Samsung WB550 Wide-Angle Digital Camera Review
Samsung has been making steady improvements in their digital camera lineup. A couple of years ago they were subject of disregard by consumers but now their whole lineup has been revamped. With an exciting design philosophy, Samsung is poised to gain market share in the segment that is dominated by Nikon and Canon.
But design is not all that makes a great digital camera. One great feature that Samsung can boast about with the WB550 is the utilization of a 24mm ultra-wide angle Schneider lens that can capture more objects in a single photo and at the same time can reach further down with its long reach of 10x optical zoom. Another great feature worth mentioning is the capability of 720p HD video recording. Join me as I review Samsung’s mega-zoom offering, the 12.2-megapixel Samsung WB550 and see if it's worth your hard earned money!
Samsung WB550 Product Overview
The 12.2 megapixel WB550 with 3.0'' QVGA LCD screen, sets a new standard for mega-zoom cameras, with its 10x optical zoom Schneider’s lens that gives you more flexibility than ever before and built-in HDMI-CEC connection for TV viewing. It offers a host of manual controls, Dual Image Stabilization, Smart Auto and our Perfect Portrait system - and a body that’s half the size of other mega-zoom cameras.
Samsung WB550 Product Features
Samsung WB550 Product Specifications
The Samsung WB550 is packaged in a compact corrugated box with a design philosophy that has been typical of past Samsung products reviewed here at ModSynergy.com. It’s an environmentally friendly design that comes out as simple, but elegant at the same time.
The Samsung WB550 is at the top of Samsung’s hierarchy and goes for around $300CAD. If you ask me, I think that’s a pretty good value in terms of what you get as a total package. Remember the WB550 is a product that is offering a quality 10x optical Schneider zoom lens, ability to record video at 720p, 3.0-inch LCD display and 12.2-megapixels in a stylish form factor.
Remember that if you’re into high-zoom, a digital camera is without a doubt an easier way to get there, financially. Compare the same features when searching for a digital-SLR and you’ll soon realize you’re going to end up spending thousands of dollars instead of hundreds of dollars such as the Samsung WB550 presents to consumers.
Purchasing the Samsung WB550, you will be presented with the following items…
I don’t like proprietary cables and the Samsung includes two of them. If you lose these cables, it’s not as simple as going out to the mall and picking up any USB cable. You’re going to need to do a special order.
Unfortunately, Samsung has decided not to include a carrying case with the bundle which is a disappointment because I know that simple pouches are inexpensive to produce.
The Samsung WB550 digital camera comes with what Samsung says “about 21MB” of internal memory. Obviously you’ll need to pick up a memory card and the WB550 utilizes the SD and SDHC standards, meaning you’ll be able to utilize an 8GB SDHC card. Larger variants aren’t fully guaranteed to work with the WB550. Samsung’s specifications guarantee that 8GB will work but I cannot confirm if capacities will work. As long as there are larger capacities that are SDHC, I don’t see the reason why they won’t work.
Coming to the front of the camera, we see the stylish looks that the WB550 has. It really is an elegant and upscale looking digital camera. The camera body to me feels like aluminum but I’m not sure. The battery cover certainly is plastic. But overall, whatever material, it shouldn’t be an issue. The camera body is still solid and presents no flex in its construction.
The Samsung WB550 measures 105 x 61.4 x 36.5mm in size.
Looking at the front of the camera, from right to left, is the 10x Schneider KREUZNACH lens, automatic opening lens cover, AF assist/self-timer lamp, remote control sensor, the integrated flash unit and a strip of rubber for grip.
I was disappointed with the rubber strip as I found that it lacks grip and feels like more plastic if anything. I think it would have been better for consumers if Samsung had added real rubber grip on the area where the sticker currently resides. That would have been the ideal setup, but unfortunately that is not the case. As it stands, the grip department is lacking as my fingers always slips on the sticker but if you hold tight enough, it is manageable.
Another possible issue you might come across is when you grip the camera; make sure the top of your middle finger does not cover the camera flash. I have to keep this in mind as I grip the camera or else the flash would not spread properly if the top of my middle finger were in the way. Maybe a pop-up flash would be a great solution for this camera, but that would require a little design change.
On the left side of the camera is where the cool HDMI connectional terminal is. Instead of using the supplied A/V cable, you can purchase a proprietary Samsung HDMI cable for a better picture with today’s HDTV.
Coming to the rear of the WB550, you are presented with a large 3.0” QVGA display with 230,000-pixel resolution. To the right of the LCD display is the camera status lamp, command lever, Fn/Delete button, 5-function multi-directional pad (left-flash, right – self timer, down – macro, up – info), playback button, and effect button is located.
Speaking about the LCD display, I noticed that on this review unit, two of the corners had noticeable clouding issues. You could see the corners light up at night or in a darkly lit room. This is the exact same thing you see on LCD monitors or televisions…It’s an issue with LCD technology that probably will never be fixed.
This Samsung LCD display is good but could have been better. The resolution isn’t the finest but it gets the job done. Unlike the Samsung ST50 digital camera we last reviewed, this screen does lag in poor lighting conditions, but just a bit which is perplexing for me because on paper, it should be the same as the ST50 which does not exhibit this. The camera also has a sensor that adjusts the screen brightness accordingly to the lighting conditions and works well. Outside viewing of the LCD can be seen with relative ease. One thing that bothered me with the ST50, when recording video, was that the focus seemed a little blurry on the LCD, but on this WB550, none of this exists and that is a good thing.
Looking at the bottom of the WB550 is where the metal tripod mount lays at dead center, and the battery cover door right beside. Slide the battery cover out to open and the spring loaded latch opens where you can place an SD card and the SLB-10A battery.
Lastly we come to the top of the camera where we see the very nice looking chrome faceplate. It looks so nice that you can stare at it the whole day. To the left we have the integrated microphone, power on/off button surrounded by a bright blue LED, shutter button with zoom lever, and the 8-mode dial.
Performance and Results – How does it perform?
I’ve reviewed the Samsung WB550 for a couple of months now and from my experiences with the camera, it does everything with good results with video recording quality being its highest strength.
But my biggest beef with the camera is that it’s too beginner friendly for a high-end model. It’s still too basic in terms of offering the flexibility of changing more settings than it currently has. For example, when in video recording mode, you can change white balance, but there is no option for saturation, sharpening, or anything like that. You can record with different photo styles like black and white, sepia, but I want more options. It has a manual mode, but even that is too basic. Give me more flexibility.
Furthermore, when applying settings, such as adjusted contrast and saturation, the settings after the shot is taken reverts back to default settings, which I find highly annoying. Also when I’ve adjusted EV for one of my photos and head to video mode to record, once I realize that my EV needs to be changed back to 0, I have no way in changing this in the current video mode. This forces me to head back into one of the photo modes such as P or M and change the EV back to normal. Why does it have to be this difficult?
Additionally, the image quality aspect of this camera can be much improved. Shots taken with the WB550 show that it contains a little too much noise (grain) and can sometimes look dull. The noise algorithm needs to be improved. Shots sometimes had dark corners so that can be improved on as well.
Image quality is good up until ISO 800, where the image quality begins to degrade by a bit. 1600 ISO is manageable but 3200 ISO is unusable in my opinion, and Samsung seems to be boasting about it. Once you’re in ISO 3200, it can only shoot at 3-megapixel setting. If it looks bad in daytime, imagine what it will look like in poorly lit conditions.
The dynamic range is typical of other digital cameras (blown highlights) and this is my whole thing with digital cameras. This is a limitation that will never be improved upon unless someone increases sensor size or actually creates a superior (small-size) sensor for use on these digital cameras. Forget megapixels (it’s a useless number used for marketing), just give me a superior sensor that improves on noise control, dynamic range, color and I’ll be happy. No one really needs 12-megapixels on these types of cameras. Give me a superior sensor and 6-megapixels and that’s all I need.
Video recording quality is pleasurable because it captures very good details (much better than the Flip Mino HD) and the addition of real hardware based optical image stabilization is a tremendous help while handling the camera. You don’t have any of those herky-jerky movements that you have with other cameras (like the Flip Mino HD – that really needs stabilization) that don’t offer image stabilization. The stabilization that is inside the WB550 works very well and is the real deal – it’s an optical image stabilizer inside the lens and it makes quite a difference for both video and image, but more for video in my opinion. While recording video with image stabilization on, you instantly can see the difference through the LCD screen, the movements have fluidity about them and once turned off, the direct and harsh movement presents itself.
As I said earlier, video recording with the WB550 is very well done and provides very good details being captured in H.264 (MPEG4.AVC) MP4 format. Colors are naturally presented but there is no way of increasing such settings. All you really have available when recording video is exposure compensation and white balance, nothing else which is certainly a disappointment.
A great feature that the WB550 features is the ability to pause video recording and resume recording, making one big file at the end, instead of multiple movie files. I like this feature and I love the fact that I can utilize the zoom in the process of filming. However, you can hear the lens zooming when playing back video (not too loud but still annoying).
One drawback I have towards the WB550 is that it can’t really handle lens flare that well. This is almost baffling to me because the Schneider lens is supposed to be good and lens flare such as what this WB550 exhibits does not exist on the Flip Mino HD pocket video camera I have lying around, and that has a generic puny little camera lens. Start recording video and head over to a bathroom with incandescent lighting and you’ll see purple lens flare that goes down vertically down the screen. You’ll see it against blown highlights outside as well.
The WB550 starts up pretty fast (two seconds) and shuts down equally as quick. The camera has continuous shooting abilities but frankly I never use it on digital cameras. It’s dependent on how fast your memory card is and it’s not very fast to begin with and is kind of useless when the LCD remains blank for the duration.
Auto focusing with the WB550 is painless and is actually relatively quick, with green squares showing where the focus is on the screen. Auto focusing at night is alright but almost all digital cameras have trouble at night and the WB550 is no different. If its pitch black, chances are your photos will not be 100% accurate and turn out blurry.
Contrast Rollover Below (Low to High, followed by Normal)
Saturation Rollover Below (Low to High)
Lets round off with two full-size images that has been zoomed to show you the strength and quality of the 10x optical zoom lens. Additionally, there are two 720 HD videos for you to see.
The Samsung WB550 is a good ‘high-end’ mega-zoom offering. It does video recording at 720p very well, capturing very good detail and natural looking colors. Its image quality is good but not the best and some may find the WB550 too basic for their abilities. It’s certainly not a bad digital camera, but I feel it could have been way better and this means there is still more room to improve and hopefully Samsung can push forward in future products. I still think the Samsung WB550 is a good buy though.
Pros and Cons