Samsung ST6500 £150
10th Aug 2011 | 09:05
Unique styling meets state of the art in the ST6500
The ST6500 is touch-screen compact camera from Samsung, priced at around £180 and featuring unusual and bold styling.
For your money, you get a 16 megapixel CCD sensor and a 5x optical zoom, a decent ISO range from ISO 80 to ISO3200 at full resolution and a 3 inch touch-screen. We found this screen is responsive as long as you use the stylus provided, it doesn't work quite so well with fingers.
There are also 4 focusing modes, although 2 are touch screen related. The centre AF and multi AF work in the traditional way, while the touch options will focus on the point you touch on the screen. The smart touch AF takes things one step further and will lock onto and track the point you touch until you take a picture in the traditional way.
The ST6500 features a host of modes and options which are accessed by pressing the home button on the back of the camera. Unfortunately, there's no obvious order to these modes, with some playback options appearing in the middle of the recording options.
It would be nice to see each page dedicated to specific modes for example, capture, editing and video shooting. However, the icons are bright and easy to understand so it isn't too much of a problem.
There are four video resolution modes available, two of which are 1280x720. The highest resolution has two settings: HQ and normal. The frame rate can also be altered from 15 to 30 fps to make some extra space on the card but changing to 15fps will lower the quality.
Smart phone users will find the features of the ST6500 familiar, making use of touch screen and swiping pages. We found that the camera is easy enough to understand and operate by even the most novice of users and the smart photo and smart video modes make life easy.
Samsung's most recent digital compact cameras take MicroSD cards so if you're new to the company, you'll need to pick up a card when you get the camera.
Switching on the camera without a card in is annoying because at full resolution, the camera doesn't have enough built-in memory to take a picture and you have to reduce the resolution from 16 megapixels to 10 megapixels just to get one picture.
Build quality and handling
The Samsung ST6500 is a metal cased camera and it feels good in the hands thanks to the sweeping design
It's built to a high enough level for use in every day situations and we like the little extras such as the locking switch on the battery door and the sturdiness of the USB and HDMI port covers.
There are hardly any buttons on the camera and they're all conveniently placed in positions which fingers or thumbs fall easily to, which makes the ST6500 easy to use.
Batteries are charged in the camera and the cable can also detach from the mains plug to reveal a USB connection. Plugging this into a computer charges the battery while images are transferred, driver updates are also downloaded automatically. This could be useful for anyone taking the camera travelling because the camera can be charged at an internet cafe and images uploaded straight to a networking site such as Flickr or Facebook.
On the whole, the Samsung ST6500 produces very nice images. In fact, when we tested the Samsung SH100, which is also part of the Cutting Edge range, we found that the metering is better on the ST6500. Even shooting directly into the sun, we managed to get decent detail in darker areas that would be silhouetted normally.
Pictures are pin sharp and we love the colours that the camera produces. They're realistic, but also saturated by the processor to a pleasing degree. In macro mode, the camera throws the background pleasantly out of focus producing good bokeh for such a small sensor.
Noise performance is good, especially at low ISO settings although we can see a small amount of colour invasion at ISO 200. Still, it's manageable and edge definition is still good. In fact, the edges don't start to suffer until around ISO 400 and colour invasion - while getting more widespread – is kept at bay by the noise reduction software.
Noise levels get a bit too high by ISO 800, and dark areas take on a purple cast. At ISO 1600 that cast spreads to the mid tones and although the colour invasion exacerbates at ISO 3200, the resulting images are reasonable for a camera at this level.
For a camera at this price, the pictures are great. We like how sharp they are and how well the camera handles complex light and high ISO situations. If you wish to use a low ISO in low light, using the flash will help as the camera gives nicely balanced pictures with fill-in flash. However, the recycle time – despite saying 4 seconds on the Samsung website – can take a while and we lost many shots while waiting for it to charge.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Samsung ST6500, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Samsung ST6500 is capable of resolving up to around 22 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 80, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 100, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 18 (see full image)
ISO 800, score: 14 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 12 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 7 (see full image)
Noise and dynamic range
These graphs were produced using data generated by DXO Analyzer.
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using the DXO software.
Signal to noise ratio
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image
JPEG images from the Samsung ST6500 are on a par with those from the comparison cameras throughout the sensitivity range.
This chart indicates that the Samsung ST6500's JPEGs have a high dynamic range at low sensitivities. As the sensitivity increases above ISO 200 the dynamic range falls dramatically.
16 megapixel 1/2.33 inch CCD
5x optical zoom 26 – 130mm f/4.7
3 inch TFT LCD touch-screen
Centre, Multi, One touch AF, Smart touch AF
1 sec – 1/2000 sec (8 sec in night mode)
Rechargeable Lithium Ion battery
As part of the Stylish range, the ST6500 is certainly an unusual looking camera. That's not to say it's unattractive. The main issue we had to get over was our presumption that the touch-screen wouldn't be up to scratch because of the bulky framing on the back compared to flush versions found on other manufacturers and even the Samsung SH100.
However it's actually a responsive screen as long as the pen is used that comes in the box. If you don't use the stylus, the screen will still work but we kept opening options and modes that we didn't want.
For a camera at this price point, the Samsung ST6500 provides excellent quality pictures that are rich in colour, sharp in focus and balanced in exposure.
Despite being good quality, the screen surround is bulky and off-putting. The modes available via the home button have no logical order that we can see, which makes it tedious finding the feature you want.
For a digital compact camera at this price point, the ST6500 performs really well. The styling won't be to everyone's taste, but a lot of thought has gone into it.
We think that the Samsung ST6500 will be suited perfectly to users who want a unique looking camera with interesting technology such as the touch-screen.