The compact digital camera market is quite saturated at this point, with every electronic manufacturer trying their hand at it. But if Samsung as a brand is known for one thing, it’s innovation and their Galaxy smartphones are proof of that.
So it’s only fitting that their latest entry in the compact camera market - the WB150F - has some strikingly cool features that innovate within the segment. Their image quality and performance in itself is decent yet unremarkable, in the sense that it doesn’t outdo its competitors in any significant way. Where it does manage to really outdo the competitors is in terms of features taht are unheard of in the segment till now and will definitely appeal to the class that the camera is targeted to. The most notable one, you say? Here you go - built-in WiFi that allows you to upload images to social networks directly from the camera.
Samsung has made sure they aren’t behind their competitors in terms of specs and have packed a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor with a total of 14.2 megapixels -- 4,320x3,240 pixels. It actually has a full manual mode for pictures with a shutter that reaches upto 16 seconds and ISO that can go upto 3200. Program, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes also exist which is something you see on DSLR’s.
Zoom is something of an importance with cameras that don’t have interchangeable lenses, and Samsung has quite an insane amount of zoom with an impressive 18x zoom lens on the camera. Now theres’s optical image stabilization which does a good job with actually making sure those zoomed in images remain steady. Even the aperture is quite robust, with a f/3.2 zoomed all the way out and goes upto f/5.8 when in telephoto mode.
But the feature that makes this camera stand apart from the rest of the crowd is without a doubt it’s built-in WiFi capabilities. Once you’ve taken your pictures, the camera itself can connect to your work or home network after which you will be able to directly upload your images to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube and Photobucket as far as online services go. You can also e-mail the images as optimised versions, although we find the lack of Twitter as a service surprising.
Two other cool features are MobileLink and remote Viewfinder. MobileLink allows you to transfer images to your Android smartphone, but it’s currently limited to only Samsung Galaxy devices although this will probably change later on. A cool feature is the ability to use the Samsung Galaxy phone as a remote viewfinder for the camera itself and I imagine there can be a lot of practical uses for this if it isn’t a chore to get to work.
Special mention has to be given to the creative filters that this camera packs, which is a new thing that cameras like to do for the casual users and Samsung kicks it up a notch with a wide selection. There’s stuff like Sketch, Oil Painting, Cartoon, Retro, Palette Effects, Miniature, Magic Frame and so on which are not only live-previewed but actually manage to look quite decent if not tacky. But props for Samsung to actually give users so many presets to play with and I imagine kids will have a lot of fun with this.
Build & Design
Samsung have been stepping up their game when it comes to designing their products, and this camera fits that bill. It’s a very strong body that is one of the best looking cameras of its class that I’ve seen with an impressive matte finish that looks slick, and makes it look so much more refined and upclass and most of its competitors.
The big lens is beautifully placed on the side instead of smack in the middle and it’s a little detail that makes the camera look more thought out. The front is the best part of the camera as the design makes it look simple yet elegant. Once again, I’ll stress on the build quality which feels rigid and expensive and something that you don’t have to worry about breaking accidentally.
From the back, things are more traditional as we get a 3 inch LCD screen with various buttons around the right side. There’s the trustworthy scroll, a menu button, a playback button, a delete button among others. At the top, you’ll find the traditional knob which allows you to quickly change the recording mode to photos or video, a well-placed power button as well as a nicely finished zoom slider.
When it comes to the interface, I actually really like the way Samsung has laid out their menus and it looks very clean and accessible to use. They're well-designed and clearly marked, making them easy on the eyes compared to some other camera interfaces which is more cluttered and hard to use. The only problem is that it's a little bit sluggish and not as zippy as it could have been, but that doesn't end up being too much of an issue.
Next, we test out the image quality of the camera.
When it comes to image quality, the camera is a decent performer and matches what most of its competitors have to offer. We tried out the camera both in outdoor daylight and in particular lack of light and there was quite a difference in performance. First of all, here are some of the outdoor shots we took. We've resized these images for web viewing, but you can see the details nevertheless.
Pretty decent quality and the colors as well as details are pretty well captured, but it's nothing to write home about. We already know about the excellent and long zoom that the camera has, so let's put that to the test. The following is an image of a mosque that we took below our office.
And here is the same image with the camera fully zoomed in.
That's actually very impressive for a camera of this size and ended up capturing the ultra-zoomed in image better than we thought. But though there is stabilization, shots aren't always as stable during the zoom mode and we put that to the test as well. Below are three images at various zoom levels and you can see how the highest zoom is shaky and produces a fair bit of noise which is kind of expected though.
Here's another image in ample light to show how well details are captured.
Next, we tried a few creative filters. As we've already mentioned, Samsung has a lot of them built in and they're the most interesting and actually creative ones we've seen on a camera of this size and don't essentially try to just mimic Instagram. A couple of examples below.
We then move on to our low light test, and that's where the camera is kind of mediocre. Images are still captured with ease, but there's quite a lot of noise for those images which results in a soft detail-lacking picture which gets less impressive when you closely analyse it. It's not a surprise since low light conditions is something small cameras aren't known for and they jack up the ISO to compensate for their small sensor, but you can judge the results yourself.
You can see what I'm talking about. But there's a flash in the camera, which does a much better job in low light and leads to a better picture with much less noise. See the comparison below of two images taken without flash and then with a flash.
The difference is clear.
As far as video goes. it's an afterthought for the camera and nothing to go in detail about. It records in 720p HD and the image quality is pretty much the same as the quality of the photos, but that means that this low light issue also crops up there and affects the video quality. Also, thanks to the small form factor, the video can end up being a little too shaky at times but that's nothing exclusive to this camera.
Samsung WB150F is a smart entry by Samsung into the market because the focus isn't completely on image quality and pushing the boundaries in terms of specs. If you look at it purely in regards of image quality and benchmarks, it does the job but is pretty much unremarkable when compared to other products in the same league.
But that's where Samsung makes a smart move and decides to focus on innovations within the camera in terms of features that are unheard of in small digital cameras. The WiFi capability of the camera and the fact that you can use an Android phone as a viewfinder are definitely solid innovations and will be the primary selling point of these aptly titled 'smart' cameras.
It depends on the user whether he will be using any of these, but I suspect most casual users can stand to benefit with something like this. It's a pain to take out the memory card of the camera and put it in the PC to then transfer the files and upload them, and this in-camera function definitely makes it easy on a casual user to share the images he took. If convenience matters, Samsung rises on top in that regard. But that's not to say that those are the only good things about the camera - the zoom lens is powerful and the camera is loaded with features that otherwise help in getting a good image. Not to mention the strong body that actually looks very sleek and appealing.
Low light is an issue and the image quality suffers on that regard, but the Samsung WB150F is a worthy entry into the market that excels on innovation and is a trend-setting buy because of that.