The overall design of the ST70 isn’t exactly ground-breaking. It’s a fairly typical shape for an ultra-compact, virtually indistinguishable from a hundred others. The top panel has a rotary bezel zoom control around the shutter button, an on/off button and another button to activate the Smart Auto mode. The rear panel has the usual layout of four buttons and a D-pad, leaving plenty of room on the top right to grip the camera. Samsung is still labelling most of its controls with engraved silver-on-silver symbols that are difficult to see even in good light, and almost invisible in lower light conditions. Despite this niggle and the camera’s compact dimensions the ST70 is quite pleasant to handle, although the finish is quite slippery.
One unusual feature of the body design is the the shape of the feet. Like most compact cameras the ST70 has small feet on the bottom for stability, useful if you’re trying to balance the camera on a pile of CD cases to get a good self-timer shot. The feet on the ST70 are angled so that on a flat surface the camera is tilted back slightly. A minor point perhaps, but we’re nothing if not thorough.
The camera industry has almost universally adopted the SD card format for removable storage. Olympus has finally abandoned the expensive and unpopular xD-Picture card, and even traditional stick-in-the-mud Sony has dual-format slots on many of its cameras. Samsung however has decided to be different, and so the ST70 uses the MicroSD card format, a type of card designed for use in mobile phones. There’s nothing wrong with this, and MicroSD cards of up to 8GB capacity are available, but it’s worth considering if you (like me) have a number of SD cards that you were hoping to be able to use in your new camera.
In terms of features the ST70 is again fairly typical of its class. Shooting modes include program auto, a Smart Auto scene recognition mode, and 13 scene mode programs. Additional features include face recognition to which names can be added, several special effect filters such as fisheye lens, vignetting and miniature effect, and an automatic contrast booster for difficult lighting situations. There isn’t much in the way of creative picture control, but there is a Photo Style Selector, which applies some colour effects, including an adjustable RGB colour balance. Focus area modes include centre and multi-point focusing, as well as a tracking AF function. The usual selection of spot, centre-weighted or multi-zone exposure metering is also available.
The video recording function is good, but is also fairly typical of the class. It can record at 1280 x 720 resolution and 30fps, with mono audio recorded by an internal microphone which is mounted on the top panel and almost totally non-directional. Unusually the optical zoom can be used while recording, with the option to mute audio recording while zooming, although the sudden silence is more distracting than the sound of the zoom motor on the soundtrack. There are a number of menu options in video mode including photo styles and filter effects.