In terms of performance the ST5000 is very good. It starts up and can be ready to take a picture in less than three seconds, or four and a half if it needs to use the flash. In single shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 1.8 seconds, which is very respectable, while in continuous shooting mode it can manage a frame every 1.3 seconds, although annoyingly the monitor screen remains blank while shooting in this mode. It also has Samsung’s usual “motion capture” mode, which shoots at 6fps for 30 shots, but only at VGA resolution.
The autofocus system appears to be the same as the ST70. It is quick and reliable, focusing in under half a second at wide angle, and only slowing down a fraction at full zoom. Low light focusing is also very good, just as fast as in normal light, and thanks to a good AF assist lamp it can focus in total darkness at a range of several meters.
Picture quality is also good, although there are a couple of caveats. Like most of Samsung’s premium models the ST5000 has a Schneider-Kreuznach branded lens, and the centre sharpness is suitably impressive. However it also has the usual digital distortion correction, and this does unfortunately result in some corner blurring. There’s no trace of chromatic aberration though. The zoom range of 31-217mm is a bit neither-here-nor-there by current standards, lacking both the ultra-wide and longer telephoto of come of its competitors.
Thanks to the quality of the lens, the 14.2-megapixel resolution of the sensor and relatively low compression in the highest quality mode the level of recorded detail is excellent, in fact among the best I’ve seen from a camera in this class. Colour rendition is also very good, with bright saturated tones and plenty of detail even in bright areas. Dynamic range is, unsurprisingly, rather limited, thanks to the tiny 7.76mm (1/2.3-inch) sensor. I really wish this wasn’t the standard size for compact camera sensors. Can 1/1.6-inch chips be that much more expensive to make?
Another result of the tiny over-powered sensor is of course image noise, and here too it has a lot in common with the ST70. Noise effects are visible even at the lowest ISO settings, however the noise reduction system seems to be tuned to work best at 400 ISO, and at this setting it does produce results that are above average for its class. This quickly fades, along with the colour saturation, at higher settings, and the 3200 ISO maximum is best avoided.
The Samsung ST5000 is a solidly made and attractively designed camera with a lot to like about it, especially the price. The zoom range is better than average, although it lacks a bit at the wide-angle end. The touch-screen works well, performance is excellent, particularly in low light, and results are good in most situations despite the tiny sensor.