Samsung ST5500

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When it comes to cameras with a whole lot of innovative features there are only a few that you and I can stand up for. Some of these would be from companies such as Sony, Panasonic and Samsung. We are not talking about DSLRs but in fact the whole focus here is about digital cameras; cameras that one can pocket without giving it a second thought. Yes, they have come a long way to what they are now and are progressively getting better not only in their set features but also in delivering sharp image quality.

Encased in a plastic orange body the Samsung ST5500 spews out perfection in almost all fronts – be it design or even its user interface. To begin with the camera is nowhere close to being called flimsy and features a very good build. Moreover the camera measures in at 103.8 x 58.3 x 19.6 mm and weighs about 183 g making it a tad heavy. Irrespective of its weight the camera sits plum when held and the slightly angled rear adds to a much better grip. That apart the camera features a full matt finish which eliminates fingerprints which would otherwise bring down the overall appeal of the camera. Moreover the camera comes with a decent 7x of optical zoom along with a standard 31 mm lens.

The most striking part of the camera is its large 3.7-inch AMOLED touch screen that has a very good viewing angle, however this is only limited to viewing pictures indoors. Take it out on a bright sunny day and you would find it close to impossible to view pictures at the slightest angle. This is one major drawback that the ST5500 has and definitely needs to be looked into. You will also notice that the camera has a button less interface which makes it a fully touch sensitive camera. Though the only buttons that the ST5500 has are the power, shutter release and picture view button.

Now, as mentioned the performance of the screen isn’t one of the best but works well when viewed indoors. As far as the cameras interface is concerned it definitely will not take long to get used to as all options are well laid out on both sides of the screen. In fact the interface is very similar to their previous and non-existent ST550. However having said that menu system is divided into three parts – the extreme left holds options such as scene modes, flash, auto focus and timer. The bottom half displays options such as white balance, ISO, metering/exposure value and a few more that are all neatly clubbed together in a drop down interface - thus allowing you to view images on a larger screen area.

The ST5500 features a total of six shooting modes apart from its 13 scene modes. There are also lists of other features which include additional modes such as face, smile and blink detection. However there is an extra feature known as “Self portrait”. This basically provides an audible feedback when a face is detected thereby allowing you to judge when to click. In addition to this the camera also allows you to apply effects such as miniature, fish-eye and vignetting.

Another striking feature of this camera is that it supports both Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi. Here there are a whole list of options that allow you to upload pictures to a list of sites such as Facebook, Picasa, YouTube and their very own Samsung Imaging. The whole process of uploading images is extremely simple as you just need to drag and drop files that need to be uploaded to any one of the account that you have signed into. Having said that the ST5500 also allows you to send pictures via Email. All one needs to do is enter the senders/receivers address – that is all that actually needs to be done. What I personally would have liked to see here is the option of giving the picture some kind of info before uploading.

Additional features include file transfers to other Wi-Fi enabled cameras, wireless transfer to PC and best of all, the camera can be configured to share images with multiple machines. This basically allows all connected users to scan through the list of pictures that need to be copied. And as mentioned, Bluetooth is also there if you find the need to send images to a phone.
Typing in your name or e-mail address isn’t a problem as the camera comes with a QWERTY interface which is quite responsive. Nevertheless if you find it a problem to type, the provided stylus is always there to make the input method much easier.
Apart from the mentioned features the Samsung ST5500 is capable of capturing videos at a max resolution of 1280 x 720 (1080i) at 30 fps. The overall quality as well as clarity is good under well lit conditions but falls a bit short in areas that are dimly lit. However the camera does a good job at maintaining the overall color and contrast. Other resolutions include 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 320 x 240 (web). The last one limits video recording to 30 seconds.

The performance of this camera will actually leave you speechless. As you can see the overall color and contrast is handled quite well with no fringing or color bleeding in the picture shown below. However the saturation level of reds does stand out at times but there is nothing really to complain about here.

The camera maintains a good level of sharpness but the problem here is that the objects at a distance tend to appear a little blotched. However if you notice it is only the finer details such as the leaves that tend lose out on sharpness.

There is not much you can complain about with the cameras night performance. It does a very good job of capturing details as well as produces images that are quite sharp. And for a performance such as this under low lit conditions I personally don’t have anything that would go against the ST5500. However you would need steady hands to take a near perfect shot.

The cameras macro range is a little disappointing as it can only focus at 3.5 cm. But as always the camera does a good job at maintaining the overall sharpness and details.

It’s been a while since I have seen cameras perform in almost all aspects. From maintaining a good color balance to capturing night scenes to having an overabundance of features – the Samsung ST5500 is a brilliant piece of work that needs a standing ovation. And after testing a number of cameras this is the first that actually brings in looks, performance and features that most photographers have been looking for. With an asking price of Rs 17,990 the Samsung ST5500 is definitely worth the money.