The Samsung WB250F ($249.99 direct) is a compact camera with a long 18x zoom lens, built-in Wi-Fi, a 14-megapixel CMOS image sensor, and a responsive touch screen. It doesn’t skimp on the physical controls, so you don’t have to navigate by touch, and it doesn’t sacrifice wide-angle coverage in order to achieve its powerful zoom factor. We found image quality to be a little lacking, especially at higher ISO settings, and still recommend the 20x Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V as our Editors’ Choice superzoom. But if you’re budget doesn’t extend toward the $300 range, and you want a pocket shooter with Wi-Fi connectivity, the WB250F is worth a look.
Design and Features
The WB250F is small when you consider that its lens covers a 24-432mm (35mm equivalent) field of view. It measures 2.4 by 4.2 by 0.9 inches and weighs about 6.9 ounces. It takes many of its design cues from the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Camera, especially if you happen to pick one up in white; although the lines are still similar when looking at the red, gun metal, and cobalt black versions. The WB250F is a lot smaller than the 2.8-by-5.1-by-0.75 inch, 11-ounce Galaxy Camera, though.
One of the reasons that the Galaxy Camera dwarfs the WB250F is its touch screen. The Galaxy has a huge 4.8-inch display with a 921k-dot resolution, just like you would expect to see on an Android phone. The WB250F also has a touch-screen LCD, but at 3 inches and 460k dots, it’s not nearly as big or sharp. The camera’s interface certainly takes some cues from Android, especially when you turn the Mode Dial to the Wi-Fi setting. There you are greeted with big touch-sensitive icons that give you direct access to the various wireless features.
The WB250F uses Samsung’s latest Smart Camera Wi-Fi interface. It allows you to connect to a Wi-Fi network and upload photos and videos directly to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube, and SkyDrive. You can also transfer images directly to your smartphone via a free app for iOS and Android, or use the same phone (or tablet) as a wireless remote control—complete with a Live View feed of what the WB250F’s lens is seeing. Photos can also be directly sent to your PC, shared via email, or the camera can communicate with other devices that support the Samsung AllShare Play system.
You don’t get the always-on 3G/4G that you do with the Galaxy Camera, but it’s easy and quick enough to transfer photos directly to your iOS or Android device for those times when you’re away from Wi-Fi. The Sony HX30V also has Wi-Fi support, but it’s not quite as robust—you can transfer photos to your phone or home computer, but you can’t post directly to social networking sites from the camera. The HX30V does have a sharper 921k-dot LCD, although it doesn’t support touch input, it has a built-in GPS—which the WB250F lacks.
There are a number of physical controls packed into the WB250F’s small frame, including a top-mounted mode dial, Power button, Direct Link Wi-Fi button, and a mechanical release that raises the pop-up flash. On the rear you’ll find a Movie button, as well as controls for the self timer and drive mode, macro shooting, and flash output. There are Menu and Back buttons if you prefer not to use touch input, and you get the typical Play and Delete buttons. Exposure Compensation, which lets you quickly adjust the brightness of your photos, is accessible via the software menu. If it’s dark and you need to use the flash, you can tilt it back to bounce its output off of a ceiling for softer, even illumination—this is a feature that you don’t often see in compact cameras.
Performance and Conclusions
The WB250F starts and shoots in about 1.6 seconds and records a very reasonable 0.2-second shutter lag. It can fire off a burst of six shots at 7.1 frames per second, but requires a long 11.3-second recovery time after a full burst. During that interim you can’t take a photo. There’s also a 3fps burst mode, but it’s also limited to six shots and requires the same recovery time. Speed tests were performed using a SanDisk 95MBps memory card. The Canon PowerShot SX260 HS is a bit slower to start and shoot at 1.8 seconds, and matches the 0.2-second shutter lag. It doesn’t offer a high speed burst mode like the WB250F, but it can fire continuously at 2 frames per second.
I used Imatest to check image sharpness. We use a center-weighted score of 1,800 lines per picture height to mark a sharp photo. The WB250F did just better than that, recording 1,822 lines. But photos are noticeably soft towards the edges of the frame—the outer two columns of our tightly framed 9-column test chart showed a good deal of softness and color fringing when the camera was set to 24mm. This isn’t the case with either the Canon SX260 HS or the Sony HX30V; both cameras score higher on the test and, although they aren’t extremely sharp at the edges of the frame, do a better job than the WB250F.
In terms of noise, Imatest tells us that the WB250F keeps it below 1.5 percent through its top ISO setting of 3200. Noise can make a photo appear grainy, and can also hurt image detail. Many compact cameras keep grain low by applying digital noise reduction, which delivers a better score in Imatest at the cost of photo quality. It’s clear that the WB250F is applying this type of noise reduction—and doing it aggressively. Noise is higher at ISO 200 than it is at ISO 400, and higher at ISO 400 than at ISO 800; Samsung is trading detail for a cleaner image with this image processing approach. Detail starts to vanish at ISO 800, and is basically gone at ISO 1600. Both the Sony HX30V and Canon SX260 HS keep noise below 1.5 percent through a comparatively meager ISO 800, but do a much better job resolving detail at that setting. They also hold an edge at ISO 1600, although none of the cameras are outstanding at that high sensitivity setting.
Video is recorded in MP4 format at 1080p30 or 720p30 quality. The footage looks quite good, and the camera can zoom and focus when recording. And the sound of the lens zooming is not audible on the audio track. There’s a micro USB port, which doubles as a power input for the included AC adapter; like many other recent compact cameras, a dedicated external battery charger is not included. You won’t find an HDMI port for HDTV connectivity. Standard SD, SHDC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.
The Samsung WB250F squeezes a lot of functionality into a compact camera, its Wi-Fi implementation is impressive, and the price is very reasonable. But you’ll get better image quality and GPS from our Editors’ Choice superzoom, the Sony HX30V, at the expense of a less refined Wi-Fi experience. That camera debuted at $420, but is now selling for around $300, only $50 more than the WB250F. If bells and whistles aren’t a major concern, the 20x Canon SX260 HS delivers impressive images, and is now selling for a little bit less than the Samsung. And, if you can’t live without always-on Internet connectivity, the Samsung Galaxy Camera is available with AT&T and Verizon data service in the U.S. It’s much more expensive at $500, and you’ll have to use a touch screen to control shooting settings.
|Dimensions||2.4 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches|
|Interface Ports||micro USB|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.14 seconds|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||18 x|
|Boot time||1.6 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||24 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||1822|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||432 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.2 seconds|
|Sensor Size||6.2 x 4.6 (1/2.3") mm|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc