Boasting features such as a 15x optical zoom and built-in GPS, Samsung’s WB650 aims to offer slightly more than your average compact camera.
With a black and sliver chassis measuring 107 x 61 x 28mm, the WB650 looks impressive. The large lens sits proudly at the front, while a 3-inch OLED monitor takes up the majority of the rear. The lack of an optical viewfinder will disappoint traditionalists, but the quality of the OLED screen is impressive and it can be viewed even in direct sunlight.
If you’re wondering what place a GPS receiver has on a camera, it’s basically to record location information when a photo is taken. Known as geotagging, this is most commonly performed retrospectively using tools such as Google Earth; you upload the photo, select the location where it was taken on the map and then click a button to apply the geotag.
By using a built-in GPS, the WB650 is able to automate the geotagging process, making it not only easier but also more accurate. As long as the GPS is switched on and a satellite fix obtained (this usually takes under 30 seconds from when the camera is switched on), every photo you take will have its location recorded.
As with the vast majority of compacts currently on the market, the WB650 is loaded with shooting modes, including Portarit, Sunset, Beach, Night and many more. Should you want to get a bit more creative, shutter-priority, aperture-priority and a full manual mode are all available. Face detection is also thrown in, as is smile- and blink-detection for fully automated snaps, all of which worked well during testing.
Other features include an AF assist lamp to improve focussing in low-light conditions and an ISO range of 80 to 3200; needless to say, at ISO 3200 photos are very noisy.
Flip the control dial to Map mode and photos taken when the GPS was active can be viewed on a map. However, in order to use this feature you first need to download the map to the camera. A frustrating, confusing and woefully-documented process, this first involves registering at www.samsungimaging.com, which includes signing up to no fewer than four separate ‘terms of usage’ agreements.
Various files then need to be downloaded and copied to the camera’s SD card; to make matters worse, you need to create specifically-named folders in which to place them. With the maps taking up nearly 250MB, you’ll lose a fair amount of space on the memory card. What’s more, if you switch cards you’ll need to copy all the mapping files over to the new card.
Once everything’s copied over, locations where photos were taken will pop up on the map. Zooming and scrolling around the map is slow, though.
In general, our test photos were good. Purple fringing was minimal and colours were vivid and accurate. When in automatic mode, the camera was occasionally a little too eager to bump the ISO setting up, which resulted in some unnecessarily noisy photos.
Zoom in on the photos and compression artefacts become noticeable, but this shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re printing extra-large photos or cropping right in on detail.
The 15x optical zoom is smooth and has an equivalent wide angle of 24mm, allowing for some wonderful panoramic shots. Both optical and digital image stabilisation features are available, meaning shots at the full extent of the 15x zoom (360mm equivalent) are less likely to be blighted by camera shake.
Battery life is surprisingly good, even when the power-sapping GPS feature is switched on. In our tests, we used it intensively for a week without requiring a recharge, which is pretty impressive. Should you want to conserve battery power, the GPS feature can be turned off using a switch at the top of the camera.
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