As the 'megapixel-war' gets overtaken by features and design focus, several cameras are shaping up to have similar features from model to model, and even across brands. However there are still special traits from certain brands that make them unique and identifiable immediately. For example, when one sees a dual-LCD screen based camera, most would automatically assume it to be from Samsung. And rightfully so as the chaebol released the popular ST550 model two years ago, making self-portrait camera addicts worldwide scramble for this camera. The strong receptiveness to the dual-LCD screens concept made it a success and ensured this remained a prime feature to differentiate itself against other premium compacts in the market. The following year saw the introduction of the ST600, which featured improvements in the specs department.
2011 is no different, and today we have the ST700 to carry on the torch for the dual-LCD screen based camera lineup. Featuring a bump up in the megapixel count; from the 14.2 megapixels offered by the ST600 to the 16.1 megapixels resolution of the ST700, the ST700 doesn't seem to have anything substantially different from its predecessor on the outlook. Perhaps there have been finer refinements under the hood? To find out if this newcomer is worth your time, we take a closer look at how the ST700 fares.
The ST700 doesn’t bring anything new in terms of design if compared to the ST600 launched in 2010, and you would be forgiven for thinking that both are the same camera. Of course we do feel that the front LCD screen does have a strong hand in the design being the same throughout the three reiterations of this lineup; there’s very little leeway when a camera has to include a main LCD screen at the rear and add a front one in addition to the lens and controls required.
Even for those not familiar with cameras from Samsung, the ST700 will definitely not leave you scratching your head when it comes to handling and usability. Most of the controls are done via the touch screen menus and we feel perhaps Samsung wishes to simplify the user experience further by omitting most of the physical buttons found on the back of the camera, save for the Home button and some physical controls on the top of the camera.
Similar to the current slew of smartphones, Samsung has opted for a touch-based UI. The ST700 makes use of a touch screen to navigate the camera’s system, therefore cutting down the number of physical buttons found on the camera. While this was present since the ST550 model in 2009, Samsung has made progress since then and has dubbed its latest touch iteration as the Smart Touch 3.0.
The concept and intuitive design of the Smart Touch 3.0 is pretty good as we had no trouble getting used to its touch-based interface. Due to the graphical layout of the UI, it makes it pretty easy to select what sort of effect you want for your shot, or what sort of picture you are trying to take. This makes the camera very easy to use for anyone without having prior shooting knowledge to achieve interesting snapshots. But as with all touch-enabled devices, trying to scroll through the menus and adjust settings on the fly may take longer than expected due to the small size of the on-screen buttons, which would result in accidental presses as we found out in our usage.
And not to forget the forward facing LCD screen. Those of you who like to take candid snapshots of yourselves will find this secondary screen so useful that it could almost be the most practical feature leap ever made in modern camera development. Being able to frame yourself and angle the shot to your advantage without the tedious trial and error shooting process is quite a boon. Samsung has even included a Children mode where the front LCD screen will playback a short animated clip so that the child will focus on that and let you take the shot without him/her crying or looking away. All of these aren't new and have been present since the ST550 days, but it's still worth a mention as they are still key features of the camera.
While remaining similar in looks to the ST600, Samsung has managed to shave off some in terms of size and weight, with the ST700 coming in at 98.5 x 55 x 19.8mm as compared to its predecessor’s measurements of 103.5 x 59.5 x 19.9mm. Weight-wise, the ST700 weighs in at 121g, losing 26.2g from the previous model’s 147.2g.
Handling of the ST700 is a relatively simple affair; though as with all compacts one has to consider the size of your hands. Ladies will find the ST700 easy to handle while guys with larger hands may find their experience clumsier due to the small size of the camera. Another point to note is that for those who like to grip their camera with the fingers around the body may end up blocking the front LCD screen with their fingers due to the small size of the camera as well as the placement of the screen. As such, this camera is best used by handling it by its borders, which could lead to some instability of shots as you'll have less grip than usual.
We also had a minor gripe with the design of the ST700, namely the placement of the power button. During our time with the ST700, we found that it was only too easy to unintentionally press the power button during use. This would caused us to switch off the camera by accident in several occasions and further contributing to the battery drain of the camera faster than it should.