Samsung ST150F Review
The Samsung ST150F is a 16.2 megapixel compact camera with a 5x, 25-125mm optically-stabilized lens in an ultra-slim body that is only 18mm thick. The Samsung ST150F also features 720p HD video recording and a 3 inch LCD screen, built-in wi-fi capability that allows users to email photos from any hotspot or share them on social networks such as Facebook and Picasa, simultaneous stills and video capture and an HDMI port, Live Panorama mode and a range of creative filters and effects. The Samsung ST150F is available now in black, white, silver and pink for £99 / $149.
Ease of Use
The usual mix of metal and plastic, the Samsung ST150F is a sleek and narrow palm-sized snapper with basic but not unattractive stylistic details that will easily slip into a trouser or shirt pocket, or even a lady’s purse. A 5x optical zoom supported by digital image stabilization, a maximum light sensitivity of ISO3200 plus a 16.2 megapixel effective resolution from a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor may be standard issue stuff, but the lens does offer a brighter than average for its class f/2.5 maximum aperture. That’s at its widest 25mm equivalent setting in 35mm film terms.
Of the same height as a business card and only marginally wider, the ST150F has a finger’s width-like depth nigh identical to Samsung’s equally new model in the WB30F, which fields a slightly better/broader focal range courtesy of a 10x optical zoom instead of this camera’s 5x. Like its sibling, the ST150F also features the fast becoming ‘must have’ feature of Wi-Fi connectivity, with a Samsung NX series-like Direct Link button provided top right of this camera’s backplate to further narrow the connectivity gap between point and shoots like this and smartphones and computer tablets.
The Samsung ST150F is apparently available in four colours in the UK, though we had the arctic white version in for review, which lends it a certain tech-y cool, whilst at the back sits a regulation issue 3-inch, 230k dot resolution LCD screen. Like the similar WB30F, the video option here is HD rather than Full HD, offering 1280x720 pixels clips at a maximum frame rate of 30fps in MPEG4 format and in mono audio, with 15fps being the other selectable frame rate. Unlike most compacts these days, and even some DSLRs, there’s no dedicated red record button for instantly commencing filming, which is a shame. Instead you have to first press the ‘home’ key on the camera back and tab through the options to the video mode. Once this has been selected, recording begins and ends with subsequent presses of the shutter release button. Closest focus mode is 5cm, which is respectable enough fro a camera in the ST150F’s snapshot class.
Less impressive is the fact that the ST150F favours the odiously small and fiddly microSD card as its media of course. You can see the thinking being derived from the smartphone world and the fact that Samsung offers the facility to use microSD in its current flagship S4 handset, but surely there was room for a larger SD card slot here? At one point when ejecting the micro card it flew out of the camera and dropped from our lap to the floor. Whilst easily retrieved, imagine that happening in public.
Overall dimensions for the Samsung ST150F according to its manufacturer are 94.4x57.95x17.7mm, with the compact weighing an extremely light 114g without the provided BP70A rechargeable lithium ion battery inserted. Even then it's a comfortable fit for both palm and trouser pocket. Incidentally said battery is re/charged within the camera, with a USB 2.0 port equipped mains plug provided for the purpose. We also get just a small quick start guide and warranty card in printed form out of the box, with no extraneous software CD provided. Indeed the size and shape of said box is closer to what mobile phones are provided in, rather than the shoebox size camera boxes of old. A lot about the ST150F seems to suggest it being sold on the back of the goodwill and interest afforded the smartphone and tablet market, rather than strictly as a dedicated photo tool. Still, it won’t break the bank. At the time of writing the ST150F was being commonly sold around the magic £99 mark in UK, instead of its manufacturer’s suggested £149.99, which means that, psychologically, its potential point-and-shoot brigade audience are more likely to ‘take a punt’ on ownership.
Certainly from the front the ST150F is your run of the mill digital snapper. Whilst the white finish to our review sample lends it a certain cool, in truth it’s a standard issue model visually, although in mixing the usual metal and plastic it feels sturdy despite its diminutive credit-card sized proportions. The lens dominates at the front, being fully retracted within the body when the camera is switched off. Top right of this sits a small porthole/window housing the self-timer/AF assist lamp – surprisingly bright as it happens – whilst top left of the lens is the familiar narrow strip housing the built-in flash bulb. This is sufficiently away from the edge of the camera to avoid a finger straying in front if gripping the ST150F in the right hand. If you’ve just powered up the device from cold though, it does take a few seconds’ wait before the flash is ready to fire for the very first time.
The subtly forward sloping top plate of the Samsung ST150F continues the minimalist look and feel that suits the ST150F’s ‘barely there’ proportions. Controls, microphone and speaker are set into a thin, mirrored chrome strip that runs its length. Most prominent among these is, naturally, the shutter release button, slightly raised and encircled by a lever for controlling the zoom that has a forward-facing ridged lip that digs into the pad of your forefinger. Over at the other side of the camera and just past the mid way point is a power button, set level with the top plate to avoid accidental activation, even though we found this is still possible if fingers inadvertently alight on it when pulling the camera out of, or placing it into, a pocket.
Press said button and the camera powers up in 2-3 seconds, lens extending to maximum wide angle setting to the accompaniment of a mechanical buzz, whilst the rear place LCD bursts into life a second or so after. Squeeze the shutter release button down halfway and after a mere moment’s wait focus and exposure are determined with a beep of confirmation. Press fully to take the shot and after a barely discernable delay the image is taken, a full resolution shot written to memory in all of two seconds, which given the ST150F’s point and shot class is hardly cause for complaint. There is a tiny internal memory provided alongside the ability to insert a microSD card – though this affords storage of just a single full 16 megapixel resolution shot, which seems barely worth including. Toggle the zoom lever and the ST150F glides through its entire albeit brief focal range in just two seconds, again accompanied by a low mechanical whirr.
The rear plate controls, size, layout and positioning of buttons here are identical to those of the 10x optical zoom WB30F, also from Samsung, as are the majority of menu features and options, so you’ll forgive us if we share largely the same observations in their regard.
So, as with its bigger brother, the back of the ST150F features a DirectLink button top right of the camera back, with a tiny pinprick of an indicator lamp located alongside it and to the left. Again, the majority of back plate ‘real estate’ – roughly four fifths – is given over to the standard-issue 3-inch LCD screen with equally average 230k-dot resolution, though it does feature automatic brightness adjustment.
There’s no mode button or dial on this camera though we do get a smartphone or tablet-style ‘home’ button instead, which serves the same purpose of calling up the shooting options on screen with a button press. Whilst this maintains the camera’s sleek, futuristic look and avoids any lumps and bumps on the surface, it does however make it slower to arrive where you want than simply rotating a physical shooting mode dial straight to your desired setting.
Press the home button and we’re presented with seven shooting options on the first screen, just like on the WB30F. From top left on screen these are the default Smart Auto setting, the more expansive Program, a Smart Movie setting that detects scenes and subjects just like the ‘smart’ stills options, plus a further plain Movie option that allows the user to exert some influence just like Program mode does. The bottom row of three options, moving again from left to right, starts with scene mode, a press of which provides access to a rather sparse six settings, taking in landscape, sunset, dawn, backlight, beach and snow and text. Next along is the ‘Live Panorama’ option that allows elongated images to be created whether you’re panning with the camera via the vertical or horizontal axis, and in both directions on each, which is unusually flexible.
The final option of the seven on the first screen is for camera ‘settings’. Select this and we see the selectable choices are further split between sound, display, connectivity and ‘general’ options – the latter affording access to the more generic set up options, such as date and time, AF lamp (seemingly on by default), the ability to format the memory in use and wipe all images, or specify the use of the DirectLink button, with the AutoShare option that allows your smartphone to receive pictures being the default here. What we did miss when navigating these choices was a ‘back’ button, though a press of the ‘menu’ button serves the same purpose. Other options include the wireless transfer of pictures to a PC, the ability to send images via email when there is a suitable wireless network within range, or upload photos and videos to the Cloud. There is further the ability to use a smartphone as a remote viewfinder if desired; so quite a comprehensive array in a camera so small and outwardly unassuming.
Most of these options are in fact repeated as icons on the Samsung ST150F ’s second screen of app-like settings – we tab to the right to find it – MobileLink, Remote Viewfinder, Auto Backup and Email specifically. The third screen is a little bit more fun, affording as it does access to a beauty mode, the night shot mode, close up mode – all of which could have arguably been included with the earlier scene mode setting – plus the rather naff ‘Magic Frame’ option that offers to place your unadulterated still within a rather tacky background – a Christmassy ‘holiday’ option for example. The next option is the slightly more successful ‘Photo Filter’, which are digital effects by any other name. Just about everything one would want is provided here. So we get the now ubiquitous scenery-shrinking ‘miniature’ mode, followed by these effects: vignetting, ink painting, oil painting, cartoon, cross filter (starburst-like highlights), the charcoal-like sketch along with the self explanatory soft focus, fish eye, old film – complete with grain and splotches – the American comic strip style half tone dot, ‘classic’ black and white, retro colour and the final ‘Zooming shot’ which blurs the edges of the frame to make it look as if the shot has been taken mid zoom. These are all exactly the same as the options found on the WB30F. Most of these are also available for shooting movies as well as stills, which adds on four colour enhancing/subtracting ‘palette’ effects.
The last few mode options on the camera include Split Shot, which allows you to take two or three photos in either portrait or landscape ratio and blend them together to form a single image; a funky idea that however means the image suffers an automatic resolution drop to three megapixels in the process. Also a cool idea searching for a practical use is Motion Photo which ‘animates’ a still frame so that, for example, when played back the camera pans through it. As well as the ability to sort pictures into albums, also provided is a means of editing images in camera. Here there is the ability to rotate a shot, apply one of the photo filters described earlier after the shot has been taken, rather than at time of capture, or adjust brightness, contrast and saturation. Faces can also be retouched or red eye fixed. So again, quite a comprehensive palette of options at our disposal…
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
To the right of the ‘home’ button is a self-explanatory one for ‘menu’. By this point you might wonder which options might be left on what is supposed to be your common or garden snapshot, and given the comprehensive line up surveyed so far. Press menu however when in Program shooting mode and, via a semi translucent menu overlay that extends two thirds of the way across the screen, once again top of the list of options we’re offered the chance to activate or deactivate the ST150F’s AutoShare feature. Next down on the list is the manually ability to adjust exposure +/- 2EV, followed by the ability to tweak white balance using pre-loaded settings or alternatively take a custom white balance. Next option down on this list governs ISO light sensitivity, with the range extending from ISO80 up to a maximum ISO3200, plus an auto option alongside. Whilst that appears modestly befitting the snapshot status, the flash options that follow next on the menu list are more comprehensive, comprising a red eye reduction and red eye fix option alongside off, automatic, fill in and slow sync; a fairly comprehensive range for a snapshot at this price point.
It’s also in this menu list that we can get to switch between normal AF mode and the 5cm macro mode, and adjust the focus area between centre AF, multi zone AF and tracking AF. Face detection options also feature, with, as well as the ability to turn this option on or off, the option to set smile detection or blink detection. The same menu list allows us to set photo quality and resolution, and switch metering between multi zone, spot or centre weighted, whilst turning optical image stabilization on or off as desired.
Beneath the home and menu buttons sits the four-way control pad, with settings for display, self-timer, close up and flash settings, at their centre an ‘OK’ button for affecting changes and choices. Completing the button layout, at the very base of the camera are the final two buttons for the obvious playback and delete.
Whilst the left hand flank of the camera is devoid of any features and controls whatsoever, the right hand side features a means of attaching a strap and of recharging the camera via the featured USB port, which is squirreled away behind a small plastic flap near the base and a side screw.
Finally the base of the Samsung ST150F features a slightly off-centre screw thread for attaching a tripod, and a spring loaded cover protecting the joint compartment for the lithium ion battery and microSD card. Battery life does not appear overly impressive. But is the same to be said of the images the ST150F produces, or do they transcend its credit card-like dimensions? Click forward to find out...