Samsung is known to be prolific when it comes to introducing products to the masses, and in just a short span of a few months, we've seen a slew of compact digital cameras from the Korean chaebol. One such camera is the Samsung WB500, winner of the 2009 CES Innovation Award, and it's our duty to discern how innovative it is.
The WB500 is considerably larger than most other compacts in the market, measuring at 105 x 61 x 37mm and felt pretty hefty in our hands with its 249g weight. It does have a solid grip, aided by the small leather surface just beside the huge Schneider-Kreuznach 24mm wide angle lens capable of 10x optical zoom.
The mode jog dial on the crown of the WB500 was easy to use thanks to the presence of grooves. The usual Auto, Program, Scene, Dual IS and Night modes are bundled together, with a new addition, Beauty Shot. As the name implies, Beauty Shot will lighten the skin tones and attempt to enhance facial shots, though we didn't discern any improvements along that line.
The WB500 has a 2.7-inch LCD screen, and right beside it, are the standard five-way navigation button, a Function, Play and Edit mode, ending off with a contextual Command Lever that allows you to control either your exposure value, ISO levels or white balance mode.
Performance remains our biggest concern and to start, the WB500 took almost 2 seconds to turn on. In both normal and macro mode, autofocus time wasn't an issue, garnering less than half a second to get the shot in focus. The same can be said for its accuracy across its various autofocus modes. For the newbie, the WB500's user interface is littered with short descriptions to explain the various features within. For those who simply adore self-portraits, the WB500 has a Self-Portrait mode, which gives a continuous audio beep when you get your face within the frame during self-portraits.
As a superzoom compact, the WB500 will require all the image stabilization it can get under its maximum 10x optical zoom to reduce imaging blur. The dual image stabilization (optical and digital) feature is not the perfect solution, with a slight loss of sharpness in the edges, but it will suffice with the right amount of handshake control on the user end.
Colors and details are the core performance markers for compact cameras, and given that most users will be utilizing the Auto mode, we based our results on this mode. Like most compact cameras, there is still a discernible amount of noise, particularly in the darker areas. Looking into the finer details, the fur separation isn't as pronounced, and we noticed artifacts (green hues) amongst the picture upon closer inspection.
Our concern for the Samsung WB500 is mainly focused on the imaging quality, with its noise levels and artifacts. While we do like the 10x optical zoom for far-reaching shots, it does require a pair of steady hands besides the included dual image stabilization function to reduce the image blur. For those who don't mind the hefty weight and love those self-portrait moments, the WB500 is probably a good pick from another sea of cameras by Samsung.