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Samsung ST96 Digital Camera Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Samsung ST96, a digital compact camera with a 14.5 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and 5x optical zoom lens.

|  Samsung ST96 in Compact Cameras
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The Samsung ST96 was announced in September 2006 along with the WB750. It is available in black with an RRP of £179.99.

1/160 sec | f/11.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100

Samsung ST96 Features

The ST96 has a 14.5 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, which Samsung claim will work perfectly in low-light situations as BSI sensors are twice as sensitive as conventional CMOS sensors. There is also a 5x optical zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 26 - 130mm. Dual Image Stabilization helps prevent shake from ruining your shots with a combination of Optical and Digital Image Stabilization. Smart Auto 2.0 with Smart Flash automatically adjusts the camera settings from 16 photo modes and 4 movie modes to capture the best shot possible with minimal input from the user.

High speed shooting mode lets you shoot pictures at up to 10fps, with slow motion video recording at up to 440 frames per second. Magic Frame offers 12 background templates for you to put your face on to make fun pictures. The ST96 can also shoot panoramic images by pressing the shutter and sweeping the camera, no stitching required, Live Panorama allows you to preview your panorama before you shoot it. Also featuring are Face Detection, Face Recognition and Face Tracking.

Adding to the creativity options is Smart Filter 3.0 which offers Cartoon Filter, Cross Filter, Zooming Shots, Ink Painting, Oil Painting, Half-Tone Dot and many more. The ST96 can even shoot 3D images.

Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD at 30fps and features Creative Movie Maker (which lets you combine stills and videos to create a slide show with a soundtrack) and Dual Capture (capture 10 megapixel images whilst recording full HD videos). The camera can be connected via HDMI to a HDTV.
1/160 sec | f/11.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100

Key Features

  • 14.5 megapixel Samsung BSI CMOS sensor
  • Creative Movie Maker
  • Dual Capture (Full HD + 10M still)
  • Full HD Recording 1080p
  • 26mm wide angle lens and 5x optical zoom
  • High Speed Shooting (video + still)
  • Panorama Shot (Live/Action)
  • Magic Frame
  • Smart Filter 3.0
  • Dual Image Stabilization
  • 3D Photo
  • Face Detection, Face Recognition, Face Tracking
  • Smart Auto 2.0 with Smart Flash
1/160 sec | f/11.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100

Samsung ST96 Handling

Samsung make some really small compact cameras and the ST96 is no different, making it the perfect size for carrying around in your pocket. It is made of plastic with two tiny feet on the bottom, meaning the camera leans back when placed on a flat surface, useful if you want to set the self timer and get yourself into the shot. The buttons are typical for a compact camera, with a dedicated one for movie recording. The Fn gets you straight to the available settings for the mode you are in, which you cycle through using the d-pad. Samsung have made the menu system clear and simple to understand and navigate.

The camera is ready to take pictures within a couple of seconds of switching on and is quick to focus. Where the camera is really let down is when using the flash. It takes 2 or 3 seconds to charge and is very frustrating when you are trying to capture a shot quickly. The camera impresses in continuous shooting mode, with full-sized images taken during testing at 3, 5 and 10 fps.
1/160 sec | f/11.0 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100

Samsung ST96 Performance

The ST96 consistently takes well exposed images with really good colour reproduction. Whether shooting wide or with the lens at its longest length, detail is good in the centre of the images but quite soft in the edges and corners. Generally when shooting with the sun in the shot there isn't any purple fringing but there is occasional lens flare. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 5cm which is close enough for the camera to be able to take a good macro shot.

Samsung ST96 Lens test images

Noise isn't an issue at ISO 100 but at ISO 200 and ISO 400 there are steady increases in the amount of noise visible. At ISO 800 there is a significant increase in noise and a loss of sharpness in the images. This trend continues through to ISO 1600, but it is only ISO 3200 where there is a big loss in detail and an effect on colour reproduction.

Samsung ST96 ISO test images

Landscape mode produces image with excellent greens and blues creating very pleasant looking scenes. Portrait mode is excellent at producing images without red-eye with excellent skin tones. Backlight mode has been used in the of the sculpture, with examples of zooming shot and miniature also shown below.

Samsung ST96 Scene modes

The ST96 has panoramic mode using a sweeping method, either left, right, up or down. Images produced aren't packed with detail but there isn't any misjoined sections or ghosting.

Panoramic | 1/180 sec | f/9.4 | 4.7 mm | ISO 100
Panoramic | 1/180 sec | f/9.4 | 4.7 mm | ISO 100

The auto white-balance (AWB) setting gives good results, under our incandescent lighting there is a slight orange cast in the image, with the incandescent preset actually giving us a better image. Under the fluorescent lighting there is very little difference whether using the AWB or fluorescent presets.

Samsung ST96 White-balance test images

The ST96 comes with Samsung's new Smart Filter 3.0 mode which has some filters previously seen on Samsung compacts and some interesting new ones such as cartoon mode, examples of which can be seen below.

Samsung ST96 Digital filters

Video Mode

Videos can be recorded in full 1080p HD, 720p HD or 640 x 480 VGA. The optical zoom can be used during recording, an example can be seen on the ePHOTOzine Youtube page. Some of the filters can be applied although some of them do limit the video size to VGA. High-speed shooting struggled to take any good videos as they are generally under exposed, although it is possible to increase the exposure.

Value For Money

The Samsung ST96 is currently priced at £179.99. There are plenty of cameras with a similar specification available at varying prices such as the Olympus VG-130 at £68.00, Pentax Optio S1 at £78.00, Nikon Coolpix S3100 at £79.00, Fujifilm FinePix Z90 at £89.95, Canon Powershot A3200 IS at £109.00, Samsung SH100 at £144.00 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX70 at £148.99.

Samsung ST96 Verdict

The ST96 impresses with good colour reproduction, full 1080p HD video recording and its smart filters. If you are using the flash a lot you'll soon get quite annoyed by how long it takes to charge and the camera is currently highly priced in a competitive market, with many cameras with a similar specification available for less. But it should not be forgotten that this is a very small camera, therefore easy to carry around, takes good panoramics and offers full sized images at 10fps in continuous shooting mode.

Samsung ST96 Pros

Panoramics taken using sweeping method
Interesting range of filters
Full 1080p HD video recording
Images can be taken during video recording
Impressive high-speed shooting
Excellent colour reproduction
Very small body

Samsung ST96 Cons

Flash takes ages to charge
Current price is high


Samsung ST96 Specifications

Max Aperturef/3.3 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent26mm - 130mm
Optical Zoom5x
Image Sensor
Pixels14.5Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4320
Pixels (H)3240
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)6.16mm
Sensor Size (height)4.62mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor2.7in
Screen resolution230,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus5cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest8sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 3200
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shootingNo Data
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
    File Type
    • JPG
    Power Source
    Battery TypeRechargeable Battery: BP-70A (3.7V, 740mAh, Min 700mAh)
    Battery Life (CIPA rating)No Data
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsCamera, AC adapter/ USB cable, Rechargeable battery, Strap, User Manual, CD-ROM, Quick Start Guide

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