Samsung WB700 Review
In the past, manufacturers that weren't seen as the most popular would generally offer more to entice the consumer to buy their cameras instead of the big names. If the Samsung WB700 is anything to go by, the world's largest electronics company is doing the same to entice buyers away from Panasonic's popular TZ series. Featuring an independently made Schneider lens, 18x optical zoom from a wide 24mm, manual controls, a 3 inch LCD screen, 720p HD video recording, an HDMI port for quick and easy playback on a High Definition TV set. and smart filters to keep you entertained, it certainly looks like a viable alternative. The Samsung WB700 is available in silver and black and officially retails $299.99 in the USA and £249.99 in the UK, but can now be found for around £140.
Ease of Use
It's a fact that when Panasonic fit Leica lenses to their cameras, it's not Leica that actually make them. Panasonic make them to Leica specification under the careful eye of Leica technicians. This helps keep the cost down while still producing excellent quality optics. So how have Samsung managed to get a Schneider lens fitted to the WB700 which is actually made by Schneider while still keeping the cost so low? Well, Schneider aren't as well known but they have nearly 100 years of history with other popular names under their wing such as B+W filters and Rollei. This goes to show that while they may not have the same status as Leica or Carl Zeiss who work with Sony, they still provide good quality equipment that has even won them an Oscar.
The Schneider lens is at the front of a huge 18x optical zoom which is operated using the rocker switch wrapped around the shutter release. Joining the shutter release on the top plate is a command dial and a flush power button situated next to that.
On the back of the Samsung WB700 is a large, clear 3 inch TFT LCD screen with navigation controls to the right. We're happy to see a small dedicated video button right where the thumb rests so that video can be recorded straight away without having to work your way through a menu. As well as the usual buttons found on the back of Samsung compacts such as the menu and function button, there's the addition of a custom function button. It can be changed in the main menu and you get the choice between exposure compensation, ISO and white-balance.
The function (fn) button acts in the same way as many Canon digital compact cameras by bringing up a brief menu system with your most used options down the left side of the screen. Options such as resolution, image quality, ISO, white-balance, focusing, metering, smart filters and image stabilisation. The menu is attractive with a small circle around the mode you've selected so you can see it easier.
Diving into the main menu brings up a slick looking page with the main sections listed down the left side and the sub sections to the right. The options are clear, concise and ordered logically.
The Samsung WB700 is built to a very high standard. When it's switched on there's hardly any play in the lens. The size of it will be due to the large lens barrel needed for the 18x optical zoom but it also serves to give the camera a more expensive look. This is merely down to the consumer expecting a large camera to give much better results. The command dial on top of the camera moves easily through the selections without sticking and it seems that Samsung have managed to get the balance right of tenseness and fluidity in the dial so it doesn't slip out of the setting you've selected.
We like the flush screen on the back. It's clear, bright and makes picture taking a breeze. On the bottom of the camera is the memory card and battery bay. The battery is a rechargeable lithium ion type which is charged up through the camera just like the other Samsung cameras. It makes travelling easier because there's no massive charging unit to pack, just a plug and a USB cable. The cable can be disconnected from the plug and placed into a computer so the camera can charge off there too. This is useful for travelling photographers to upload their pictures directly onto a computer in an internet cafe and charge up the camera at the same time.
One surprise is the use of a standard size SD and SDHC card in the WB700. Other Samsung digital compact cameras use MicroSD because they're interchangeable with Samsung smart phones. We would have liked to see Samsung take this golden opportunity to make the camera SDXC capable but unfortunately it's not, which is a shame.
What we are impressed with is the metal tripod bush and the quality of the doors to the battery compartment and USB/HDMI ports. The battery door is really solid with a metal plate on the underside while the USB/HDMI area has a hard plastic flip up door to protect the ports against dirt and debris.
Overall the Samsung WB700 is pretty responsive. Start up time is a little under a second from pressing the power button to the camera being ready to take a shot. The zoom is less so with us having to twist the switch, let it go and twist it again before it started to zoom. This problem is even worse when zooming into pictures during playback. Another issue we uncovered is with the shutter release button. All AF cameras have a focus lock enabled by pressing the button halfway down. The WB700 we tested appeared to have an extra bit of resistance to it that we sometimes thought was the focus lock level. At those times, we thought the camera would focus but it didn't. On other occasions, we thought it was the problem bit so pushed down a bit harder and inadvertently took a photograph. This may have been our test unit so it's worth trying this out if you're in a shop looking to buy one.
Although the camera does hunt through the focal plane to find focus which is a contrast detection system, it's actually pretty fast. In fact, the performance of the WB700 in terms of system speed is very good. It's just a shame that it's all let down by the flash. Samsung say that the WB700 has a 4 second recycle time on the flash. It seems a lot longer and at times we'd focused and pushed the button down and had to wait for 6 or 7 seconds before it took a shot. Even with a full battery.
|Memory Card Slot
In playback, the camera will display the pictures with either no information, basic information which shows the picture number, shutter speed & aperture, battery level and type of memory that the picture has recorded to (internal or memory card).
The playback menu looks simple enough on the first section which has options for simple editing sequences such as resizing, rotating and adding a filter. The second section has the playback arrow repeated and is actually a slide-show option. There's a playback main menu section for deleting or protecting pictures along with the sound and display sections found in the recording menu.
Samsung have managed to reduce the amount of stuff that's in the box by putting the charger on the inside of the camera instead of taking the lithium ion battery out and putting it into a stand alone unit. This means all that you have is a plug for the mains and a cable. The cable can be taken out of the plug to reveal a USB socket which can then plug into a computer. The camera will then charge off a computer while downloading pictures onto it.
So Samsung have saved space on a charger and the USB lead. All that's left in the WB700's box is a wrist strap and the driver CD software which also has the user guide on it. A small booklet provides a quick start guide.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel Superfine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.
Picture quality from the Samsung WB700 is very nice. We consistently got well exposed, sharp pictures with punchy colours and a nice amount of contrast. As with all digital compact cameras, the narrow dynamic range became apparent at times but it's nothing that can't be tolerated. Noise tests in controlled light have come out splendidly but we found that in some cases, noise did appear at low settings in natural light.
Low ISO shots are great on the WB700. Noise is completely absent and edge definition is great. This carries on through the lower sensitivity settings with a slight amount of edge definition being lost at ISO200 and some salt and pepper noise appearing at ISO400.
In fact, colour noise doesn't appear at all until ISO800 where small spots start to appear in mid range tones. Edges start to blur a little at this setting but the camera is still controlling noise admirably. ISO1600 starts to get a cast in the darker areas as though the noise reduction has simply been overwhelmed and bright blue spots appear in dark areas.
At ISO3200, the Samsung WB700 tries some damage control by smoothing out the picture. This causes a fuzziness to the pictures at this setting and the blue colour fudges over a wider area.
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)
Samsung are producing cameras that take some really good pictures with lenses that are dead sharp. We're perfectly happy with how sharp the pictures came out although they did look better with a boost in Adobe Photoshop.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Samsung WB700 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Superfine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.
|14M Superfine (100% Crop)
|14M Fine (100% Crop)
We struggled to find chromatic aberration on the Samsung WB700 pictures but we discovered that it's present on the highest contrast of white and black. It's only mild with a thin purple line giving away the lens' inability to focus all colours at the same point.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
With a 3cm close focusing, the WB700 can get in close enough for any kind of macro work you would want to do on a digital compact camera. Because of the position of the lens, using a flash at very close proximity gives a black bottom left corner where it has obstructed the light. We also found that it will over expose and bleach out the subject.
Even though we had the trouble with the flash in macro mode, we managed to find a way around it. When the flash menu is open, moving the zoom switch to the right brings up a flash compensation to +/- 2 stops. This is great and not usually seen on a compact, but it still doesn't drop the power enough for macro work. In the end we placed a piece of paper over to scatter the light and got some nice results.
At wide-angle, the flash does give some vignetting with more prominence of light at the right side of the frame. This coincides with the position of the built-in flash unit. At telephoto, the light is even.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (432mm)
Flash On - Telephoto (432mm)
The Samsung WB700 doesn't have a red-eye reduction feature, instead it has a red-eye fix. This is a piece of software in the camera that will detect and remove red-eye from within a photograph. However, in our tests, we never got any red-eye so couldn't test the effectiveness. On the plus side, you won't need it but it's there in the unlikely event.
Red Eye Fix
Red Eye Fix (100% Crop)
During the night scene test, we found that the Samsung WB700 struggled to find focus and when it finally did give us a green box, the resulting photographs were out of focus anyway. Luckily, we tried it in manual and used manual focus as well as manual white-balance using the kelvin adjust scale.
Results are sharp, relatively noise free at ISO80 over a 16 second time period. The biggest issue we got was with any lights that were on. The flare from the extended shutter speed gives off what looks like a moiré pattern. In our tests we found it all over the frame where the lens flare was.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung WB700 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Movie Mode
Rear of the Camera / Shooting Mode Menu
Rear of the Camera - Exposure Compensation
|Rear of the Camera - Function Menu
|Rear of the Camera - Main Menu
|Rear of the Camera - Playback Menu
|Rear of the Camera - Scene Modes
|Top of the Camera
|Side of the Camera
|Side of the Camera
|Front of the Camera
|Memory Card Slot
The Samsung WB700 is a very capable camera. It's a good looking unit with a simple to use interface and lots of modes and features to entertain any level of photographer. Entry level users will enjoy the simplicity of the smart auto mode while more adventurous usersand keen photographers will be happy with the manual controls. The only feature we could find fault with was the miniature effect. On other Samsung cameras, the line between sharp and blurred at the top and bottom of the frame has been a gradual fade. On the WB700, the line definition is alarmingly sharp.
The WB700 also has a good build quality to it, from the metal body to the OEM lens and bright, clear screen. It's also the small things that count such as the memory card door locking switch and USB/HDMI hard cover. We had our main problems with the flash. It doesn't work at close proximity and it's not the bleaching that's the problem because we expect that. What we don't expect is the lens getting in the way and that's a shame. The Samsung specification states a 4 second recycle time but in real life, we had to wait a lot longer – nearer to ten seconds. The camera won't take a picture until the flash is full so you have to wait there. It was annoying while we were taking candid shots because we often missed the opportunity.
We love the image quality from the WB70. Colours are punchy and bright while the focusing is sharp as well as fast. Metering works well and while the camera has a limited dynamic range, it's to be expected and is better than some we've seen.
What Samsung have produced in the WB700 is a camera that asks an important question: If Samsung can produce a camera of this calibre and price it so aggressively, why are we settling for cameras that are more expensive and either do the same or less? The answer is subjective and we have our own opinions but it certainly made us think.
|Ratings (out of 5)
|Value for money
Reviews of the Samsung WB700 from around the web.
Comprehensive manual controls and a generous 18x zoom, but it can't compete for image quality or performance
Read the full review »
The Samsung WB700 is a compact digital zoom camera with an 18x optical zoom lens and 14.2 megapixel sensor and is an upgrade to the WB600. It is available in black and silver for around £170.00.
Read the full review »
|1/2.33″ (approx 7.76mm) CCD
|Approx. 14.2 Mega-pixel
|Approx. 16.4 Mega-pixel
|Schneider-KREUZNACH f = 4.06 ~ 73.08mm (35mm film equivalent : 24 ~ 432mm)
|F3.2 (W) ~ F5.8 (T)
|Still Image mode: - Smart Zoom : 1x ~ 1.33x after optical Zoom - Digital Zoom: 1x ~ 4x : Optical Zoom (18x)
Super resolution (1.33x)
Digital Zoom (4x) Play mode : 1x ~ 12.5x (depends on image size)
|TTL Auto Focus (centre AF, Multi AF, Selection AF, Manual Focus, Face Tracking AF, Object Tracking AF)
|Normal : 50cm ~ Infinity (Wide), 2m ~ Infinity (Tele) Macro : 3cm ~ 50cm (Wide), 1.5m ~ 2m (Tele) Auto Macro : 3cm ~ Infinity (Wide), 1.5m ~ Infinity (Tele) Manual : 3cm ~ Infinity (Wide), 1.5m ~ Infinity (Tele)
|±2EV (1/3EV steps)
|Program AE, Shutter AE, Aperture Priority AE or Manual Exposure
|Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
|Multi, Spot, centre Weighted, Face Detection AE
|Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill-in flash, Slow sync, Flash Off, Red-eye fix
|Approx. 4 sec.
|Wide : 0.3m ~ 5m, Tele : 0.5m ~ 3m (ISO AUTO) (1)
|External memory: SD Card (up to 4GB guaranteed) SDHC (up to 8GB guaranteed)
|Still Image : JPEG, DCF, EXIF 2.21, DPOF 1.1, PictBridge 1.0Movie Clip : Container : MP4, Video : H.264, Audio : AAC
|14M : 4320 x 3240
12M P : 4320 x 2880,
10M : 3648 x 2736,
10M W : 4320 x 2432,
5M: 2592 x 1944 pixels,
3M: 1984 x 1488,
2MW: 1920 x 1080 pixels,
1M: 1024 x 768 pixels
|Microphone : StereoInternal Speaker : Mono
|Digital Output Connector
|AV : NTSC, PAL (user selectable) HDMI 1.3 (CEC) : NTSC, PAL (user selectable) (Built-in HDMI Type D)
|DC Power Input
|105 x 58.9 x 24.9mm
|0 ~ 40 °C
|5 ~ 85%
|3" (7.62cm), QVGA
|With Audio or Sound Alive (Zoom Noise Reduction) (Max Recording time : 20min) Movie Size : 1280 x 720 (30 / 15fps) High Quality, 1280 x 720 (30 / 15fps) Standard Quality, 640 x 480 (30 / 15fps), 320 x 240 (30 / 15 fps) Smart Movie : Landscape, BlueSky, NaturalGreen, SunsetSmart Filter: Normal, Miniature, Vignetting, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish-eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, (Custom RGB)
|Pause during recording, Time Trimming
|Still Image Capture, Time Trimming
|Mode Dial : Smart Auto, programme, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, Manual, Scene, Movie, Dual IS *Scene: Beauty Shot, Night, Landscape, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Beach & Snow *Smart Auto : Portrait, Night Portrait, Backlight Portrait, Macro Portrait, Night, Backlight, Landscape, White, NaturalGreen, BlueSky, Sunset, Macro, Macro Text (with Smart Guide), Macro colour, Tripod, Action *Drive : Single, Continuous, AEB, Motion Capture *Self-timer : Off, 2 sec., 10 sec.
|Image Adjust : Sharpness, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, ACBSmart Filter: Normal, Miniature, Vignetting, Soft-Focus, Old Film 1, Old Film 2, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish-eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative, (Custom RGB)
|Image Edit : Resize, Rotate, TrimmingSmart Filter: Normal, Miniature, Vignetting, Soft-Focus, Old Film 1, Old Film 2, Half Tone Dot, Sketch, Fish-eye, Defog, Classic, Retro, Negative,Custom RGBImage Adjust : Face Retouch (Level 1,2,3), Red eye fix, Snow, Mosaic, Highlight, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Red Eye Fix, ACB, Add Noise
|? Full Manual Mode (A/S/M Support)
? Movie Recording button
? Built in HDMI Type D with Anynet+ (CEC) + 20Pin Connector
? Flash Manual Adjustment(Timing, Light Quantity)
? Smart Auto (Still / Movie)
? Smart Filter 2.0
? Perfect Portrait System
? Built-in S/W (intellistudio) - supporting F/W Update
|System Requirement in general
|PC with processor better than Pentium III 500MHz (Pentium III 800MHz recommended)
Windows 2000 / XP / Vista
250 MB of available hard-disk space (Over 1GB recommend)
Minimum 256MB RAM (Over 512MB recommended)
USB port CD-ROM drive 1024 x 768 pixels, 16-bit colour display compatible monitor (24-bit colour display recommended)
Microsoft DirectX 9.0 or later
|Power Mac G3 or later
Mac OS 10.3 or higher
Minimum 256MB RAM
110MB of available hard-disk space