A budget-concious compact with some impressive specs, the Samsung ST96 is an enticing prospect
The Samsung ST96 is a camera with few indications of its modest price tag. From the 5x optical zoom to the 14MP sensor, there are a whole host of features that belie the low cost making it, on the surface at least, something enticing for those on a budget.
Samsung ST96 Review – Features
The most eye-catching element on the features list is the 14MP sensor, giving the potential for incredibly sharp images. Although the amount of pixels has an impact on end image quality, the sensor size is no larger than competing compacts but simply has more nodes to capture the same amount of light. The lens has far more impact, and in this instance the 26-130mm stabilized optics has plenty of versatility for the majority of impromptu snapshots.
With a 1920 x 1080 video mode the ST96 bypasses the medium quality of 720p, which is adopted by a number of similarly priced models. The 2.7inch 230k LCD is by no means a headline-grabbing extra, where as the Micro SD memory card format is something of an interesting choice if not beneficial to camera in any way.
Samsung ST96 Review – Design
The design of the camera is subtle, in that there are no obviously plasticy or coloured areas to ruin the aesthetic. Instead the colouring is only broken up by a scant few segments of silver trim, making the ST96 appear classy and attractive without being garish in any way. With a 2.7inch screen at the rear there’s plenty of space to arrange buttons, with the ST96 being given larger controls rather than more of a surrounding area. Each button is sturdy without being difficult to press, and responsive when used.
One area which fails on the responsiveness front is the combination of flash and camera, as the ST96 seems to lock the camera if a shot is taken while the flash is charging. This means the user can do nothing but wait until the flash is charged, at which point the camera takes an exposure, often around 10 seconds after the shutter release was initially depressed.
This is an annoying oversight, as the camera gives little or no indication that it will take an image when the flash charges and prevents any other features being accessed. With such a delay in shot-to-shot times there’s the potential for missing opportunities, not to mention moving the camera away from the desired subject and winding up with an unwanted image.
Elsewhere the camera functions in a perfectly acceptable manner, with the menu functionality making it quite straightforward to make alterations, and pointless animations being forfeited for the sake of functionality. The multi-area focus is suitably rapid, as is the zoom control, making it relatively straightforward to take a decent shot once the flash is charged.
Samsung ST96 Review – Image Quality
Image quality is reasonably impressive taking the price tag into account. Sharpness at the top end of the zoom isn’t particularly decent, and the dynamic range is a touch limited, but overall the image quality is reasonably reliable. ISO performance at the 1600 and 3200 level aren’t particularly useful, but the results leading up to that level are acceptable at worst.
Colour quality is also realistic, although missing a little pop, but reds seemed to present a real issue as the tonal range evident on a number of other of other shades is lacking, turning the end result into something more one dimensional and overly saturated.
Samsung ST96 Review – Value
Being priced at £129 rrp, or around £80 on the internet makes the ST96 a decent budget package. The MicroSD format isn’t any cheaper or more expensive than it’s full sized sibling, meaning the only occasion when it becomes a more awkward option is when buying a card reader, as a supplemental adapter may be needed.