Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
After spending time with Samsung's SH100 WiFi-enabled 14 megapixel touchscreen based camera it has become apparent that this is where all consumer digital cameras are headed. WiFi connectivity and the ability to backup photos, send e-mail from directly from the camera as well as upload to online services like Picasa, YouTube and Facebook is a defining feature but the touch-screen based control interface is a mixed bag.
At first glance, the SH100 ($249 SRP) is just another shiny point-and-shoot camera but it so isn't. Closer inspection reveals that this camera is WiFi capable, meaning it doesn't need a PC as a conduit to send photos to email or to online services. Once set up and within reasonable range from a wireless connection, the SH100 simply uploads photos and video directly to any cloud-enabled service for instant sharing.
The SH100 also shoots video at 720p HD resolution and should be able to upload videos to YouTube for sharing which is an amazing feature for journalists needing a quick way to get short videos up on YouTube.
The SH100 can also backup its photosets on to a wirelessly connected PC in your home network as well as stream slideshows to any DLNA-enabled All Share HDTVs laying about. This is possible with the SH100's built-in WiFi function that's rated to work on B/G and N flavours of WiFi.
Samsung didn't stop at the wireless connectivity, the SH100 is also one of the newer cameras featuring their 3" Smart Touch 3.0 LCD screen lets you touch the icons on the display to launch options and applications that make your images sharper and easier to capture.
This is where smartphone and tablet technology is starting to converge with other consumer products. A touch-enabled camera has fewer physical controls but then runs most of its functionality through the screen via app-type functions, a novel idea in theory.
While being able to use the large screen as a means to control the camera settings is an innovative and slick idea there is something to be said about the instantaneous response and tactile feedback provided by physical buttons. Maybe it is just something we need to get used to but it was a little too easy to press the wrong button or get caught in the menus specially when sliders were involved.
The SH100, is, after all, a point-and-shoot camera. So finding an appropriate setting and shooting photos is what 80 per cent of users are going to do and that is fine. It helps to familiarize oneself with the settings and then just have fun with the camera.
The SH100 seem to have most of the functions as well as the same 14 megapixel sensor and optics as the dual screen PL121 so photo quality was above average to exceptional in well-lit conditions.
Samsung offers a surprisnly deep list of functions and photo presets including numerous scene modes that are calibrated for specific settings. You also get effects like Miniature; Vignetting; Soft Focus; Cinema 1; Cinema 2; Half Tone; Sketch; Fish-Eye 2; Defog; Classic; Retro; Negative; Custom RGB and a Smart Album function that cleverly superimposes pre-selected backgrounds into photos for chintzy fun.
We took the SH100 around town and connected it to our Google Nexus S smartphone which was working as a wireless hotspot on Mobilicity's network. With this set up, we were able to upload photos we had taken to Picasa anywhere we were. Setup and photo transfer was easy and relatively fast. If you're relying on a home WiFi connection then transfers are done a lot faster.
For photographers who like taking casual pictures and posting them online or anyone whose photos usually end up sent via e-mail and who don't want the added hassle of needing a card-reader and/or a USB connection to a PC will love what this camera can do wirelessly. Other manufacturers should find a way to make this feature available in their consumer cameras.
We had higher hopes for the Smart Touch feel and responsiveness but it isn't a deal breaker, interested buyers should check out the touch screen interface and see if it works for them. We'd also like to see support for Flickr, SmugMug and other photo sharing services in the future.
Battery life with 80 photos transferred and 200 photos shot isn't bad, the SH100 charges via an HDMI to USB cable which can charge of a wall charger or off a PC's USB port.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5