Philippine Daily Inquirer, 9.6.2009
AFTER AGGRESSIVELY MAKING ITS mark in cutting-edge mobile phones and home electronics like LCD television (it now has the largest LCD TV market shares in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore, according to market research firm GfK), Samsung is revving up its promotional guns behind another product it hopes would equal its brand best sellers: digital cameras.
Launched three weeks ago in Bangkok was the Samsung 2 View ST550, the first in a new line of Samsung digital cameras that, in the words of Jeong-Wook Kim, vice president of Samsung Digital Imaging Co.’s marketing communications strategic marketing team, are “packed with groundbreaking, unrivalled technology [marked by] ease of use, more intelligent image management and greater connectivity.”
“The ST550 will change your photographic experience,” promised Samsung Asia president and CEO Yoon-Ho Ha, during the dinner that followed the unveiling of the camera at the Centara Grand in Central World.
Scenes from the launch: (top photo) Thai-Brit celebrity and Samsung brand ambassador in Thailand Chompoo Araya demonstrating the camera’s features to event host Utt Panichkul; Samsung top executives from all over Asia with Chompoo Araya; Thai performers cap their performance of a traditional dance by unveiling Samsung ST550 cameras.
Samsung’s strategy is to innovate on existing standard features of point-and-shoot digital cameras to differentiate its own. Consider nine of the most novel features of the ST550:
Dual LCD. Designed to help users shoot better self-portraits, the ST550 is the first dual-LCD camera in the world. Aside from its 3.5”-wide, 1,152-resolution touch-screen LCD at the back (four times more resolution than traditional displays, already the world’s highest resolution for this type of camera, says Samsung), a 1.5” LCD screen in front, activated with a mere tap of the finger, allows users to see how they look in the frame before they take that profile picture, thus eliminating repeat shots due to cropped, out-of-frame or out-of-focus images.
Self-Timer. A standard feature in all digital cameras, but in the Samsung ST550, users won’t have to count by themselves the seconds before the shutter clicks. Instead, the front LCD screen flashes a countdown timer, giving a precise grip on how much time users have left before striking a pose.
Children Mode. Shooting babies is usually a case of patient, endless cooing to get that perfect upfront smile. The ST550 makes things easier with the Children Mode, in which an animated clown appears on the front LCD screen to help the baby focus and break into a smile.
Smile Shot. Again, a feature present in most digital cameras, but improved in the Samsung ST550. Once the subject smiles, the camera automatically detects the movement and clicks on its own. An allied feature is Blink Detection, which programs the camera to shoot only when the subject has his or her eyes open.
Beauty Shot. Wrinkles, blemishes and other facial imperfections are removed from the subject’s face with this feature. Skin tone and complexion come out healthy- and radiant-looking--a one-touch Photoshop right there on the camera.
One-Touch Auto Focus. The touch-screen LCD allows for focusing on a subject that may be in the background. Simply touch the part of the image to be highlighted for two seconds, or click the shutter, and the resulting picture will have the rest of the shot softened and only the designated area in focus. Pictures can be up to 12.2 megapixels, using a 27mm wide-angle lens with 4.6x optical zoom.
Smart Face Recognition. The ST550’s internal memory has the ability to remember up to 20 preferred faces. Whenever one of these regular faces comes before the lens, the camera “will identify them as a priority for focus and exposure,” says the ST500 user manual. “Users can also save time sorting through their photos by searching only for those that contain a specific face.”
Smart Gesture User Interface. To look at pictures one has taken, simply tilt the camera in either direction and the photos will scroll automatically. A slide-show feature is also available, for highlighting the best images. And deleting photos is a cinch: Simply draw an X on the screen with one’s fingers.
Dual Image Stabilization. Shaky hands? The ST550 automatically eliminates blurry images with the two-option Dual Image Stabilization feature, which captures sharp images taken by unstable hands even without flash.
The dual LCD is the crown feature of two cameras, the ST550 and ST500. Both can also function as a high-definition video camera, equipped to record “twice as much as an MP4 and four times than an MJPG--the format used in many other digital cameras.” For bigger memory, a micro-SD card slot is provided.
Another camera in the Samsung 2 View line, the ST1000, embraces social networking with its Bluetooth, geo-tagging and WiFi connectivity features. These permit users to upload and share pictures online right after they’re taken, along with embedded GPS data on location, time and such.
“Ease of use, plus very good design, is how we differentiate ourselves in the market,” said Kim. “This [the ST550] is a very good gadget for style-oriented customers.”
Shots of Bangkok's Grand Palace, where Asian media were asked to road-test the Samsung cameras
The camera, also launched in New York, Beijing, London and Seoul, had its Southeast Asian premiere in Bangkok because Thailand had become “one of the largest markets for Samsung digital cameras in the region,” said Ha in his speech.
“Worldwide, there are more than 500 million first-time camera buyers,” he added.
Many of them have bought Samsung mobile phones or LCD TVs, propelling the products to market dominance. Ha and company are hoping they’d soon bet their money on the brand’s new offerings--the ST550 and its digital cousins.
(The ST550 and ST500 will be available in the Philippines this month, the ST1000 in October.)
PLUS: “Thailand, tom yum and the Samsung ST550”, by Pam Pastor; “Capturing Thailand's delights with a tap and click ”, by JR Isaac
[All photos taken with the new Samsung ST550]