The Samsung WB850F ($379.95 list) is a compact superzoom with a wider than normal 21x zoom lens. It sports a crisp OLED display, geotags your images thanks to GPS, and has one of the more refined Wi-Fi implementations out there. The 16-megapixel camera doesn’t do well at higher ISO settings, which keeps it out of the running for our Editors’ Choice award. That goes to the more expensive Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V ($419.99, 4 stars), which has a similar feature set and better overall image quality.
Design and Features
The WB850F is 2.4 by 4.3 by 1 inch (HWD) in size and weighs about 8 ounces. It’s similar in size and shape to other long zoom cameras, including the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS ($349.99, 4 stars)—that 20x shooter is 2.4 by 4.2 by 1.3 inches in size and only slightly heavier at 8.2 ounces. Despite fitting into your pocket, the camera packs a 21x zoom lens that covers a 23-483mm (35mm equivalent) field of view. Because it’s a bit wider than others in this class, it doesn’t offer as much telephoto reach—the SX260′s 20x lens covers 25-500mm—but the wider angle makes it possible to get more information in frame, which comes in handy when you’re trying to capture a scene and your back is pressed up against a wall.
It’s possible to shoot in Auto mode and never touch a control, but those who would like a little bit more influence over camera settings may be a little frustrated with the WB850F’s button layout. There is a Mode dial up top, but the only rear shooting controls are for the Drive mode and Self Timer. If you want to adjust ISO, Exposure Compensation or other shooting settings you’ll need to hit the Function button and select them from an overlay menu. Instead, two of the rear buttons are reserved for GPS functions—one launches Live Landmarks and the other brings up a Compass. There’s one other ergonomic foible in the camera’s design: the catch to release the flash is directly to its right. If you’re not careful about how you trip the switch, the raising flash can jam against your finger. It’s not something that will cause permanent injury, but it smarts.
The rear display is fantastic. It’s a 3-inch OLED panel, which is a bit brighter and delivers more contrast than competing LCDs. It’s also packed with 921k dots of resolution, equaling the LCD found on the Nikon Coolpix S9300 ($349.95, 2.5 stars). Looking at the two side by side, the WB850F’s OLED display has an edge in quality, although it’s not a night and day difference—the 921k-dot LCD is also impressive.
The WB850F packs one of the more mature Wi-Fi feature sets that we’ve tested. Turning the Mode dial to Wi-Fi brings up a colorful menu screen with a number of options, most of which are geared towards sharing your photos and videos online. With a few button presses you can email your shots to friends, or share them via Facebook, Picasa, YouTube, and Photobucket. You can also send photos to your Samsung TV, Microsoft SkyDrive account, or Windows PC—OS X is not supported as it is with the Sony HX30V.
The final two Wi-Fi functions require an iPhone or Android phone to use. MobileLink works with a free app, available in the Apple App Store and Android Market, to wirelessly transmit your photos from the camera to your phone—so you can send photos to your phone even when a Wi-Fi hotspot isn’t available. There’s also the a Remote Viewfinder app, also free for iOS and Android, which makes it possible to control the camera via your phone. You can use the phone to zoom in and out, control the flash, and take a photo, but more advanced control is not possible. The live view feed from the WB850F’s lens shows up on your phone’s display, but it’s a bit choppy, and I was only able to get about 30 feet away from the camera before the connection dropped.
There’s also a GPS, which adds location information to your photos. You can view a world map with the location from which a photo was taken via Flickr, Picasa, iPhoto, and other web services and software applications. You can also view a map in the camera via its NavTeq Maps module. This makes it possible to find local landmarks, which is something that many GPS-enabled cameras don’t offer. The GPS does take a little while to lock on to a signal—about 2.5 minutes—so it won’t replace your smartphone, but it’s a nice addition.
Performance and Conclusions
The WB850F takes a full 2.4 seconds to start and shoot, can grab an 8-shot burst of photos at 10, 5, or 3 frames per second, and manages a short 0.2-second shutter lag. The Canon PowerShot SX260 HS matches the shutter lag, but starts a little bit faster—1.8 seconds—and can shoot continuously at 2 frames per second.
I used Imatest to measure the sharpness of the 21x zoom lens. It did quite well, scoring 2,377 lines per picture height—much higher than the 1,800 lines required for a sharp photo. Most of the superzooms that we’ve tested score higher than 1,800 lines—even if they just cross the barrier, as the Fujifilm FinePix F750EXR ($349.95, 3.5 stars) did with its 1,877-line score. The WB850F is the sharpest in recent memory, as long as its ISO is set at the base level.
The problem with this camera is image quality when you raise the ISO. It isn’t a matter of noise—that’s actually kept under 1.5 percent through ISO 3200, but one of detail. Fine detail starts to disappear at ISO 400, and is gone by ISO 800. Our Editors’ Choice in this category, the Sony HX30V, may only keep noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 800, but it doesn’t suffer from complete loss of fine detail until it hits ISO 1600.
The camera’s 1080p30 video is recorded in MP4 format. It’s very sharp, albeit a little bit dark, and the camera can zoom and focus when recording—without adding unwanted noise to the soundtrack. There’s a standard micro HDMI port to connect to an HDTV, as well as a micro USB port. The latter lets you connect to a computer, and also plugs into the AC adapter that ships with the camera to charge the battery; there is no dedicated battery charger included. Standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.
In brighter light, the Samsung WB850F is an excellent camera, but its image quality suffers as soon as you hit ISO 400—which you’re almost sure to do when shooting indoors. Its Wi-Fi capability is neat—especially the ability to control the camera with your phone. Our Editors’ Choice Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V is a better camera overall, and Mac users will appreciate its ability to transfer photos to an OS X computer, but it will set you back an additional $50. If you can live without Wi-Fi and don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, consider the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS—it’s a little less money and produces excellent images.
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|Dimensions||2.4 x 4.3 x 0.98 inches|
|Interface Ports||micro USB, micro HDMI|
|Battery Type Supported||Lithium Ion|
|Recycle time||0.1 seconds|
|LCD size||3 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||21 x|
|Boot time||2.4 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||23 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Video Resolution||720p, 1080p|
|Lines Per Picture Height||2377|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||483 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.2 seconds|
|Sensor Size||4.6 x 6.2 (1/2.3") mm|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc