Dual LCD ST550(TL225)
Unlike in the past when camera manufacturers tried to outplay one another by introducing higher-resolution sensors or more powerful zoom lenses, these days it takes more than that to stand out from the competition. This is probably why some of the latest compacts show off interesting features, such as the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj with an onboard projector. However, one shooter has been exceptionally innovative. The Samsung ST550 comes with dual LCDs--one in front, the other at the back--and this is a practical solution for consumers who like to take self-portraits but can't frame them properly. Other than having two displays, the touchscreen-operated ST550 also has a wealth of features such as haptic feedback and a high-resolution screen that puts it at the top of its class. Design
The ST550 looks quite classy with the gold trimmings around the sides. (Credit: Leonard Goh/CNET Asia) The ST550's aesthetics may look a tad minimal, if not plain, at first sight. But if you take a closer look, you'll notice how classy this snapper actually appears. There are few buttons to
work with because most of the operations are conducted via the 3.5-inch touchscreen on the rear. Ar the top, you'll find the power and shutter buttons with a tiny zoom lever beside them. The playback switch is situated below the zoom on a slight slope. Since the touch-operated display takes up most of the rear estate, some users may be concerned about whether there is space for them to rest their thumb while holding the camera. Samsung has cleverly allotted just enough room on the right for most users to comfortably handle the shooter by wrapping their hands around it, though this method would obstruct the front LCD. The best way is to hold the top and bottom of the snapper with their fingers.
The rear is taken up by the large 3.5-inch touchscreen. (Credit: Leonard Goh/ CNET Asia) The color trimmings (red, blue, gold or purple) along the sides of the ST550 add a touch of class (or style, depending on what shade you choose), though they serve no practical purpose. The menu interface of the Samsung point-and-shoot may appear confusing to new users, but once you get the hang of it, it's quite intuitive. There are two panels along the edges of the frame which give access to options like ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, white balance and more. Hence, you don't really have to use the main menu unless you want to deactivate certain settings such as haptic feedback or adjust the screen brightness. Features The highlight of the ST550 is its dual LCDs which serve multiple purposes. The rear display is for normal framing of shots and navigating the menu. The 1.5-inch screen in front can be activated/deactivated with a tap, and all you have to do is smile at the lens and the camera will automatically snap a picture when it detects your smile. This seamless process is fun to operate and also makes the snapper easier to use.
From left to right: Default mode, Children scene mode and shooting info setting. (Credit: Leonard Goh/CNET Asia) Depending on what settings you are in, the front screen shows different things. For example, in normal capture mode, the display shows what the lens is seeing and this makes it really intuituve to take self-portraits. Switch to self-timer mode and the display gives a countdown timer so you won't have to guess when the shutter is activated. Alternatively, you can set it to show a smiley face when you half-press, the shutter so your subject will know when you're taking the shot. A clown animation will be played in Children's scene mode to capture kids' attention.
Half press the shutter to bring up a smiley face, or in self-timer mode it will show the countdown (Credit: Leonard Goh/CNET Asia) While the front panel is a talking point for the ST550, the rear screen is interesting, too. It has a resolution of 1,152k dots compared with typical point-and-shoots which have only 230k dots. This makes checking for sharpness easier and clearer to view. The monitor has haptic feedback so users have a physical confirmation when they tap on the screen. Also, since it supports Smart Gesture, we could draw patterns on the display to execute certain operations: Swiping our finger from side to side scrolls between images, while drawing a circle or cross changes the orientation of the photo or deletes it, respectively. The onboard accelerometer allows you to tilt the camera to select certain features in both shooting and playback modes. However, we found the accelerometer to be a tad
unresponsive and required several tilts before we could choose the function. The ST550 comes with a 4.6x optical zoom lens that is widest at 27mm, which makes it useful for taking self-portraits. Holding the camera at arm's length, we were able to comfortably squeeze four people into the frame with room to spare. Interestingly, the ST550 uses microSD cards for storage. According to Samsung, the front LCD took up space inside the camera and hence the company had to resort to a smaller memory media.