Measuring a mere 3.6x2.2x0.7 inches (92x55.4x18.5mm), the ST80 can surely fit into the pants pocket of your tightest jeans, or that tiny handbag. This unit is also quite stylish with four color choice options for you to choose from; black, white, pink, and teal. The camera has a well-built feel in your hands, and because it uses a touchscreen LCD, there are very few controls to deal with across the body. All that remains are the Power and Play buttons, along with the shutter release and zoom controls. The latter is nested nicely around the shutter release, which makes zooming the camera's 3x lens a cinch.
Like many of Samsung's cameras, the ST80's base uses extended feet in the front to give it an upward angle when set on a table or other surface. This is suppose to help with group shots with your friends when a tripod or shooter is not available, however I found it makes the camera very easy to knock over.
The 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD was a slight disappointment. Normally when we get a Samsung model in, we expect to see a sweet LCD or AMOLED screen, since most of their cameras offer fine displays. That's not the case with the ST80. This unit offers your typical resolution of 230k pixels, which produces a decent live image. While a 3.0-inch wide view display, you only get a viewing area that's closer to about 2.5-inches when using the maximum resolution setting (14M). On the left and right hand sides of the frame, you'll simply see some black space with the touchscreen buttons. This can make seeing your subject a bit difficult, especially when compared to the field of view offered by other displays of the same size. To use all of the real estate offered, you have to put the camera into one of the 16:9 image quality modes. The coating on the screen is Very reflective, which did cause some slight frustration when using the camera outdoors during bright sunny days. At certain angles you can get strong reflections that do affect visibility.
The GUI (graphical user interface) on the ST80 was decent, however we have a few complaints with it also. While the GUI is responsive most of the time, I did notice that if you don't touch the "buttons" just right, it will not respond to your input or touch. On a positive note, the display reacts to both the touch from either your fingertip or nail as well as the tip of a stylus or other object. This is nice to know, since some touch systems only deal with only one of those types of inputs; like my Droid phone which requires me to use the "flesh" part of my fingertip, while my fingernail does nothing.
Image quality from the ST80 is quite good for a compact digicam, especially when using the Smart Auto mode. Images are relatively sharp, with some edge softness present along the left and right ahdn sides of the frame. Colors are nice and vibrant, which helps your photos "pop". When shooting the same subject using say Program mode, you will see more life-like colors, which some may prefer over the increased saturation of Smart Auto. The 3x optical zoom offers a substandard focal range of 35-105mm. While this may have been a rather normal zoom range a few years ago, nowadays almost all of your compact point-n-shoots offer a 28mm or wider field of view at the wide angle extreme. 35mm is a bit limiting when shooting indoors, so you might find yourself zooming backwards with your feet; hopefully you have enough room to back up. While the lens is not quite as wide as we'd have liked, the telephoto end does work great for close-ups and individual portraits.
The ST80 can also capture 720p (1280x720, 30fps) video for those times when a picture is just not enough. You can also choose smaller resolutions of 640x480 or 320x240 if you are trying to keep the file sizes down. Speaking of file size, the ST80 records video using the MPEG-4 (.MP4) codec, which helps keep sizes to a minimum, while still producing good quality video. I found the HD mode on the camera consumes just over 1MB for each second of video. Our samples outdoors show good color, sharpness and smoothness, however the audio is horrible. The slightest breeze causes some serious wind noise. I also noticed some issues with the exposure system and bright sunlight, where if would totally wash out any object or subject that was being illuminated by the bright rays of the sun. Another small issue we saw was with zooming. While it's nice that you can use the optical zoom while recording video with the ST80, you will pick up the noise of the zoom motor. Samsung does offer an option to disable sound while zooming, however this creates awkward movies in my opinion. Indoors, we saw a good amount of noise when the lighting was low, which is to be expected. One unique feature of the ST80 is the Smart Movie mode, which acts much like the Smart Auto Still capture option, It analyzes the scene being recorded, and adjusts the settings to help you capture more pleasing video. There are four settings it uses for Landscapes, Clear Skies, Forested Areas, and Sunsets.
Battery life was about pretty average. Samsung claims you can get about 200 still images on a single charge, which seems to be pretty accurate. We captured over 100 still photos, several short video clips, and complete our other tests with a little power to spare. Since the battery is charged in camera using the supplied USB cable, having a spare pack charged and on hand may be difficult. Luckily, you can use the USB cord with either the AC adapter or a powered USB port to charge the camera on the go.
One of the big selling points of the ST80 is its Wi-fi connectivity for directly uploading photos and videos to social websites like Facebook, Youtube, etc. This is a very "cool" feature that will allow you to share memories with your family and friends online, without the need of a computer. The user interface is actually pretty nice, you have various options once you enter Wi-Fi mode, including connecting to a local network or searching for a boingo Wi-Fi hotspot (signing up for this service is required). Once you've connected to a wireless network, you can email files, send camera to camera, send files to another compatible device, or broadcast files for other devices to pickup. I used the Web function to connect to my Facebook account to upload some photos. While not the fastest interface in the world, I was able to quickly connect to Facebook, login, then it dumps you into your photo albums. From here you can view your albums and upload new photos. The photos are scaled down right in camera, and it took me less than ten seconds to upload a single photo to Facebook. The interface when searching through your stored photos for upload is cool, with a simple drag and drop type method to choose files for upload. Overall, I think the ST80's Wi-Fi options are pretty neat, and are sure to be very popular among teenagers and other social media lovers. Again, my only real complaint was browsing seemed a bit slow as the camera downloads content for display. Lastly, you'll want to watch the battery level when using the Wi-Fi feature, as this is sure to drain the battery at a much faster rate than with normal use.
Bottom line - Samsung has created a very stylish and cool little digicam. While I wasn't too impressed with the touchscreen or the focal range on the ST80, its image quality and shooting performance are pretty good for a camera in this price range, and it's loaded with easy to use exposure modes like Smart Auto. The built-in Wi-Fi options will be a huge plus to those who love their social media lives too. With a street price of about $250 US, the ST80 has a lot to offer.
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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