Samsung is, as we've noted before, the world's largest technology company, and has huge resources for innovation, design and manufacturing. As a result it can employ blitzkrieg tactics, flooding any particular market with a huge range of well-specified, well made models at temptingly low prices. It has done this with the digital camera market, fielding a range of models that includes digital SLRs, it's innovative new NX micro system and no less than 35 compact cameras. The tactic clearly works, because Samsung is now ranked third in the global compact camera market, and is rapidly catching up with Canon and Panasonic.
Typical of Samsung's range is this ST70. It features a high quality 5x zoom lens equivalent to 27-135mm, a 14.2-megapixel sensor, a 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor, 720p HD video and optical image stabilisation, all wrapped up in a slim and stylish all-metal body. Its a decent camera by any standard, but its specification is so similar to the ST60 and ST50 that even Samsung's own website has got them mixed up. Its closest rival is probably the Panasonic FS11, which has a virtually identical specification and is currently selling for around £130. Also comparable is the excellent Casio EX-Z2000, currently selling for around £135. The disappointing Pentax Optio I-10 is around £130. If you shop around online you can find the Samsung ST70 for under £120. There's really no mystery to Samsung's success.
While it's easy to be cynical about Samsung's marketing tactics there's no question that it can make a good product. The ST70 is slim lightweight and attractive, measuring just 96.3 x 55.8 x 21.5mm and weighing 137g fully loaded. The build quality is excellent, with a good fit between panels and well-mounted controls. The battery/card hatch even has a strong metal hinge and a locking latch, although the tripod bush is unfortunately made of plastic. The ST70 is available in turquoise metallic blue, brown or the anodised silver finish shown here.
As an aside, there is one minor annoyance has nothing to do with the design of the camera. Samsung's website lists the thickness of the ST70 as 16.6mm, but that measurement excludes the lens, obviously a necessary and permanently attached part of the camera. Similarly the weight is listed as 120g excluding the battery, again a vital component. It's like me saying I'm 3ft tall and weigh 80lbs, if you exclude my head, arms and legs. Can we have a little more accuracy please?