With the compact camera market jam packed with various almost-clone models, the real test comes in features and image quality. The Samsung ST50 is a 12.2 Megapixel compact which passes in both categories but doesn’t quite excel at either.
It can take exceptional images in broad daylight but in low light and even in moderate ISO levels images tend to be a little soft and the lower the light levels, the higher the image noise. That’s not to say the images are poor, far from it, they just aren’t as good as you would expect from a camera at this price point. It has a x3 optical zoom which is fairly basic but for this type of camera, a telephoto lens isn’t really that necessary so it’s not a deal breaker.
The features are fairly basic but for a point and shoot happy snap camera, you won’t really need much more. It has face detection features as well as a neat blink option that checks to see if the subject is blinking and takes two shots if they are – to avoid those awful “sleeping” photos.
The design is terrific with an extremely slim profile and a huge viewing screen. The buttons are easy to use and the interface is speedy. It can take images quickly, capturing to a standard SD card, and has a fast start up time. On the top of the camera is a button labelled “Smart”. When enabled, the camera assesses the scene you are shooting and sets the camera to the appropriate settings for optimal shots. This feature worked brilliantly and, most importantly, accurately. It also has a “Beauty Shot” mode that analyses photos of people and smooths out any skin blemishes. It works reasonably well but photos taken with it do tend to look a little odd at times, as though someone got overly zealot with Photoshop airbrushing.
With the flip of a switch it can take video up to a resolution of 800 x 592 – higher than most compact cameras. We found that the image quality drops in video mode with far more noise than still photos but were impressed with the frame rate. Videos are created in XviD MPEG4, which means that in order to watch them on your PC you will need to download the XviD codec. This also makes editing the videos a little difficult as standard free applications like Windows Movie Maker don’t support XviD. The sound quality when capturing video is good but not great. Background noise tends to get picked up more than we would have liked but for a compact camera, we don’t exactly expect Dolby Digital sound quality so it’s forgivable. Best of all, you can still zoom while taking video which is nice.
The ST50 isn’t the best camera on the market but for those looking for something with a bucket load of style that takes nice looking photos, it’s a good buy. Keep in mind that its strengths lie in daytime photography so if you want to take it clubbing, it might not be the one for you.