Review of the Samsung ST5500 digital camera

Just today, I got my new digital camera Samsung ST5500. It features a touch sceen display and a lot of connectivity options. I'll describe my experiences with the camera in this blog post. Mostly, I will focus on the new and shiny features, not on the basic functionality.

Touchsceen interface

Using the touchscreen makes the camera soo much easier to use as my old Canon IXUS and Casio Exilim. The interface developed by Samsung is definitely not up to the standards of an iPhone or Android UI, but it does its job well enough to leave all traditional key-based cameras behind.

One does have to push the screen harder compared to a capacitive touchscreen in my HTC Hero or an iPhone, but its not hindering a lot. Also, the touch sensor makes the display a litte bit grainy, but its only recognizable as the screen does have a very high quality and resolution.

Conclusion: There's room for improvement, but I'm quite happy with the touch screen as it is.

WLAN internet connectivity for access to photo communities

One of the primary features of the camera is direct access to photo communities via integrated WLAN. It is certainly one of the major selling points of this camera. Setting up the connectivity is very easy. It does support WPA2/AES encryption for secure access to Wifi. Just select proper encryption scheme, select your SSID from the list, enter the password and you're all set. Re-connecting to WLAN after switching the camera off takes about 5-10 seconds.

It does support the communities of Picasa, Facebook, Youtube and Samsung Imaging. I was, however, quite disappointed to see it NOT supporting Flickr and Twitpic.

I briefly tried connecting the camera to my Picasa account. Again, the setup was very easy: After entering my credentials, I was already able to browse existing albums directy in the camera. Uploading a photo also worked right out of the box. One can also manage different albums directly in the camera. Sorting photos works with drag'n'drop on the screen. Nice. On each session, you have to re-enter the Picasa password. Probably a correct decision from the security point of view, this really is a hassle if you use this feature regularly. The WLAN passphase is saved in the camera, so this is somewhat inconsistent.

Conclusion: Nice feature, works great, but needs support for more major services like Flickr.

DLNA sharing in the network

When enabling the DLNA feature, the camera asks which photos to share. One can select only specific photos or select "ALL". I tried it with a Samsung DLNA-enabled TV as well as with a Sony TV, and it worked without any fiddling around. Nice option: In the settings you can select whether you want to share the photo in lower resolution (2M pixels), which makes rendering fast, or in the original resolution. In order to make photos again, you have to exit the DLNA sharing.

Conclusion: DLNA sharing works and has good usability.

Bluetooth support

Up to now, Bluetooth is the most disappointing feature at all. It won't connect to my Android phone ("unsupported device") after pairing and it does not detect my Ubuntu and Windows Vista notebooks at all. I will test and debug with more devices in the next days. Most importantly, it won't act as ObexFTP Server as I expected. The Bluetooth feature is completly useless as it is now.

Conclusion: Useless, not working for me at all as it is implemented today.

Charging via USB

One nice feature of the camera is, that it supports charging the battery via USB. This means that I only have to carry one charger for all my devices and I can also charge it via my laptop. It does, however, not have a standard USB port, so that you have to use the included USB cable with a proprietary connector. The cable is pretty short. I like that, as it reduces clutter in my bag and I can extend it with a normal USB extension if needed.

Conclusion: Nice, but would have been even greater with a default mini/micro USB connector.

MP4 HD video

I managed to record some nice video clips with the camera. The video quality is pretty good and resulting MP4 files could be opened with any video editor (I prefer kdenlive running on Ubuntu Linux). The sound quality is better than I expected from an internal microphone, but of course it is not up to the same quality as an external mic. The autofocus and brightness control adapts pretty fast compared to my old Sony MiniDV camera. I'm not able to judge if this is good or bad compared to other recent devices.

Conclusion: Video quality is good enough to replace my old, once-very-expensive MiniDV camera.

Miscellaneous notes

During the first hours of testing and heavy-usage of the networking features, I managed to drain the battery very quickly. Ca. 1 hour of testing used 30-40% of the battery. I will update this post with battery lifetimes in more day-to-day usage scenarios as soon as I have more experience with the device.

During the first evening of tests, the camera had one hard software crash, where I had to remove the battery in order to bring it back to life. After the hard power cycle, the camera worked fine again. 

Wifi feature

Hi,
I was wondering whether ST5500 can connect to a Non-Boingo hotspot to upload or email the images.. It's becoming more useless I guess when the Wifi connectivity  is also limited to those hotspots only. 

zooming

 How do you zoom in and out. Is it a button or touchscreen

Re: zooming

Zooming is done with a hardware button, similar to other compact cameras.

some questions

Please, can you tell me something about the screen; is it the glass type or the soft type? It records only 20 minutes or as long as the card allows you? The card capacity is max 4gb? Thanks

The screen is "soft type",

  • The screen is "soft type", i.e. a resistive touch screen. It is not a capacitive touch screen as e.g. in the iPhone.
  • I use a 8 GB card, which works. I have no clue what the limit is.
  • I haven't tried capturing video for over 20 minutes without pause.

video quality

I am very interested in this camera . Does the video equal that of your canon ? And how about zoom noise and will it record audio while zooming ?
 Thank you  Kevin

ex mike

Thank you for your last reply.
Will this camera the 5500, 5000 or pl 240  acept a external mike ?
And do you suggest any places to make the purchase.
Thanks again

Re: ex mike

I can just speak for the 5500. It does not have an audio in jack for external microphones. Regarding a dealer: I don't have a specific recommendation where to buy it.

video quality

Kevin,
the zoom noise did not catch my attention yet. This probably means it is not very loud, but I do not have much to compare to. It records audio while zooming. 
Regarding the video quality: The old camera did not have a usable video function, so I cannot compare. My very subjective impression is that the video quality is good. It records HD (720 lines) and the noise is not recognizable during daylight. The exposure adapts pretty quickly.

any updates on the battery life?

how's the new digital camera so far? any interesting (and not so interesting) finds you had? and yeah, has the bluetooth worked? appreciate you sharing them. thanks! 

battery & bluetooth

As other reviews describe, the battery life is definitely one of the weaker points of the camera. Up to now, however, I did not manage to run out of battery during the day even with most heavy usage. Making ca. 50-100 photos and 30 minutes video was the most I did on one day, and the battery was enough.
Regarding bluetooth: I did not manage to use it with any device. Unfortunately, I still must say it is completely useless.