Samsung SH100 14Mp Wi-Fi compact camera
Call the shots from your smartphone
Review The ST1000 was Samsung’s first Wi-Fi enabled camera that not only allowed users to e-mail pics from a hotspot, but had GPS thrown in just to prove you were really there. With the SH100 wireless compact, the company goes beyond snap and share by offering tight integration with its top tier Android products enabling tethering with a compatible handset or tablet, so that it becomes the SH100 viewfinder for remote capture.
IP camera? Samsung's SH100
The SH100 sports a 14.2Mp sensor, 3in touchscreen and a 5x optical zoom with the 35mm equivalent of a 26-130mm lens. It can handle 720p HD video recording and has an ISO range between 80 and 3200. At 93 x 54 x 19mm and 110g, the SH100 is highly pocketable and designed to operate as closely to an Android phone as possible.
Despite its compact dimensions the SH100 offers a secure and comfortable hold, partly due to the slightly canted top plate that allows a more ergonomic position for pressing the shutter. This, and the generous front space, coupled with the two ridges placed the back provide some sort of grip.
The SH100 has little in the way of physical controls. Other than the shutter, surrounded by the zoom lever, the only other controls are a power button located on the left of the shutter; a Playback button immediately below the shutter and a Home button on the rear bottom corner of the camera giving access to the touch screen app-like menu that controls all settings, modes and operations.
The look and feel of the SH100’s touchscreen navigation is akin to TouchWiz interface found on Samsung's Galaxy smartphones. The menu is arranged in large, square-shaped icons occupying four menu pages scrollable with a swipe of your finger and covering everything from shooting modes, settings and editing, to playback options, special effects and its many wireless features. These icons work exactly like phone app icons each giving access to a specific screen with its own ad-hoc set of virtual buttons and menu.
Wi-Fi but no GPS on this model
Navigation is fairly straightforward and the icons are colourful and self-explanatory but the touchscreen technology is not nearly as responsive as that of a smartphone. I found myself having to press an icon several times before getting a response, sliding motions are sometimes not recognised and scrolling through pictures in Playback mode is an arduous task for your fingers. Worst of all, the camera was prone to freezing. However, a recent firmware update appears to have sorted that out, but alas not the inconsistent touch response.
The 230k dot touchscreen is hardly a selling point either. Resolution is average, contrast quite poor and the finish highly reflective, making framing in bright daylight difficult, if not impossible. For example, when photographing on the beach, with the sun directly hitting the screen, I was literally shooting blind.
The menu icons are in keeping with Samsung's Touchwiz phones
The SH100 offers three automatic shooting modes: Smart Auto, Scene and Program – and some scene specific mode such as Beauty Shot, Macro, Night and Object Highlight, a shooting mode that allows you to adjust depth of field directly on the screen. There is no manual or semi-manual option but the Program mode lets you be more creative by providing adjustable settings such as white balance, ISO, EV, face detection, focus options and metering modes.
In terms of video options the SH100 provides a Smart Movie mode – with little customisation choice other than selection of movie size – and a Movie mode, which also lets you adjust parameters such as metering, EV and white balance. For both still shooting and video capture the SH100 offers a range of artistic filters including Miniature; Vignetting; Soft Focus; Sketch; Fish-Eye; Classic; Retro and Defog. Creative filters and effects can be applied before or after capture through a series of specific applications like Photo Filter, Movie Filter and Palette Effect.
To highlight the fun nature of the camera Samsung has provided the SH100 with some amusing if slightly tacky features such as MagicFrame that lets you shoot images within a wild and well-designed range of frames. Effects can be quite startling with your face splashed in the middle of wall graffiti or on a massive billboard as you can see from the sample shots.
In terms of image quality don’t expect too much from the SH100. Colours are rich, metering is consistent and pictures are detailed enough but noise is a serious problem throughout the SH100’s otherwise extensive ISO range. The 5x optical zoom, doubled with a 2x digital option, sounds versatile on paper but proved less useful in practice, since producing sharp images at maximum focal length is virtually impossible without resting the camera on a flat surface or using a tripod, as the digital image stabilisation system doesn’t help that much.
Micro SD cards are used for storage, which is becoming more prevalent on Samsung compacts
The SH100 is quite slow in powering up and in between shots, but has a fairly speedy autofocus system. Annoyingly, the SH100 uses micro SD cards but battery life is very good and the camera charges quickly both through the charger or from a computer's USB port. While the photographic features of this camera are just what you’d expect from an average point-and-shoot model, it's the Wi-Fi and wireless applications are the real selling point here.
Old film 1
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For starters when hooked up to a Wi-Fi network you can upload pictures and videos to your favourite social network or virtual gallery – Facebook Picasa, YouTube, Photobucket – as easily and swiftly as from your laptop. Once you select a picture in Playback mode you only need to press the Share button on the left of the image, select your preferred destination site, which the camera will automatically remember for next time.
Hooked up to the SH100, RemoteViewfinder on a Galaxy Tab makes easy work of awkward angles and flighty subjects
A small but functional Qwerty keyboard appears on-screen for logging in which can also be used to add comments to your images. For multiple uploads or to browse your existing albums on Facebook you can use the camera’s Web application. In addition, the SH100 allows e-mailing files directly from the camera using your existing email account. Uploaded images are resized to a 2Mp maximum and video is limited to 30MB.
It also supports send/receive images and videos with another Wi-Fi enabled camera; wireless picture uploads to your home computer once you have installed the supplied AllShare software and stream videos and slideshows to any DLNA enabled TV. The range is pretty good too – in keeping with expectations for a Wi-Fi network.
If you also happen to own a Samsung Galaxy S/S2 smartphone or Tab, you’ll be able to benefit from this camera’s most innovative feature. Once you download the free RemoteViewfinder app you can use the phone as a remote viewfinder and shutter release for seamless self and group portraits or hard to reach framing angles.
In tests with a both a Samsung Galaxy S and the original Tab, you simply run the RemoteViewfinder app and choose the same function on the SH100 and choose the SH100_Galaxy... access point. Once enabled, connecting to the handset is fast and remote operation includes zoom and flash control. Moreover, tethering to a phone also offers the advantage of providing the camera with Internet access when a wireless hotspot is not available.
I tried the app on a Motorola Atrix, but it seems to be a Samsung-only affair. Still, if you don’t have a suitable handset, not to worry, Samsung is currently bundling the SH100 with a one-year free subscription to Boingo, a wireless Internet provider with thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots available worldwide.
Undoubtedly versatile, but somewhat inconsistent in use
For its target market the Samsung SH100 camera seems to tick all the boxes. It is a shame that the two main disappointments – responsiveness of the touchscreen and ISO performance – go to the very core of its function. Yet I don’t think these factors are real deal-breakers, especially for a camera that, if you shop around, can be found for nearly half the manufacturer’s asking price. If you’re looking for a highly connected, intuitive compact that won’t break the bank – and you own a compatible Android phone or Tablet – then the Samsung SH100 seems the most obvious and sensible choice. ®
Catherine Monfils is a professional photographer specialising in portraiture, lifestyle and fashion.
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