Samsung just cant seem to stop loading up its cameras with new and never-seen before features . First it was the dual screen and now the Wi-Fi! This new Samsung ST5500 is one fine example of Samsung's dedication to innovation. It is a touchscreen digital camera which offers multitude of features that makes it the first Wi-Fi enabled compact camera that entered into our lab. Lets quickly check out the specs and head for the shooting.
Colors were well saturated and at times the red seems a bit oversaturated though. Our outdoor shots came out with beautiful colors and good sharpness.
The Samsung ST5500 is a touchscreen based camera that has done away with as much physical buttons as possible. It has a good build quality thanks to the metallic front and the strong plastic body at the back. It has a matte finish instead of glossy which makes it less prone to smudges. Samsung sent us the orange color ST5500 for review which is a bit too colorful and obtrusive for our taste. I'd personally prefer the black color even though grey color is also available. However, I also came across many who loves the orange color as well.
Samsung built the ST5500 with what it called hydro-formed lines, a fluid-accented body and it stands at seven degree angle when placed on the flat surface to optimize self-portrait shots. One impressive touch that Samsung incorporates on the camera design is the lens spec which is written on the lens barrel exterior surface is printed backward so that the reflected image on the outer concave ring appeared readable and this is visible only when the zoom extends out.
The ST5500 weighs 161 g (without a battery and memory card) almost as heavy as the Canon IXUS 210 and it is not the lightest compact we've seen but yet portable The body has a dimension of 103.8 x 58.3 x 19.6 mm is slightly bulky but still portable and would fit into jeans pockets. The camera offered a good grip while holding with one hand. The main control of the camera is via the large 3.7-inch AMOLED screen and it has a strip on the right side which provides adequate space for thumb rest. The top has just three buttons shutter release, playback and power switch. The button controls on the top are well placed and are easily distinguishable except for the playback button which is rather small and is flushed with the top. The flash placement on the front left did not pose any problem like fingers obscuring its lights. The camera is easy to use and the touchscreen has a simple neat interface. The screen has very vivid colors and at times highly saturated but all in all, the response and interface design is good. Our only problem was the poor screen visibility outdoors which makes using the camera under bright sunlight almost impossible until and unless we shadowed the screen. Indoors though, it offers a good viewing angle and contrast. The side has proprietary port for data cable and one miniHDMI port which will let you view your images directly to a HDTV.
Samsung offered a simple and uncluttered touch interface, and all controls are just a few taps away. All sufficient controls and functions are neatly laid out on the three corners of the screen the right and the bottom screen has hidden icons for essential functions and they can be brought out by simply tapping the small arrow buttons - we found this really user-friendly.
The Samsung ST5500 is a 14.2MP camera and its Schneider Kreuznach Lens has a focal length of f=5.6~39.2mm ; 31-217mm (in 35mm film equivalent )which turns out into a 7x optical zoom quite impressive for a compact camera. However, a 31mm at its widest setting is not very impressive while other touchscreen cameras like Canon IXUS 210 and Sony TX7 offer 24mm and 25mm respectively. Even the older dual-screen and touch-based camera, Samsung ST550 packed a 27mm wide angle lens It has a Dual IS mode to combat hand-shake while shooting and its ISO speed ranges from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. The display is an impressive 3.7-inch WVGA AMOLED screen which is of resistive touch based with 11,52K color support. Like the dual-screen ST550, the ST5500 also supports microSD instead of the standard SD-card , and there is a 13MB of internal memory. The ST5500 records 720p HD video recording at 30fps.
As in most touch-based cameras comes with One Touch shooting apart from Face Recognition, Face Detection , Smart Touch etc. The camera offers variety of shooting modes which include Smart, auto, program, Dual IS and Scene ( 13 scene modes including the famous Samsung's Beauty Shot) for still images. There are two modes for videos smart and auto. The most notable feature of the ST5500 is its Wi-Fi connectivity that enables the camera to directly email images or uploading images to sites like Picasa, Facebook and Samsungimaging.com. It also has Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity to let you transfer images wirelessly from the camera to other Bluetooth enabled device. The camera has All Share technology tag which makes it compatible with all kinds of DLNA compatible devices.
One interesting feature that the ST5500 offered is the Smart Gesture UI combined with its built-in accelerator. As in the Canon IXUS 210, tilting the camera scrolls the images while viewing and you an specify various gestures in to different commands.Though this sounds innovative, it is more of a gimmick than being actually useful. However, I found the USB charging feature really useful as every time you plug in the camera to your PC, you are assured that the data transfer won't drain the battery.
The camera powers on and shoots in 2 seconds which is not the quickest but not annoyingly slow either.Shot to shot performance was slow around 4 to 5 seconds without flash and pretty much the same with flash on as well. Shutter lag is not bad at 0.1 to 0.2 seconds with pre-focus while it took anywhere from 0.3 to 0.5 seconds without which is just average. Apart from these, the camera operated smoothly and the face detection worked well. Focusing in low light stuttered a bit and at the end of the tele, the camera could not quite get the focusing right in low light.
The 31mm wide angle lens on the ST5500 is not actually class-leading; however the 7x zoom (31mm -217mm) is quite impressive for a compact shooter. The lens showed negligible barrel distortion on both the widest angle and at the tele end. Chromatic aberration is fairly controlled well and the lens showed good sharpness with slight visible corner softness. However, the overall lens performance is good for a compact camera. The dual IS worked well and it let us took sharper images in low light and while taking telephoto.
Image quality is good for a compact point and shoot. Colors were well saturated and at times the red seems a bit oversaturated though. Our outdoor shots came out with beautiful colors and good sharpness.Low light performance were just average though as the color noise and loss in details were more than ideal. Comparing to cameras like Canon IXUS 210, the ST5500 image quality on both outdoors and indoors shots showed better exposure, more vivid colors and have better sharpness, although noise presence on both the cameras indoors are just average. Flash is quite powerful and did not cause any red-eye effect. The camera produces useable images till ISO 400, from ISO 800 though, the noise presence and the details loss made the images just acceptable. Macro shots came out well with good sharpness and vibrant colors, the lens could get us as close as 5cm to the subject which is just average though. Our impression on the image quality is quite favorable for the outdoors though its indoor performance is nothing outstanding.
The 720p HD video we recorded came out good with acceptable details and vivid colors. The frame rates and details were not the best we've seen but would suffice for casual recording. The stereo microphone onboard picked up our voice clearly though there were no ambient noise reduction of any kind but audio with background music were recorded nicely.
Using the Wi-Fi feature to upload images and videos to the sites like YouTube, Picasa, Facebook and Samsung Imaging happened without any problem, and it really did make transferring easier. If you have a DLNA compliant device, then sharing media between the ST5500 and the device would be just a matter of drag and drop.
The battery life is not really impressive though and it lasted us for around 150 shots with a few minutes of using its Wi-Fi.
The Samsung ST5500 is a good performer as a camera and it comes with a lot of innovative and useful features. Our only complaints are the rather high price tag of Rs. 17,990 and the non-wide angle 31 mm lens.