Samsung WB800F review

The Samsung WB800F packs a sharp 21x zoom lens and Wi-Fi, but some issues with image and video quality prevent it from getting top marks.
Photo of Samsung WB800F

The Samsung WB800F ($299.99 direct) is a compact superzoom cameras with an impressively sharp 21x zoom lens. It’s also got a responsive touch screen and one of the better Wi-Fi implementations we’ve seen. But the Editors’ Choice Canon PowerShot SX280 HS takes better pictures at higher ISOs, and bests the WB800F by adding a GPS and 1080p60 video capture. 

Design and Features
The WB800F looks a lot like other recent Samsung long zoom cameras, like the 18x WB250F. The camera, available in white, cobalt black, or red, measures about 2.6 by 4.2 by 1.5 inches (HWD), weighs 8.3 ounces, and features a rather deep handgrip with a leatherette covering. It’s slightly bigger on all edges than the Canon SX280 HS (2.5 by 4.2 by 1.3 inches, 8.2 ounces), but both cameras can slide into your pocket. Some of the W800F’s extra size is accounted for by a larger lens; it’s a 21x zoom design that covers a 23-483mm (35mm equivalent) range—a bit wider than the 25-500mm on the SX280, but not quite as telephoto. The aperture is an impressive f/2.8 on the wide end, but it dwindles to f/5.9 when zoomed. You’ll have to go with a much larger camera, like the Editors’ Choice Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, to get a long zoom that stays at f/2.8 through its entire focal length range.

The engineers at Samsung have taken advantage of the largish body and implemented a solid control layout. The top plate features the Power button, the Direct Link button for quick Wi-Fi sharing, a manual flash release, the shutter release, a zoom rocker, and a mode dial. The rear of the camera houses a dedicated video recording button, as well a four-way controller that has buttons for the flash output, macro shooting, drive mode and self-timer, and the amount of information displayed on the LCD.

Tapping the Menu button brings up an overlay menu that gives you access to additional shooting settings. These include exposure compensation, white balance control, ISO, focus settings, metering options, image compression settings, and a few other odds and ends.  You can adjust the settings via the four-way control pad, or directly via touch. The 3-inch 460k-dot LCD display is just as responsive as the one on the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy Camera, but it’s nowhere near as big or sharp; the Galaxy has a 4.8-inch screen with 921k-dot resolution.

Like other Samsung cameras, Wi-Fi comes standard with the WB800F. And Samsung gets everything right with its implementation—you can connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot from the camera and post photos and videos to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube, and SkyDrive, Samsung AllShare Play, or send them via email.  If you’re not near Wi-Fi, the camera can act as a hotspot and transfer photos directly to your phone using the free Samsung Smart Camera App for iOS and Android. This app also allows you to use your phone or tablet as a remote viewfinder; a live feed of what the lens is seeing is shown on your device and you can control the zoom, flash output, self-timer, and fire a photo without touching the camera.

Performance and Conclusions
The WB800F is speedy. It can start and take a shot in about 1.7 seconds and its shutter lag is a short 0.1-second. It can shoot at 7 or 3 frames per second, but at either speed it’s limited to a 6-shot burst. You’ll have to wait for about 11 seconds for all the files to write to the card after the burst. Compare this with the Galaxy Camera, which, due to its Android operating system, starts slower, in about 2.9 seconds. Its also slower to focus and fire, recording a 0.4-second shutter lag, but it can record a 20-shot burst at 3.8 frames per second.

I use Imatest to check the quality of photos captured by the WB800F. Photos are sharp, scoring 1,992 lines per picture height; we require an image to score 1,800 lines on a center-weighted test to pass muster. Imatest also checks for noise, which can make a photo appear grainy as you increase the camera’s sensitivity to light, numerically expressed as ISO. The WB800F actually scores well on the standard Imatest noise test, staying at 1.2 percent—a bit below our cutoff of 1.5 percent—through its top ISO 3200 setting. But close examination of images on our calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W display shows that image detail is smudged away at settings as low as ISO 800, a sure sign of an overly aggressive noise reduction algorithm. The SX280 HS only manages to keep noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 1600, and it also is smudgy at ISO 800 or above, but its noise is in a tighter, less blocky pattern. Neither camera can match our Editors’ Choice for midrange compacts, the Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS in high ISO performance; it’s one of the best cameras with a 1/2.3-inch sensor that we’ve seen recently. It keeps noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 1600, and does a great job with detail at that setting. Its zoom lens is much less ambitious at 10x (25-250mm), but it’s worth considering if you don’t need 21x.

Video is recorded in MP4 format at 1080p30 or 720p30 quality. Footage looks good—it’s sharp, smooth, and colors are accurate, but there is a bit evidence of the rolling shutter effect when panning the camera. This causes the top of the frame to move faster than the bottom, which is similar to the rubber pencil visual trick that has fascinated many a child. On the plus side, the sound of the lens zooming in and out is quiet; it’s barely audible on the soundtrack.

You can connect the camera to your HDTV via a micro HDMI port, and there’s a micro USB port you can use to plug the camera into a computer, and you will need to use it to charge the battery; the WB800F doesn’t ship with a dedicated charger, so you’ll have to plug it into the wall via an included USB to AC adapter when the battery gets low. Photos are recorded on SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory cards.

The Samsung WB800F is a good superzoom, but a few missteps prevent it from being a great one. Its lens is impressive, covering a very wide 23mm angle on the wide end and packing a 21x zoom ratio. In good light, images are impressive, but overzealous noise reduction rubs away detail when set to higher ISOs. Wi-Fi is a useful feature if you like to post photos on the go, but it’s been better implemented in Samsung’s own Galaxy Camera. Wi-Fi is also available in our Editors’ Choice compact superzoom, the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS, which is a little bit more expensive, but produces more detailed photos at higher ISO settings and is a little bit smaller. And the aforementioned Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS has a much less ambitious 10x zoom lens, but also includes Wi-Fi support, and images at high ISO settings are notably better than those from either the WB800F or the SX280 HS.

Specifications
Dimensions 2.6 x 4.2 x 1.5 inches
Interface Ports micro USB, micro HDMI
Sensor Type CMOS
Megapixels 16 MP
Battery Type Supported Lithium Ion
Recycle time 0.1 seconds
LCD dots 460000
LCD size 3 inches
Touch Screen Yes
Media Format Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity
Maximum ISO 3200
Type Superzoom
GPS No
Optical Zoom 21 x
Boot time 1.7 seconds
35-mm Equivalent (Wide) 23 mm
Weight 8.3 oz
Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated) 0 feet
Video Resolution 720p, 1080p
Lines Per Picture Height 1992
LCD Aspect Ratio 4
Image Stabilization Optical
35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto) 483 mm
Shutter Lag 0.1 seconds
Sensor Size 6.2 x 4.6 (1/2.3") mm
Viewfinder Type None

Verdict
The Samsung WB800F packs a sharp 21x zoom lens and Wi-Fi, but some issues with image and video quality prevent it from getting top marks.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc