Samsung ST550 Review

I was setting out to upgrade the firmware of my Samsung ST550 digital compact camera when I realized I hadn’t mentioned about it at all on this blog. So, here’s a quick mini-review of it. The camera was launched around the end of 2009. I bought it at one of the major Singapore computer shows not too long after that (that means probably in early 2010). This is one of those spur-of-the-moment purchase. I hadn’t gone to the computer show with the objective of getting a camera.

Probably the most outstanding thing about this series of Samsung digital compact camera is the dual LCD screens: The usual LCD on the back, plus an additional front-facing one. The front-facing LCD screen serves two important functions: 1) for taking self-portraits, and 2) capture and focus the attention of babies and young children when you try to take photos of them. The second function is achieved by displaying cartoon pictures on the front-facing LCD screen, so that the little ones will look at the camera, possibly even keeping still for a few seconds while you compose and shoot the photo.

It really worked for my little son who was not even one-year old at that time. I think this is the single biggest benefit of this camera over any other the competition has. The front-facing LCD screen can also serve as a preview/count-down timer, pretty useful if you shoot a lot of self-timer photos.

Other features of the camera are not very different from what the competition has to offer. This is a 12.2 megapixel camera, HD 720x 30fps video, 3.5″ touch-screen LCD screen, 4.6x optical zoom (27-124.2mm). The additional LCD screen on the front is 1.5″.

Physically, the camera looks plain and simple, but with an elegant colour styling on one side. It is quite “meaty”… meaning it has some thickness to it, but it is solidly firm. Unlike the trend toward diminutive ultra-thin designs, this one is easy to grasp and you will not have any fear of it accidentally slipping out of your hands. Of course, the size can also be a bad thing: You are going to notice it in your pockets.

The software has all the usual features you’d expect: face detection, blink detection, smile detection, etc. There are a few physical buttons (power, shutter-release, zoom playback), but most of the interaction is through the touchscreen controls.

I did have one gripe about the camera. It’s slow, particularly in the lag time between shots, getting pretty bad if you also need to recharge the flash. I’m not entirely sure if software could fix this lag (not to recharge the flash faster, of course, but perhaps in the lag time between shots). But there’s no harm checking out Samsung’s website for firmware updates. Nowadays everything digital continues to be fixed and enhanced throughout its sales life (i.e. for as long as the manufacturer continues to sell the product), more more. So not surprisingly, I found an update and promptly updated the camera.

The firmware update did little to improve the lag time between shots. The UI controls do feel a little snappier, and there seems to be a couple of new features. But the lag time between shots is a major bummer if you like to take multiple sequential shots. This will be a show-stopper for some people.

So there you have it, the Samsung ST550.