The Samsung ST550 offers something you won’t find on any other point-and-shoot camera: a second screen on the front. Fire it up and you can admire yourself, frame yourself and photograph yourself with greater ease than ever.
A bit narcissistic, perhaps, but with so many people snapping their practised pouts for Facebook, Twitter et al these days we’re surprised no-one’s thought of it before. The secondary screen itself is small at 1.5in, but it’s clear and crisp enough to make those self-portraits a breeze.
Of course, there’s another screen round the back, and it’s a bit of a doozy. At 3.5in with a crisp 800x480 resolution, it covers almost the entire rear of the ST550, leaving no room for buttons.
The thing is, you don’t need them, because it’s also a touchscreen – all settings are made by tapping away at it with your fingers. The only physical buttons are on the top, taking care of power, the shutter and zoom. The latter is a tiny rocker and, truth be told, a tad fiddly.
We’ve always been a bit leery of touchscreens on cameras, as it can make adjusting settings much trickier than it should be, but here the combination of a clean layout, responsive touch and haptic feedback makes things painless.
There’s still the occasional moment when you wish you could just twist a dial to select the scene mode, but in general everything is where it should be.
You can even tilt the camera to perform certain commands, although responsiveness comes across as a bit hit-and-miss compared to, say, the iPhone’s accelerometer.
All the usual shooting modes are available, plus HD video, but the ST550 is fairly portrait-focused. Vaguely chilling, Orwellian face recognition tech stores the boatraces of up to 20 of your most photographed subjects, so when you point the camera their way it’ll prioritise its autofocus on them. And the Perfect Portrait mode automatically retouches portraits to make them more flattering.
The 12.2MP shots produced by the ST550 are decently detailed and sharp, but fairly unexciting otherwise. There’s nothing particularly wrong with them, but a little more pop in the colour wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Finally, the design of the camera itself is worth a mention: glossy black with a hint of red, it’s a nice change from brushed metal. And it’s small enough to slip into your skinny jeans pocket without making you look too excited.