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Samsung ST5000 review

Tim Smalley
15 Jul 2010
Samsung ST5000
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
200
inc VAT

The interface is a decent improvement over older models, but stills image quality is ultimately poor and we'd expect better at this price.

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Specifications

1/2.3in 14.2-megapixel sensor, 7.0x zoom (31-217mm equivalent), 157.0kg

Touchscreen cameras have been around for a while, but we hadn’t found a compact touchscreen camera that offers a truly compelling user experience until we got our hands on Samsung’s ST5000. It’s one of the company’s third-generation touchscreen cameras and incorporates a large 3.5in 1,152,000 capacitive touch sensitive display.

The high resolution means it’s very sharp and viewing angles are good. Colours are vibrant too, but it’s difficult to see anything on the screen in bright sunlight because of its glossy, reflective finish. The refresh rate appears to drop when using the camera in poorly lit environments, but noise is well controlled and it isn't slow enough to make composing and taking photos an issue.

In addition to this, the touchscreen interface is intuitive and fast – one of the first compacts we’ve seen to achieve this – and includes support for a number of gestures (none are multitouch, though). For example, when you’re in playback mode, you can draw a cross over an image and up pops a prompt asking you if you’d like to delete it. Unfortunately, you can’t pinch to zoom or move images around with your finger once zoomed in – you have to use the dedicated buttons instead, but at least they’re very responsive.

Performance is something of a mixed bag, with slow start-up and photo-to-photo performance – it takes around two and a half seconds for each of these operations – but it focuses relatively quickly, even in very dark conditions. We found that focus was quite accurate, although the multi-zone mode sometimes had a mind of its own. The minimum focal distance at the long end of the 7x zoom is also quite poor.

Like most cameras of this type, the ST5000’s 14.2 megapixel 1/2.3in sensor is a problem. With such tiny photo cells - or pixels - aggressive noise reduction is required. Photos were acceptable at up to ISO 400, providing you’re using the images for small prints or online, but we wouldn’t recommend venturing above ISO 800 – the results are far from pretty. Colours often look over-saturated, details are quite soft – this is especially noticeable in photos where detail is important – and images look over-processed.

Some of the softness is down to the ST5000’s 7x optical zoom lens, which manages barrel distortion well at the not-so-wide 31mm minimum focal length. However, edges are noticeably soft - even taking into account the overall soft look to shots. At the telephoto end, the lens manages a more uniform sharpness across the frame, but it’s still too soft for our liking. This can, to some degree, be corrected in post processing, so Samsung should at least get credit for not applying an aggressive image sharpening algorithm to the photos in camera.

The ST5000 fares slightly better in video mode, though, and the 720p recording mode isn’t bad. It records at 30fps with stereo sound and the optical zoom can be used as long as you don't mind audio recording being disabled while you’re zooming. In other words, don’t overuse the zoom or your audio track will cut in and out. Picture quality is good, but by no means brilliant in decent light and struggles in poorly-lit environments (indoors, for example).

What this leaves us with is a compact camera that does a good job of tackling the interface issues normally associated with touchscreen cameras, but it’s far from perfect. If anything, it gives us a glimpse of how good a touchscreen camera could be in the future, but notable omissions such as multi-touch support really do leave us wanting. Quite why camera manufacturers feel the need to continually pack so many pixels into such tiny sensors is beyond us – we’ve gone well past the law of diminishing returns now and the gains they’ve made in low-light performance are lost as a result.

If you're looking for a compact camera to buy at around £200 and care about image quality, there are a number of options, but none of them have a touchscreen interface. Panasonic's Lumix DMC-TZ8 has a 12x optical zoom, very good image quality and is smaller and more pocketable than Samsung's WB600 - it's not quite as slim as the ST5000 though. Another option is to look at FujiFilm's FinePix F70EXR, which offers a 10x optical zoom and has been a favourite of ours since reviewing it last November. What's more, it's only £150 now, so you can pocket that £50 you'll save as a result.

Basic Specifications

Rating**
CCD effective megapixels14.2 megapixels
CCD size1/2.3in
ViewfinderN/A
Viewfinder magnification, coverageN/A
LCD screen size3.5in
LCD screen resolution1,152,000 pixels
Articulated screenNo
Live viewYes
Optical zoom7.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent31-217mm
Image stabilisationoptical, lens based & digital (dual IS)
Maximum image resolution4,320x3,240
Maximum movie resolution1280x720
Movie frame rate at max quality30fps
File formatsJPEG, QuickTime (h.264)

Physical

Memory slotmicroSDHC
Mermory supplied13MB internal
Battery type3.8V 1,130mAh
Battery Life (tested)240 shots
ConnectivityUSB 2.0 Hi-Speed
HDMI output resolution1080i
Body materialPlastic
Lens mountN/A
Focal length multiplier5.5x
Kit lens model nameN/A
AccessoriesUSB
Weight157.0kg
Size58x104x20mm

Buying Information

Warranty1 year parts and labour
Price£200
Supplierhttp://www.parkcameras.com
Detailswww.samsung.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesauto, smart auto, program, scene
Shutter speed8 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/3.3 to f/5.5
ISO range (at full resolution)80 to 3200
Exposure compensation+/-2 EV
White balanceauto, 5 presets, manual
Additional image controlscontrast, sharpness, saturation
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus5cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, centre, face recognition, smart touch
Metering modesmulti, centre-weighted, centre
Flashauto, red-eye, fill in, slow sync, red-eye fix
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer