Samsung ST550 Review

December 10, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Samsung ST550 (also known as the TL225) is a 12 megapixel point and shoot camera with a unique twist - it has a 1.5 inch LCD screen on the front which makes it easier to take self-portrait pictures. In addition to this World-first feature, the ST550 also offers a clever 3.5 inch, 1,152k touch-screen LCD with built-in Haptic vibration effect for extra feedback, a Smart Gesture user interface with built-in Acceleration Sensor that responds to finger commands, and a One Touch Auto Focus feature that allows you to focus on a specific part of the frame simply by touching the desired area. A 4.6x 27-124.2mm lens provides a versatile focal range, the Smart Auto mode automatically chooses from 16 different settings ranging from landscape to portrait, and 720p video recording at 30fps completes the headline specs. The Samsung ST550 / TL225 comes in black, gold, orange and purple priced at £299.99 / $349.99.

Ease of Use

Constructed out of robust plastic with a glossy finish on the front and matt on the back, completed by shiny orange detailing on our serious black review model, the Samsung ST550 is a very stylish and quite slim compact camera. The 4.6x optical lens extends to provide a 27-124.2mm focal length, versatile enough for anything from wide-angle landscapes to candid head and shoulder portraits, although there are other similarly-sized models that offer a bigger zoom.

The lens dominates proceedings at the front of the ST550, taking up almost the full height of the face plate, with the built-in flash bulb shifted over to the left out of harm's way. On the right of the lens is a small porthole-style window for the AF assist/self timer lamp. There's no hand-grip at all on the glossy front of the ST550 or on the rear, which makes the camera more difficult to hold steady when shooting handheld at the extremities of the zoom.

Also positioned on the front of the camera is the headline-grabbing secondary LCD screen, which is 1.5 inches in size. Virtually un-noticeable when not in use, this provides an intuitive way of taking better self-portraits, either with your arm out-stretched holding the camera or mounted on a tripod. Being able to see a preview makes it easy to tell if you're going to cut the top of your head off, and the large self-timer countdown (if that feature is activated) also helps in the timing of that award-winning smile. Samsung have also added a range of "fun" effects via the special Children scene mode, aimed at attracting children's attention so that they look towards the camera, although there's only a handful of them, so they may get bored if over-used.

Looking down on the ST550's top plate we find 6 controls. Starting at the left when viewed from the rear, there are holes for the microphone, a Power button that's a little too small and recessed for easy operation, and a tactile shutter button. Next up is the rather plasticky but responsive rocker switch for operating the zoom. Controlled by a protruding lip that falls naturally under the forefinger, the zoom takes around three seconds to travel from maximum wide angle to full telephoto - which is pretty much par for the course for its focal range. We did find on occasion that the zoom took a moment or two to 'wake up' - and that its transitions are sound-tracked by a low mechanical blur - but it's low enough to avoid being off-putting. A small activity LED and the self-explanatory Play button complete the top of the ST550.

Samsung ST550 Samsung ST550
Front Rear

Once you've zoomed in and got your composition how you want, with a half press of the shutter button the Samsung ST550 is commendably swift to determine focus and exposure, the AF point highlighted in green and an operational 'beep' confirming you're good to go on and take the shot. Annoyingly there's no central AF point option, only Multi AF or One Touch Shooting, which as mentioned in the introduction allows you to interactively set the focus point by tapping the touchscreen LCD (more on that below). With little noticeable shutter lag, at highest resolution setting an image is committed to memory in just under two seconds, the screen blanking out briefly, which isn't bad at all.

The rear of the ST550 is dominated by the very large 3.5-inch LCD screen, which in the absence of an optical viewfinder is the only way of composing your images. The excellent LCD has a very high resolution of 1,152k dots, a real treat for the eyes during both image composition and playback. We didn't have too many problems viewing the ST550's screen in all but the brightest sunlight conditions.

The ST550 incorporates some very clever touch-screen technology, with virtually all of the camera's functions activated and controlled via its LCD. It offers the best interactive experience of any digital camera that we've reviewed, thanks to a winning combination of high-resolution, intuitive menu layout, and immediate feedback from the haptic sensor technology. As you touch the LCD screen, it emits a sound and more usefully vibrates, making it easy to tell if you've successfully performed an action, something that is often easier said than done on other touch-screen cameras. The sound can be turned on or off, and there are 3 levels of vibration on offer.

In addition, you can do certain things, like scroll through your images or delete a picture, simply by performing a specific gesture, although often it proved quicker just to press the appropriate on-screen icon. If you're especially lazy, the ST550's Smart Gesture feature goes even further by using the camera's built-in acceleration sensor to allow you to use gestures to perform certain actions. Flick the camera left or right to scroll through images, for example, or draw a cross to delete an image - although again it's usually quicker just to use the icons.

Samsung ST550 Samsung ST550
Front Front

An ever-present icon in the top-left of the screen provides quick access to the shooting modes. On offer are the expected Auto and Program settings, plus Samsung's own 'Smart Auto' mode. As it sounds, this is the manufacturer's equivalent of the intelligent auto modes on competitors from Panasonic (its Lumix range), Sony (the latest T-series Cyber-shots) and Canon (Digital IXUS family). Namely you point the ST550 at a scene or subject that hopefully the camera recognizes, automatically adjusting its settings to deliver optimum results. This means that it's not necessary for the user to manually delve into scene modes to call up the likes of 'landscape' or 'flower'; the ST550's operation is merely a case of point and shoot.

There's also a 'Dual IS' mode, which offers both optical image stabilization and the ISO boosting digital variety. In terms of light sensitivity the Samsung ST550 offers a very respectable range, stretching from ISO 80 up to ISO 3200. We'll of course be examining how well it does at its higher settings in the 'Image Quality' section of our review. Samsung's 'Beauty Shot' mode, useful for both acne-d adolescents and those of us who have over-indulged by automatically retouching out spots and blemishes, is the first Scene mode. Spotlighting the ST550's intended audience as the family, Samsung clearly wants its users to have to spend as little time post-processing images as possible - if any. In addition to Beauty Shot, there are 12 other scene modes on offer.

Also useful is the omnipresent Function menu which can be quickly accessed by pressing the bottom of the LCD screen, which allows quick access to some of the ST550's key settings. As expected the amount of information and options accessed via a press of 'Fn' varies dependant on which shooting mode is selected. For example in regular auto mode the user merely has the ability to adjust image size and resolution. Choose program mode however and there's the ability to change the EV, choose metering modes, change from single shot to continuous capture, choose from the range of ISO settings, adjust white balance, set the photo style or turn the ubiquitous face detection mode on or off. Like its rivals, Samsung also allows user access to blink detection and smile shot in this mode.

Finally, the full menu of options can be opened via the Menu icon in the bottom-right corner. Depending on the particular mode that the user is in, an icon illustrated vertical list provides access to four menus - Functions, Sound, Display and Settings. These include the ability to tweak operational sounds, LCD display, plus access to a setting menu, enabling memory to be formatted or previously selected functions reset. The ST550 also has its very own Recycle Bin, with every deleted shot automatically stored in a temporary folder just in case you change your mind.

Samsung ST550 Samsung ST550
Secondary LCD Screen Battery Compartment

Although it hasn't got an 'HD' suffix in the model name, the Samsung ST550 nevertheless offers High Definition video clips, though at 1280x720 pixels rather than the Full HD 1920x1080. In what Samsung is claiming as a first for digital compacts in its class, these can be paused mid-recording then re-started. The user can therefore perform rudimentary 'editing' as they shoot, a clever idea that hasn't yet been picked-up by other manufacturers. Fortunately the full extent of the optical zoom is also accessible when shooting movies. The video mode provides the opportunity to either shoot at top resolution, a less memory hungry 640x480 pixels, or 320x240 pixels; choice dependant on intended use (whether playing back on an HDTV or merely posting on the Internet). Maximum frame rate at 1280x720 resolution is 30fps, with a reduced 15fps rate also selectable. Should users however plump for the very lowest picture quality, a faster frame rate of 60fps is selectable.

There are holes for the built-in speaker on the left hand side of the ST550 (if viewing from the rear), and a very small camera strap eyelet on the right side. On the bottom we find an included HDMI port for hooking the camera up to an HDTV. Increasingly common for DSLRs that also shoot movies, it's still a comparative rarity to find such on a digital compact, even if it does shoot HD video. The required HDMI cable is an optional extra though, so bear in mind if you're on a budget. The HDMI port also doubles up as the means of re-charging the camera, with the battery left in the camera itself, either from an electrical socket or or alternatively straight from a USB port connected to your computer. Also in the box is a quick-start guide as a hard copy, the full manual on CD ROM, plus a wrist strap.

Completing the bottom of the ST550 is a screw thread for attaching a tripod and alongside that a sliding cover for protecting the compartment that jointly houses the removable SD Micro media plus the provided battery. Battery life is good for approximately 200 shots from a full charge, but that's only if you don't use the secondary LCD screen, which then reduces it to less than 150 shots - you'll definitely need a second battery for day-trips. Equally annoying is the tiny SD Micro format, which makes sense in Samsung's extensive range of mobile phones, but not in a larger camera. It's much too easy to lose in a pocket or bag, requires investment in yet another format, doesn't offer as much capacity or speed as SD / SDHC, and also needs the supplied adapter to be used in most external memory card readers. There's also 55Mb of built-in storage, enough for a dozen photos.

The Samsung ST550 offers the best touchscreen interface that we've tried, plus a useful secondary LCD screen, although it does suffer from poor battery life.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12.2 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb.

The Samsung ST550 produced images of above average quality during the review period. Noise is the main problem, being obvious at the relatively slow speed of ISO 200 and then becoming progressively worse at the faster settings of 400 and 800. ISO 1600 and 3200 are only to be used as a last resort.

Chromatic aberrations were very well controlled, with some limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The 12.2 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera sharpening level.

Macro performance is quite good, allowing you to focus as close as 5cms away from the subject. Commendably barrel distortion is well controlled even at the 27mm wide-angle focal length. The built-in flash worked fairly well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate overall exposure.

Anti-shake works very well when hand-holding the ST550 in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. The maximum shutter speed of 16 seconds allows the camera to capture enough light for most after-dark situations.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Samsung ST550. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Samsung ST550's 4.6x zoom lens offers a fairly versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:



File Quality

The Samsung ST550 has 3 different image quality settings available, with SuperFine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

12M SuperFine (4.88Mb) (100% Crop) 12M Fine (2.59Mb) (100% Crop)

12M Normal (1.79Mb) (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft and ideally benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Samsung ST550 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Samsung ST550 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 5cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Samsung ST550 are Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash off, and Red eye fix. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Auto - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (124.2mm)

Auto - Telephoto (124.2mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Auto setting or the Red eye fix option caused any red-eye.


Auto (100% Crop)

Red eye fix

Red eye fix (100% Crop)

Night Shot

The Samsung ST550's maximum shutter speed is 16 seconds in the Night scene mode, which is very good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 6 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Samsung ST550 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/2th / 27mm
1/4th / 124.2mm

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung ST550 camera, which were all taken using the 12.2 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample video from the Samsung ST550 camera at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 21 second movie is 24.5Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung ST550

Front of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Samsung ST550

Front of the Camera / Secondary LCD Screen On

Samsung ST550

Isometric View

Samsung ST550

Isometric View

Samsung ST550

Rear of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Samsung ST550

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Samsung ST550

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu


Samsung ST550

Top of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Bottom of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Side of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Side of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Front of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Front of the Camera

Samsung ST550

Battery Compartment


With the best touchscreen interface of any current camera and a useful secondary LCD for easy self-portraits, the Samsung ST550 is a real crowd-pleaser. The resulting poor battery life and so-so image quality unfortunately ultimately detract from the great first impressions.

The ST550 is a real joy to use, with the combination of the clever haptic control system and the high-resolution screen finally producing a touchscreen system that doesn't send us rushing back to a button-based interface. Only the gesture-based controls, which have you wildly waving the camera in all directions, feel like an unnecessary extra. The self-portrait LCD is the icing on the cake, making the ST550 ideally suited for use by all members of the family.

When you've got over that initial rush of excitement, however, two main problems raise their ugly heads. The main one is the incredibly poor battery life - just over 100 shots if make extensive use of the touchscreen, playback and the self-portrait screen - making a second battery a compulsory purchase. And as with the PL70 model that we reviewed earlier this week, still image quality is not that great, with noise at low ISO speeds blighting what are otherwise acceptable pictures.

Unlike the PL70, the ST550 doesn't have price on its side, with Samsung charging a rather high £299.99 / $349.99 for all that cutting-edge technology. There are plenty of better-specced cameras with more impressive image quality available for less money than the ST550, albeit without the clever bells and whistles.

And that's really the point. The Samsung ST550 is ultimately a very fun camera to use, despite its short-comings, thanks to its genuinely useful technological innovations. If you can't literally buy into that, then you should look elsewhere - try the ST550 out for yourself, though, and we'll bet that you'll be converted.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 3.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Samsung ST550 from around the web. »

The Samsung ST550 - or Samsung TL225 as it's known in the USA - has two LCD screens. The primary touchscreen on the back, with a smaller screen on the front too. May sound a little absurd, but it's actually fairly criminal it's not happened before. How often do you see holiday goers trying to take self portraits (unsuccessfully) at an arm's length? The ST550 sets out to eliminate this problem, but it doesn't shun the rest of its performance - with a 3.5in touchscreen on the back the Samsung ST550 looks to be a real crowd pleaser. The What Digital Camera Samsung ST550 review gets snapping...
Read the full review » »

The Samsung ST550 is extremely clever in some respects, but pretty ordinary in terms of picture quality. As an exercise in interface design and an electronic plaything, it's just fantastic. It's the number of ideas and the way they've been integrated into the design that impresses.
Read the full review » »

It's squarely aimed at the MySpace/Facebook/Twitter crowd, who tend to create interesting self-portraits for profile pictures. The quality of photos taken with the Samsung ST550 are good enough for use on these sites; it's not a camera that's meant to take stunning photos, but merely ones that are good.
Read the full review »


Image sensor Type 1/2.33″ (appox 7.79mm) CCD
Effective Pixel Approx. 12.2 Mega-pixel
Total Pixel Approx. 12.4 Mega-pixel
Lens Focal Length Schneider-KREUZNACH Lens f = 4.9 ~ 22.5mm (35mm film equivalent: 27 ~ 124.2mm)
F No. F3.5 (W) ~ F5.9 (T)
Digital Zoom Still Image mode: 1.0X ~ 5.0X Play mode: 1.0X ~ 12.5X (depends on image size)
Focusing Type TTL auto focus (Multi AF, Center AF, Face Detection AF, Smart Touch AF, Smart Face Recognition AF, One Touch Shooting)
Range Normal: 80cm ~ infinity Macro: 5cm ~ 80cm (Wide), 50cm ~ 80cm (Tele) Auto Macro: 5cm ~ Infinity (Wide), 50cm ~ Infinity (Tele) Super Macro: 3cm ~ 8cm
Exposure Compensation ±2EV (1/3EV steps)
Control Program AE
ISO Equivalent Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Metering Multi, Spot, Center Weighted, Face Detection AE
Flash Modes Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash off, Red eye fix
Recharging Time Approx. 4 sec.
Range Wide: 0.2m ~ 3.4m, Tele: 0.5m ~ 2.0m, (ISO AUTO)
Storage Media Internal Memory: About 55 MB
External Memory (Optional): Micro SD™ (up to 4 GB guaranteed) Micro SDHC (up to 8 GB guaranteed)
File format Still Image: JPEG (DCF), EXIF 2.21, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0 Movie Clip: H.264 (MPEG4.AVC) Audio: AAC
Image Size 12M: 4000 x 3000 pixels, 8M: 3264 x 2448 pixels, 5M: 2560 x 1920 pixels, 3M: 2048 x 1536 pixels 1M: 1024 x 768 pixels, 9MW: 3840 x 2160 pixels, 2MW: 1920 x 1080 pixels, 10MP: 3984 x 2656 pixels
Interface Audio Microphone: MonoInternal Speaker: Mono
Digital output connector USB 2.0
Video Out AV: NTSC, PAL (user selectable) SCC-AV34HDMI 1.2: NTSC, PAL (user selectable) (1)
DC power input 4.2V 34Pin
Physical Specification Dimensions (WxHxD) 99.8 x 59.8 x 18.6mm
Weight 165.7g (without battery and card)
Operating Temperature 0 ~ 40°C
Operationg Humidity 5 ~ 85%
Display Type TFT LCD
Feature Main Display: 3.5" (8.9cm) Wide 1152K Full Touch LCD Front Display: 1.5" (3.8cm) 185K TFT LCD
Movie Clip Recording With Audio or without Audio (Zoom Mute) (Max Recording time: 20min) Size: 1280 x 720 (30/15fps) High Quality, 1280 x 720 (30/15fps) Standard Quality, 640 x 480 (30/15fps), 320 x 240 (60/30/15fps) (2)
Effect Colour Style: Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom
Edit Pause during recording, Still Image Capture, Time Trimming
Still Image Shooting Smart Auto, Auto, Program, Dual IS, Scene, Movie Clip (3)
Effect Photo Style Selector: Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB Image Adjust: Sharpness (Soft+, Soft, Normal, Vivid, Vivid+), Contrast (Hight+,High, Normal, Low, Low+), Saturation (++, +, Normal, -, --)
Edit Image Edit: Resize, Rotate, Trimming Photo Style Selector: Normal, Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative, Custom RGB Special Effect: Colour Filter, Elegant, Add NoiseImage Adjust: Face Retouch, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Red Eye Fix, ACBFunny Face: Face Retouch (Level 1,2,3), Red eye fix, Snow, Mosaic, Highlight
Special Feature   • 3.5" Wide Full Touch Main Display (1152K), 1.5" Front Display
• Dual Image Stabilisation: Optical IS + Digital IS
• Front Display (Self Shot, Self Timer, Shutter Info, Funtion Info, Children mode)
• Gamefying User Interface: Haptic Effect, Smart Gesture UI (Tap, Air Button & Tilting, Tilting, Drawing X and half circle)
• Smart Face Recognition (Register 6 people manullaly and 14 people automatically)
• One Touch Shooting
• Smart Auto
• Smart Album (Smart Album Category: Type, Date, Colour, Week, Face, Favorite)
• Beauty Shot (1,2,3 Steps)
• High Definition Movie Recording: - 720p Resolution @30fps / H.264 Movie File
• HDMI CEC (Optional HDMI cable and Connector needed)
• Multi Slide Show / Recycle Bin
• High Sensitivity ISO3200 (Full Size)
System Requirement in general For Windows Intel Pentium 4, 3.2GHz or later / AMD Athelon 64FX, 2.6GHz or later Minimum 512MB RAM (1GB and above recommended)
Windows XP SP2, Vista 250MB (Over 1GB recommanded)
CD-ROM Drive USB 2.0 Microsoft 9.0c or later Over 1024 x 768 pixels, 16 bit colour monitor or later (1280 x 1024 pixels, 32 bit colour recommanded)
Over 64MB video card (nVIDIA Geforce 7600GT or later / ATI x1600 series or later)
For Macintosh Not support
System Requirement for 720P H.264 Movie For Windows Windows 2000 / XP / Vista
For Macintosh Mac OS X 10.3 or higher

Your Comments

Loading comments…