Samsung has launched a new camera with not one but two LCD screens. But do you really need it, or is it yet another gimmick for your digital camera? Pocket-lint was at the launch in New York to have a hands-on play with the latest edition to the Samsung digital camera line-up.



Most gadgets we look at here at Pocket-lint are evolutions to a current design: they add a bigger screen, copy a competitor, before attempting to add their spin on an idea.

In steps the Samsung ST550, a digital camera that has so many features and innovations that we haven't seen before you would think that Samsung has blown all of its ideas in one fell swoop.

The biggest talking point is the hidden 1.5-inch screen on the front of the camera. Don't panic, the one on the back is still there, but realising that most of us are vain buggers, the company has placed one on the front so when it comes to taking pictures of yourself you can see what you are doing.

Lets face it, we've all done it, and with cameras getting expensive and the world getting less warm and friendly, no one wants to give their camera to a complete stranger to see that stranger simple pull a fast one and leg it. Ok, so you've been able to do this with some swivel screen models for years, but let's not worry about that.

A tap on the front of the camera and that front screen appears. In practice it is bright enough and big enough to carry this idea off. It's better than a silver button you find on most phones and certainly useful for getting you, rather than just your forehead, in the shot.

To save you having to locate the shutter button the camera goes one step further and lets you set it to automatically take a picture when you smile. In practice and it's very clever with the end result meaning you have a better chance of actually keeping the camera still rather than shaky as you hunt down the shutter button half blind.

But it's not just used for snapping you: that would be missing a trick. Samsung have added a couple of more features into the mix.

The boring, but useful one, is that it doubles as a visual countdown timer for auto-timer shots. Instead of that random "is it, isn't it" about to take moment, when the ST550 gets to 3 seconds you get a big 3, 2, 1 countdown so you can see what's happening.

Then there is the kids element. Yep getting your little ones to look at the camera should be a lot easier thanks to the fact that the ST550 will play a cartoon on the screen so you can draw their attention to the camera.

Even cleverer is that Samsung say you'll be able to download further animations via a website when the camera comes out. It's not sure if this new content will be chargeable, but it does open up plenty of options for the future.

It would be understandable to think that the 1.5-inch second screen is all you get with the new camera, but then you would be wrong.

Flip the camera over and rear has a 3.5-inch touchscreen with haptics, losing the buttons completely. While you still get button control for the shutter and zoom functions, everything else is controlled via the touchscreen similar to offerings from Sony's Cyber-shot range.

The controls, which don't allow multitouch actions like pinch, but do allow single finger gestures will let you delete, create slideshows, and carry out the usual modern camera functions that you are looking for.

You also get press to focus, whereby you merely press on the screen the bit you want to focus on and the camera's lens - a 27mm wide angle Schneider Kreuznach lens with 4.6x optical zoom does the rest.

The focusing speed in our brief play was good, and although we weren't able to take away image samples, it did work. We also weren't able to take the camera outside, so will have to reserve judgement until we have given the camera a proper going over.

Get past the interactive toys and the ST550 comes with an HDMI socket for connecting to your TV, 12-megapixel sensor, auto scene recognition with a further 20 scene modes as well as face recognition, anti blink mode and HD 720p movie recording, again which we weren't able to test.

First Impressions

While we are still holding out on a full verdict because we were unable to see what the final image quality is like, but the hardware specs, laughable at first, quickly began to make sense up close.



We like the idea of being able see ourselves (vain I know) and this combined with the other elements such as the animations for the kids does appeal.

The main concern we have would be battery life. We weren't able to test that in our 30 minute play, but I bet those screens eat the batteries.