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To be fair the second display does exactly what it says on the tin. It does make it easier to frame self-portraits and self-timer shots, and the clearly visible countdown in self timer mode means that everyone knows when to say “cheese”. If you frequently find yourself taking that kind of shot then there's no question that it is a useful feature, but is it useful enough to pay extra for it? The ST500 is currently selling for around £170, which is a lot of money for what is otherwise a fairly unremarkable compact camera.

It does offer a couple of other nice features though. It has a decent 4.6x zoom Schneider Kreuznach branded lens with optical image stabilisation and a 27-124mm equivalent zoom range. It also has a good video recording mode, shooting at 1280 x 720 resolution and 30fps. The optical zoom can be used while recording, but unusually the camera mutes sound recording while the lens moves. Personally I'd rather have a bit of motor noise on the soundtrack than big silent gaps, but maybe that's just me being odd.

The touch-screen interface on the ST500 is a prime example of why I don't think touch-screens are a particularly good idea on cameras. On a phone, where the interface is the main purpose of the screen, they're fine. Phones tend to have bigger screens than cameras anyway, so they can have nice big buttons that are quick and easy to use. On a camera the main purpose of the monitor is for framing shots and viewing images, which means that the touch-screen elements have to be either very small or hidden away most of the time, or in this case both. The screen of the ST500 is also pressure-sensitive rather than the finger-only capacitance-sensitive screens used on most phones. The sensing layer is slightly silvered producing nasty glare when used in sunlight.

As well as the touch screen, the ST500 has an accelerometer, allowing a limited degree of “gesture” control. Oh, and it has “haptic feedback” too. The cameras buzzes slightly when you touch an on-screen button.

Other than the gimmick features of dual screen and touch interface the ST500 is a fairly average camera. It has the usual selection of program auto, full auto, “smart” auto and scene mode, with 13 scene programs. It has adjustable contrast, saturation and sharpness, but not much else in the way of creative image control.

The ST500 is the second recent Samsung camera that I've seen which uses MicroSD cards for storage. These are the tiny memory cards normally used in mobile phones. They are a little more expensive than regular SD cards and are a lot easier to lose. Of course they are also much easier to swallow if you're captured by enemy agents, although off the top of my head I can't think of any other advantages.

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January 19, 2010, 10:02 pm

As a fan of many Samsung products I have to say - what the hell are they smoking? I'm not talking about the two screens - I can see the point, although I'd much prefer if a single rear LCD could be flipped/rotated. No, I'm talking about something much smaller (literally).

Sony sees sense and switches to SD cards like everyone else (bar Olympus), meaning that for once we are actually close to having a standard format for all consumer digital cameras (even if only until SDXC comes along). So what does Samsung do? Decides that what we really want is to fiddle around with a ridiculously tiny memory card format that is easily lost, probably easier to damage, and which must be handled with fingernails. WHY? To provide a MicroSD option is one thing - makes sense if you are carrying a phone that uses MicroSD, and have to use the phone's memory card in an emergency - but there are adapters for that. To have no normal SD slot? Madness. I'm surprised you didn't consider this more of a drawback.

I do worry that Samsung are losing any trace of common sense in their quest for attention-grabbing novelty.


January 20, 2010, 1:32 am

Thanks once again for a great review. I would really like to see a review about the Panasonic Lumix ZX1 (or ZR1 in other countries), which should be a great cam, too. I'd like to see how it compares to the models you have been reviewing here.


January 20, 2010, 2:11 pm

There isn't really an issue with the SD card thing, as microSD are usually sold with an SD card adapter. Hence, if you purchase this camera, you'll realise you need an MicroSD, which you'll purchase. After that, there shouldn't be any issues, because this card will work in any other device using either SD or microSD.

I don't read people getting outraged their SD cards dont work in their phones. Why the issue with microSD cards that work in loads of devices?

Don't assume everyone has spare SD cards lying around. A high proportion of people purchasing new cameras fork out for new cards at the same time.

Martin Daler

January 20, 2010, 4:44 pm

I'm guessing Sammy figures users will fit the card once and leave it in situ ever after, downloading photos via a cable, so as long as they don't lose the card down the back of the sofa on day one, then size is not a problem.

I'm more used to taking out the card to download my photos via my PC/Laptop card reader. So I would need in this case also to travel with an adapter - one more thing to forget or lose. The review does not say which cable format the camera accepts - unless it is the de-facto standard mini-USB (which would be my only viable alternative) then I would have problems.

Here's hoping Sammy didn't opt for a proprietry cable...


January 20, 2010, 5:24 pm

@ MrGodfrey - Olympus has already made the switch, both of the PEN's and their newest slew of compacts are SD/SDHC only.

The size of MicroSD cards are an advantage, meaning either the camera itself can be made a little bit smaller, or the space saved can be used to shoehorn more gimmicks into the body (I'm looking at you second LCD)


January 20, 2010, 10:28 pm

darkspark88: MicroSD cards are usually sold with an adapter - i.e. not always; and more importantly as Martin points out, it is one more thing to forget or lose. Of course no-one would be bothered that their SD cards don't work in their phone, but then they'd have no sensible reason to expect them to. Many phones with removable memory now use MicroSD. But the vast majority of new cameras use SD. Why confuse the issue? Especially since with Sony and Olympus finally joining the rest of the civilised camera-making world (thanks Noodles for the info) we actually have something resembling a cross-brand standard media for digital cameras. Standard formats are convenient, and the big advantage would be that you can go almost anywhere in the world and have very little trouble finding suitable media at any given time - this was true of 35mm film, not true of Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo etc. I am in favour of establishing standard formats, and I am not in favour of being different for the sake of being different (with little or no advantage to the consumer).

I'd question whether the size "advantage" of MicroSDs outweighs the disadvantages. I have not lost one yet, but I still find them fiddly and am not alone there. No doubt in a few years they will be replaced by MicroScopicSD, and we will all need to carry a pair of tweezers... Incidentally why would you want the cameras made any smaller; I want something I can handle and if size was my concern then I'd just use the cameraphone! As for a smaller card enabling manufacturers to add silly gimmicks, perhaps we should go back to CompactFlash or even floppy disks if it discourages them from doing that...

"Outraged" is going a bit far - I'm merely confused, hence the rant. I'm not suggesting that Samsung are infringeing my basic human rights - merely my basic wish for life to be simple where possible. Manufacturers could make life a bit simpler by settling on one format. They appeared to do so - for all of 5 minutes.

Cliff Smith

January 21, 2010, 5:18 pm

Martin - A good point; I neglected to mention in the review that like most Samsung compact cameras the ST500 has a multi-purpose USB/AV connector that also charges the battery when connected to a powered USB socket (most PC sockets are powered), so there's no need to continually remove the memory card.

Noodles - The question is, do we really want cameras to get that much smaller? The human hand stubbornly remains much the same size as it always was, so there's a lower limit below which devices become too fiddly to operate. Look at those wristwatch calculators from the 1980s. When was the last time you saw one of those?


January 21, 2010, 9:09 pm

@Cliff - Consumer electronics companies continually strive to miniaturise their products, whether it improves usability or not, (the newest Ipod Shuffle being a good example) This might not be good for blokes with gorilla hands, or for people who appreciate ease of use, but I know many members of the fairer sex who would squeal in delight at thought of a really small camera that would fit into those equally tiny clutch bags they insist upon.

Until us consumers are stopped being fed the "smaller is better/trendier/more high tech" line, all of this will only get worse..

Oh yes, the reason you don't see wristwatch calculators any more is because everyone just uses their mobile phone instead.

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