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Tech Toy Review: Best Camera for Solo Travelers in 2010

The new Dual View Samsung ST500

Sometimes equipment meltdowns when you’re traveling can introduce new resources and innovations. When my DSLR broke when I was abroad in Thailand and I had to pick up a new camera on the fly, I didn’t know how fortune found me the solution to my solo traveler woes !

There are few things I’m truly jazzed enough to recommend, but I’m all raves about my new Samsung ST500. It’s my 3rd month using it and I’ve been taking it around with me… everywhere! I’m seriously in love with it. For the solo traveler, blogger and adventure flashpacker, it will make your life and travels, both lighter and easier. I highly recommend it.

I love “multi-purpose” and streamlined ways to improve my geeky existence- at home or abroad. Usually I carry a serious strong-arm of wattage wherever I go…enough to warrant packing a power strip in my travel backpack! Thus, downsizing is key.The Samsung ST500 helps me collapse 2 devices into one- HD travel video camera & vacation camera,… and let me tell you- as a vacation camera, it’s more fun than my DSLR!

What brands say:

When purchasing a brand, you choose a manufacturer’s commitment to quality; until now, most of my loyalty has been towards brands, such as Sony, Canon and Panasonic. Here’s what they say:

Sony– solid, long-lasting technology;
Canon
– color and a sturdy commitment to improving photography; 
Panasonic
–  digitally, a bit of everything!

But with Samsung, quite frankly, I didn’t know what the brand was known for. What I’ve sensed however, is the obvious- that Korea is quickly becoming the new Japan for state of the art digital media and technology, which has the U.S. playing catchup in what is considered the “leading edge”. Leading edge is exactly what I’m dubbing as the Samsung brand quality.  The Samsung ST500 is packed with goodies you’ll not find common to standard brands entering the States. I won’t bore you with specs that you can easily find on the web or in a review, but I’m going to tell you about 5 things as a traveler, you’ll need and what makes it ideal if you’re traveling solo.

Dual View/LCDs***
Soloists, I said this once before and I’m going to say it again… You know, those lonely moments when everyone is “click-happy” with friends and you’re trying not to look pathetically bummed you’ve got no one to take your picture? GONE! You will love this camera for the very fact that it’s designed with the soloists needs in mind! Dual LCD’s mean TWO screens- one in the back and one in the front. The 1.5″ Front LCD screen turns on w/ a simple tap and you can view your positioning and your face angle before you snap.

The Automatic Smile Detection is like having your own personal photographer in your pocket. You can either strain your finger and fumble with the gadgets to press its button or you can simply say “Cheese” and smile. While other cameras are still stuck on Automatic Face Detection, the ST500 has gone a step further and given its “Detection” features, practical use. Combined with its Face Recognition feature, it not only recognizes your face and your best angle, but detects your smile and goes ahead and snaps the photo for you! Pretty clever right? Finally, a camera that takes initiative!

Wide angle lens*
A 27 mm Schneider-KREUZNACH lens, what’s that mean?  I don’t know much about numbers-I only know what I had before- and let me tell you, this lens is wide! Landscape-wide. When I was testing it in the store up against normal Sony’s or Canon’s, it was almost a frame + 1/2 wider.

Hi-Def Video  (Mac ready) **
After seeing this video in playback, you’ll want to ditch your camcorder. Seriously.  That’s what I want to do with mine and I just got it last year (and it’s a Sony)! Why? Aside from shooting video in a luxurious Hi-Def quality, it uploads to my Mac without requiring extra plug-ins or my needing to be an encoding warrior! (You’d think Sony HD cameras would have gotten the Mac-thing down by now, but they really haven’t) What does this mean? I’m sporting a video camera and a camera in one device! Pretty nice!

My only disappointments with the video feature is that the audio cuts out every time you zoom in or out and there’s nothing subtle about the zoom; you’re either whipping in or a whipping out. Don’t expect a film or documentary out of it, but you will get some nice footage.

Click here  to check out the video. It’s compressed to a small 358 x 222 sized mpg4 but you can see the Zoom capabilities and color. It’s some snippets of The Cat’s Empire concert I went to at Nokia Theatre in Times Square this past December!

12 MP
We thought 10 MP was badass it was more than we needed for a simple consumer camera and the going rate of a DSLR! But the Samsung has once again raised the bar; this time to 12 MP! Why? Who knows. Perhaps because our society is on tech overload and always wants more-more-more than we actually need. Anyways, it’s not a deal-breaker and you’re still impressed with it right?

Easy Touch Screen Menu Navigation & Haptic touch sensor
At first, it will seem overwhelming. That’s just because you’re new to the menu system and there’s not a whole helluva lot of external knobs and buttons on your camera.  Samsung actually makes navigation pretty easy and they even give you a pointer-pen to do it! The menu is touch screen and switching functions are quick- maybe not as quick as an operating an external rotation wheel during the day, but it sure is easy at night when you don’t have any light! The screen has a Haptic Touch Sensor, meaning you can feel when you’ve hit a button because the camera vibrates. A nice little feature I thought might be annoying but really just let’s me know my camera is there responding to my gestures.

Here’s the link to their site so that you can check it out:
SAMSUNG ST500

Also read Solo Friendly’s article on the camera (she testing it out too!) : My Travel Camera Gear

11 Comments

  1. Sam says:

    Is it much different than a DSLR? Would I be disastified? I am a beginner and looking to upgrade to a DSLR, but concern about the size of it.

    • @Sam: Yes. Very different. This is a point-n-shoot pocket camera vs. DSLR. Different cameras for different jobs. I’ve gotten to taking both cameras when I travel, though- this and the DSLR. This is when I get out with friends or when I want a simple pocket sized camera to take around for catching me at sites, for fun, etc… Much of the settings are automatic/presets. If you want a DSLR for quality/artistic type photos, there’s no avoiding getting an actual DSLR (from that range, you can find less intense ones to start with). Good luck. =)

  2. Hapiday says:

    Hi Christine,
    Just wanna let you know that I’ve been considering to get the Samsung ST500 camera ever since it was launched but didn’t… because I still have a perfectly good Lumix. However, after reading your review of it, I’m CONVINCED that I gotta own one! Other than for solo trips, I can finally have more photos taken together with my kids instead of depending on strangers’ help. Thank you! (My girl wanna thank you too because she will get my Lumix!^_^ )
    Cheers! & God bless u!

    • Well, the new Samsung 550 or 600 is recently out and it’s even better, but only by a slight. I’m still going strong with that camera. I still love it– it can do very little wrong. That dual shot is the BEST thing out there. Maybe after you buy that camera, your girl might want that instead… 😉

  3. Russel Jackson says:

    Totally agree! bought this camera a couple of months ago and love it. It goes everywhere with me now. Has a lot of functions I don’t use but they’re cool nonetheless. This camera is coming out with an upgrade soon.

  4. Dammit woman, i wish we’d known each other before I bought my camera. I’m using a Canon SD1200. That dual screen sounds sweet.

    Hope Korea is fab thus far!

    • @ Laura can’t believe you’ve already seen commercials for it.
      @ Laura & Jeannie- It’s kinda crazy. Being here in Korea, I’ve seen some pretty insane stuff that I’d like to write about. The technology here is incredibly advanced & i’ll have to get used to it. Anywhere from using Powerpoint or computer counsels to teach classes, having electronic door keys for my apartment, etc… Unfortunately, I have to eventually pick up my DSLR but its been hard…. this tiny baby packs everything in it aside from a good DSLR lens and manual convenience. Right now my schedule is pretty hectic & am coping w/ some changes… will write some fun things a little later.

  5. Laura Cancun says:

    I’ve seen commercials for this!! I’m already pretty dedicated to my pretty white Canon, but this made me think twice. That smile detection is TOO MUCH! Love it!

    Question: Are you in Korea already???

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