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|Adrian Wilson reviews the Samsung ST100.|
The sleek and stylish ST100 is the latest 2View camera from Samsung, these being cameras that have the usual large 3.5 inch screen on the rear, but also a small screen on the front of the camera. This is primarily used when composing a self-portrait, so will be useful for the casual user on a night out or someone wanting to change their online image regularly, but can also be used to keep the attention of a small child whilst you get their portrait or used for getting yourself into position for a group shot you want to be in.
Samsung ST100: Features
The additional front screen is the stand out feature of the camera, it is very effective for those at arms length self-portraits, or more involved scenes where you want to be in shot – like family group shots. The lens is built by Schneider – KREUZNACH, has a 5x optical zoom, covering an equivalent of 35-175mm and is neatly packaged away inside the casing – no protruding telescopic lens to worry about here. It captures images at a range of sizes up to a maximum of 14 megapixels, with JPG quality settings of Superfine, Fine and Normal.
It also has movie capability, which shoots at 30fps and 1280 by 720 pixels and a variety of different shooting modes, from the Smart mode which recognises a scene and chooses all the settings for you to the Program mode, which allows you to select things like the ISO setting and change the exposure compensation. There are numerous face detection modes, one of which will take a photo when it sees a smile – this actually works very well as you can sit frowning all day and it will not shoot, but as soon as you smile, it sends out a pre-flash and gets a shot. There’s also another mode which detects blinks and takes 2 shots to avoid closed eyes on a shot. There are many such features on the ST100 to make it a fun camera to use; there are even two fisheye effects to choose from!
The camera also contains an internal motion sensor which can be used to detect when you move the camera in a specific direction. This allows you to quickly switch between shooting modes by moving the camera in different directions. If you press the mode change button and tilt forward, you’re in Movie Mode, tilt backwards, it’s in Program and to the left, Smart Auto. This really does save time and button presses when you want change scene.
Samsung ST100: Handling
More and more cameras are becoming totally screen driven, with large rear screens with all controls available as virtual buttons. The ST100 is largely driven this way too, to switch on the front screen you just tap it and that bursts into life. It does however have a real zoom button, a small button to go into Playback mode for movie and image reviewing, and a button to switch on the front LCD if needed.
The tilt shooting mode selection feature is a nice addition, which speeds the handling up, and clearly the front screen avoids accidental self-decapitations as you can see what you’re shooting. The Smile detection is a bit slow on the uptake, it detects the smile then takes at least a second to meter and focus; if you’re shooting a baby, that fleeting perfect smile may be missed.
Samsung ST100: Performance
There are many Scene Exposure modes to choose from, Program, which allows you to choose many settings, a full auto setting, and also a smart auto mode, which will assess the scene for you and choose the correct mode from the multitude of exposure modes available.
This shot below is of a bright tower with bright lights and a bright sky – the auto mode has underexposed it a little, but you could over come this by using Program Mode and Exposure Compensation.
|Generally bright subject was underexposed a little.|
This next shot is a very dark tree, with a bright sky and colourful leaves. On full auto, the camera has produced a balanced creative result, with the leaves looking especially pleasing.
|Coped with the extreme dark and light well to give a decent creative shot.|
In this following night street scene, it was very hard to get a sharp shot when hand holding, but the exposure does seem well balanced – the autumn tree on the right being well exposed and the light patches have not fooled the sensor into under-exposing.
|Balanced exposure under low light conditions.|
The focussing modes available are centre spot, tracking (like Servo AF on other brands), a matrix of 9 focus points and One Touch Shooting, where your focus point be selected in real time by touching the screen.
Centre spot is the easiest to use, just placing the centre square over your subject and half pressing the shutter will get the locked in focus. You can then re-compose your shot (with shutter still ½ pressed) if you wish knowing the focus is correct.
Matrix is a little more random on its focus point selection, but in most test shots did choose the right subject. It’s useful for wider scenes like cityscapes etc.
One touch shooting is the slowest mode to use, it can take a while for the camera to register where you are touching the screen, pick the right focus point and then take the shot. I can’t help feeling that using centre spot to pick your subject, lock and recompose would be a quicker method.
The tracking option features a little square which hovers over your moving subject – you pick your spot using the one touch focus method, then when the camera gets a lock, the square gets double lines and tracks quite well. I found that it was pretty time consuming getting the thing to lock in the first place, so if you were shooting a motor race, say, I’d expect the cars would have passed before you get a shot out.
ISO and noise performance
The ST100 starts its ISO range at 80, and at this level there is very little discernable noise even in the blacks. At ISO100 and ISO200 the story is the same, little noise in the dark areas, no sign at all in the lighter areas. At ISO400 there is slightly more noise in the blacks and darker tones though the highlights remain clear. Even at ISO800 we still have clear highlights, just a hint of noise in the mid-tones, but more noise coming in the blacks.
As you’d expect, the higher ISOs, ISO1600 and ISO3200 are noisier, ISO1600 sees the mid-tones start to look grainy and the whole spectrum looks grainy at ISO3200, to the point where the sharp edges appear slightly blurred.
|Samsung ST100 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
|Samsung ST100 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
On these bright autumn leaves, the noise seen at higher ISO settings is not as noticeable as on the indoor test, but if you look in some of the darker areas, there is the same grainy appearance, and also the leaves have more of a blurred pastel, especially at ISO3200.
From the colour charts above we can see that the colours are reasonably well saturated, the greens really stand out compared to the others. The reds are slightly muted on some of the colour charts; they certainly are not super-saturated scarlet reds.
Looking at the leaf photographs above, we see a mix of yellow and greens photographed on an overcast day. These have pleasantly muted colours, much like the eye would see. If you’d prefer more colour, you can increase this on-camera with a set of saturation/contrast/brightness sliders provided.
|The greens really stand out on the railings.||The bright yellow road markings are very saturated, though the rest of the palette is muted.|
When shooting portraits, the colours are flattering – without flash, people look very natural, with flash they do look a bit paler, but this is probably down to the cooler light of the flash.
In auto white-balance under the fluorescent lights, this setting produces a very natural looking balance, the whites look neither cool not warm, the colours are truly vibrant and look correct. Under the tungsten lights, when compared to the fluorescent, we have a far warmer feel to the whites, the background doesn’t seem as clean and vibrant. However, the scene doesn’t seem yellow, just a slightly warm cast. The tungsten setting for tungsten lighting does produce a far more white looking result. Here we see the white square on the colour chart looking truly white, no real warm or cool cast and the colours again seem correct and vibrant. Using the fluorescent preset the test image reveals 2 things – first that the areas at the lower part of the set, with lots of fluorescent light on, come out looking reasonably correct. If you look on the bottom shelf for instance, that is a pure white. However, the areas with less light, the shadows where the CD’s are and the top vase and flowers, are distinctly green tinged. So the WB compensation works, just need to be careful when shooting in fluorescent light, the AWB seems to do the better job generally.
The ST100 has the standard flash modes:
- Flash off (flash forces off)
- Flash on (Fill In)
- Auto Flash (camera chooses)
- Red Eye Reduction
- Slow Synch
To get the flash fully charged between shots, the manual suggests you wait 4 seconds.
Buffer write times
In Program, Scene and Smart Auto mode, there are no issues writing the shot, it takes about 1 second between shots in single shot mode. Put it into the full auto mode and this changes – you take a shot and are greeted with a splash screen saying processing and a good 2-3 second delay before you can shoot again.
There is also a continuous shooting mode where the camera takes photos for the duration of your button press. This is very fast, almost like a set stills from a movie.
Through the test period, the camera was charged once and has lasted over several days; this totals well over 300 shots, shooting with and without flash. Looking through the online manual, they fail to mention how many shots you can achieve between charges.
The images below show the lens at its extremes, taking the wide angle shot first, we see verticals throughout the shot, all of which look nice and straight so no real barrel distortion. One interesting thing to observe here is that the trunk of the near tree appears lighter than the branches higher up – almost like there was some filter in place; this wasn’t the case!
Looking at the shot at 100% zoomed in, you can clearly make out the word Group mid left, but the distant Hilton sign top right isn't so discernable. This maybe due to the light conditions and the distance the sign is away, but with it being so close to the edge of the frame, it could be down to the edge not being so crisp.
The mid zoom shot seems more sharp than the wide shot, all the words in the image are legible, especially on the yellow sign in the middle, that is very sharp. Again, all the verticals seem to straight so barrel/pincushion distortion are negligible. The bright yellow leaves in the middle foreground are reasonably sharp and stand out from the greens really well.
On the long zoom, we can see a shallow depth of field effect coming into play – the autofocus has honed in on a bush in the mid-ground and produced some pleasantly sharp leaves there, leaving the foreground tree and background flats looking a bit softer. Again, no huge signs of distortion, if you try to line up the right most balconies on the flats, there may be a slight curvature to them, though its so marginal, you’d need to use a guideline or ruler to verify that. There is a little fringing on the big trees to the left, a slight red halo on the left of both trunks.
|Samsung ST100 lens quality: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.|
|Lens fully zoomed in.|
|Lens zoomed to the mid-settting.|
|Lens fully zoomed out.||Slight red fringe around the dark tree trunk at full zoom.|
Over all the tests, the flare has not really been an issue – in this night shot below, there are no major flare artefacts to be seen, just a small line from the brightest light and a little line in the middle of the road.
|Shooting into the light there was little flare on this shot|
All in all, for a lens this small, it’s a reasonable performer – it’s never going to compare to a £1000 SLR lens for sharp images, but for the target market, it’s sufficient for most users.
Samsung ST100: Verdict
The ST100 is a camera to have fun with, the dual screen is fun to use, the Shoot when Smile mode is fun and the Smart Auto mode means that the casual user doesn’t have to think about settings to get the best shot in their situation. Also, it’s small enough to fit in your jeans pocket, so you can take it anywhere to ensure you never miss a shot, has a fast and intuitive user interface.
The image quality is OK for fun use, if you are used to DLSR quality images, you will be disappointed, but if you love putting self-portraits on Facebook, it’s maybe the camera for you.
Samsung ST100: Pros
Front screen for self portraits
Huge array of on-board effects
Large intuitive screen
Can change shooting mode by moving the camera – really fast
Decent noise levels up to ISO800
Samsung ST100: Cons
Card write times in Full Auto can be long
Tracking Autofocus is very slow to lock on to a subject
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Samsung ST100: Specification
|What comes in the box||Samsung ST100 digital camera, Wrist strap, Lithium Ion battery, User Manual, Warranty, AC Adapter, USB Cable.|
|Lens||Schneider Lens 6.3mm - 31.5mm (35mm film equiv. 35mm - 175mm) f/3.6 - f/4.8|
|Sensor type||1 / 2.3″ (appox 7.763mm) CCD|
|Max. image size||4320 x 3240|
|LCD monitor size||3.5in TFT LCD|
|Focusing system||TTL auto focus|
|Focusing modes||Multi AF, Centre AF, Face Detection AF, Smart Touch AF, Smart Face Recognition AF, One Touch Shooting|
|ISO sensitivity||ISO80 - 3200|
|Metering system||Program AE|
|Metering modes||Multi, Spot, Centre Weighted, Face Detection AE|
|White-balance||Auto, cloudy, tungsten, daylight, fluorescent light (daylight), fluorescent light (warm white)|
|Exposure compensation||±2EV (1 / 3EV steps)|
|Anti-shake mode||Optical image stabiliser|
|Movie mode||With Audio or without Audio (Max Recording time : 20min) Size : 1280 x 720 (30 / 15fps) High Quality, 1280 x 720 (30 / 15fps) Standard Quality, 640 x 480 (30 / 15fps), 320 x 240 (30 / 15 fps)|
|Media type||Micro SD / Micro SDHC|
|Power||Lithium-ion battery (BP-70A, 740 mAh)|
|Size (wxdxl)||100 × 60 × 20mm|
|Weight (without battery)||135g|