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Samsung WB5000 Digital Camera Review

Samsung head up the superzoom arena with the WB5000, a 24x optical zoom compact with Raw recording, HD video and face recognition.

|  Samsung WB5000 in Compact Cameras
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Samsung WB5000 main image
Resident tester, Matt Grayson puts the Samsung WB5000 superzoom through its paces.

Samsung WB5000: Features
Taking on a smoother appearance than some of the blockier superzooms that are on the market, the Samsung WB5000 offers 12.5Mp resolution, dual image stabilisation, manual modes and RAW recording. All of this and a 26mm, 24x optical zoom for £299.

On the surface, looking at some of the features, it appears that the camera is geared up to amateurs. For example, the HD video recording is designed to appeal to users who enjoy taking video with their photography and expect it on a compact. There's the beauty mode which will remove blemishes and spots from skin automatically and the Smart Album that automatically organises photographs by date, colour, content, theme and file type. The camera will search for you by specifying these parameters and it can even perform a face search by incorporating the face recognition technology.

Samsung WB5000 held
It's a relatively compact body but fits the hand snugly.
Samsung WB5000 inserting the card
SD/SDHC cards are accepted into the camera and fit in the battery bay.
Samsung WB5000 command dial
Manual modes are available on the command dial as well as auto options.
Samsung WB5000 main menu

In contrast, the WB5000 also offers fully manual modes for ultimate creative control and Raw recording for non-destructive recording. Of course, the file sizes will be much bigger, meaning less space on your memory card but with a maximum capacity of 8Gb using SDHC, you should be able to still get a fair few images on. In fact with my 8Gb card, I had 353 images free in Raw mode at 12Mp. While it doesn't sound much, it's unlikely that you'll take that many on a day out.

Samsung WB5000 top view
The command dial is easily moved without slipping out of place.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Samsung is its Raw recording capability. There are certain restrictions to using it such as limited continuous shooting and ISO capping at mid-range levels. The file type is DNG which is good for converting them and the camera comes with its own Raw converter software which is easy enough to use.

Samsung have introduced face recognition technology to the WB5000 which works in conjunction to face detection, so don't get them mixed up. It's purpose is to allow certain people's faces to be programmed into a small memory core so that if you're taking a portrait with face detection, the camera will recognise that person and prioritise them by focusing and metering on their face.

Samsung WB5000: Handling
The camera holds quite well, I think the styling is ergonomic and my only gripe is that the shutter button is too far over to the right for my finger to curl over. For general picture taking, this isn't an issue but for prolonged waiting where you need to keep your finger on the shutter, it could get uncomfortable.

Samsung WB5000 rear view
The 3in LCD screen or the electronic viewfinder can be used.
As well as a main menu that will access the core features of the camera, the WB5000 sports a function menu that gives quick access to heavy traffic features such as white balance, resolution, image stabiliser, drive modes and focus areas.

The buttons are responsive enough and while the thumb wheel is also responsive, I found it sometimes slipped and moved my selection on one meaning I chose the wrong option once or twice. I discovered that taking my time and scrolling slower solved the issue.

Samsung WB5000: Performance
The camera was put through its paces in a variety of conditions and tests. All pictures were taken in Raw. Raw images were used for the test and were converted in Adobe CameraRaw.

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.


Throughout the test I was pleasantly surprised by how the camera exposed in various lighting. Images appear balanced thanks to the multi metering system that takes a reading from multiple areas of the frame and works out a balanced exposure from the information it collects. The Samsung also features centre-weighted metering and spot metering which I find interesting because it measures from the focus frame. This will help with face detection and will also move when the focus frame is moved from the centre.

Having the sun in the frame under exposes the ground but that's to be expected. I didn't get any lens flare in those situations which I'm pleased about. With strong side light, the camera does record less detail than I'd like.

Exposure compensation is +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments which operates from a dedicated button next to the thumb pad.

Samsung WB5000 dynamic range switched off
Dynamic range switched off and I like the amount of contrast that's recorded.
Samsung WB5000 dynamic range switched to level 1
At level one, the details start to appear which is great as it still looks normal.
Samsung WB5000 dynamic range switched to level 2
Dynamic range switched to level 2 boosts the levels a bit too much.
In a bid to reduce contrast in hard lighting, the Samsung has two dynamic range settings to balance out the image by reducing burnt out highlights and increasing detail in the shadows.

The photographer in me prefers the DR1 setting which improves on those trouble areas without looking overdone which is how the DR2 setting looks. I think the average user will probably prefer the latter but it looks flat and pale with little or no contrast which isn't the point of this mode.

Throughout the test, I used the camera at the lowest ISO I could to get the best exposure. There were times when I wanted to try the auto ISO system and I found that on those occasions, the Samsung WB5000 gravitated towards ISO400. This was due, in part to the fact I was shooting in Raw and the highest sensitivity setting is ISO400 but it happened around 75% of the time when shooting in JPEG. It's not the best setting, in fact straight edges start to break up as noise creeps in.

The full range starts from a nicely low setting of ISO64 and has a top level of ISO6400 although the highest setting drops to 3Mp and ISO3200 has a maximum resolution of 5Mp. It does this to try and reduce some noise. Heat generated from neighbouring pixels can create a type of noise, so creating a distance between them should correct it. It doesn't do a good enough job to correct the problem entirely, but that's not what it's trying to do.

Samsung WB5000 ISO64
Samsung WB5000 ISO64 test.
Samsung WB5000 ISO100
Samsung WB5000 ISO100 test.
Samsung WB5000 ISO200
Samsung WB5000 ISO200 test.
Samsung WB5000 ISO400
Samsung WB5000 ISO400 test.
Samsung WB5000 ISO800
Samsung WB5000 ISO800 test.
Samsung WB5000 ISO1600
Samsung WB5000 ISO1600 test.
Samsung WB5000 ISO3200
Samsung WB5000 ISO3200 test.
Samsung WB5000 ISO6400
Samsung WB5000 ISO6400 test.

Samsung WB5000 outside ISO64
Outside ISO64 test.
Samsung WB5000 outside ISO100
Outside ISO100 test.
Samsung WB5000 outside ISO200
Outside ISO200 test.
Samsung WB5000 outside ISO400
Outside ISO400 test.
Samsung WB5000 outside ISO800
Outside ISO800 test.
Samsung WB5000 outside ISO1600
Outside ISO1600 test.
Samsung WB5000 outside ISO3200
Outside ISO3200 test.
Samsung WB5000 outside ISO6400
Outside ISO6400 test.

Colour reproduction
General colour reproduction is god enough for everyday use of the camera. Cooler tones appear to be favoured by the Samsung because in the tests, primary blue was always the most dominant colour. Other cool tones such as green do well with a lovely rich tone but reds, yellows and oranges seem to suffer unless the red is quite dark then it comes out quite life-like.

Samsung WB5000 colour test
Colour reproduction is pretty good although cool tones appear to be favoured more. I'd like to see more of a boost in reds and oranges.

Flesh tones are reproduced nicely by the WB5000 with Portrait mode warming them slightly. Blue skies looks good although I think it recorded a bit paler than the sky really was on the day.

Samsung WB5000 portrait close up
Portraits have a healthy glow just like they're supposed to.
Samsung WB5000 foliage
Foliage looks good but the red is a little pinker than the real colour.
Samsung WB5000 portrait  

The Samsung WB5000 will be tested in ambient light for colour reproduction, bookmark this page to see the test as it happens.

This isn't the strong point of the WB5000. It's pretty fast to find a focal point and doesn't hunt through the range but when taking portraits I missed the shot a lot more than I normally do using a compact or bridge camera.

In the function menu, you can adjust the focus system from centre AF to multi AF, selection AF or tracking. Selection AF allows you to choose from 35 points in a small 4x3 frame in the centre of the image. I know, you're thinking that 4x3 isn't 35 but the camera also focuses on the lines and intersecting points of the grid.

White balance
Daylight balance works well giving a subtle change to the cast and this is the same for the other soft casts such as shade which warms the images slightly. Stronger colours suffer slightly although where the camera hasn't managed the tungsten light, it's worked excellently on the fluorescent setting.

Samsung WB5000 daylight white balance
Auto daylight white balance.
Samsung WB5000 daylight white balance
Daylight white balance.
Samsung WB5000 tungsten auto white balance
Auto tungsten white balance.
Samsung WB5000 tungsten white balance
Tungsten white balance.
Samsung WB5000 fluorescent auto white balance
Auto fluorescent white balance.
Samsung WB5000 fluorescent white balance
Fluorescent white balance.

Integral flash
The built-in flash of the Samsung WB5000 is pretty good. It suffers with mild vignetting at wide angle but photographing subjects up to 14ft away gives a nicely balanced coverage of light. There's a flash compensation option in the main menu giving +/- 2EV of flash if the image is too bright or dark.

Samsung WB5000 no flash
A shot of this rose with flash turned off couldn't get enough exposure.
Samsung WB5000 fill-in flash
The high position of the flash has prevented side shadows forming.

There are six different flash options for you to choose from on the Samsung. They include auto, fill-in, slow sync and red-eye reduction. Puzzlingly is the inclusion of a red-eye fix which removes red-eye using software. I don't understand the reason behind putting both modes on the camera.

Buffer/write time
Standard continuous shooting is practically non-existant. Out of the six photos I managed to take in standard continuous shooting, the first three were in just under three seconds but slowed down towards the end.

Thankfully, for those of you who simply don't have the time to be waiting around for that long or if you're somewhere you need faster reactions, the camera does have a burst mode which runs at 7fps for three seconds. You get 21 full size images which is excellent, but the download time is an extra 30-35sec.

Battery life
The Samsung takes its own dedicated lithium-ion battery which is charged up in camera using the USB cable and a three-pin plug with a USB port in it.

After around three hours charging from an exhausted battery, the cable indicated the battery was full with a green light. Despite this, the first third of the battery was down after around 100 shots. However, the charge seemed to balance out and it remained at the same level until I started using the video mode which seems to simply sap the power out of the camera.

Lens quality
The WB5000 is fitted with a Schneider Kreuznach 4.6 - 110.4mm (35mm film equivalent: 26 - 624mm) giving a hefty 24x optical zoom. Centre and edge quality isn't anything special, while the image doesn't deteriorate towards the edges, it's not brilliant to begin with. At wide angle, the cameras built-in lens suffers from barrel distortion but this settles down towards the middle of the zoom range.

Samsung WB5000 wide angle view
The 26mm wide angle view gets lots of information in the frame.
Samsung WB5000 zoomed view
Samsung WB5000 24x optical zoom does a great job.

There's a distinct amount of chromatic aberration seen on high contrast areas as orange and purple lines.

Samsung WB5000: Verdict
It's a good all-round camera that will get you decent results from most scenarios. My main concern was with continuous shooting, but the burst mode solves that although you can't use it for 30 seconds afterwards. The £284 price tag is slightly lower than the older Olympus SP-590 UZ and Pentax X70 which makes it great value for money.

If you're in need of a superzoom that performs well across the board with manual modes, a direct video button and reasonable lens quality then this is a decent camera to get.

Samsung WB5000: Pros
Long zoom range
Dedicated quick record video button
Shoots in Raw
Good continuous shooting mode

Samsung WB5000: Cons
Suffers from barrel distortion at wide-angle
Chromatic aberration on high conrast
Warm colours don't get the treatment they deserve


The Samsung WB5000 has some room for improvement but the overall quality against value for money are such that it deserves a Highly Recommended award.

Samsung WB5000: Specification
Price: £284
Resolution: 12.47Mp
Sensor size: 1/2.33in
Sensor type: CCD
Max. image size: 4000x3000
Aspect ratio: 3:2
Focusing system: TTL autofocus
Focus points: 35
Focus types: Multi AF, Center AF, Face Detection AF, Tracking AF, Selection AF
File types: Raw, JPEG
ISO sensitivity: ISO64-6400
Metering system TTL
Metering types Multi, Spot, Center Weighted, Face Detection AE
Exp compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
Shutter speed range: 16sec-1/2000sec
Frames-per-second: 5.5fps (high speed), 11.5fps (motion capture)
Image stabilisation: Dual IS, optical and electronic
Monitor: 3in TFT LCD
Media type: SD, SDHC
Interface: USB 2.0
Power: Lithium-Ion, built-in charger
Size: 116.1x82.8x91.1mm
Weight: 398g

The Samsung WB5000 costs around £284 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Samsung WB5000

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Chaitanya 11 14 1 United Kingdom
25 Jan 2010 6:38PM
Doesnt this camera remind of Pentax X70?
MattGrayson 13 622 3 England
26 Jan 2010 11:06PM
I thought that too. They did work together on the K20D and GX20 so maybe they came together for this too?

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