Samsung WB700 Review
If you are wondering whether to buy a Samsung WB700; take a look at some of the photographs I've taken with mine over the past six months and see from the notes if it would suit the sort of pictures you like to take. Overall I have been pleased with it, but there are some quirks and weak points.
The most notable quirk is that sometimes in automatic mode, because it's trying so hard to work out what sort of picture you're taking, it freezes and refuses to take the shot at all. This can occur apparently at random, but especially when there is a scene of high contrast - bright sun and shade or low contrast and it can't tell what's most important to focus on.
I like to travel light without a bag most of the time so It's absolutely crucial to me that I can slip the camera into a pocket every time I go out and therefore have it with me when unexpected photo opportunities arise. Even with its protective case it will slip into my jeans pocket - it feels a bit bulky, but not uncomfortable. It passes my portability test, but if you wear tight jeans it might not fit.
CloseupsClick thumbnail to view full-size
I've made a lot of use of the Samsung WB700 this summer for taking pictures of insects. It doesn't have a true macro lens but I have none the less been generally pleased with the results.
A representative selection of shots can be seen to the right.
LandscapesClick thumbnail to view full-size
It is excellent for landscape shots, with the range of the zoom you get plenty of opportunity to play about with framing a portion of the landscape and of course the beauty of digital is that you can try several options and then refine them further by some basic cropping on your home computer.
Action ShotsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Taking action shots with this camera is a very hit and miss affair. Because you only have autofocus to work with, the camera can struggle to focus itself fast enough to catch an action shot and this is especially true in dull weather if there isn't much contrast between the moving object and the background.
Shots with Flash
The flash is ok but takes a frustratingly long time to 'warm up' for each shot. This makes it difficult to take action shots because by the time the flash agrees to flash the action is gone!
Flash also uses up a lot of battery - you may only get 20 or so pictures with flash from one charge. I would recommend having a spare battery if you plan to use flash a lot.
Zoom Lens and image stabilization
The Samsung WB700 has an 18x zoom lens. This produces quite impressive results. Often if I am out walking the dogs and bird watching and a bird is too far away for me to identify I can take a quick photo of it and then identify it when I download the picture on to my computer. You can see the effect of the zoom in the pictures on the right. Without the zoom activated you can barley see the goal post let alone black headed gull sitting on it which was about 40 yards from where I was standing. With the full zoom the bird is very clear.
One of the best aspects for me is the image stabilization. With digital and manual cameras that I've had before using the zoom for the second picture would have required use of a tripod, but the Samsung WB700 does away with the need for one. This makes it really handy for those shots which I come across day to day when I don't want to be carrying a bulky camera with bigger lenses, tripod and so on.
On the downside, I have found the image stabilization isn't 100% reliable, it's often worth taking two shots of the same thing in case one is a bit blurry.
I've been pleased with the video and even with its ability to record sound if I am trying to capture a bird's song to identify when I get home. It doesn't produce video of a good enough quality that you would want to watch 20 minutes of it, but is good enough to demonstrate a point or to raise a chuckle if you capture an opportune moment.
You can see from the video included that it has a problem with a bright light source coming directly at it, in this case from sunlight coming in through an open door which causes the purplish line down the right hand side.
Very handy to have a spare battery especially if you use the flash a lot
There are various other features you can play around with, for example setting shutter speeds, which I have to be honest, I've not experimented with much.
I find silent mode useful which means you can switch off the beep sounds, for example when photographing from a public hide at a bird reserve, when it can be annoying if everyone's cameras are beeping away.
The LCD screen is OK, but I in bright light conditions it can be hard to see exactly what you're getting in your shot, so it's a long way from being a useful as the most basic of viewfinders on an old point and shoot manual camera in my opinion.
A word of caution - it has minimal memory of its own to store photos, so if you take it out without a memory card you will be sorely disappointed about missing photo opportunities. To guard against this I always have two memory cards on the go. I put the spare one in at the moment I take the other card out to download the pictures on to the computer.
The overall rating of three I've given it is a little mean, 3.5 would be fairer, but the ratings capsule doesn't allow for that and I didn't want to give it a 4.