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Samsung WB500 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £182
inc VAT

The WB500 is the cheapest ultra-zoom camera on the market by quite a margin.

We’re not sure why, though. In most respects it’s just as capable as the others, and in some ways, even more so. The 10x zoom lens starts at 24mm, which is the widest here. There’s a generous selection of creative controls and video is recorded at 1,280×720 pixels.

We’re not big fans of Samsung’s menu system, where different features are accessed via three separate menu buttons. The dedicated exposure-compensation control is a nice touch, though. Fun features include smile detection, where a photo is captured automatically when the subject smiles, and a Beauty Shot mode similar to the one described in the ? Tough-8000 review. Manual focus and exposure are included, too, although the latter is clumsily implemented. Performance is slow and somewhat erratic with the flash enabled, but it’s responsive at other times.

The WB500 isn’t quite up there with Panasonic’s and Sony’s cameras for image quality, but there isn’t a huge amount in it. The telephoto end of the zoom produced a slight pincushion distortion, but wide-angle shots were impressively square. There is obviously some software jiggery pokery going on here, as switching to video mode introduced heavy barrel distortion at the wide end, but it works.

Our only real criticism is that details were slightly soft both in photos and videos. Subtle textures tended to be glossed over and digital sharpening brought out noise as much as fine lines. This sharpening eased off in lower light as the ISO speed increased, and noise levels were competitive at ISO 1600. Previous Samsung cameras have been frustratingly reticent to use high ISO speeds, but this one’s Auto mode handled low light very sensibly.

The soft details and cumbersome menus are this camera’s worst traits, but neither problem is grave. If you want HD video and a wide-angle lens but can’t stretch to Panasonic’s TZ7, it’s an excellent alternative.

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