The Samsung WB150F has two primary attractions on a very lengthy list of advanced features. It carries an 18x Schneider-Kreuznach optical zoom lens, covering a range equivalent to 24-432mm in 35mm terms. It also offers wireless photo uploading. This it offers in spades - not only is it capable of connecting to Wi-Fi networks, its able to make a direct connection with a compatible tablet or smartphone for file transfer without the need for any wireless network. With a Wi-Fi connection enabled, files can be sent straight to several social platforms including Facebook.
Beyond wireless and zoom capabilities, there's still plenty of appealing features here for shooters of all skill levels. It offers manual exposure modes, a suite of creative filters for photo and video and Samsung's Smart auto exposure mode. Let's dive in and see what she's got.
Build and Design
The svelte Samsung WB150F adheres to a classic "travel zoom" point-and-shoot aesthetic. It has a rounded right hand grip and a big 18x Schneider-Kreuznach lens occupying most of the front panel. There's a sturdy metal ring at the base of the lens, but the camera and lens barrel all seem to be made of a composite plastic.
Unlike DSLR-like ultrazooms, the compact travel zoom is designed to be lightweight and easy to stash in a small bag or a large pocket. It lacks the electronic viewfinder you'd find on most bigger ultrazooms, but most users won't miss it. A 3.0-inch LCD is the only source for image composition and playback.
At the core of the WB150F is a 14.2 megapixel CCD sensor, of the typical 1/2.3-inch configuration. It accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC memory media, and though it offers manual exposure modes, does not allow for RAW image recording. The camera ships with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that will charge in the camera via an included AC adapter.
Ergonomics and Controls
The control layout of the WB150 doesn't present any unusual surprises. There's a typical compass-style control pad with shortcuts to display, flash, timer and focus settings. A dedicated video record button is handy for starting video in a flash. Controls are comfortable and don't feel cramped.
I would have liked a more tactile grip on the camera's smooth right-handed grip. There's a thumb rest on the back panel providing a little more support, but the camera doesn't feel steady enough for one-handed shooting. I also struggled with the power button - it requires a very firm, commanding press. That means it won't suffer from a lot of accidental power-ups in your bag, but it was just enough of an annoyance that I noticed several times my attempt to turn the camera on and nothing happened. The camera's hardware feels a bit cheap, the zoom ring being a primary offender.
Menus and Modes
The WB150 employs a modern graphical interface with neat divisions in camera modes and functions. Here's a tour around the camera's mode dial and some of the sub-modes you'll find there:
A quick menu is accessed via the back panel's menu button, with shortcuts to ISO white balance EV focus and flash right up front where they should be. I was a big fan of the organization and responsiveness of this interface. The back button returns you to the last screen, and a half press of shutter returns you to shooting screen quickly. It's a good division of modes and functions, without any confusing overlap. If you need to dive deeper into camera settings, that menu is never far away since it's on the mode dial.
Artistic Brush is a fun little mode tucked into the starred mode dial. Select an effect like "sketch" and take a photo. An art filter is applied, but the camera also produces a little video file of a green square flying around the screen, "painting" your photo. It's more fun than it really should be.
Beauty Shot was also very effective at evening out skin tones - almost creepily good. The trouble is, if your subject is wearing a cream colored shirt, it will get evened out in the process too it seems. There's a picture-in-a-picture mode that's fun to play with, as is the side-by-side framing tool, though your final image file is maxed out at 3 megapixels.
The Samsung WB150F's 3.0-inch LCD is comprised of 460k dots. That's not bad in terms of resolution, but it did leave something to be desired. Contrast and brightness were just fine, and the LCD fared okay in bright outdoor light. There's no viewfinder of any sort, which is just fine in a camera this size. We measured LCD peak brightness at a fairly low 388 nits.
A "long zoom Wi-Fi camera" is how Samsung classifies its WB150F. That combination sounds appealing to just about anyone. Bringing the benefits of a big zoom range together with the instant gratification of sharing photos with your Facebook friends right in the camera? Sounds like a recipe for the ideal vacation and special occasion point-and-shoot. It's certainly good on paper, but a camera needs to turn in a solid performance in terms of usability, speed and image quality to get a good recommendation.
We recorded no significant shutter lag for the WB150 and an average-ish 0.35 second auto focus acquisition time. Continuous shooting is there if you want it, but it's not fast enough to be particularly useful.
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Sony Cyber-shot HX200V||0.13|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20||0.16|
|Canon PowerShot SX150||0.53|
|Sony Cyber-shot HX200V||10||10.0|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20||10||9.2|
|Canon PowerShot SX150||??||0.7|
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
In terms of AF acquisition speed and reliability, I thought that the WB150F looked average for its class. In good light it's fast enough for most applications, and in dim light AF acquisition slows down considerably. There's an AF lamp for help in dark conditions. Several AF modes including tracking and face detection are available, as is a manual focus option. The camera's on-board flash unit boasts a range of 3.35m at wide angle and 1.85m at telephoto.
The Samsung WB150F is capable of connecting to Wi-Fi networks. From there, photos and videos can be uploaded straight to Facebook, YouTube and Picasa. Samsung is no newbie in the world of wireless devices - with a full portfolio of smartphones, tablets, and even a few generations of wireless cameras, the WB150 benefits from many generations of trial and error. The result is a nearly flawless wireless camera, capable of integrating with compatible smartphones and tablets as part of a whole network of connected devices.
The problem is the smartphone. The phone has gotten so good and so quick at uploading photos, that anything slower seems unreasonable. I can take a photo, add a caption and a quirky filter, upload it for the viewing pleasure of 600 of my closest friends in less than a minute using only my smartphone. The WB150F is capable of doing all of these things - filters, photos, uploading - but it does them at a slower pace.
There are two paths in the camera that will lead you to photo sharing. Either turn the mode dial to Wi-Fi and go forth, or bring up the playback menu as you're viewing your photos to share. The camera will identify nearby wireless networks and present you with the opportunity to input a network password.
Once you're connected, you'll select the photos you want to share and send them to the social platform of your choice. On average uploading a photo took up to a minute. I encountered only a couple of Wi-Fi problems during the time I spent reviewing the WB150. Most times that I attempted to upload a picture to Facebook, it worked flawlessly.
The WB150F is clearly more capable than Wi-Fi cameras of three or four years ago. But again, it will still probably be viewed by customers as not fast enough. Consumers are used to the upload speeds of their smartphones, and once a photo is uploaded, being able to interact with that photo and read friends' comments. The WB150F is quite capable at sharing, but not interacting. Pushing image files from the camera to your Android tablet or phone might just be the way to go. At present, iPhone owners aren't able to use this feature, so that may deter some shoppers for a while.
Overall, wireless features of this camera were reliable, but it's still nowhere near as convenient as shooting and interacting with photos on your smartphone or tablet. The WB150 will take much better pictures, so if you're an Android user who doesn't mind carrying around two devices, the WB150 might be a real option for you.
Image stabilization is present in two forms - digital and optical. This system seemed to perform alright at wide angle to mid-telephoto focal lengths, but full telephoto proved too challenging for optical stabilization to be of much help. Digital stabilization didn't boost ISO too high, but even as low as ISO 400, there's plenty of noise present in images. More on that later.
The WB150F ships with an SLB-10A rechargeable battery. No estimated battery life is given. I did a fair amount of shooting and reviewing images, and I used the wireless features extensively. The battery didn't seem to drain any quicker than other point-and-shoot cameras of this class.
The Schneider-Kreuznach 18x optical zoom lens covers a 24-432mm range in 35mm terms. It's somewhat slow with a maximum aperture range of f/3.2-5.8. As mentioned before, the system offers optical stabilization, and shutter speed tops out at 1/2000 second.
Sharpness is nice at the center, but moving out toward the edges, especially at wide angle, some distortion and loss of sharpness appears. This is to be expected from a small 18x zoom lens. I saw some occasional chromatic aberration crop up, mostly when viewing high-contrast scenes at 100%. It's generally well controlled by the camera's processing system. There's a slight bit of barrel distortion at wide angle, but virtually no pincushion distortion at full telephoto. Both ends of the zoom spectrum seem to be well under control.
Video resolution maxes out at 720p, definitely behind the competition in the travel zoom category. Most other compact cameras at this price point will include 1080p. However, 720p is more than sufficient for many needs, especially if all you're really interested in is uploading short clips to the web. Video can be captured at 30 or 15 fps. Other resolution options include 640 x 480 and 320 x 240. Starting and stopping video couldn't be more convenient, thanks to a dedicated video record button. The WB150F also includes a number of filter effects for video mode.
Typically, compact cameras like the WB150F will fare just fine in terms of sharpness and color when used outdoors under good light conditions. This was the case - to my eye, contrast is pleasant and color reproduction leans toward natural rather than over-saturated. Blue skies are preserved, and almost never blow out to white. Adjustments can be made in-camera to sharpness, contrast and saturation by two stops in either direction.
The most persistent problem I saw was a tendency to clip highlights. In scenes of great contrast between light and dark, it's expected to see some blown out highlights, especially coming from such a small sensor. I tended to see more than usual, though. The flower in the coffee shop scene below is a good example. Everything else in the scene is pretty balanced except for the flower petals. Creases and wrinkles in the individual petals are visible toward the edges, but the light coming in from the window behind me overwhelms the camera's sensor and processor, making it appear blown out.
This wouldn't be a big cause for concern expect that based on my experience, there are many other cameras of this size that would handle this scene better. They would produce images with histograms that don't spike quite so badly. I also ran into the stray color reproduction problem, with typically-troubling purple being rendered as blue.
Auto white balance was somewhat inconsistent. The camera would occasionally shoot the same scene both too warm and too cold, back-to-back, with virtually no movement on my part. I noticed this more under conditions with mixed lighting or indoors. Outside, auto white balance worked just fine. It recorded our still life a bit warm under our studio fluorescents. White balance pre-sets include Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent_H, Fluorescent_L, Tungsten, Custom and K.
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light
If most cameras small cameras are competent outside in ample light, they struggle when they move to the great indoors. The WB150F is no exception. In fact, ISO performance was worse than I expected to see. Image quality from ISO 80 to 200 looks about as good as it should for this class of camera. At ISO 400, some serious noise starts to creep in. The camera's noise suppression system appears to be smoothing out a lot of digital artifacts and fine details in the process.
ISO 80, 100% crop
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 3200, 100% crop
ISO 400 will probably be fine for small prints, but the jump up to ISO 800 is noticeable. Many competing camera systems will produce cleaner-looking images at ISO 800; the WB150F just isn't keeping up with the competition here. Past ISO 800, noise and smoothing increases and those settings are best left alone.
Additional Sample Images
In my own view, it's becoming increasingly unacceptable for point-and-shoot cameras not to offer wireless connectivity. Better even is the option to transfer photos from your camera to a phone or tablet. The WB150F offers both of these things, and although it's imperfect, it's the best implementation of Wi-Fi in a camera that I've seen yet.
Images taken in good lighting conditions at low ISO are relatively sharp and noise-free. A generous zoom lens is well-controlled for distortion and details, but the very edges of the frame are pleasantly sharp. There's an array of in-camera processing filters and options, as well as full manual exposure modes.
Lots of zoom is nice, but the results at the extreme end of the telephoto range are disappointing if you're shooting in less-than-perfect conditions. Anything shot above ISO 400 is lacking in fine detail thanks to a crowded sensor and aggressive noise reduction algorithms.
While the feature set looks great on paper and the Wi-Fi capabilities work as advertised, the WB150F comes up short in several ways. If it's the photo capabilities you're after, there are other options at this price point that will produce better images at mid ISO. If it's quick sharing and connectivity you're looking for (without much regard for image quality), your phone still does a better job of that. Android users (and iPhone users soon, I'm told) will be able to share photos from the camera without much fuss, but then you're still carrying an extra device. If Wi-Fi is a must-have camera feature, then I would steer you toward the WB150F. If it's great pictures you care most about and connectivity is a take-it-or-leave-it feature, then I would encourage you to look elsewhere.