While the ST600 is a bit larger than its sibling (just a touch wider), this is still a very compact camera that can slip into the front pocket of your jeans comfortably. Being slightly longer, it is similar in size to a modern smartphone, measuring 4.07x2.34x0.78 inches (103.5 x 59.5 x 19.9mm ) and weighing in at about 5.2 ounces (without card or battery). I found using the "pinch" technique gives you the most comfortable hold on the camera, and helps ensure you're not blocking the front LCD. Due to its touchscreen nature, the ST600 has only a few controls located on the top of the camera, all of which are easy to operate. The Playback button is in a unique location, being recessed into the right hand side upper corner of the camera. This made it easy to quickly switch to Playback mode. I was also pleased to see the zoom controls were mounted around the shutter release, which allows for effortless zooming without having to take your finger completely off the shutter release.
Like we saw on the ST100, Samsung has created a a unique base setup on the ST600. Past models would only sit at an upward angle, which helped you capture group shots using the self-timer when placed on a flat surface that may have been lower than you were. However. the problem was the cameras could not sit level. That's not the case now, as Samsung has also added some normal "feet" to the base, along with the angled feet, which allows the camera to sit level or point upward if wanted.
Framing photos or videos, navigating the menu system, looking over captured files, and controlling the camera are all handled on the ST600's awesome 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD. This unit boasts over twice the amount of resolution that similarly sized LCDs offer, with 1,152,000 pixels (that's right, 1.15 million). To this date, we've only seen this display on three Samsung models, the TL225, ST100, and now the ST600. Overall, this screen offered a nice clean image, with pleasing contrast and color reproduction. While the surface is reflective (and collects fingerprints easily), I never had any problems seeing the subject at hand thanks to a strong (bright) backlight. Indoors the display gains up nicely to help you see your subject, with a little noise noticeable when your shooting in very dim lighting.
The ST600's touchscreen interface is pretty much identical to the ST100's, both of which offer menus and functionality that are similar to past Samsung digicams. The menu system is easy to navigate with options sorted into logical categories for Camera FN, Sound, Display and Settings. You also have access to two shortcut "trays", which will help you make quick changes to camera settings (depending on the mode being used), by sliding out, then tucking away in order not not block your view of the subject. Like many of Samsung's cameras, the ST600 boasts their popular Motion Recognition options. When in use, you can quickly access specific camera modes or settings by touching a small icon in the right shortcut tray, and then tilting or twisting the camera. On top of this, you can simply tilt the camera left of right in playback mode to browse through your stored files, without having to hold any buttons. This is a very fun feature that many will enjoy using; especially the younger crowds. Like we saw with the ST100, this touchscreen only responds to the touch of the flesh of your fingertips, and not a fingernail.
For 2011, Samsung has bumped up the front LCD screen size from 1.5-inches to 1.8. This larger display makes it easier to see yourselves when holding the camera at an arm's length away. We were able to test a Black ST600, and when the front LCD was off, you'd be hard pressed to even know it was there unless someone showed, or told you otherwise. This can add to its "wow factor" when showing the camera to friends who've never heard of a Dual View camera. This functionality makes the ST600 a blast to use when with a group of friends or family, making for some great couple and group shots. You have several mode choices for the front LCD, that can be activated by pressing the F.LCD button on the top of the camera, They include On (turn the display on), Self-shot, Couple-Shot, Function Info, and Smile shot. You can even tap the front screen to turn in on, which also puts the camera into Smile shot mode. When using the front LCD, the camera locks the rear screen so you don't accidentally change a setting while trying to snap a self-portrait. Like mentioned above, we had a lot of fun using the Dual View options on the ST600. For the most part you get some nice shots, however we did notice that when in Smart Auto mode the camera seems to favor not using the flash, which can lead to some blurry photos. When using Smile Shot mode, we also captured some blurry photos as the camera decides to snap the shutter whenever someone in the frame is smiling. So, be sure you plan ahead a little by making sure you all smile at the same time. I personally liked using the Dual View function in Program mode, with the F.LCD options set to On. This allowed me to capture the best photos in my opinion, along with having better control of the flash. Overall, the ST600 does well indoors whether you're using the Dual View system, or simply snapping photos normally.
While the ST600 and ST100 share a similar 14-megapixel image sensor and a 5x optical zoom lens, I noticed that the ST600 was able to produce images that are slightly crisper. I contribute this to the wide view zoom lens used on the ST600, which seems to produce sharper images throughout the focal range. Like its sibling, exposures are good and colors are very pleasing. The ST600's 5x optical zoom covers a nice wide 35mm equivalent range of approx. 27-135mm. The wider zoom range will make taking photos indoors much easier, especially when using the Dual View options. You'll also enjoy the 27mm wide end when out capturing landscapes. The 135mm telephoto capabilities are nice for tightly framing your portrait or marco type subjects; just don't expect to bring a distant subject up close.
The ST600's 720p HD video option is nothing to get excited about. You have standard options for 720p (1280x720, 30fps), VGA (640x480) or QVGA (320x240) resolutions, with a frame rate of 30 or 15fps. Video is saved using the MPEG-4 (.MP4) file format. Unlike most digicams, the ST600 does allow you to toggle the optical zoom while recording. The only negative about zooming in a movie is that sound recording stops while the lens is moving. So, your video will be silent for a brief moment while you adjust the focal length. Like many of their other models, the ST600 offers a unique Smart Movie mode option where the camera acts much like it would in Smart Auto still record mode. It will analyze the scene and choose the best settings to help you capture more pleasing video. From looking over our video results, the ST600 was able to record HD video that looks Ok at best. Exposure is decent, however the video lacks any real sharpness. Still, the ability to record video is a nice option to have, just don't expect to capture the same quality that one would acquire with a HD equipped digital camcorder.
The ST600 is powered by a small 760mAh Li-ion battery pack, which is charged inside the camera using the USB cable. You can charge the pack by using the included AC adapter (fastest) or a standard USB port on your PC/Mac (slowest). This means you can charge the camera just about anywhere, and all you need is the USB cable and access to a wall outlet of computer. The only downside to internal charging is that you can't have a spare pack charging while your using the camera. Samsung claims you can get about 180 shots on a single charge, which all depends on how much you use the front LCD or flash. We captured over 115 photos, along with extensive use of the front LCD, menu, and playback systems.
Bottom line - Samsung's ST600 is an appealing ultra-compact camera that is loaded with many standard features for a 14-megapixel camera in today's market, but with the addition of their unique Dual View functionality. While not quite as slim as the ST100, the ST600 offers a nicer 5x optical zoom that is able to produce sharper images throughout the zoom range. With a street price of $329 US or less, the ST600 offers a great value, especially considering the Dual View features; which are found on only a select number of cameras.
Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.
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