At just £65 and smaller than a pack of playing cards, the Samsung ST30 compact camera is easy on the pocket in more ways than one. But what's it like to use? Join us as we take Samsung's pint-sized snapper for a spin.
Design and controls
The ST30 is so small that it'll slip comfortably into the hip pocket of your skinniest jeans with barely a rumple. It's reasonably light too, although the metallic body adds a small amount to the unit's overall weight of 87g. This works mostly in the camera's favour, however, making it feel more like a prestige item rather than a throw-away plastic toy.
The ST30 is available in the UK in black, silver and purple versions, all of which have silver accents along the top edge, sides and around the lens housing. When switched off, the lens sits more or less flush with the body of the unit, although it pops out by around 10mm when you turn the camera on. This is slightly curious given that the camera has no optical zoom -- only a digital one, which, in itself, is a significant drawback.
A small, 2.4-inch LCD screen lives on the back of the camera. It's not the most detailed display but it's pretty bright. The various buttons and controls on the ST30 are much like the ones you'd find on any other compact camera and, as such, it's pretty easy to find your way around.
A multi-function pad provides instant access to features such as the macro mode, timer and flash, and lets you navigate menus too. The small number of buttons also includes delete/function, playback, menu, mode select and, of course, shutter release.
The menus are simple to navigate, and feature monochrome graphics. They're a long way from the swish, app-style menus you'll find on models further up Samsung's product line.
The ST30 offers 10.1-megapixel image capture and five different shooting modes. 'Smart auto' is the default option, with all settings taken care of by the camera itself. Program mode allows you to get more hands-on in the settings department, while the scene mode lets you choose from a selection of presets for shooting portraits, landscapes, sunsets and night-time photos. There's even one for capturing images of text.
The movie mode, which is limited to standard-definition 480p quality, needs to be selected from the mode menu -- there's no dedicated button. Additionally, there's a dedicated mode for Samsung's digital image stabiliser. It's a shame that this needs to be activated as a dedicated mode, rather than just being a selectable option while in the standard shooting modes. As it happens, we weren't that impressed with its steadying abilities anyway.
There's much to take issue with in terms of image quality, but there's also a fair amount to commend, particularly in terms of warmth, sharpness, clarity and contrast. Overall, we'd say that the ST30's picture quality is actually fairly good for a camera of its price and size.
On the downside, there's a tendency for the colour balance to have a yellowish cast. There's also some visible picture noise even in brightly lit conditions. After testing the ST30 in a number of situations, we'd say that the camera has a habit of overdoing the primary colours too -- reds, in particular, look highly unrealistic.
Skin tones also tend to look slightly pinkish and there's some obvious purple fringing in instances of high contrast. Interior shots are quite grainy, although there's always the built-in flash to fall back on in poorly lit situations.
There are a couple of other things that are worth mentioning. The ST30 uses microSD storage, rather than the standard-sized SD cards, which may mean coughing up for a new card when you buy the camera. Similarly, the camera uses Samsung's own USB cable -- standard mini-USB cables won't work. Guard the bundled cable with your life.
The Samsung ST30 is super-small and super-cheap. Its image quality is far from super but, then again, it's not bad for the price. Feature-wise, the camera is rather lacking, but it's certainly easy to use and the ST30 isn't bad-looking, either.
Edited by Charles Kloet