Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot

  • 16-megapixel BSI CMOS image sensor
  • 21x optical zoom lens
  • Dual IS (image stabilization) feature
  • 3.0-inch (921,000-dot) AMOLED screen
  • Full HD (1080p) video recording
  • Smart auto mode helps beginners
  • Program, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes for shooting with more advanced settings
  • Built-in help screens
  • High-speed burst modes included
  • Built-in Wi-Fi for sharing photos with social media Web sites
  • Buillt-in GPS unit
  • Pop-up flash unit
  • Several special effect features built into the camera's software
  • Rechargeable li-ion battery

  • Pros
    • 21x optical zoom lens is a powerful option in a thin camera
    • Overall image quality is good and focus is pretty sharp
    • Display screen is very bright and sharp
    • Lens fully retracts inside the camera, protecting the glass
    • High-speed burst modes work well
    • Pop-up flash unit provides good low-light results
    • Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS are handy high-end features to have
    • Several special effect features are available and can be added through in-camera editing
    • Camera's control layout and graphical menus are easy to understand
    • Mode dial makes it easy to select the settings you want to use
    • Comfortable to use with right-hand grip
    • Battery life is below average
    • Must charge battery inside the camera; no separate battery charger included
    • Camera's performance is a bit sluggish at times
    • Zoom lens moves slowly through its range, especially after shooting a photo
    • Pop-up flash unit isn't automatic
    • Some aspects of the WB850F may be difficult to understand for beginners
    • Wi-Fi and GPS features can be tricky to set up and use
    • Based on photography features alone, price seems a bit high
    Timing Test Results
    • Power up to first image captured = 2.9 seconds (with start-up image turned off)
    • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
    • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 2/10 of a second
    • Shot to shot delay without flash = 3.2 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.9 seconds with review Off
    • Shot to shot delay with flash = 5.2 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 4.8 seconds with review Off
    • 10 fps Burst Mode = 8 frames in 1.2 seconds @ 16M
    • 3 fps Burst Mode = 8 frames in 2.8 seconds @ 16M
    • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
    Bottom Line
    The Samsung WB850F is an expensive camera, carrying a price tag of more than $350; but it has several interesting features for a point and shoot model, including a GPS unit, a pop-up flash unit, Wi-Fi capabilities, a high-resolution AMOLED screen, and a 21x optical zoom lens. Images are sharp and bright with the WB850F, but it does have some problems with sluggish response times and poor battery life.
    Pick This Up If...
    You need some special features, like a GPS and Wi-Fi, in a thin camera with a large zoom lens, and you can live with some sluggish performance levels.
    Although thin point-n-shoot cameras with large zoom lenses are a bit more common in the market than they were a couple of years ago, it's still always interesting to see one; such as the Samsung WB850F. Throw in quite a few impressive high-end add-on features, and the WB850F will grab the attention of beginner and intermediate photographers alike.

    Samsung has positioned the WB850F as one of its top-end models in the point and shoot market. This camera includes a large collection of great features, including a built-in GPS unit, Wi-Fi capabilities, full HD video recording, and a few different high-speed burst modes. If you don't need those components, you can still appreciate the 21x optical zoom lens, the 3.0-inch high-resolution AMOLED screen, and the pop-up flash unit, as well as the 16-megapixels of resolution.

    However, beginning photographers may find the GPS and Wi-Fi a bit confusing to set up. The WB850F's basic photography features are pretty easy to use, thanks to some built-in help screens and the Smart Auto mode, but the more advanced features may not be useful for someone who doesn't have a lot of photography experience. In addition, all of those advanced features really shorten the battery life of the WB850F, which can be very frustrating. It may be a little tough to justify the cost of the WB850F unless you plan to use the Wi-Fi and GPS capabilities extensively.

    Once you have the GPS feature on the WB850F set up, it works pretty well. You will need to download
    quite a bit of data to make the GPS feature work, at least 1GB, and all of the data must be stored on the
    memory card. This will limit the number of photos you can store, especially with a small memory card.

    I found that the WiFi transmitter in the WB850F works pretty well, although it's not as powerful as the
    transmitter in your laptop computer; meaning the WiFi signal from the WB850F camera might not
    reach your WiFi router from all of the areas in your home that your laptop WiFi will work. Still, it's a
    handy option to have for quickly uploading images, while you continue to shoot.

    For intermediate photographers, the WB850F has quite a few good options for gaining some manual control over the camera. For example, you can shoot in full manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes. Thanks to menus that contain quite a few graphics and icons, it's easy to put together the settings you want to use.

    The WB850F is a nice looking camera with a good layout of controls. All of the corners on the camera body are slightly rounded, as is the hand grip. Selecting the shooting mode is easy, thanks to the mode dial on the top panel. The right-hand grip makes this camera comfortable to use, and makes it easy to shoot one-handed, if necessary. The power button is surrounded by a blue LED that lights up when the camera is powered on; which is a nice touch.

    To find a 21x optical zoom lens in a camera that measures less than 1 inch in thickness is pretty impressive. The lens fully retracts inside the camera when the model is powered down, which protects the lens glass from any inadvertent scratches or fingerprints, and also allows the WB850F to easily fit inside a pocket. When fully extended, the lens is about 3 inches beyond the camera body.

    Although the 21x optical zoom lens is a great feature, the speed with which the zoom lens motor works is a bit disappointing. The WB850F doesn't move through its zoom range very quickly, and it is unable to move for a couple of seconds after you shoot a photo, which means that you could miss a few spontaneous shots of action scenes where you may need to move the zoom back and forth. Additionally, the zoom doesn't give you much precision at the upper end, with stops only at 13.9x, 17.8x, and 21x. The lack of precise stepping may cause you to zoom with your feet at times.

    With such a large zoom lens, it's helpful that Samsung included dual image stabilization with the WB850F; as shooting with such large zoom magnifications sometimes can cause blurry images due to camera shake. Even with the dual image stabilization feature, you may want to invest in a nice monopod or tripod with this camera, just to ensure sharp images when using its telephoto capabilities.

    A tripod might not be the only investment you need to make beyond the initial cost of the WB850F. The battery life with this camera is below average, and it drains even more quickly if you're using the Wi-Fi or GPS features on a regular basis. Because of that, you almost certainly will want to purchase a second battery for the WB850F, especially because you must charge the battery inside the camera. Without a separate battery charger, you won't be able to shoot photos while the spare battery is charging, so having a second battery will help you shoot for longer periods of time.

    You'll appreciate the AMOLED technology built into the WB850F's 3.0-inch display screen. You can select from three brightness settings, and we found the screen was pretty easy to see, even outdoors in bright sunlight. It's also a high-resolution screen with 921K pixels. AMOLED displays are brighter and sharper than LCDs, and this is one of the nicer screens you'll find on a point-n-shoot camera.

    The sharp display is especially nice because you can apply quite a few in-camera special effect features to the images you've shot with the WB850F, and it's nice to be able to review the changes on a sharp screen. You can add effects such as vignetting, old film, sketch, retro, oil painting, and fish-eye to the photos you've already taken, or you can shoot the images with an effect enabled to begin with. When you add an effect to a photo you've already shot, the WB850F software will add the effect to a copy of the original, thereby protecting the original image; which is a nice feature. Samsung also has created a menu system that's heavy on graphical elements, so the sharp screen makes the menus look great.

    Image quality with this camera is comparable to other above average point-n-shoot cameras. Colors are accurate and bright, and the WB850F's autofocus mechanism works very well. Image focus is very sharp most of the time, even in low light. The WB850F's pop-up flash unit definitely helps in this area of photography, as it's more powerful than the flash unit you'll find embedded in the front panel of your typical consumer camera. Having it raised above the camera body gives it a good angle to the subject. The only downside to the pop-up flash unit is that it doesn't open automatically when the light in the scene is low; you must manually push the flash button. If possible, we recommend you try to use the flash unit when in low light situations, rather than bumping up the ISO setting manually. The WB850F displayed quite a bit of image noise, and images lose sharpness and fine detail at higher ISO settings versus lower ISO settings.

    With a maximum of 16-megapixels of resolution, the WB850F can create photos that can be printed at large sizes. You can choose up to nine different resolution settings, ranging from 1 megapixel to 16 megapixels. Most photos will be shot at around the standard 4:3 aspect ratio, as Samsung has only included two widescreen, 16:9 ratio options (12 and 2 megapixels) and only one square, 1:1 ratio option (8 megapixels).

    Working with the WB850F's burst modes is the best way to ensure fast photography results, as this camera's overall response times are a bit sluggish. Even though this model's autofocus works pretty quickly, the WB850F's shot to shot delays and its start-up delay is a bit frustrating to work around. Throw in the sluggish zoom lens, and you're going to potentially miss some spontaneous photos. The burst modes give you the opportunity to shoot up to eight high resolution frames in a row, at speeds of three, five, or 10 frames per second.

    You can shoot movies at a full 1080p resolution, and the Samsung WB850F includes an HDMI port, making it easy to display the movies you've shot on your HDTV. However, Samsung didn't include an HDMI cable with this camera, so you'll have to purchase one separately. If you don't need full HD movies, you can shoot at three lesser movie resolutions. The zoom is fully available when shooting movies, although the zoom motor's sluggishness is even more pronounced with movies than it is with still images. Audio quality with movies is about average.

    Beyond the inconsistent response times, battery life is the biggest issue with the WB850F. Although the thin, lightweight battery helps to keep this camera from weighing too much, the battery charge just doesn't last long enough to be satisfactory. And when you attempt to use the GPS or Wi-Fi options with the WB850F, the battery lifespan goes from below average to poor.

    Bottom Line - There's no question that Samsung has a high-end point-n-shoot camera in the WB850F, containing some really nice features that just aren't commonly found in consumer models. However, the downside to including those features is that they make this camera more of a niche model than a broad-based consumer camera. Unless you're going to use the GPS and the Wi-Fi features quite often, you simply can't justify spending the more than $350 for the WB850F. Its photography features, such as the 21x optical zoom lens and pop-up flash, can be found in cameras that cost $100 less. That means if you only want those photography-related features, you can save money with another model if you don't need the GPS or Wi-Fi. The sluggish zoom lens is disappointing in a camera that costs this much, as is the below average battery life. Still, it's rare to find a thin camera that has so many advanced features and components, so if you need these features -- and if you're sure that you can make the most of those components -- the WB850F will serve you well. It just isn't a camera that will appeal to a wide range of photographers; it's more of a specialty camera.

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