But rather than snare you in a touch screen trap, the WB800F provides a four-way control, plus four dedicated buttons on the back panel, as well as a movie record button. The dedicated menu and function buttons offer quick access to a number of features, and the back button makes it easy to step backward through the menus. The zoom ring is also employed to scroll through menu options - I found this handy when, in particular, trying to swipe a strip of icons instead resulted in my finger making a selection. In addition, there is a button on the top panel for releasing the flash, and an eight-position mode dial.
Swiping is not always as elegant as it is on a smart phone. For example, when drawing a crop box on a photo, you cannot use two fingers to pull two corners at once - nor can you use this two-fingered method to zoom in and out on a photo in playback. The screen resolution of 460,000 dots is adequate, as is the angle of view, except for when pointing the camera downward. At this angle, arguably the most important, the screen brightness begins to dim at roughly 45 degrees.
The Wi-Fi features offer a lot of options. You can automatically upload photos to an iOS or Android smart phone (with MobileLink), send them via email, upload them to the cloud or use AllShare Play with nearby devices, as well as enable your Samsung smart phone to act as a remote viewfinder. This all sounds tremendously convenient, but I didn't have the easiest of times setting up the camera on my wireless network. Entering the password repeatedly for my guest network didn't seem to take, and connecting to the detected network always cycled me back to enter the password again. Following instructions in the PDF manual for installing the i-Launcher application, I awaited a pop-up window on my Windows Vista PC while it was connected to the camera via USB cable - but no pop-up window ever came. No software CD-ROM came with the camera. On my Mac I was able to download the iLinker app. (Note: The Mac software offers firmware upgrade and PC auto backup, but not the multimedia viewer option for playing files wirelessly on a Windows PC). But then I ran into the limits of the Wi-Fi range - the camera was not able to find my access point when it was roughly 25 feet away with two walls between them. By contrast, my computers have no problems with reception at this distance.
In addition to the dedicated Direct Link button atop the camera that launches one of the user-selected wireless functions, the mode dial includes a Wi-Fi position for quick access to the wireless features. In addition, the mode dial has a settings position for changing the camera's basic sound, display, and connectivity settings. It is an interesting choice considering that the mode dial is usually reserved for shooting modes. But in addition, the My Magic Plus mode position on the mode dial includes the photo editor function, which is usually relegated to a playback menu.
The trash button on the back panel doubles as a function button. This offers quick access to a number of settings, such as exposure compensation, ISO, metering, auto focus mode, white balance, flash setting, and both shutter speed and aperture setting if you are in full manual mode. This inclusion of full manual mode is a welcomed addition to a style of camera that typically eschews photographic control in favor of more questionably useful scene modes. To launch manual mode, however, you need to select it in a menu - that's because its position on the mode dial combines aperture-priority and shutter-priority on the same position. After turning the mode dial, you just tap the corresponding icon.
The bottom line in all of this is that you get the ease of touch screen navigation when you want it, and the ease of dedicated buttons when you want it. When you want to shoot simply, you can use Smart Auto or select one of 12 photo filters for a quick artsy effect (the selection here is tasteful without overkill). And when you want more control, you can have that too.
The body on this camera is not the slimmest, in part because the zoom lens protrudes slightly and there is a contour for a hand grip. So it's not the best candidate for slipping in a shirt pocket - but we are talking about a camera with a 21X zoom lens that collapses into a small body, in a camera that delivers pretty high image quality.
For the most part, I was pleased with both the photos and the videos I shot with the WB800F. Images looked sharp and exposures in Smart Auto and Program modes were almost always on target. Some cameras with a zoom this powerful can't deliver usable images at full zoom consistently. But, I found the WB800F to usually deliver. At 21X, when hand holding the camera and thus forcing the camera to use its optical image stabilization, the camera almost always captured an attractive image. They didn't have all the fine details of images shot at more modest zoom magnifications, but they were acceptably sharp. That is, in bright sunlight when the camera could use a modest ISO.
The primary image quality downfall here is low-light performance. Shots without flash I took indoors suffered from noticeable noise at ISO 640. You can see the progressive amount of digital noise in the ISO series on our Samples Page. Also, you do get some distortion at the edges when shooting at wide angle.
The same assessment goes for the 1080p video quality and the performance of the optical image stabilization. I liked the video I shot, even when zoomed all the way at 21X, which on some cameras can become unbearable. The only wrinkle was that the camera is not able to zoom out and maintain focus all the way to wide angle while recording video. You will see this in the movie on the Samples Page - the auto focus fails while zooming out near wide angle. This was not an isolated occurrence but a consistent failing while recording video. I did not experience such a dramatic shortcoming with the auto focus while shooting still images, though on occasion it was a little slow to lock on to my subject. On a related note, the lens can focus as close as 1.6 inch, which is very handy for shooting small subjects in macro mode.
The flash that springs up when you press its dedicated button is adequate, but not ideal. It has a specified range of 11 feet, but I noticed a significant drop-off at roughly 6 to 8 feet, even with the flash power upped to +2. This gave me uneven results when using it as a fill-in flash indoors - people that were four feet away were well lit, while the others just a couple feet behind them were noticeably less illuminated.
One of the quirkier shooting modes offered is Best Face. This mode earned itself a position on the mode dial between Smart Auto and My Magic Plus. It works like this: The camera takes five photos in a burst, and the first one is used for the background. Then, the camera uses face recognition to identify people and offers you the five options for each face. The camera even recommends the best facial expression with a thumbs-up icon. On the plus side, it's a fun feature. On the downside, relying on face recognition can be an Achilles heel. Making contorted, silly faces caused the camera to fail in this mode, unable to detect a face. Also, this mode limits image resolution to 5 megapixels or smaller.
Burst modes work well on the WB800F. You can shoot in 3fps or 8fps mode, and both record full-resolution files. The only downside is you can't use the flash in either continuous shooting mode.
As for playback options, these are fairly typical: You can use the zoom ring to magnify images and zoom out to show index pages of 12 or 24 images (no views nearing 100 thumbnails). You can use the menu to navigate to the edit image function, or use the photo editor selection within the My Magic Plus mode menu, which you launch by its position on the mode dial. Here, you can apply one of the 12 photo filters and make other typical adjustments to file size, rotation, and cropping. In addition there are adjustments for backlighting, brightness, contrast, and color saturation. There are also face retouch and red-eye fix.
Battery life was adequate. On a full charge I was able to shoot roughly 280 still photos and 28 movies ranging from 10 to 30 seconds. The battery has to be charged in-camera with the included USB cable and AC adapter. The downside to this setup is that you can't have a spare battery charging while you're using the camera.
Bottom line - The WB800F delivers a good balance of Wi-Fi convenience and camera features, including the ease of touch screen navigation and full manual mode. The 21X zoom lens is a powerful asset, and the camera usually records sharp, attractive images as well as high-quality video; though auto focus is not always exact. If you don't need top-notch performance in low-light, and the limited range of the flash won't stifle you, this Wi-Fi-enabled super zoom could be a really good fit.
Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.
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