The Samsung ST550 is a compact camera with a difference. Instead of one LCD screen it has two. In addition to the 3.5-inch screen on the rear, it has a front facing 1.5-inch LCD too.
In all other aspects it's just like most other digital compact cameras available. It is compact and pocketable, measuring 99.8 x 59.8 x 18.6mm and weighing in at 165g before you add the battery and memory card.
The ST550 has a 12.2-megapixel sensor and a Schneider 4.6x zoom lens, that equates to about 27-124mm in 35mm lens terms. There's a small internal memory of about 50MB and the ST550 uses microSD cards for additional storage. As well as still images the Samsung can capture HD quality video at 1280 x 720 at 30 or 15 frames per second.
In addition, the Samsung has a host of built-in technologies. There are 16 automatic modes with the usual suspects of portrait, landscape, macro, etc. The Samsung also has face recognition which stores up to 20 people and always focuses on them first whenever they're in shot. Slightly gimmicky, but still useable is the camera's gesture based interface, simply tilt the camera to the right to view images in sequence. You can even select menu options too.
The 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD is very good, even in bright sunlight we were able to use it to compose and review shots. The controls are very responsive and we liked the vibrating feedback to confirm when you'd pressed a "button". We found focusing very fast with little discernible shutter lag either.
Construction feels solid and the Samsung is clearly built to last. Our ST550 had a dashing purple finish to it, but it's available in other colours for the fashion conscious. You connect the Samsung to your computer with a proprietary USB lead for charging and transferring images. It's not a major fault, but we'd have preferred to see a Mini-USB lead as they're more universally available.
Image quality from the Samsung is very good, the ST550 gave solid results across the range of our tests producing pleasing images in all situations. Even in tricky lighting situations the Samsung performed admirably producing well-balanced and natural shots.
Colours were accurate and not over-saturated and detail was good. Overall the ST550 gave excellent results across the board for still shots. Video was good, but not as crisp, some test video can be seen here and here. Given that this is a primarily a stills camera this can be forgiven.
The front-facing screen is actually much more useful than we'd originally thought it might be. Children are especially drawn to the images and therefore more prone to be looking directly at the camera when you take a shot. It's not quite a revolution in photography, but we did find that we used the feature quite a lot. Arms length self-portrait instantly become much more accurate and flattering.
The ST500 is a great camera producing excellent results with a useful wide-angle zoom lens. Add to that the front LCD screen and it's got just about everything you might need. We admit that the initial novelty of the screen on the front does wear off, but it's a feature we used much more than we imagined we would at first.