Samsung ST80 The $249.99 (list) 14.2-megapixel Samsung ST80 makes a compelling case for Wi-Fi in a digital camera. Thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi, you can easily e-mail photos or upload them to your Facebook photo albums when you’re near a Wi-Fi hotspot. But the ST80 doesn’t offer optical image stabilization—an ever-present feature in cameras in this price range. This can mean blurry photos when shooting high-speed or low-light images. But if you’re shooting in good lighting, images from the ST80 are surprisingly sharp.
Samsung ST80 Design and Interface
One of the smaller compact cameras you can buy, the ST80 is comparable to the tiny Canon PowerShot HS 300 ($249.99, 4 stars). Measuring 2.2 by 3.6 by 0.7 inches (HWD) and weighing only 4.3 ounces, this camera fits easily in your pocket, but its all-plastic construction makes it feels flimsy. Most of the camera’s functions are controlled by the touch screen on the back, and you’ll have no problem figuring out what each physical control does; there are only three: Power and Playback buttons, and a zoom trigger.
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Most compact digital cameras use some form mechanical image stabilization—where either the lens or the image sensor shifts to help reduce blur. Not the ST80, and without it, you’ll have to use a faster shutter or higher ISO setting to get good results when shooting in low-light settings. The ST80 offers 3x optical zoom via a f/3-f/5.6, 35-105mm (35mm equivalent) lens. It’s not a particularly wide-angled, long-reaching, or fast lens for any class of camera.
Despite a good-size 230K-dot 3-inch LCD, framing pictures feels very cramped. The LCD has a 16:9 aspect ratio, but the camera’s sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio; if you’re shooting at full resolution, the camera shrinks the on-screen image to a pillar-boxed 2.5 inches. To compare, the low-cost General Electric E1480W ($169.99, 3 stars) offer a 3-inch LCD with a 4:3 aspect ratio so you can frame and review shots using the entire LCD.
Samsung ST80 Specifications
- 14.2 MP
- Media Format
- Secure Digital, microSD
- Samsung ST80 35-mm Equivalent (Wide)
- 35 mm
- 35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)
- 105 mm
- Samsung ST80 Optical Zoom
- 3 x
- LCD size
- 3 inches
- Samsung ST80 Video Resolution
The touch-based user interface on the ST80 feels snappy and intuitive, but is limited because of the mediocre LCD, which is a resistive touch screen, not capacitive one like you’ll find on the Bloggie Touch pocket camcorder ($199.99, 4 stars). The resistive display doesn’t feel as accurate, and requires a little more pressure—turning the flash on and off, for example, isn’t difficult, but typing in e-mail addresses is frustrating. The Editors’ Choice Samsung TL225 ($349.99, 4 stars) offers the same UI, but it’s presented on a larger, higher-resolution (3.5-inch, 1.04-million-dot) LCD.
Samsung ST80 Other Features
One of the features that truly sets this camera apart is its ability to e-mail and upload photos wirelessly. The camera has an address book so you can enter and store contacts. The feature is simple to use, but you can only send one photo at a time, and you can’t send files in their full resolution; instead they’re sent as 1.9-megapixel files (1600 by 1200 resolution).You can also upload images to Picasa, Facebook, PhotoBucket, and Samsung Imaging. The Facebook experience works well with photos—you can login, create an album and upload multiple images to that album, and you can even browse all of your Facebook albums (not just the ones uploaded from the ST80).
The ST80 can also be used as a DLNA media server; when connected to a Wi-Fi network, devices that can act as DLNA clients (Sony’s PlayStation 3, and some HDTVs and Blu-ray players)can view pictures and videos from ST80 wirelessly, or even download the files directly to local storage. The upcoming Samsung SH100 will ship with an app and a Windows application that will automatically retrieve all your new photos when your computer and camera are on the same network. If you don’t want to wait and want a simpler wireless solution, consider an Eye-Fi card, an SD card with built-in Wi-Fi that can automatically backup your pictures when on your home Wi-Fi network.
Samsung ST80 Performance
The ST80 isn’t particularly fast. The camera can start up and shoot in an average of 3.1 seconds, once on, it averages 3.8 seconds between shots. The comparably priced Canon PowerShot HS300 shaves a second or more off each these times—it booted up and took a picture in an average of 2 seconds, with 2.2 seconds between shots.
Samsung ST80 In the PC Labs, we use Imatest to collect objective information about image quality. In our tests, the ST80′s photos were very sharp; the camera offered an excellent center-weighted average of 2,053 lines per picture height. That even outperformed the much-pricier Editors’ Choice Canon PowerShot S95 ($399.99, 4 stars), which captured a center-weighted average of 1,858 lines per picture height. Like the Canon S95, the ST80 can be pushed all the way up to ISO 1600 to collect more light without producing too much noise. Imatest measured less than 1.5 percent noise up to ISO 1600, which is a good result. Video recorded by the ST80 can reach up to 720p resolution (1280-by-720 at 30 frames per second.) It sounds good, but there are caveats. You can use the optical zoom, but the audio is cut out while zooming to avoid capturing loud noise from the lens motor. The camera also doesn’t refocus while recording video, likely because you’ll also capture noise from the lens. While the ST80 can record high-definition videos, they can’t be wirelessly uploaded in HD or even 640-by-480 standard definition. The ST80 uploads only 320-by-240 QVGA-quality videos and only to YouTube, not Facebook.
The ST80 has a single port. Using the included proprietary cable you can plug the camera into the included wall charger or a USB port on a computer to transfer your images. Many other compact cameras offer distinct mini-USB and mini-HDMI ports. Also unlike most cameras, the Samsung ST80 writes to microSD cards, not standard-size SD, so your SDHC card reader won’t help you avoid connecting the camera via a cable unless you have a microSD adapter.
If you really need a way to send or upload photos to Facebook right from your camera, the Samsung ST80 might be a good fit for you. But the lack of image stabilization is a big negative in a $250 camera. If you want to add Wi-Fi features to your current camera, take a look at an Eye-Fi card. If you want something a little more reliable with optical image stabilization for the same price, give the Canon PowerShot HS 300 a try. The Samsung ST80 produces sharp images in bright light and has some innovative features, but it comes with some flaws that are tough to ignore.