For this price point, the WB350F is an above average general purpose/travel zoom camera that will dependably produce very good to excellent quality images and HD videos not only for travelers and photography enthusiasts, but also for straight-shooters, casual photographers, snap-shooters, and amateur shutterbugs as well. The WB350F’s strong suit may be that it is an almost perfect choice as an intermediate camera step between a basic Point and Shoot model and a MILC or entry-level DSLR for those aspiring photographers on a budget who want the convenience and familiarity of a P&S digital camera, but crave some of the flexibility and control of a DSLR or MILC.
Auto exposure in the smart auto and program modes is dependably accurate and impressively quick. The WB350F features a fairly standard TTL Contrast Detection AF system with center AF, multi AF, tracking AF, and face detection AF. The AF system analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera-to-subject distance (when in default multi-AF mode) to determine which AF point is closest to the primary subject. It then locks focus on that AF point. The center AF option is super for portraits and traditional landscapes, but it is even better for street shooting since straight shooters don’t want the camera selecting which face in the crowd to focus on.
Push the WB350F’s flash release button and the pop-up flash deploys with a funky little thump. The flash unit is at the top of a folding metal arm that raises the flash almost an inch above the camera’s top deck–in addition the unit is positioned to the left of the center axis of the zoom–so red-eye problems should be substantially ameliorated.
The WB350F’s small multi-mode pop-up flash provides an acceptable selection of artificial lighting options, including auto, auto & red-eye reduction, fill flash, slow sync, red-eye fix, and manual. The WB350F’s pop-up flash lends itself to easy bounce lighting – simply calculate your bounce distance and hold the flash at the proper angle with the index finger of your left hand (while gripping the camera with the your other hand). This feature substantially increases the WB350F’s portrait capabilities and subtracts nothing from its travel zoom capabilities. Based on my flash use, the SB350F’s flash recycle time is between 3 and 4 seconds.
Image stabilization with a camera that provides a longer than average zoom is a particularly important feature – because it is virtually impossible to hold a camera with the zoom fully extended completely steady. The WB350F’s optical image stabilization system reduces blur by rapidly and precisely shifting an element in the 21x zoom to compensate for minor camera movement. Image stabilization allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three f-stops slower than would have been possible otherwise. Image stabilization is also helpful when shooting in dimly lit indoor venues where flash is inappropriate or in situations where flash use would be obvious when viewing the image.
The WB350F’s battery life/power duration numbers are about average for cameras of this type–310 exposures (according to Samsung) on a fully charged SLB-10A Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The battery is charged inside the camera – an external AC charger isn’t included, but Samsung offers external chargers as optional accessories. The battery can be charged via a powered USB port on your computer or with the included AC charging cable.
The Samsung WB350F saves JPEG still images and HD video to MicroSD memory media.
When the WB350F is powered up, the 21x zoom telescopes from the camera body and when the camera is powered down, the lens retracts back into the camera body and a built in iris-style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Zooming is smooth, fairly quick, and relatively quiet – especially for such a long lens. The WB350F’s long zoom and compact profile makes this camera an almost ideal choice for an incredibly broad variety of photographic applications, but its strongest appeal will probably be to weight and space conscious travelers.
There isn’t much point to providing a longer than average zoom on a compact camera if the zoom isn’t up to the job. Not so long ago, 10x was considered a long zoom so adding a 4.1mm to 86.1mm (23mm – 483mm equivalent) zoom takes the WB350F to a whole new level. That 21x optic allows WB350F users to stand in one spot and cover everything from grand vista wide-angle landscapes to super telephoto shots of not too distant wildlife.
The WB350F’s f2.8 maximum aperture is easily fast enough for shooting outdoors, Shooting indoors and in dim light may provide more of a challenge since noise becomes a problem with this camera at sensitivities higher than ISO 400. Center sharpness is pretty good overall, but at the wide-angle end of the zoom corners are noticeably soft. I didn’t notice any vignetting (dark corners) and both barrel and pincushion distortion are visible, but appear to be well corrected. Contrast is slightly hard and colors are hue accurate, though visibly oversaturated. Chromatic aberration is remarkably well controlled, but color fringing is occasionally visible in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds. Zooming is smooth, but fairly slow when compared to cameras with shorter zooms. Where lens noise is concerned–the WB350F is much quieter than expected. Images shot at longer telephoto settings grow consistently softer as the lens is zoomed further out, but still remain as sharp or sharper than most other cameras at this price point.
The WB350F captures HD video at 1920 x 1080p @ 30fps and the zoom can be used during video capture. This camera provides an HDMI out so that users can watch their HD video clips on their wide screen TVs.
The WB350F’s image files are visibly oversaturated with slightly harder than average contrast. Images display very good resolution (sharpness) and essentially no noise up to ISO 400. Noise at sensitivities higher than ISO 400 gets progressively more obvious. The vast majority of P&S digital cameras boost color saturation — reds are a bit too warm, blues are invariably brighter than they are in real life and greens/yellows are dependably vibrant–so the WB350F is in good company. The WB350F’s images though visibly oversaturated are highly detailed and surprisingly sharp. Image quality is better than average for cameras in this class–as long as the user shoots at ISO 400 or lower.