Samsung ST30 £70
9th Aug 2011 | 16:15
Samsung ventures into the world of miniature with the ST30
At the time of the launch, Samsung claimed the ST30 was the world's smallest digital compact camera with a zoom, and it is actually smaller than a credit card.
Inside the diminutive aluminium casing is a 10.1 megapixel CCD. The sensor is slightly smaller than many other digital compact cameras' at 1/3 inch which could cause problems with noise.
The Samsung ST30 is aimed at the point and shooter who wants to shoot parties etc and wants a camera that's small and looks good in front of friends and family. The camera is full of auto settings so that you don't have to think about anything apart from what to point the tiny lens at.
Because of the miniature size, the back of the camera is cluttered with buttons and the screen is slightly smaller than the standard size at 2.4 inches.
The function button is used to access a small menu with the most used features such as resolution, file compression, ISO, white-balance, face detection, focusing and metering options among others. This prevents you having to hunt through pages and pages of options in the main menu. Helpfully however, you can also access the function menu options in the main menu.
Most aspects are controlled automatically by the ST30, but it's still possible to select spot and centre weighted metering instead of the default multi metering.
Only two focusing modes are available, centre spot and multi spot. Interestingly, the camera defaults the centre focusing option.
For photographers that want to add their own individual style to their pictures, the ST30 sports nine picture styles including Soft, Vivid, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, Classic, Negative and Custom RGB. They each apply an effect.
Build quality and handling
Built with an aluminium casing, the ST30 is available in five different colours and it feels solid enough although the battery lid is a feeble bendy plastic.
To make sure that the camera appeals to as many people as possible, it conforms to the ideology of what a digital compact camera should look like, only smaller. However, that doesn't mean that the camera handles badly. Sure it's small, but unless you have big hands then everything falls to your fingers nicely.
As we mentioned before, the screen is slightly smaller than usual and this is obviously due to the small design of the camera. The screen resolution is lower as well, and it shows when taking pictures.
The Samsung ST30 is easy to use and it's certainly good enough for general use and 'quick snap' picture taking. The menu is a simple enough affair. Helpfully, Samsung has taken the most commonly used features and placed them in a separate menu system for easier use.
The Samsung ST30 actually performs well. We had our reservations because of the size of the camera and because we also had trouble seeing images on the screen. It's a bit too small by modern standards and it's also not very bright.
Still, the sensor recorded colours nicely, we're impressed with the primary range as they came out bright and rich. Complex colours such as purple also had a good result from the camera which is always nice to see.
We're also impressed with how the camera handles light. In normal circumstances (ie broad daylight), pictures are nicely exposed, but we found that the ST30 also coped well in difficult lighting.
Thanks to the sensor's dynamic range, highlights are retained and there's also detail in shadow areas.
We found that the white-balance system works adequately for most circumstances. There's no shade setting and the cloud setting doesn't cut the mustard in that scenario. Still, if you have the time, the ST30 has a manual option to set the balance yourself.
Noise is a bit hit and miss on the Samsung ST30 digital compact camera. While some of our pictures at low ISO have come out lovely and smooth with no sign of coloured speckling, a number of pictures at relatively low ISO have high levels of noise. We couldn't isolate the problem to find a recurring pattern, so it's worth noting to use the lowest ISO possible at all times.
Our lab tests prove that noise is a problem even at the lowest setting. It remains relatively under control through the low to mid-range stages, but at ISO1600 the ST30 simply can't cope. At this stage, detail dissipates, purple blobs appear and hard artefacts scatter around the image. To try and control it, the camera knocks the resolution down to 3 megapixels and this does solve some of the problems but the colour invasion remains.
It's easy to fall into a trap of thinking that because the ST30is small and basic that the pictures it produces are going to be poor. But Samsung has shown a degree of cunning in only fitting a 10 megapixel sensor to the ST30, because the picture quality is actually pretty good.
Colours are good, focusing is relatively fast and metering is more than adequate.
One of the ST30's failings is that it sounds like a toy when focusing and taking a picture, but thankfully, the sounds can be switched off.
Click on any of the images to view full size.
ISO sensitivity test
Click on any of the images to view full size.
Sensor: 10.13 megapixel 1/3 inch CCD
Lens: Samsung 3x optical zoom lens (28-84mm)
LCD Screen: 2.4 inch TFT LCD 112k dots
Video resolution: 640 x 480 AVI (MJPEG)
ISO range: ISO 80-3200
Focus modes: Centre AF, Multi AF, Face detection AF
Max burst rate: 6 fps (reduced image size)
Shutter speeds: 1/8 – 1/4000 sec (max 8 sec in night shot mode)
Weight: 86.5g (excl. battery and card)
Dimensions: 82 x 51.9 x 16.9mm
Power supply: Lithium Ion battery
The main problem that the Samsung ST30 has is assumption. Consumers may see its small size and small price tag and immediately think it's inadequate. But its picture quality is very good for a camera at this level and if you can cope with the small screen and buttons then the ST30 will provide some nice pictures on your holiday.
The Samsung ST30 is most suited to families looking for a budget digital compact camera that is easily pocketed for security and convenience without compromising too much on quality. It's got a decent build so if one of the kids gets hold of it and drops it, there's more chance of the camera withstanding the impact. If you're looking for a budget digital compact camera that produces good pictures then this a camera worth looking at.
It could be a hindrance to some people, but we love the dinky size of the ST30. It takes great pictures which you can't appreciate until you see them on a computer.
The lack of any "proper" camera sounds makes it sound more like a toy. The screen is sadly lacking in quality and you simply can't see whether the pictures are any good until you get home. By then, of course, it's too late.