Samsung WB700 £190
19th Aug 2011 | 15:36
A compact with an 18x zoom and full manual control
Samsung WB700's 18x optical zoom (24mm to a lengthy 432mm in 35mm terms) Schneider Kreuznach Varioplan lens may be enough to make it attractive to many, but the W700 also has program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual (PASM) that keen photographers are always eager for.
Along with the PASM options, there's also a smart auto mode, video, scene modes and the dual IS option which enables both optical and digital image stabilisers.
There are also the digital effects available on the WB700. Labelled as smart filters, there are some run of the mill ones seen on previous cameras for a couple of years now, as well as some funky new ones.
The filters that have been present before include the Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fisheye, Vignette and Custom RGB. We really like the newly added Old Film modes though. The camera will record a random filter on each picture making them look different. It's a shame, however, that the old film filters can't be used in video mode.
With the decent lens, good build quality, long zoom and manual controls the WB700 looks set to take on the popular Panasonic TZ models. One distinct advantage that the Samsung model has is its cheaper price, around the £210 mark on the high street or £200 online.
Build quality and handling
The W700 feels solid enough and appears well built, even the lockable battery port door is very tough and has no flex in it. There's also a small flip door to protect the USB and HDMI ports on the side of the camera, not a bendy rubber door - which is nice.
Thanks to its long lens, the W700 is also noticeably larger than Samsung's other compact cameras.
On the bottom, we're happy to see a metal tripod bush as this is generally the mark of a camera that's higher in the market placing than ones with a plastic version.
There's a small grip on the front of the W700 that fits to the fingers nicely and makes one handed shooting comfortable. The only time we ever had trouble holding the camera steady one-handed was at the maximum 18x optical zoom, but fortunately the impact of the optical image stabiliser is visible on screen when the shutter release button is half pressed.
We have a slight issue with the shutter release button. Normally this would have a failry obvious halfway point to lock focus on a subject, but with the WB700, it feels like there's another mark before the halfway one. We found that sometimes we pressed the button down and it didn't lock because we hadn't reached the halfway point. Other times we pressed harder and inadvertently took a picture.
For a comparatively advanced camera, the W700 is surprisingly easy to use. We like the overall layout and design, the camera looks good enough to contend with similar offering from Nikon, Canon and Panasonic. It also has a nice feel to it and is comfortable to use. The screen is nice and bright and we love the futuristic look of the menu system.
The sensor and processor are both very sympathetic to colours. They record and process themrealistically with just the right amount of saturation. Pictures are generally sharp, thanks in part to the nifty focusing, though edge definition degrades at mid to high sensitivity settings.
Noise is held nicely at bay at the lower end settings, but not surprisingly, it gets gradually worse as the sensitvity level goes up.
With other Samsung digital compact cameras such as the SH100 or ST6500, noise has a tendency to get visibly annoying at ISO 800, but the WB700 has an extra stop grace and only shows colour invasion at ISO1600 and ISO3200. At ISO 3200 images show a poor edge definition, as well as large blobs of colour noise. Darker areas of photographs taken at this setting also have a definite colour cast to them.
Though the metering system generally perfoms well, when the W700 is presented with complex lighting situations, we found that we had to underexpose by as much as 2/3rds of a stop.
That being said, we really like the pictures that we got from the Samsung WB700 digital compact camera. We think that the pros far outweigh the cons, and the majority of cons can be worked around.
We used a few of the digital filter effects in the test and the majority of them were great. We especially enjoyed using the old film filters at a Victorian boating lake. However, the miniature effect is disappointing. It works by placing a blur at the top and bottom of the picture that fades out to create an illusion of narrow depth of field. However, the edges of the blur are too hard on the WB700 filter and the result isn't especially effective in many cases.
Our test of the Samsung WB700 is on the way, but in the mean time we would like to share the resolution chart images and the noise and dynamic range results.
Image quality and detail resolution
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Samsung WB700 is capable of resolving up to around 22 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 80, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 100, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 18 (see full image)
ISO 800, score:16 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 14 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 14 (see full image)
Noise and dynamic range
These graphs were produced using data generated by DXO Analyzer.
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using the DXO software.
Signal to noise ratio
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
JPEG images from the Samsung WB700 just beat the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 signal to noise ration score at ISO 100. From ISO 200 results for the WB700 are less impressive than the comparison cameras.
This chart indicates that the Samsung WB700's JPEGs compare well with the Panasonic TZ20 up to ISO 200, but as the sensitivity increases its perfomance drops off.
Samsung WB700: Sample images
See a selection of sample images taken with the Samsung WB700, featuring a range of different subjects and conditions.
Samsung WB700: ISO performance
See how the Samsung WB700 performed at different ISO speeds.
Samsung WB700: Our conclusion
It looks like Samsung started out to produce a camera that would contend with the large zoom TZ-series of compact cameras that Panasonic is releasing at the moment .
The WB700 is a similar size, has a similar zoom range and has a similar high quality lens from an independent manufacturer. Samsung offers slightly more though, such as the lens actually being built by Schneider and fitting an 18x zoom.
Pictures pop with realistic colour and are pin sharp, the processor handles noise very well and the novelty digital filters will provide additional entertainment.
We think that the Samsung WB700 will be ideal for many different types of consumer. The complete novice might be overwhelmed at first but there is a smart auto on the command dial to let the camera control everything except taking a picture.
We love the little extras that the WB700 has such as the Schneider lens, manual controls and excellent build throughout – even on the battery door. Pictures are great with lovely colours and sharp focusing.
Detail resolution and dynamic range could be improved, especially at higher sensitivity settings.
Amateur users will enjoy the fun elements and large zoom while keen photographers will welcome the manual controls however limited the aperture is. The addition of a histogram is also a welcome feature for the more advanced user. The rating of the camera reflects the good points. We feel that the bad points are negligible compared to the good points.