Samsung’s style conscious ST series of compacts gets an addition, the 16.1-megapixel ST93, a smart and slim line snapper that has a host auto features that make snapping fun and easier. Doug Harman finds out if it lives up the billing in this it’s full What Digital Camera test.
Images and Verdict
Samsung ST95 Review – Image Quality
With just over 16-million effective pixels, I was fully expecting the image quality to suffer a lot more than it does. For most of the time, in bright daylight, the images look vibrant, clean and suitably detailed.
But once sensitivity rises, say in lower lighting, and the dual image stabilisation starts to get a grip (it uses optical and electronic modes to help reduce camera shake and subject blur, the latter type bumps up the ISO) then things become less pleasing.
However, the way the noise is handled leaves a granular look to the shots, with little luminance noise so it is more akin to film grain than traditional image noise and I prefer that look so it’s not all doom and gloom.
Interestingly, noise in low light when shooting video is particularly heavy, which is a shame particularly as control of the ISO is one of the missing options in movie capture.
And so, while image noise is well controlled overall, once you’re over ISO 800 it becomes more intrusive and as expected, noise reduction processing starts to smear away the details. Writing of detail, the Panorama feature is fun to use but the downside of a Sweep system like this is the amount of detail you can capture.
It is limited by the height (in pixels dimensions) of the image which becomes very long and narrow, so the very subject you would most like to use it for, wide landscapes and vistas, where the smallest distant detail needs to be rendered in the best possible way, if very small in the final image or smoothed away by image processing.
One of the image aspects that did not suffer as much as I’d have expected however is the highlights which are well rendered, in fact and is something that seems a common thread on many of today’s compacts. Namely, highlight detail is preserved at the expense of shadow detail, which just seem to fill in very quickly so that any finer details in darker areas is simply gone.
You can get round this to a degree by astute use of the metering, being more selective where you measure light from in a shot, but in the auto modes, you’re left in the hands of the camera’s systems and they do not always get the best balance. However the face Detection AF is actually rather good as seems to capture flattering faces without too many problems.
A couple of the features I like include the object highlight scene mode, that shoots two images, one focused on the subject and one completely out of focus, and then combines them to mimic the effect of large aperture lens and the narrow depth of field it would be capable of achieving. It works really well as long as the subject does not move between snaps.
Another fun feature is the magic frame mode, where you can insert a subject into a preloaded frame of which you can choose between a TV set, the side of a building or even a wave effect. And despite what you may think of these modes (yes they’re silly, frivolous or to some, simply not necessary) they are fun and some really rather effective.
Another good example of these fun features is the now almost ubiquitous miniature mode, which is included as one of ten other lens filter effects that include a fisheye effect and effects such as a sketch mode.
In each case, the effects can add a touch of the creative to otherwise mundane subjects but if nothing else, they allow you to experiment, and that is great as it means you’ll use the camera more than you otherwise would.
Samsung ST95 Review – Verdict
There’s so much crammed into theSamsung ST93 that it seems you’re getting much more for the money than a simple pocket snapper, and of course you are, well, at least to a degree. The auto snapping modes are able to help you get faster more effective snaps, the image stabilisation works – but watch out for the introduction of image noise – and the many effects and fun filters that you can apply add further creativity into the mix, some are actually really rather good too.
The 16-megapixel resolution sensor is frankly overkill given the likely size the shots taken on this camera are likely to be used at, and yet, given enough light and enough time, you can get very decent results. On the downside, the flash takes too long to recharge, the image noise at higher ISOs is intrusive and detail can be smeared away as the camera tries to deal with it.
But nevertheless, given the cameras feature set and its versatility and then looking at its price, it is surely a small compact that will provide so much snapping pleasure and frivolous fun that if you’re looking to buy such as compact, it’ll be hard to resist and one that perhaps you should not.