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Samsung WB600 Digital Camera Review

Samsung WB600 Digital Camera Review - The Samsung WB600 has an impressive 15x optical zoom, starting at the equivalent of a 24mm wide-angle lens. Test by Duncan Evans

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Samsung WB600
Price : £240
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Samsung WB600: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Samsung WB600

If there’s one compact manufacturer that consistently thinks outside the box, it’s Samsung. Sometimes the technological innovations work well (vibrating touch screens) and sometimes it would be better if it was put back in the box and hidden under the bed (the ‘clown attract’ mode). Either way, there’s usually something interesting worth talking about. In the case of the WB600 the talking point is that the headline features are photographic rather than technological.

Samsung WB600: Features
It’s almost a shock to find a high spec Samsung that isn’t full of party tricks, but with the WB600 it’s back to photography basics by providing a wide-angle, Schneider Kreuznach lens with a 24mm equivalent view and tied to that is the optical zoom at 15x. Obviously, starting at 24mm, 15x doesn’t go as far as it used to but it still gives the equivalent of 360mm reach. Now, with that kind of telephoto possibility you’re going to need either a fast lens aperture or lots of ISO flexibility to keep the shutter speed up and it’s the latter that is the case. The widest aperture at the end of the zoom is f/5.8 so it’s over to the ISO range of 80-3200 to pick up the slack if required.

On hand to help out are dual forms of image stabilisation – both optical and the less effective image-based firmware route. With such a big lens, it’s good to see that macro mode is rated at a pleasing 3cm as well. Other interesting features include the movable focus point, the 1280x720 movie capture plus the HDMI port, a choice of AP, SP or manual exposure modes or the warm comfort blanket of scene modes if required.

Samsung WB600 Key features: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Samsung WB600 Top View Samsung WB600 Back
The function dial adds manual, aperture and shutter priority modes in the progression from the WB550 to the WB600. The 3in LCD dominates the back of the camera, and with minimal controls just leaves enough room for a thumbgrip.
Power is provided by a Samsung SLB-11A Li-ion battery. A close up of the function dial and shutter release.

Samsung WB600: Handling
In terms of physical size, the WB600 is chunky and weighty, both a consequence of having such a large zoom. The 3in LCD screen on the back is large and bright, leaving room for basic controls on the joypad and button arrangements. It looks nice enough, if not radical, though the chrome plastic band gives the finish a cheaper feel than it warrants.

Handling is generally good, while using the zoom will require both hands for stability. The controls are all very familiar in layout and operation, except perhaps for the menu. Pressing the dedicated Menu button blanks the screen for a selection of choices, which in the case of shooting parameters requires another couple of presses just to get to the same screen that can be accessed by pressing the Function button. Essentially, that’s the shortcut and overlays the options onto the live view, the titular Menu button is more for setting up the other options. One bugbear is that the menu system has to be used to access the aperture or shutter speed control when in the relevant mode. It makes changing it needlessly clumsy.

Samsung WB600 Performance
While there are a range of focus point options, from single to multiple points, once any face detection system is turned on, these are disabled. In this department, there are a number of options including normal mode, self-portrait feedback, auto-smile capture, smart face recognition and blink recognition. For a compact these are fairly important. Normal face detection wasn’t as fast as you might expect, taking time to pick up faces and also losing them for no apparent reason. The auto-smile capture worked well, firing the shutter four times out of five when people smiled. The blink detection also worked as it should, firing two shots when someone had their eyes shut.

In terms of metering with the default zone system, there’s more willingness to try to bring a bright sky into play than you might be used to with a compact. The result can often be an overexposed ground/people. On white sky/bright days you can forget about capturing both ground and sky as the WB600 has typical dynamic range for a compact. To get any detail into a bright sky, the ground is a virtual silhouette. Focussing is acceptable in terms of speed though in practice it wasn’t that accurate, resulting in a few shots with the focus point in the wrong place. Also, focus tracking is one of those things that only makes good copy for the box. For burst shooting, the WB600 is ahead of the field, capturing 11 full, hi-res images in a 10 second test, at pretty much 1fps continuously. Another strong area is macro where the rated 3cm proved to be case, enabling great close up work. There’s also a good performance on the ISO testing. Yes, there’s a little variation in tones, even at ISO80, like almost all compacts, and it starts to get noisy once past ISO400 but it never gets that bad and there are no appreciable colour shifts which can happen. ISO3200 is clearly noisy with a green cast in the shadow areas, but it’s significantly better than a lot of compacts, other Samsungs included.

Samsung WB600
Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
 
 ISO 80  ISO 100  ISO 200  ISO 400
   
 ISO 800  ISO 1600  ISO 3200  

On the people front, skin tones are quite light and natural, though there is a tendency to lose highlights and overexpose at times. Given that, it’s almost a surprise to see nicely saturated colours everywhere else, showing good versatility in the WB600. On the colour chart this was reflected with very accurate reds and greens, but with brighter blue tones – obviously to make skies look nicer. The flash too works well, either in full mode, with red eye, or as fill-flash. There’s rarely any issue with red-eye so full marks there.

There’s two anti-shake systems, optical and firmware, and these work well, enabling crisp shots to be taken even at very slow shutter speeds such as 1/10sec.

Samsung WB600 White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Auto white-balance under incandescent light Incandescent preset in incandecent lighting
Auto white-balance in fluorecent lighting Fluorescent preset in fluorecent lighting

Samsung WB600: Lens performance
With an optical zoom of 15x there’s usually a price to pay and in this case it’s the wide open aperture coming in at f/3.2 at the wide angle end and f/5.8 at the telephoto end. Shooting towards bright light does produce some flare and against a white sky for high contrast shots there’s some chromatic aberration but you really have to go for those extreme circumstances to get it. Given that there’s such a long zoom, the quality at the end of it is better than expected, still showing detail, though it isn’t actually very fast. There’s a good amount of detail at the centre of the lens, though as might be expected, it’s softer towards the edges and also, thanks to the colour filter, there’s noticeably more detail in green than red or blue. There’s also some barrel distortion but for such a wide ranging zoom, it’s impressive that it isn’t significant. For the target audience, there are no real issues here.

Samsung WB600 Performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
While the 15x zoom makes it ideal for candid shots, the focussing can be wayward. Here, despite using a single point focus system, with the couple clearly dominating the picture, the focus is the building and behind just behind them. This interior shot was taken under mixed lighting conditions with a fluorescent bulb overhead and diffuse daylight coming through the window but the AWB has performed extremely well with the white of the dog’s coat being retained.
With a 3cm minimum focus distance for macro mode and optical image stabilisation to keep matters sharp, you really can get close up to the subject. Spot metering on the church itself brings out all the detail of the building but invariably loses the bright cloudy sky.

Samsung WB600: Verdict
In almost going back to basics, Samsung have addressed some flaws present in the more gadget-orientated devices in their product line. Noise control through the ISO range is good, delivering usable images right to the top end with no colour shifting. The provision of a 24mm wide-angle with the reach of a 15x zoom, backed up by manual controls puts picture-taking onus back on the photographer.

Image quality is notably better than some previous Samsung cameras, with good colour performance throughout, and while the metering and focussing might be slight let downs, the WB600 does have great features in a solidly built package. Most of the rivals in this category – Nikon S8000, Canon SX210 IS and plenty of them from other manufacturers, tend to be a slightly thinner and if you want better noise control, then the Canon is the one to go for. As for sharpness, the WB600 is slightly soft, but easily sharpened. It gives as good as it gets and represents a very attractive, well priced, big zoom option.

Samsung WB600: Pros
15x optical zoom
24mm equivalent wide-angle lens
Very good ISO range

Samsung WB600: Cons
Focussing not the best
Metering can easily overexpose

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

Samsung WB600: Specification
Price £239.99
Contact 01932 454358
Optical zoom 15x
Resolution 4000x3000
Sensor size 14Mp
Sensor type 1/2.3in CCD
Max image size 12Mp
Aspect ratio 4:3, 3:2
Focusing system TTL contrast detection
Focus points One fixed/one movable/nine
Focus type Multi AF, Center AF, Selection AF, Face Detection AF, Face Recognition AF, Object Tracking AF, Focus Area, Manual Focus
Focus distance 3cm macro, 80cm normal
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO 100, ISO 800, ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 80, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO auto
Metering system n/a
Metering types Multi-segment, centre-weighted, spot, face detection AE
Exposure compensation ±2 EV range, in 1/3 EV steps
Shutter speed range 16s-1/2000th sec
Frames-per-second 30fps, 720p H.264 video
Image stabilisation Optical and Digital
Monitor 230,000 pixels, 3in
Media type SD/SDHC
Interface USB, HDMI
Power Samsung SLB-11A Li-ion
Size 107x28x61mm
Weight 210g
 
The Samsung WB600 costs £239.99 and will be available from Warehouse Express soon.

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Photographs taken using the Samsung WB600

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