The WB800F is a first rate general purpose P&S digicam that will dependably produce excellent quality images and HD videos not only for travelers and photography enthusiast, but also for straight-shooters, casual photographers, and amateur shutterbugs as well. In fact, the WB800F is sufficiently dependable, capable, and versatile that it could easily function as a pocket camera for part-time pros.
Auto exposure in the smart auto and program modes is dependably accurate and impressively quick. The WB800F reliably chooses the appropriate shutter speed in aperture priority mode and the appropriate aperture in shutter speed priority mode. In manual mode, exposure accuracy is completely dependent on the skill and experience of the shooter.
The WB800F features a fairly standard TTL Contrast Detection AF system with center AF, multi AF, tracking AF, and face detection AF. The WB800F’s 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 WB800F’s flash release button and the pop-up flash deploys with a satisfyingly solid thump–check out that tiny flash unit’s amazing engineering. 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 at least an inch to the left of the center axis of the zoom–so red-eye should be substantially ameliorated. The WB800F’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. Based on my very limited flash use, the EX2F’s flash recycle time is between 4 and 5 seconds.
Stabilizing a camera with a long zoom is particularly important because it is virtually impossible to hold a camera with the zoom extended rock steady. The WB800F’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 flash use would be obvious when viewing the image.
I couldn’t find any battery life/power duration numbers, but based on my experiences with the camera (I used the camera fairly heavily for two and half weeks and charged the battery twice). I would guess the WB800F to be good for about 250 exposures on a fully charged Samsung 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 WB800F saves JPEG still images and HD video SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media. I’m left to wonder why Samsung designed an excellent enthusiasts digicam and then failed to include the ability to create RAW images. It seems to me that the RAW function from Samsung’s exceptional EX2F could have been incorporated into the WB800F fairly easily. I regard the failure to include a RAW image mode as this camera’s most egregious shortcoming.
When the WB800F 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 WB800F’s long zoom and compact profile makes this camera an almost ideal for an incredibly broad variety of photographic applications, but its strongest appeal will be to weight and space conscious travelers.
Images show barely perceptible corner softness and barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center of the frame) at the wide-angle end of the zoom range is slightly above average. Pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center of the frame) is about average at the telephoto end of the zoom. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is above average, but well managed. Images shot at longer telephoto settings grow consistently softer as the lens is zoomed further out, but still remain sharper than most of the WB800F’s competition–even at full telephoto.
The WB800F captures HD video at 1280x720p @ 30fps and the zoom can be used during video capture. Unlike the Samsung WB2100 I just reviewed (which had a very frustrating one second lag) the WB800F’s videos start recording as soon as the start/stop button is pressed. In my book this is more important than the WB2100’s slightly better specifications. The video that accompanies this review was shot in an old letterpress print shop in downtown Louisville. In fact, this dimly lit shop (long building with front window lighting and overhead incandescent lighting), reminded me very much of my high school print shop from way back in the 10th grade. The WB800F’s f2.8 maximum aperture was very helpful. I shot some stills in the same setting with the WB2100 (f3.5 maximum aperture) and they were noticeably darker than the WB800F’s video clip. This camera provides an HDMI out so that users can watch their HD video clips on their wide screen TVs.
The WB800F’s image files are clearly optimized for accurate real world colors and slightly harder than average contrast. Images display very good resolution (sharpness) with almost neutral colors and essentially no noise up to ISO 400. The vast majority of P&S digicams boost color saturation — reds are always a bit too warm, blues are invariably brighter than they are in real life and greens/yellows are dependably too vibrant. Veteran shooters call this “consumer color” because casual shooters like bright, bold colors. The WB800F’s images are highly detailed and surprisingly sharp. Image quality is noticeably better than average for cameras in this class.