that I am reviewing today, is aimed at portability with Samsung marketing it as being slim enough to fit into your pocket. The ST50 is an ultra-slim (16.6mm wide) stylish 12.2MP camera that is ideal for individuals who are looking for an easy-to-use pocket-sized digital camera and something that looks elegant.
One of the biggest things that digital cameras still have the advantage over its DSLR counterpart is indeed physical size. New digital cameras are still increasing in megapixel count (not a definitive factor) and also decreasing in size making it more pocket-able and portable which any DSLR can never match. Sometimes lugging around a DSLR can feel overkill and in this case, a small digital camera would feel so much better.
The reason why digital cameras are able to come in a small physical package is because of the sensor size. Whereas the common DSLR sensor size (APS-C) is measured around 25mm wide, most digital cameras are significantly smaller at about 7-8mm wide. The result is that DSLR cameras, with their bigger sensors, can capture more information and produce a better result.
A second advantage that digital cameras have over its DSLR counterpart is video capability. All digital cameras have ability to record video and audio and that is an advantage over most DSLR cameras on the market, save for a few that have now introduced video recording (Canon T1i, Nikon D5000, Canon 5D Mark II, Pentax K-7, etc).
Without further ado let us start our Samsung ST50 12.2MP Ultra Slim Digital Camera Review.
One of the nice features of the ST50 is the ability to utilize the optical zoom while recording video. So at any time you can zoom in our out and focus on a subject on the fly. In addition, you can even pause and continue recording video (by pressing the OK button) making one file at the very end by pressing the shutter button instead of having multiple video files.
The Samsung ST50 digital camera claims image stabilization but it’s not of a mechanical kind but rather simply the camera will increase ISO speed to adjust to the situation. This isn’t really a good thing as digital cameras aren’t too good with noise to begin with (the limitation of the sensor). But we’ll see how well the ST50 does under such situations.
The Samsung ST50 digital camera arrived in a very compact corrugated box that environmentalist would like. Box design is elegant as usual and is done in a tasteful, upscale look. The actual size photo of the ST50 is placed on the top of the box to give you an idea of the small size of this digital camera and product features are located on the bottom of the box.
With your purchase of the Samsung ST50 come these items…
I don’t really like proprietary cables and the Samsung includes two of them. If you lose these cables, it’s not as simple as going out to the mall and picking up any USB cable. You’re going to need to do a special order.
Unfortunately Samsung has decided not to include a carrying case with the bundle which is a disappointment but let it be an optional accessory that you can purchase.
The Samsung ST-50 digital camera comes with what Samsung says “About 31MB” of internal memory which I find very funny. Obviously you’ll need to pick up a memory card and the ST50 utilizes the SD and SDHC standards. Samsung’s specifications guarantee that 8GB will work but I cannot confirm if the higher SDHC variants work but I’m sure they will.
Coming to the front of the camera we see the brushed metal look which gives the ST-50 an upscale look. Unfortunately the brushed metal look is located only at the front and does not extend any further nor even extends around the edges of the camera. It doesn’t feel like bare brushed metal as either but feels like brushed metal laminate instead because it feels so smooth. It feels suspect but nonetheless it contributes to the look of the camera in a good way.
Looking at the front of the camera from the bottom up is the microphone opening, Samsung lens, flash to the right and self-timer/AF lamp to the left.
The right side of the camera is where the strap eyelet is located and USB/AV/DC connector is protected by a glossy plastic cover. Pull up the cover to reveal the connector where you can recharge the camera or connect it to your television set. One small problem is that Samsung should have made the plastic cover sit higher because when you plug in the proprietary cables, they don’t sit flat against the cameras body but are blocked by the actual plastic cover. The cables work fine, they just don’t sit flat (they don’t go in all the way).
The top of the camera is where the power button is located along with the Smart Auto button. To the right of the Smart Auto button is the shutter button and the zoom lever is integrated into the shutter button. The internal speaker is located just beside the shutter button.
The bottom of the camera is where the battery chamber and memory card slot is located. The battery chamber door is locked with a latch that you slide to open/close. Rounding out is a plastic tripod mount that doesn’t really sit in the middle of anything. It’s not located at the center of the lens or the center of the actual camera.
The USB charge cable has a green and red LED indicator that informs you when it is charging (red) and when it has been completed (green). Charge from dead to full battery takes about 2 hours. I had taken about 280 shots before the camera died.
To the rear of the camera we see the large 2.7” LCD display, camera status lamp, movie/still image mode thumb switch (very convenient), Menu button, 5 function directional pad (self-timer, flash, macro, display and OK confirmation button in the middle), delete button and the playback mode button.
This Samsung LCD display is good but could have been better. The resolution isn’t the finest but it gets the job done. The good thing is that the screen does not lag when in poor lighting conditions and the camera has a sensor that adjusts the screen brightness accordingly to the lighting conditions. Outside viewing of the LCD can be seen with relative ease. One thing that bothered me was when recording video, the focus seemed a little blurry on the LCD screen but the end result when viewed on the computer was clear video. Also the LCD screen needs a little more saturation, the colors look flat.
Performance and Results - How did it perform?
The Samsung ST50 is a capable little digital camera with focus on ease of use.
Click the power button to turn on the camera and it comes to life in about one second and the camera is ready to take the picture in another 1.5 seconds. This is all pretty quick.
Depending on the changes you may or may not make, you’ll see icons around the screen pertaining to different options. These icon indicators can be turned off by pressing the display button.
Overall I do like how the Samsung ST50 digital camera performs. Surprisingly it has great detail in its photos from ISO 80 to ISO 400 and is relatively noise free. Unfortunately, image quality degrades and becomes washed out from ISO 800 onward. To me at least, ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 should not even be used and flash should be used instead. The only way ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 can be used is if you resize your final photo to a smaller size.
Exposure wise, my trip to Ontario Place revealed to me that the Samsung ST50 is quite capable. Only few instances were photos underexposed (water shots) but for everything else, pictures came out clear and bright. Underexposed shots just needed a small bump of exposure compensation. Colors are good but not super eye-popping.
For automatic white balance, I noticed the Samsung kept on choosing a cooler color cast. Setting white balance manually works better.
Autofocus is average. Hold the shutter button half way to autofocus on the subject takes about a second. In poor lighting conditions, this takes longer as the AF assist lamp has to help out. I noticed in really poor lighting conditions, the subject was not in 100% focus with or without flash.
Face detection works pretty well and can lock up quickly on up to 10 faces in total.
Video recording is not the best quality but average overall. Outdoor videos were a little dark and white balance kept on changing during the video. Another disappointment was the video’s audio. The microphone cannot pick up loud music. I was at a concert and my videos had distorted audio because the instruments were too loud for the microphone to pick up. I also had weird instances where playing back on my computer, the sound would cut out for a couple of seconds and come back. I later figured out this problem was the result of zooming. The Samsung ST50 once in zooming function cuts off audio recording and then resumes audio when zooming has completed. Samsung should really fix this.
I like the Smart Auto Mode function. Press this button and the camera will do everything for you choosing the correct shooting mode and settings to capture the best picture. You can tell its working as you can hear the lens always adapting to different situations turning on macro, turning off macro, focusing, etc. You can hear the changes happening constantly.
I find the photo styles you can shoot with such as negative, vivid, retro do work well and I had fun shooting in negative mode.
First up we have the changes between the least sharpness, saturation and contrast compared to the most sharpness, saturation and contrast settings that were changed in camera. You'll see the amount of saturation, contrast and sharpness available with the ST50 digital camera.
Here below we have a look at the sharpness in the outdoors. Please rollover the first image to see -2 and normal sharpness. The third picture below these photos is the higest sharpness.
Now let us take a look at noise control on the Samsung ST50. First we have the outdoor ISO test and indoor ISO test.
We end of with full 12MP resolution (superfine) out-of-camera samples of what the Samsung ST50 can do. Also are two video recording samples of what you can expect from the digital camera.
The Samsung ST50 digital camera is not a bad camera. I do not mind recommending it to people but you have to realize what it does well and what it lacks to be able to determine if this camera is for you.
If you shoot between ISO 80 and ISO 400, you will not have any problems as detail is high between these values. Default levels for saturation is on the conservative side but increasing to +1 will bring out the colors better in your photos.
Video quality is average but it’s not too bad at the same time. But I know for a fact that it can be much better. The microphone cannot pick up loud music and in certain situations cut out for some reason. If you’re a frequent concert recorder, then you probably need to look at another camera.
Pros and Cons